Tag Archives: New Covenant

Christ: Mediator of the New Covenant, Part 1

In my last few posts here, we’ve been looking at eschatology, or the study of end things.  We’ve taken a parenthesis in this study to examine some thoughts on what the Bible says about covenants.  This is necessary because of the eschatological system that we paused at, dispensationalism.  If you need a quick review of that system, see here Understanding Dispensationalism.  Dispensationalism is more than just a particular view of the end times.  As stated before, it’s actually a hermeneutic, or science of interpretation.  While hermeneutic might sound like a technical, complicated word, it’s really not.  It’s simply describing the way in which one interprets a particular literary work.  As it relates to the Bible, it is the way, or science/system, of interpreting the Bible.  For a more thorough discussion, see here http://www.bible-researcher.com/baugh1.html

In this post, we continue our look at the New Covenant and its membership by concentrating on the Mediator of this covenant, the Lord Jesus Christ (For an excellent summary of Christ as Mediator see this post: 1689 Chapter 8)  By Mediator, it is meant that Christ “mediates” or acts as an arbitrator, between God (the Father) and man.  1 Timothy 2:5 says, “For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus”.  John Owen, in his commentary on Hebrews, writes “A mediator must be a middle person between both parties entering into the covenant; and if they be of different natures, a perfect complete mediator ought to partake of each of their natures in the same person.”

We are first introduced to this idea of the mediatorial work of Christ in Mark 14 during the upper room Passover meal of Jesus and His disciples,

“And as they were eating, he took bread, and after blessing it broke it and gave it to them, and said, “Take; this is my body.” And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, and they all drank of it.  And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many.  Truly, I say to you, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new in the kingdom of God.”  And when they had sung a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.”

From this passage we can begin to see the connection between the covenant (New) and the death of Christ, i.e. the shedding of His blood.  This is even more explicitly stated in Luke 22:20, “And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.”  Here we see Jesus making specific reference to the New Covenant and its direct connection to His death.

Similarly the Apostle Paul references this connection outlined by our Lord in his first letter to the Church at Corinth,

“For I received from the Lord what I also delivered to you, that the Lord Jesus on the night when he was betrayed took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it, and said, “This is my body which is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” In the same way also he took the cup, after supper, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.” 1 Corinthians 11:23-30

In this particular passage, Paul also references Jesus’ words from the Passover prior to His death.  We see not only the relationship between the New Covenant and Jesus’ death, but also the association with communion, or the Lord’s Supper, with both the New Covenant and remembering Jesus’ death.  This will be important in helping to determine the membership of this covenant.  We have previously asserted (Regeneration) that membership of the New Covenant is limited to the regenerate as evidenced by their repentance and faith in Christ and at this point we must return to that particular question from several posts ago specifically regarding membership in the New Covenant.  As previously stated, only the regenerate belongs to the New Covenant, as seen in Jeremiah 31 and Ezekiel 36 (It is common language, particularly within Reformed Baptist tradition to assert membership of the New Covenant is limited to the elect, but it would seem clear that it should be more specific, i.e. the regenerate elect).

Despite the promise of the New Covenant in these Old Testament passages, we do not see the inauguration of this covenant until the New Testament, specifically through the death of Christ as noted in the passages above.  So while Jeremiah and Ezekiel inform our understanding of what is to come, it really is incomplete without seeing greater detail that the New Testament provides.  Which brings us to our passage earlier from Paul.  Paul not only quotes Jesus’ statement about his blood and body represented by the wine and bread, but specifically references the New Covenant connection to this communion time.  He follows with this warning, “Whoever, therefore, eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty concerning the body and blood of the Lord.  Let a person examine himself, then, and so eat of the bread and drink of the cup.  For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body eats and drinks judgment on himself.  That is why many of you are weak and ill, and some have died.”  Paul is writing to the Church, i.e. believers, and he is warning them against partaking of the Lord’s Supper in an unworthy manner.  Just what this unworthy manner has been of some debate, but what is clear is that Paul is exhorting believer’s to do a spiritual examination of their hearts before they share in communion with Christ, remembering His death and longing for His second coming.  This is important guidance for determining who should partake in Lord’s Supper, which has been identified as a sign of membership in the New Covenant.  By way of implication of this passage, it must be exclusive of believers only, those we have who have been regenerated in their hearts by the Holy Spirit.

Some have argued that membership in the New Covenant is extended to all Israel or all those who are believers and their children.  But this cannot be.  We’ve seen that the New Covenant benefits are for the regenerate and now, on the basis of the New Covenant purchased by the blood of Jesus Christ, we see again that only believers are to partake in the Lord’s Supper because for them and them alone it is a sign of their inclusion in the New Covenant.

The 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith, Chapter 8: Christ the Mediator

In keeping with our discussion of the new covenant, as we take a parenthetical break from our study of end times, I included the following chapter from the 1689 Baptist Confession of Faith on the mediation of Christ over the New Covenant, which He inaugurated with His blood (Matt. 26:28).  I hope to follow up with a post discussing this further, particularly several passages from Hebrews.

 

CHAPTER 8

OF CHRIST THE MEDIATOR

Paragraph 1. It pleased God, in His eternal purpose, to choose and ordain the Lord Jesus, His only begotten Son, according to the covenant made between them both, to be the mediator between God and man;1 the prophet,2 priest,3 and king;4 head and savior of the church,5 the heir of all things,6 and judge of the world;7 unto whom He did from all eternity give a people to be His seed and to be by Him in time redeemed, called, justified, sanctified, and glorified.8 1 Isa. 42:1; 1 Pet. 1:19,20 2 Acts 3:22 3 Heb. 5:5,6 4 Ps. 2:6; Luke 1:33 5 Eph. 1:22,23 6 Heb. 1:2 7 Acts 17:31 8 Isa. 53:10; John 17:6; Rom. 8:30

Paragraph 2. The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with Him who made the world, who upholds and governs all things He has made, did, when the fullness of time was complete, take upon Him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities of it,9 yet without sin;10 being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures;11 so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man.12 9 John 1:14; Gal. 4;4 10 Rom. 8:3; Heb. 2:14,16,17, 4:15 11 Matt. 1:22, 23 12 Luke 1:27,31,35; Rom. 9:5; 1 Tim. 2:5

Paragraph 3. The Lord Jesus, in His human nature thus united to the divine, in the person of the Son, was sanctified and anointed with the Holy Spirit above measure,13 having in Him all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge;14 in whom it pleased the Father that all fullness should dwell,15 to the end that being holy, harmless, undefiled,16 and full of grace and truth,17 He might be throughly furnished to execute the office of mediator and surety;18 which office He took not upon himself, but was thereunto called by His Father;19 who also put all power and judgement in His hand, and gave Him commandment to execute the same.20 13 Ps. 45:7; Acts 10:38; John 3:34 14 Col. 2:3 15 Col. 1:19 16 Heb. 7:26 17 John 1:14 18 Heb. 7:22 19 Heb. 5:5 20 John 5:22,27; Matt. 28:18; Acts 2;36

Paragraph 4. This office the Lord Jesus did most willingly undertake,21 which that He might discharge He was made under the law,22 and did perfectly fulfill it, and underwent the punishment due to us, which we should have born and suffered,23 being made sin and a curse for us;24 enduring most grievous sorrows in His soul, and most painful sufferings in His body;25 was crucified, and died, and remained in the state of the dead, yet saw no corruption:26 on the third day He arose from the dead27 with the same body in which He suffered,28 with which He also ascended into heaven,29 and there sits at the right hand of His Father making intercession,30 and shall return to judge men and angels at the end of the world.31 21 Ps. 40:7,8; Heb. 10:5-10; John 10:18 22 Gal 4:4; Matt. 3:15 23 Gal. 3:13; Isa. 53:6; 1 Pet. 3:18 24 2 Cor. 5:21 25 Matt. 26:37,38; Luke 22:44; Matt. 27:46 26 Acts 13:37 27 1 Cor. 15:3,4 28 John 20:25,27 29 Mark 16:19; Acts 1:9-11 30 Rom. 8:34; Heb. 9:24 31 Acts 10:42; Rom. 14:9,10; Acts 1:11; 2 Pet. 2:4

Paragraph 5. The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit once offered up to God, has fully satisfied the justice of God,32 procured reconciliation, and purchased an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father has given unto Him.33 32 Heb. 9:14, 10:14; Rom. 3:25,26 33 John 17:2; Heb. 9:15

Paragraph 6. Although the price of redemption was not actually paid by Christ until after His incarnation, yet the virtue, efficacy, and benefit thereof were communicated to the elect in all ages, successively from the beginning of the world, in and by those promises, types, and sacrifices wherein He was revealed, and signified to be the seed which should bruise the serpent’s head;34 and the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world,35 being the same yesterday, and today and for ever.36 34 1 Cor. 4:10; Heb. 4:2; 1 Pet. 1:10, 11 35 Rev. 13:8 36 Heb. 13:8

Paragraph 7. Christ, in the work of mediation, acts according to both natures, by each nature doing that which is proper to itself; yet by reason of the unity of the person, that which is proper to one nature is sometimes in Scripture, attributed to the person denominated by the other nature.37 37 John 3:13; Acts 20:28

Paragraph 8. To all those for whom Christ has obtained eternal redemption, He does certainly and effectually apply and communicate the same, making intercession for them;38 uniting them to Himself by His Spirit, revealing to them, in and by His Word, the mystery of salvation, persuading them to believe and obey,39 governing their hearts by His Word and Spirit,40 and overcoming all their enemies by His almighty power and wisdom,41 in such manner and ways as are most consonant to His wonderful and unsearchable dispensation; and all of free and absolute grace, without any condition foreseen in them to procure it.42 38 John 6:37, 10:15,16, 17:9; Rom. 5:10 39 John 17:6; Eph. 1:9; 1 John 5:20 40 Rom. 8:9,14 41 Ps. 110:1; 1 Cor. 15:25,26 42 John 3:8; Eph. 1:8

Paragraph 9. This office of mediator between God and man is proper only to Christ, who is the prophet, priest, and king of the church of God; and may not be either in whole, or any part thereof, transferred from Him to any other.43 43 Tim. 2:5

Paragraph 10. This number and order of offices is necessary; for in respect of our ignorance, we stand in need of His prophetical office;44 and in respect of our alienation from God, and imperfection of the best of our services, we need His priestly office to reconcile us and present us acceptable unto God;45 and in respect to our averseness and utter inability to return to God, and for our rescue and security from our spiritual adversaries, we need His kingly office to convince, subdue, draw, uphold, deliver, and preserve us to His heavenly kingdom.46 44 John 1:18 45 Col. 1:21; Gal. 5:17 46 John 16:8; Ps. 110:3; Luke 1:74,75

 

Regeneration: A New Covenant Promise

regeneration-a-new-heartIn my last post, we briefly examined Jesus’ interaction with Nicodemas as recorded in John 3.  It’s likely that the background for this passage, in which Jesus explicitly states to Nicodemas that everyone “must be born again” to enter the kingdom of God, comes from Ezekiel 36:25-27 

25 I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you.26 And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.27 And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.”

Most commentators write, and I agree with them, that Jesus is expecting Nicodemas, who is a Jewish leader, to know his Old Testament and be familiar with the concept of rebirth or regeneration as described in Ezekiel’s passage above.  To the contrary, Nicodemas’ confusion is evident, whether it is of a genuine or sarcastic nature it is clear that he does not understand how a man can be born again (John 3:4).

The passage from Ezekiel defines much of what is called the New Covenant.  A simplistic, though not comprehensive, way to think of the Bible’s covenantal structure is Old Covenant (Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic) = Old Testament, operating largely in types and shadows pointing toward the reality of the coming Messiah and the New Covenant = New Testament, legally inaugurated with the shed blood of Christ on the cross.  This does not mean that New Covenant benefits were absent during the Old Testament, just as shown above with the New Covenant language in Ezekiel.  There is even more explicit language of the New Covenant found in Jeremiah 31:31-34:

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah,32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord.33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

Here we see similar language conveyed as that in Ezekiel, only this time we see the term “New Covenant” explicitly used.  While the background for regeneration in John 3 most likely comes from Ezekiel (due to some similar themes carried forward by John) we can really examine both of these Old Testament New Covenant passages together to see what the component promises of this covenant are.  It may help to know that the context for Ezekiel and Jeremiah are really similar.  Jeremiah is writing from Jerusalem to those who remained in the city after the various stages of exile (605 B.C., 597 B.C., 586 B.C.) implemented under the direction of Nebuchadnezzar, king of Babylon.  Ezekiel, a contemporary of Jeremiah, is among the exiles in Babylon (597 B.C. ).  As a side note, During the first siege on Jerusalem (605 B.C.), Daniel was among those taken from Jerusalem and brought to the palace at Babylon.  

Combining the passages from these 2 major prophets, we can see various aspects of the New Covenant (at minimum the following):

  1. Contrast with the Old Covenant (Jer. 31:31-32)
  2. Cleansing from uncleanness and idolatry (Ezek. 36:25)
  3. A new heart (Ezek. 36:26)
  4. Law written on the heart (Jer. 31:33)
  5. The indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit (Ezek. 36:26-27)
  6. Causal Obedience (Ezek. 36:27)
  7. A people of God (Jer. 31:33)
  8. Universal knowledge of God (Jer. 31:34)
  9. Forgiveness of sin (Jer. 31:34) 

Jeremiah states explicitly that this new covenant will not be like the old.  This covenant will not have laws written on stone tablets, but will have the law written on the heart, i.e. the new heart of flesh.  Accompanying this new heart will be the indwelling Holy Spirit that will “cause” those who have been born again to “walk in [God’s] statutes and be careful to obey [His] rules.” From this, we can see that the promise of a new heart, i.e. regeneration or rebirth that is a central tenet of the New Covenant.   This promised new heart, and corresponding removal of the heart of stone, is accomplished through the power of the Holy Spirit and is the resultant to the imperative statement given by Jesus to Nicodemas in John 3, “You must be born again.”  Pushing this conclusion further, we see that the promise of a new heart in the New Covenant ultimately results in entrance into the Kingdom of God.

New Heart/Regeneration/Rebirth/Born Again = Entrance into the Kingdom of Heaven/God

This however brings us to an important question, the people.  Or stated more directly, “To whom do these new covenant benefits belong?”  Note in Ezekiel the direct object of the New Covenant benefits is “you” (plural) and in Jeremiah it is introduced as a covenant with the “house of Israel and the house of Judah.”  Who comprises these two houses?  It would seem, at least on the surface that they will be the beneficiaries of the New Covenant.  Without taking the space in this post to answer that difficult and disputed question fully, there is one final note I’d like to add.  In the passages above, what benefit is being explicitly discussed with respect to the New Covenant?  Ezekiel and Jeremiah state clearly that the new heart (regeneration) and the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit are guaranteed promises of the New Covenant.  So the short answer to the question of, to whom do these new covenant benefits belong is: The Regenerate.

Finally, we see that tied directly to the people will be forgiveness of sins and a universal knowledge of God.  Lord willing, in a future post we’ll answer more fully the question of, “To whom do these new covenant benefits belong?” with a look at what the New Testament has to say about the New Covenant, particularly in it’s quotation of the Jeremiah 31 passage in Hebrews 8:8-12