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Thursday, September 20, 2012

The New Covenant - Where To Find It

“The time is coming,” declares the LORD, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. (Jer 31:31)

Given that the document for the Old Covenant is the book of Deuteronomy, we should expect to be able to find the document which constitutes the New Covenant. Having done so we would then be able to discover its terms and so explain clearly and simply what the New Covenant is all about.

The Institution Of The New Covenant
Most of us probably recognise some of the basics of the New Covenant - the Lord's Supper, Jesus' death on the cross and baptism for example. However, these are simply outward signs and not the terms of the Covenant.

We know that Jesus, at the Last Supper, said:

“This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you." (Luke 22:20)

Here he institutes the Covenant and it is clear that it is ratified by his shedding of his own blood on the cross. So we can expect to find the terms of the New Covenant between the Last Supper and the crucifixion. And indeed we do, in John's Gospel. In fact, once we know what we're looking for it is very easy to spot. It begins at John 13:34 when Jesus says:

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.”

Notice how he doesn't begin until after Judas the traitor has left. What follows is just for the true disciples and Jesus begins to lay down the terms of the New Covenant beginning with the command to love one another.

As we continue to read, despite the interruptions of various members of the Eleven, we begin to recognise covenant terminology, conditions and promises. These continue through to the end of John 16.

Understanding The New Covenant
If we want to fully understand what it means to be a Christian these few chapters in John's Gospel will repay some consistent study. We will discover what it means to be in a New Covenant relationship with God. We will find out what the Lord regards as our obligations and the blessings which are promised to us. We learn what it truly means to be a Christian.

Next time we will begin to look at the details of the New Covenant.


Thursday, September 13, 2012

The New Covenant - The Nature of Blood Covenants

In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes. (1 Cor 11:23-26)
Just A Memorial Meal?
We've heard this passage so many times that there may be a tendency to think of the Lord's Supper as simply a solemn celebration to remind us that Jesus died to pay the price for our sins. But we must not gloss over Jesus' statement that the cup was the New Covenant in his blood.
Covenants, especially covenants ratified in blood, are more binding than legal contracts. They bring two parties together in an agreement which lasts forever, possibly even beyond the grave, and which cannot be annulled. The Old Covenant between God and Abraham and his descendants was a blood covenant, sealed with the shedding of blood in circumcision. The New Covenant has been sealed with the blood of Jesus.
All covenants have terms and conditions. The book of Deuteronomy lays out the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant also known as the Law. This is not the place to detail those conditions because as Paul tells the Romans, we are not under law but under grace (Rom 6:15). But knowing something about covenant terms in general will help us to identify the terms of the New Covenant.
Characteristics of Covenants 
These are common characteristics of covenants:
  1. Partners in a covenant are known as Covenant Friends. This is why Abraham was known as a friend of God.
  2. Sometimes names are changed. For example, Abram became Abraham.
  3. There may be an exchange of weapons as was the case when David and Jonathan entered into a covenant friendship.
  4. A sign may be given such as Noah's rainbow.
  5. A meal is invariably part of the covenant. In the Old Covenant this was expressed through the sacrificial system.
Characteristics of the New Covenant
There are equivalent characteristics in the New Covenant:
  1. Jesus  called his disciples friends (Jn 15:13-15).
  2. New names are promised (Rev 2:17).
  3. Spiritual armour given (Eph 6:10-18).
  4. Baptism is the sign (Rom 6:3).
  5. The Lord's Supper is the covenant meal (Matt 26:28)
Covenant Terms
The question then arises, what are the actual terms of the New Covenant? If Deuteronomy is the covenant document for the Old Covenant, where is its equivalent for the New Covenant? What does it say? We will look at this next time.