Chapter 3. The New Covenant Of God


All blessings of the church, taken together, form the acne of the content of salvation under the “new covenant” (Matt. 26:28). This is the heavenly calling of the covenant with Abraham (Heb. 11:10; Eph. 1:3), the unsearchable riches of Christ (Eph. 3:8).


[1] The Old and the New Covenants


But the New Covenant is “new” only in relation to the “old” covenant (Heb. 8:13), and this was given only to Israel (Psa. 147:19,20). the nations were “strangers as regards the covenants of promise” (Eph. 2:12). The name “new covenant,” “new testament “ thus itself expresses that the church cannot be separated from the ground of the Old Testament promise. “Salvation comes out of the Jews” (John 4:22; Rom. 9:5). “Thou bearest not the root but the root bears thee” (Rom. 11:18). Nevertheless since the kingdom of God has been opened to the Gentiles also, there exists no more a “difference “ as regards the enjoyment of its blessings (Acts 15:9; 11:17; 10:17), and the believers from the peoples are exactly as the believers from Israel, partakers of the saving benefits of the new covenant.


As to its content the new covenant is infinitely greater than the old. The Hebrews letter shows this especially. In a sevenfold contrast it displays the excellence of the New Testament salvation, and this in special comparison to four Old Testament persons (or groups of persons) and three Old Testament institutions.


In this it is like 2 Cor. 3, which also throws into relief a sevenfold glory of the new covenant: (1) stone—flesh (vv. 3,7); (2) letter—spirit (ver. 6); (3) death—life (vv. 6,7); (4) lesser—greater (vv. 8-10); (5) condemnation—righteousness (ver. 9); (6) passing—remaining (ver. 11); (7) veiling—unveiling (vv. 12-18).


In Hebrews it is shown that


A. Christ Is Greater


(1) than the angels—the heavenly mediators of the old covenant (chs. 1 and 2), and comp. Heb. 2:2 with Acts 7:53;


(2) than Moses—the earthly mediator of the old covenant, the prophetic leader (Deut. 34:10);


(3) than Joshua—the rest-giver of the old covenant, the political leader (ch. 4).


(4) than Aaron—the high priest of the old covenant, the priestly leader (chs. 5 to 9); Furthermore, in Hebrews, it is shown that:


B. Christ Is Greater


(5) than the covenant itself—the saving content of the old covenant (ch. 8). For according to Heb. 8:8-13 and Jer. 31:31-34, Christ makes: (a) the sovereignty an inward rule, (b) the prophetic office universal, (c) the priesthood perfect. He is greater


(6) than the tabernacle—the place of revelation under the old covenant (ch. 9);


(7) than the sacrifices—the means of salvation under the old covenant (ch. 10). Thus He is greater than all that which the old covenant included, for in Him we are made to share in:


1. a better covenant—7:22; 8:6;


2. a better Mediator—1:4; 3:3;


3. a better sacrifice—9:23; 12:24;


4. a better priesthood—8:6; 7:7;


5. a better possession—6:9; 10:34;


6. a better promise—8:6; 11:40;


7. a better hope—7:19;


8. a better resurrection—11:35;


9. a better fatherland—11:16.


Therefore in His power we can tread the “new and living way” (10:20), that is:


in the faith that looks above (ch. 11),


in the hope that sees things ahead (ch. 12),


in the love that contemplates all things around (ch. 13).


[2] The Covenants with Abraham and with David


In this new covenant is the fulfilment of two Old Testament covenants, that with Abraham and that with David. In the Abrahamic covenant lay the breadth, the blessing for all peoples (Gen. 12:3); in the Davidic covenant was the height, the royal throne of Messiah (1 Chron. 17:11-14). In the one lay expansion, the pressing outward to the circumference; in the other was the holding together, concentration on the centre. And therefore both are often mentioned together, as in Gabriel’s message and Mary’s song (Luke 1:32,55); in the prophetic praise of the Spirit-filled Zacharias (Luke 1:67,73); and in the chief scriptural proof of justification in Paul’s letter to the Romans (4:1-3,6).


But the New Testament fulfilment takes an opposite course to the Old Testament promise. First Christ appears in Israel and works principally among the circumcision and especially as Son of David (Matt. 10:5,6; 15:24); and then comes the time of salvation for the peoples of the world (Acts 13:46; Rom. 11:25), the calling of the nations, and thus the blessing of the covenant with Abraham embracing all mankind (Gal. 3:8,9,14).


[3] Covenant and Testament


Taken strictly it is less “covenant” than “testament.” For


1. A covenant is two-sided, a testament only a one-sided disposal by the will of the testator (“last will”). But in salvation all proceeds from one side, God’s side, and the faith of man is no equivalent (no “consideration”), but simply the hand that lays hold of what is offered,


2. A covenant is dissolved by death, but a testament only becomes legally effective on death. But salvation is wholly a testament, a disposition as one’s “last will.” Only by the death of the Crucified did it first become operative and valid (Heb. 9:15-18). Its presupposition is Christ’s death, its property is the eternal inheritance, and itself a holy Divine appointment. “Divine appointment” is therefore the best translation of the Greek diatheke (Heb. berith), when it is used in this sense in the history of salvation.


[4] Covenant People and World


Outwardly the covenant people is the witness to covenant grace experienced. It is first its product, then its organ; first the object of salvation, then the instrument of salvation. This relation to the world is expressed most connectedly in that very chapter which most leads into the inner realm, the holy place, apart from the world, the High Priestly prayer (John 17). Here the Lord Jesus mentions seven chief relationships. His own are:


1. as to their surroundings—living in the world (vv. 11,15).


2. as to their position—taken out of the world (6).


3. as to their sentiments—separated from the world (16,14,9).


4. as to their service as witnesses—sent into the world (18,21-23).


5. as to their treatment—hated by the world (14).


6. as to their victorious strength—kept from the world (15,11).


The basis of the whole is:


7. the loving plan of God before the foundation of the world.


Before all time the Father had given the church to the Son as a love-gift, and this love of the Father to the Son before the foundation of the world is the basis of the church being glorified at the end of the world. “Father, I will that those whom thou hast given me may be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory ... for thou hast loved me before the foundation of the world” (John 17:24). Thus the love of the Most High before time and after time arches itself as a rainbow over all time. The end returns to the beginning because the beginning guarantees the end (Rom. 11:36).


But in the present the saints are the messengers of God to the world;


i. the “pillar and basis of the truth (1 Tim. 3:15);


ii. His witnesses (Acts 1:8);


iii. His “letters” (2 Cor. 3:1-3);


iv. His ambassadors to the world (2 Cor. 5:20);


v. His “exhibitions of the word of life” (Darby, darstellend, Phil. 2:16);


vi. His stars in the dark night (Phil. 2:15);


vii. His seven golden lampstands with Himself in the midst (Rev. 1:12,13).