Understanding the two covenants


A response to Henry:

I think that the discussion of the two covenants, the Old and New Testaments, needs to be looked at from a different light than the traditional understanding of these covenants, in order to understand them better.  The following are truths that I hold to be true concerning our gospel.

1.  There is not more than one way man is imputed righteousness in scripture.

God did not present to the Old Testament saints one way of imputed righteousness and to us another.  What we gentiles enjoy, because of the Messiah, is not something separated from the promise given to Abraham or the righteousness God has given him and his descendents.  But through Christ we gentiles share in THE blessing of Abraham by which we receive the Holy Spirit.  (Henry, you speak of this in your second comments to me.)

Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree: That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.[1]

We gentiles get to participate in the gospel already given to the original Children of Abraham.  Yes there is a New Covenant, but the difference is not found in the hope and promise of salvation as we teach from the pulpit.  For Paul says that Jesus confirmed the promises given to the fathers.  Not made a whole new set of rules for the New Testament believers by doing something new and disannulling the first promise.  By confirming this promise and being included into THE blessing of Abraham we gentiles rejoice in God’s mercy, just as it is written.

Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers: And that the Gentiles might glorify God for his mercy; as it is written, For this cause I will confess to thee among the Gentiles, and sing unto thy name.[2]

This is why I have advocated in my writings over and over again that Paul taught circumcision is a seal of righteousness.  This I went into some detail in my post, Jesus the minister of circumcision.  I believe that scripture clearly teaches this is why we are grafted into Abraham and not the other way around.  What God promises to Abraham and his descendants is the benefit of what we as gentiles get to enjoy today.  Just as you said Henry in your first comments.

Consequently, I can not agree with the comment, “Repentance and remission were thus obtained through ritual sacrifices, and of course it was God’s Grace to forgive Israel of their sins through the “mechanisms” of these practices”.  Hebrews teaches that sacrifices were an annual reminder of sin.  I don’t see a teaching in scripture that teaches remission of sins was accomplished through ritual sacrifices.  Instead I see scripture teaching the opposite.

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.[3]

It is through Christ only that there is remission of sin.

To him give all the prophets witness, that through his name whosoever believeth in him shall receive remission of sins.[4]

Also note that the prophets, whom we would assume lived without the benefit of the knowledge we have concerning Christ, give witness to this remission coming from the promised one.  Are we to assume they did not hope in the one they witnessed to?  Is their hope in the promised one any different than ours, except we see a hope manifest, yet provided for before the foundation of the world for them and us?

2.  There is not more than one gospel presented in the whole of scripture

We find Paul preaching from the Law of Moses and the prophets in the last chapter of Acts.  In doing so he taught of the kingdom of God and of Christ from these texts.  This goes hand in had with Paul’s teaching that a righteousness from God is revealed in the Law, even though following the Law does not bring about righteousness.

Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.[5]

I would like to add, Paul says we become conscious of sin, not just they of the Old Testament.  If we by reading scripture have the Holy Spirit convict of us sin, it is through the understanding of God’s word, the gospel Paul preached from, that individuals in both covenants are convicted of sin.  The basics of this is found in the Ten Commandments which is our starting point of the conviction of sin.  Consequently I can not believe that the Spirit solely, “Under the Old Covenant therefore it was the Law (as opposed to the Spirit) that convicted man of sin”.  For I see the Law working in the lives of people in both covenants.

3.  Our gospel teaches that Christ only died once for sin.

To this everyone would say, duh.  But let me explain.  Carolyn has commented that our gospel is mentioned in the garden.  But our gospel doesn’t even start there.  Nor does our gospel teach that Christ died sometime around 33 AD.  This is what every non believer believes about Christ.  I consider this knowledge of Christ the unbeliever’s gospel.  Our gospel preaches that Christ was slain from the foundation of the world, this is something taking place even before the garden.

Be not thou therefore ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me his prisoner: but be thou partaker of the afflictions of the gospel according to the power of God; Who hath saved us, and called us with an holy calling, not according to our works, but according to his own purpose and grace, which was given us in Christ Jesus before the world began, But is now made manifest by the appearing of our Saviour Jesus Christ, who hath abolished death, and hath brought life and immortality to light through the gospel:[6]

We along with those of the Old Testament have been called and “saved” in Christ before the world began.  If this has already been given to us before the foundation of the world, is it correct to conclude as Robert has said, “Grace was in the Old, the salvation in the Messiah was preached in the Old, righteousness was given in the Old, so is this way Dave is correct that the gospel existed since the Old, but it is the reality of the New that we receive the promised Messiah, receive the promises promised to Abraham, and enter into the promised salvation the Messiah brings.”  I have to conclude it is not, for who can brag over the Old Testament saints who had the same gospel, the same hope and received the same in Christ before the world began.  But what God had done before time began was manifest in the timeline of history as the eternal (outside of time and space) became evident around 33 AD.  Not only this, but what has already been given is now manifest in our lives as we live out the hope held out in the gospel.

Consequently again, I can not solely believe the idea that, “Under this [Old] Covenant however, Jesus had not yet gone to Calvary”.  The world saw it manifest this way and would conclude this, but we understand it to be done before the world began.  The manifestation was accomplished around 33 AD just as Jesus said on the cross, but our Savior died for us before the world began.

Concluding this thought, I would have to say that those of the Old Testament put their hope in a savior who died for them before the world began, just as He did for us.  Should I conclude they had a different hope and different reality?  No the gospel is consistent through and through.  Isn’t this hope what the prophets testified to?  This is why I do not agree with Robert when he says, “but how that grace and righteousness came to us is different by way of the Messiah.”  Instead, I would say that grace and righteousness came to us gentiles in the same way because of the Messiah.

Summary

I say all of this to make a point.  There is for both testaments a certain reality that Paul preaches in his gospel, and I would have to assume he was still preaching in the last chapter of acts.  What we have been given to us, as well as to them, was given before the foundation of the world.  The imputed righteousness they were given is testified to by the Law but not given to them by the Law, just as it is for us today.  It was given to them through Abraham which is part of what is commonly called the Law, or the five books of Moses.  For the promises given to Abraham are in the first of the five books of the Law.  Our gospel was their gospel, our hope was their hope, our imputed righteousness was their imputed righteousness.  This is why the writer of Hebrews says those at Mt. Sinai had the same gospel preached to them as we did to us, but it did them no good.

Again this is why Paul says of those who came out of Egypt they were all baptized (speaking of our baptism) and they all ate spiritual meat and drank spiritual drink from the rock which is Christ (symbolisms of our communion).  Then Paul goes on to speak of how it did them no good.  (So much for once saved always saved.)

The righteousness that has come to us through the covenant God made with Abraham, Paul says the seal of righteousness is circumcision, was before the Law.  The Law that came later cannot disannul the promise.  For anyone to teach they of the Old Testament saints received remission of sins through the Law is not biblical to my understanding.  Especially when this point of view is applied to how the two Testaments are different.

And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.  For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.[7]

In my opinion, to even hint that they of the Old Covenant put their hope in the Law or it was the vehicle by which they worked towards righteousness, which is demonstrated by the saying, “They had the Law and we have grace.”, assumes that the promises given were not for the people to whom the promises were first given.  For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

The promise was given of Abraham before the Law as I have explained above and we can not assume the Law, as we understand it with its ordinances, testifies to this righteousness, although it does testify of Christ.  The Law, the books of Moses, speaks of the righteousness given to Abraham and his descendents as an everlasting covenant, by which we too are now circumcised in the heart by the circumcision of Christ.  This promise was not annulled and which Paul speaking of it say, confirmed of God in Christ.  It doesn’t sound like a new dispensation to me, at least in the traditional thinking of the church.

Paul speaks of those who did exactly what many advocated was the gospel of the Old Testament.  The gospel many advocate was for the Old Testament teaches they worked for a righteousness, but we saints are credited righteousness.  Paul says of those who sought righteousness through the Law, rejected the righteousness of God, for they were ignorant of God’s righteousness.  Just because they stumbled over the stumbling stone, it doesn’t make it their gospel.  This is why it was their error and justification for their shame.

I would say the Old not only pointed to the New, but the New is the same promise, the same hope, the same gospel, the same imputed righteousness and the same faith of the Old Testament.  This is what I think scripture is clearly trying to teach us.  Just as the promise was confirmed in Christ and they participated in the rock which was Christ.

Henry, you hint at the New Covenant at the end of your first comments to my original post when you quote Hebrews and when you mention the Spirit.  This I would like to dive further into since I think it stresses the points I have been trying to make.  I am very excited to talk to you about this New Covenant and what it means.  But I am curious, what do you think about my convictions concerning the similarities of the two covenants and how our traditional understanding of the two dispensations is not so solidly founded on God’s word?

I would never advocate that God didn’t make a New Covenant because He did.  I believe the church doesn’t understand the Biblical differences between the two when they disannul those things above, that I hopefully have adequately defended.  I see you hinting at what I would consider to be the true differences between the two covenants, but I consider them not to be founded in the traditional arguments of the differences between the two.

Henry, this conversation is helpful to me in reviewing my own understanding of scripture and the practice of articulating it.  I hope this is a stretching exercise for us all in the scriptures and that I in fact bring a clearer light on the subject.  Not that I want anyone to be persuaded by me, but rather by scripture, as you have said to Robert.  All my comments are directed at your first comments to me and none after.  I will catch up with your other comments as well since I am so far behind the eight ball.  I have previewed your other comments and you and have much common ground.  Thanks again for the conversation.

Any areas you would wish to challenge me on, I whole heartedly look forward to.  Even from you Robert and any others.  It helps me to understand my gospel better and I do learn too by reading things you advocate.


[1]Galatians 3:13-14

[2] Romans 15:8-9

[3] Hebrews 10:4

[4] Acts 10:43

[5] Romans 3:20

[6] 2 Timothy 1:8-10

[7] Galatians 3:17-18

7 thoughts on “Understanding the two covenants

  1. I apologize if I left the impression that the Gospel began in Eden. I intended to make the point that the Lamb slain in Eden……as a blood sacrifice….and whose coat was literally a ‘cloke of righteousness’ for Adam and Eve….was the first ‘sacrifice for sin’ ….in the biblical record in Genesis. It was the first manifestation….in the physical sense….of the very SPIRITUAL …Gospel which resides in the heart of God and has always existed. It is man only who has been set between and beginning and ending. Father, Son, Holy Spirit and all Divine purpose is outside of measured time. The events at Eden are power-packed with ‘knowing’ God/’knowing’ evil,…all according to the perfect purpose of God, with Divine intervention, with God’s “Lamb slain from the foundation of the world’ to cover Eve’s transgression, with Adam as a type of Christ who willingly/knowingly gave himself to spiritual death for the separated bride, and with the affects of that redemption….fellowship restored. That IS the GOSPEL! The Gospel has always exisited…in the heart of the Father. From the beginning in Gensis, God always taught by example…by concrete and unmistakable methods…proclaiming that the Son..Lamb…is the Door back to fellowship with the Father…back to Life. Peter found his way to it…and Christ said, ‘On this rock I will build my church.’ The Rock IS RESTORED Spirit to spirit fellowship with the Father…though the death of Christ’s soul poured out in place of ours. Ephesus left the Door out of their Christianity. Without the First Love…one only has ‘churchianity.’
    Again, I apologize for our Lord’s sake if I left the impression that I do not know and understand the scope of the Gospel as it is revealed in the Word…by way of the Holy Spirit. I have reminded you in the past that it is ONLY by being taught these truths from the Holy Spirit ( spiritual discernment) …that one can SEE the Gospel in its fulness. You seem to be frustrated and disappointed that others do not ‘see’. But it is ONLY the Holy Spirit who gives ‘sight.’ Outside of the spiritual discernment of scripture….man continues to read and draw his own conclusions….resulting in many false doctrines and idiologies. So be it. One man cannot teach another and give understanding. It comes from the Teacher…or it does not come at all.

    • Carolyn,

      I intended to make the point that the Lamb slain in Eden……as a blood sacrifice….and whose coat was literally a ‘cloke of righteousness’ for Adam and Eve….was the first ‘sacrifice for sin’ ….in the biblical record in Genesis.

      This point is so right on, and spoken very well. I apologize if I left the impression that your understanding of the gospel was wanting. This was not my intention. You have made many contributions to this blog by your comments and I wanted to include you in the dialogue.

      Additionally, many people look to Genesis and see the gospel there. I wanted to use your comment as launching pad to stretch people to comprehend what has happened on our behalf before scripture records, “In the beginning God.” Not so much for us, but for those who may read and never comment.

  2. Dave,

    According to you there is, “not more than one way man is imputed righteousness in scripture.” Fine, I agree! But what does scripture say? Scripture says Abraham’s faith was imputed to him for righteousness? This is how righteousness is imputed right? Through faith with its works? Yes! The question then is since there is NOT MORE THAN ONE WAY for imputed righteousness and righteousness is imputed by faith did Israel have this imputed righteousness under the Old Covenant? My answer to this question is no but I would be interested to know what your answer would be! Why do I say they did not have this imputed righteousness? Because they did NOT have faith because faith was not yet given (or had not yet come)! Isn’t this what scripture teaches? Let me qualify that by saying that perhaps a select few individuals during the Old Covenant times did have faith such as the prophets but in the main Israel did NOT have faith because it had NOT YET COME.

    Galatians 3
    19Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator. 20Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one. 21Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law. 22But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.
    23But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. 24Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

    The whole passage of Gal 3 is worth reading but just to highlight a few verses. Does it not say here in verse 23 that before faith came Israel was kept under the Law SHUT UP FROM FAITH, which would afterwards be revealed (in Christ’s death)? So if they are kept shut up how can you say what was available to us today was also available to them under the Law? Yes scripture says that Christ was a Lamb slain from the foundations of the world but this did not give Israel access to faith under the Old Covenant until it was revealed in the physical manifestation of Christ’s death in circa 33 A.D. If something is not revealed to you how can you claim it? Isn’t it because it was not available to them why God purposed the New Covenant in Jer 31:31-34? Indeed the New Covenant of course is part and parcel of the fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham. The Old Covenant also was part of the fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham but these are two separate though connected parts of a whole. Israel therefore had no awareness of the faith in Christ since this was only revealed in the New Covenant. To argue otherwise would be unbiblical.

    In many of your writings you seem to imply that there is no difference between the two covenants because according to you what was available under the new was available already under the old. Gal 3 above however declares that this is not so! There is a gulf of difference between the two covenants in spite of the fact that they are related in the fulfilment of the promises made to Abraham. But the key thing here is that what was promised to Abraham was not revealed (or fully revealed) until the new covenant. If it wasn’t revealed Israel most certainly didn’t have it. They did not nor could not experience the freedom of the Spirit in Christ but they were under bondage to the schoolmaster that was the law, in their flesh. This was necessary to bring them to faith in Christ [Gal 3:24], which they did not already possess (though it was already prepared).

    I have not responded to most of what you said because I want to home in on this major point of difference between the time period of the law and the time period since the fulfilment of the new covenant.

    • Henry,

      You say so many things that I agree with and I can see how you would assume my position would not agree with what you are saying. Let me chew on this for a while and try to lay out a way to show that what you and I are saying are not really that different at all, all though it would appear they are.

  3. Dave,

    I am glad to know we are in agreement on many things. It is not a matter that I am making assumptions about where you stand but more attempting to question where you stand in order to gain further clarification of where you are coming from. There are some issues in your post where you have quoted me which I would want to address since you are in disagreement there. But as far as I am concerned I have not made an unbilical statement on those points but we shall explore them.

    As scriptures say, iron sharpeneth iron so it is indeed good for us to discuss these matters and study as we go to further our understanding of the Gospel. You see you perhaps will not get such a deep discourse in a “church setting” and that is partly to do with the one pastor system. Yet the Lord appointed apostles, pastors, teachers, elders etc that were to contribute to the church coming to a oneness in the faith and the full knowledge of Jesus Christ.

    • Henry,

      Funny you should say this, “You see you perhaps will not get such a deep discourse in a “church setting” and that is partly to do with the one pastor system.” As I was reading the paragraph before I was thinking to myself how I cannot find a believer who wants to study God’s word like this. I have to go to Great Brittan to find a brother who will speak more of scripture than Sunday sound bites.

  4. Dave,

    As I said to you in my last comment, there are some points of disagreement in your post in response to me that I would like to address. What you have done in your post in some way reflects the view to the ordinary reader that I have made unbiblical statements so I have highlighted these areas which I will then relate back to my original comment which you are responding to.

    Here is the first point then:

    Consequently, I can not agree with the comment, “Repentance and remission were thus obtained through ritual sacrifices, and of course it was God’s Grace to forgive Israel of their sins through the “mechanisms” of these practices”. Hebrews teaches that sacrifices were an annual reminder of sin. I don’t see a teaching in scripture that teaches remission of sins was accomplished through ritual sacrifices. Instead I see scripture teaching the opposite.
    For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.[3]
    It is through Christ only that there is remission of sin.

    Let me ask you this: could Israel have obtained remission for sins without performing these ordinances which God had commanded them to do under the Covenant? My answer to that is NO! Not performing these ordinances as required by the Old Covenant would constitute rebellion to God and therefore sin! Have I not therefore qualified what I said in the above quote that repentance and remission were obtained through the “mechanisms” of these ordinances but that it was in fact God’s grace to forgive Israel of their sins? Maybe you misunderstood what I said but I most certainly did not state that the sacrifices took away sin in and of themselves BUT rather I stated categorically that it was through God’s Grace and that the sacrifices were just symbolic. By introducing Heb 10:4 into the equation though you changed the complexion of what I was trying to say. Or do you mean to imply that God did not forgive Israel when they performed the ordinances required on the Day of Atonement? Noting that these things merely foreshadowed that which was to be fulfilled in Chirst, which is why I said they were symbolic.

    Anyway let’s look at the next point of disagreement:

    Consequently I can not believe that the Spirit solely, “Under the Old Covenant therefore it was the Law (as opposed to the Spirit) that convicted man of sin”. For I see the Law working in the lives of people in both covenants.

    Once again here you have given the impression that I have made an unbiblical statement. The case in point is that my emphasis was in the fact that under the Old Covenant it was the Law that convicted man of sin and not the Spirit. But you countered by saying that you see the Law working in the lives of people in both covenants. So what you have done here is to contradict something that I did not say. I never made reference to the fact that only the Spirit worked in the lives of people in the New Covenant. In fact if you had read my follow up comment to the first which you are responding to here you would have noted where I cited scripture to show that the righteousness of the Law was fulfilled in us in Christ. I am therefore not ignorant of the fact that the law works in us under the new covenant through Christ. This does not take away from the truth that it is the Spirit that convicts man of sin (since the law is now written upon our hearts). Though this was not the point I was making.

    The last point of contention is as follows:

    Consequently again, I can not solely believe the idea that, “Under this [Old] Covenant however, Jesus had not yet gone to Calvary”. The world saw it manifest this way and would conclude this, but we understand it to be done before the world began. The manifestation was accomplished around 33 AD just as Jesus said on the cross, but our Savior died for us before the world began.

    Dave again here you appear to give the impression that I have made an unbiblical statement. The fact that Jesus was a Lamb slain from the foundation of the world DOES NOT conflict with the Biblical fact that at the time of the Old Covenant He had not yet gone to Calvary. Or do you mean to imply that He was slain at Calvary from the foundations of the world? For me to say that “Jesus had not yet gone to Calvary” or that “the manifestation at Calvary” had not been fulfilled at the time amounts to the same thing. As far as human history was concerned Calvary had not yet taken place. Moreover Israel was ignorant of the fact that Jesus was a Lamb slain from the foundations of the world. This was only revealed in the New Covenant.

    I might be wrong here but to me it appears that you are saying that Israel possessed the revealed knowledge of Christ under the Old Covenant, which we now have in the New Covenant. Of course Israel did not already possess the revealed knowledge of Christ until it was given to them in the New. Hence when I treat the subject of the Old Covenant I speak in terms of their ignorance.

Give me a piece of your mind, let me know what you thought.

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