Understanding the two covenants
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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.
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.
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.
 Romans 15:8-9
 Hebrews 10:4
 Acts 10:43
 Romans 3:20
 2 Timothy 1:8-10
 Galatians 3:17-18