Pristine Grace

The New Covenant
Essay 01
Introduction to the Covenants
by Bob Higby
The New Covenant
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after thosedays, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them intheir hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people. . . For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more." - Heb. 8:10,12 KJV

     This passage describing a new covenant is very familiar to us. What is the common 'evangelical' interpretation of this passage?

  1. The promise in verse 12 is of justification.
     
  2. The promise in verse 10 is of regeneration, sanctification, and glorification.
     
  3. God will fulfill verse 12 as soon as we have faith in Christ. From that point on he will begin to fulfill all of the things promised in verse 10, which will be completed at the resurrection.
     
  4. Simply believe and we will partake of these promises.

     Since the gospel of the New Testament is abundantly clear on the matter of justification by faith without works of law, it may seem reasonable to assume that fulfillment of the New Covenant is 'conditional' upon faith. Very simple, right? The reasoning goes like this: God has made all the provisions for salvation in the atonement of Christ. If we will only believe and 'let him' be our Savior, he will respond and fulfill all of the covenant promises made in Jeremiah and Hebrews.

     But is the above interpretation correct? Is it possible that we could have missed the real scope of God's laws written in the mind and heart? Yes. I know that I personally missed it for many years. The problem with a 'conditional' interpretation is the failure to recognize that God's covenants are wholly promissory. Unless God states a condition that must be fulfilled by the other party, in order to make the covenant operational, there is no possibility of his covenant being broken. The only covenant made with this type of condition is the one at Mt. Sinai (Ex. 19:5,6). Some interpreters also see a 'covenant' of this sort made with Adam--but that is speculative and does not have an indisputable foundation in scripture.

     Even the covenant of promise made with Abraham (with circumcision as the sign) was wholly promissory. God made this covenant in Genesis 15, even though the sign of circumcision was not established until many years later in Genesis 17. Note in Gen. 15:17,18 that only God passed between the pieces of the sacrifice. This covenant was not an 'agreement' after the form of most ancient treaties. The only issue was the fulfillment of God's word ('know for certain'--verses 13-16) and the absolute impossibility of history taking a different course than what he had stated. In a similar fashion, ALL of the commandments that God has given in the New Covenant are written on the heart--by his promised Holy Spirit alone. This is especially true of faith, our only assurance of justification and the supreme work and commandment of God (John 6:29, I John 3:23). God has elected a people and he will certainly save all of them, regardless of the objections of many who want the comfortable possibility (loved by the flesh) of 'opting out.'

     For nearly all of the Christian era, many who claim to be God's messengers have attempted to dim the 'more glorious' light of the gospel (2 Cor. 3) with an abundance of legal requirements not ordained of God.