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presents "God's Great Salvation"
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Lesson 12: God's New Covenant
The great salvation which God has provided for us is all of grace. God's grace is revealed to us in His Word in three ways: God's facts, God's promises, and God's covenants.
God's facts point to the past and tells us what God has already done. God's promises point to the future and tell us what God will do in the future.
God not only gives us His glorious facts and His "exceeding great and precious promises," but He also gives us His covenant.
What is a covenant? A covenant is a binding, legal agreement. When two people sign a covenant, it binds them legally to carry out the provisions of the covenant.
If we make a covenant with someone and we fail to do according to the covenant, we are dishonest—a person whose word is not good. Furthermore, we can be compelled by law to do what we covenanted to do.
Why God makes a Covenant with Man
The first Covenant that God made with man occurred during the days of Noah. At that time the world had become so wicked that God said, "I will destroy man whom I have created from the face of the earth…" (Genesis 6:7)
One man, Noah found grace in God's sight. God told Noah and his three sons to build an ark (a large ship). God told Noah that a great flood would come. God promised to preserve Noah's family and the living creatures which he took into the ark.
Noah and his family were shut up in the ark for a year. They came out of the ark when the waters receded. They were safe, but they must have been fearful. They must have wondered if God would ever again destroy mankind with a great flood.
To assure them, God made a covenant with Noah and his sons that He would never again destroy the earth with a flood. God gave them a sign of this covenant—the rainbow. God said,
"I set My rainbow in the cloud, and it shall be for the sign of the covenant between Me and the earth." (Genesis 9:13 NKJV)
A covenant means that God commits Himself to man and says, "I will do this." God signs His name to it as it were, so that we can say, "God will surely do this: I have His covenant to rest my faith on."
God made a covenant with Abraham, to bless him and his descendent, and to give them the land of Canaan.
God made a covenant with David that one of his descendents would reign over the house of Israel forever. This covenant promise would be fulfilled by Christ. An angel appeared to Mary, the mother of Jesus, and said,
"Behold, you shall conceive in your womb, and bring forth a son, and shall call His name Jesus. He shall be great, and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto Him the throne of His father David: And He shall reign over the house of Jacob [Israel] for ever; and of His kingdom there shall be no end." (Luke 1:31-33)
The Old Covenant
The Bible speaks especially of two covenants—the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Both covenants are between God and Israel. The Old Covenant is called the Mosaic Covenant because God gave this covenant to Israel through Moses. Moses is called the mediator of the Old Covenant because he was God's representative to the people of Israel.
On Mount Sinai God gave Moses two tablets of stone on which He had written the Ten Commandments. He also gave Moses special laws and ordinances which were to govern the social and religious life of the people of Israel.
Those special laws and ordinances were for Israel alone, but the Ten Commandments, often referred to in the Bible as "the law," are God's moral laws for all people. Moses said to the people of Israel,
"He declared unto you His covenant, which He commanded you to perform, even ten commandments; and He wrote them upon two tablets of stone." (Deuteronomy 4:13)
The Old Covenant was conditional. This means that God promised to bless men if they obeyed Him. God said,
"Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people." (Jeremiah 7:23)
God's law is the expression of His will. It shows us what is right and what is wrong in His sight. God's law is good, and holy, and righteous; but there are some things that it could never do. God's law could not forgive sin; it could not make men good; and it could not give everlasting life to men.
Why did God give the Law?
If the law could not save men and if it could not make men good, then why did God give the law?
The great work of the law was to show men what sin was and to show them their need of a Saviour. The Bible says,
"For by the law is the knowledge of sin." (Romans 3:20)
When men see their sinfulness and the judgment they are under for breaking God's law, they see their need of a Saviour.
The Old Covenant was found Faulty
The Old Covenant did not bring satisfaction to either God or man. The law could tell men what they should do, but it could not give them power to do it.
Was the fault with the law? No, it was not. God's law is pure, and holy, and righteous. The trouble was man's heart. The Bible says of Israel,
"They kept not the covenant of God, and refused to walk in His law…For their heart was not right with Him, neither were they steadfast in His covenant." (Psalm 78:10,37)
The New Covenant
In the books of Jeremiah and Ezekiel, we read of the new covenant which God will one day make with Israel.
"Behold, the days come, says the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah…
But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, says the Lord: I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be My people.
And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sins no more." (Jeremiah 31:31,33,34)
God said, "Behold, the days come." This would indicate that at the time these words were spoken the days had not come. The Lord said further, "This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days."
According to other prophecies in the Bible, we believe that the new covenant will come into effect with Israel at the beginning of Christ's reign of a thousand years on the earth. It is during that time that God will pour out His Spirit on Israel and bring them into the blessings of the New Covenant.
Christ brought His Believers into the Blessings of the New Covenant
Although we read about the New Covenant in the Old Testament, nothing was heard of it for hundreds of years. It was as though it was a forgotten treasure.
Even during the time of the Lord's earthly ministry, He never mentioned it. Day after day, year after year, the Lord made no reference to it. But at the time of the last Passover supper with His disciples, Jesus took the cup, blessed it, and gave it to His disciples saying,
"This cup is the new testament [the New Covenant] in My blood, which is shed for you." (Luke 22:20)
What is the Lord Jesus doing here? He is bringing His believers, Jews and Gentiles, into the blessings of the New Covenant now! Though the New Covenant blessings will not be enjoyed by Israel until the beginning of Christ's thousand-year reign, all of Christ's redeemed believers may enjoy them now.
How gracious the Lord is to us! He is opening the spiritual treasure house of heaven and giving its treasures to His beloved ones now. We are not only new persons in God's new creation, but we come under His New Covenant blessings.
Why are we under the New Covenant now? Because the Lord Jesus Christ shed His precious blood for us. He said in effect, "This cup represents the New Covenant which is brought into being for you by My blood."
The Lord Jesus shed His blood not only for the putting away of our sins but also to bring His believers into the blessings of the New Covenant now. This age of grace is the age of the New Covenant for believers.
Let us look at the "treasures" of the New Covenant.
* "I will put My law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts." Throughout the Old Covenant there was always one problem: man's heart was not right with God. In the New Covenant, this evil is remedied. God will have His people of one mind and one spirit with Himself so that they delight to do His will. God says,
"I will give them a heart to know Me, that I am the Lord; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God: for they shall return unto Me with their whole heart." (Jeremiah 24:7)
* "And I will be their God, and they shall be my people." It is only when His people love Him and want to do His will that God can be to them what He wants to be. God is saying, "I will be your God; all that I am and have shall be yours."
* "And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know Me, from the least unto the greatest of them, says the Lord." Under the New Covenant, every believer has the wonderful privilege of individual, personal fellowship with the Lord.
* "For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Because the blood of Christ is of such infinite value to God, He promises such a blotting out of our sins that He cannot even remember it!
Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant
Moses was the mediator, God's representative, in the Old Covenant. Christ is the Mediator, God's representative, in the New Covenant. The Bible says,
"But now has He [Christ] obtained a more excellent ministry…He is the Mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises." (Hebrews 8:6)
The Old Covenant was based on man's responsibility. It was conditional. God promised to bless men if they obeyed Him.
The New Covenant is based on God's purpose and grace. The New Covenant is unconditional—it is all of God and His grace. It does not depend on man at all. God is saying what He will do.
What are the "treasures" of the New Covenant? They are these: the forgiveness of all our sins, God's law written in our heart so that we love to do His will, having God as our God, knowing God and having personal fellowship with Him.
Under the New Covenant, God provides a perfect righteousness for us and gives us the Spirit of Christ so that we can live in obedience and communion with Him.
The New Covenant is like a wedding gift which a very wealthy father gave to his daughter on her wedding day. He handed her a small box. When she opened it, it contained only one item—a key. To those who did not know its secret, it seemed to be rather small and insignificant gift. But the bride knew the secret. She smiled and then threw her arms around her father and kissed him. What was the secret of the gift? It was the key to a beautiful new home!
God has given us all His riches in Christ, and He has given us the "key" to those riches. The key is the Holy Spirit. He is our link with Christ on the throne. The Lord said,
"I will put My Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them." (Ezekiel 36:27)
Through His Spirit, Christ lives in us. Because we have Christ living in us, we can live righteously in this world. The apostle Paul said,
"For to me to live is Christ [His life in me], and to die is gain." (Philippians 1:21)
Two Wonderful Gifts
In working out His great salvation, God has given us two wonderful gifts:
God gave His Son to die for us. The Bible says,
"But when the fullness of the time was come, God sent forth His Son…to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons." (Galatians 4:4-5)
God gave the Spirit of His Son to live in us. The Bible says,
"Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into your hearts, crying, 'Abba, Father.'" (Galatians 4:6)
God gave His Son to die for us that we might be His sons, and God gave His Spirit to live in us that we might live like His sons. This is what we receive in the New Covenant—the Spirit of Christ dwelling in us that we might live like God's sons.
We are a Heavenly People
Israel is an earthly people, and they will receive earthly blessings and an earthly inheritance. But God has something better for believers; we are a heavenly people.
We are under the New Covenant, and Christ is the Mediator of the New Covenant. Where is Christ today? He is at the right hand of God. The glorious Christ has been exalted to the very throne of heaven. He is the Head of God's new creation.
God puts us in Christ on the cross. We died with Him; and we rose with Him in newness of life. We were exalted with Him and made to sit with Him in heavenly places. This is our spiritual position.
God's great salvation is the mighty power of God by which we have been taken out of the earthly old creation and brought into the heavenly new creation. We belong to God's Second Man, not the first man. The Bible says,
"The first man is from the earth, made of dust; the second man is from heaven. Like the one made of dust, so too are those made of dust, and like the one from heaven, so too those who are heavenly." (1 Corinthians 15:47-48 NET Bible)
We are a heavenly people—"the heavenly ones." In our body we live on this earth, but our spiritual position is that we are seated with Christ in God's new creation.
As we live in this world, the things of the world press in on us, but there is one thing we must always keep in mind. We are a heavenly people.
If every believer would remember this simple thought, it would be a lifelong benefit. We are new persons in God's new creation. This world is not our home. Our "citizenship" is in heaven!
We have a link with Christ on the throne. Christ dwells in us by His Spirit. The apostle Paul said,
"I have been crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me." (Galatians 2:20)
Because we are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts. May God open our eyes to see that the Holy Spirit in us is the very same Spirit that dwells in God's Son. Through the Holy Spirit, the living Christ lives in us.
Because the glorious, exalted Christ lives in me by His Spirit, I can live a life of obedience and communion with God. Paul said,
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." (Philippians 4:13)
* We are under the New Covenant.
* Christ has brought His believers into the blessings of the New Covenant now!
The Lord's Testament or Will.
The Bible tells us that the New Covenant is also a "testament" or a will. From God's standpoint, it is a covenant, but from the standpoint of the Lord Jesus, it is a testament or a will.
God the Father has appointed His Son the Heir of all things. The Lord Jesus, in turn, has willed to His believers all the riches of the New Covenant.
In a will here are three parties. First, the testator—the person who makes the will. Next, the beneficiaries—those who receive the inheritance. Finally, there is the executor—the one appointed by the testator to see that the provisions of his will are faithfully carried out.
What you receive under a will is not something that you work for; it is left to you as a gift by another person. But you do not receive it until that person dies.
The Lord Jesus is the testator—the One who has willed His believers an eternal inheritance. At the last supper with His disciples, Jesus took the cup and said, "This is My blood of the new testament, which is shed for many." The Lord Jesus was pointing to His soon death on the cross. He was saying in effect, "This cup represents My blood—My death—which will bring into effect the new covenant for My believers."
The Lord Jesus not only died that the New Covenant might be in effect for His believers, but He rose again from the dead to be the Executor of His will. He is "the Mediator of the New Covenant."
He has left us a rich inheritance, and He has the power to see that we receive what belongs to us.
What do we receive under the New Covenant? We receive:
Cleansing from all sins. "…the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin." (1 John 1:7b)
The personal knowledge of God. "…all shall know Me, from the least to the greatest." (Hebrews 8:11)
Deliverance from the power of sin. "Sin shall not have dominion over you: for you are not under the law, but under grace." (Romans 6:14)
The ability to know and do God's will. "I will put My spirit within you, and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep my judgments and do them." (Ezekiel 36:27)
Everything in the New Covenant comes to us as a gift; we do not work for it. Nevertheless, we do not automatically come into the good of it. To come into the enjoyment of our inheritance, we must know what is ours under the New Covenant, we must claim it by faith, and we must trust the Lord Jesus to bring us into the good of it. The Bible says,
"Now the God of peace…make you perfect in every good work to do His will, working in you that which is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ: to whom be glory for ever and ever." (Hebrews 13:20-21)