Covenant Expiration Dates & Perpetual Renewal – Where I’ve Been Part 3
The trip down doctrinal memory lane continues here. It’s fascinating to look back six nine years and see what I was talking about, what really got me going. Its also interesting to see how my communication style has changed, and how it’s remained the same. I’ll write a little postscript after the fourth and final post about how I’m presently processing everything I’ve written about so passionately in this old email. In the meantime, I’d love to know how you think about law and grace, covenant and fulfillment, the role of Scripture in the life of faith, et al.
Here it is, in progress…
Sometimes you “read” me wrong, Seth, and right now I know that there’s at least the chance that all you’re thinking about is the Bible. “What about the Bible?” You ask. Well, I hope that the sheer preponderance of Scripture references to this point convince you that I’m not making all this New Covenant/liberation from Law/union with Christ stuff up! Even so, the problem with the Bible is that it hasn’t been around for most Christian people in most regions at most time periods in history. Widespread literacy-as-we-know-it is only as recent as the 19th century, and as these folks will tell you, the job’s still far from over!
So…in lieu of a Bible as omnipresent as Christians believe the Holy Spirit is…might there be something truly ubiquitous that our faith can be sustained by? I think the answer is staring us in the face. Though I firmly believe in the Reformation credo of “Sola Scriptura,” I believe in “Solo Christo” even more. Because whether you’re illiterate or poor or persecuted, there are times when youjust won’t have a Bible. But Jesus, in His resurrection power and glory, is always here. He will never leave or forsake us. Hehas been the strength believers have drawn upon for millennia. The bible derives its authority from the True and Living Word, not the other way around.
So that is what you “do” in the new covenant, that is what the “law” is: Practice the Presence of God!
Do you think I’m a heretic, Seth? One of Hosea’s “cakes half baked, but raw on the other side?” Not balanced?
I feel like you must still be reading me wrong. Let me flesh out what I’m trying to say a little bit. New Covenant Theology (Henceforth NCT) is a biblical approach to understanding God’s unfolding plan of redemption. The focus of this approach is the work and person of Jesus Christ with emphasis on what God has accomplished and fulfilled in Christ. Jesus is the grand theme of both the New and Old Testament Scriptures which unifies all of the Bible (Ephesians 1:9-10).
The primary premise of NCT is that the New Covenant as mediated by Christ is a brand new covenant which totally replaces the Old Covenant (Hebrews 8:6-13). The Old Covenant was a covenant which God established with the nation of Israel only. The terms of this covenant were the Ten Commandments or Tables of Stone (Exodus 34:27-28; Deuteronomy 5:1-3). Thus, the Ten Commandments were only the essence of the Old Covenant (or first covenant) and not the essence of all of God’s law.
In addition, the Old Covenant was a legal covenant with Israel that demanded perfect obedience in order to receive the promised blessings (Exodus 19:3-6). The primary function of the Old Covenant was a ministry of death (2 Corinthians 3:6-9) and was a tutor to lead the Israelites to Christ (Galatians 3:24-25).
The New Covenant is a new and better covenant. Jesus Christ is the mediator of the New Covenant which is founded on better promises (Hebrews 8:6). The New Covenant is comprised of those who receive the complete benefits of His reconciling work (Hebrews 8:10-12; Hebrews 7:25). Jesus Christ, then, kept the terms of the Old Covenant perfectly and earned all the blessings for His people. Since Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant, He is the new Lawgiver and Lord of the church (Hebrews 1:1-3; Hebrews 7:12). Thus, all Christians are under the authority of His New Covenant. The Old Covenant has been perfectly fulfilled in Christ and done away. God’s law is still binding on the believer but God’s righteous standards are contained in the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2; 1 Corinthians 9:21).
I hope you can see (if you’ve looked up these Scripture references, and trust that they’re not yanked out of context), that I don’t think that we can live lives of communion with Christ and moral integrity based on our own inherent righteousness, but precisely because of the generous character of God in Christ through the Holy Spirit on our behalf. The people of God in the New Covenant era are motivated internally to obey the Law of Christ – to assert otherwise is to make too little of God’s New Covenant.
To be continued…
This was originally posted on October 11th, 2007.
About Mike Morrell
Mike is the Communications Director for the Integral Theology think-tank Presence International, co-founder of The Buzz Seminar, and a founding organizer of the Wild Goose Festival. Mike curates contemplative and community experiences via Authentic World, Relational Yoga, the ManKind Project, and (H) Opp, taking joy in holding space for the extraordinary transformation that can take place at the intersection of anticipation, imagination, and radical acceptance. Mike is also an avid writer, publishing consultant, author coach, futurist, and curator of the book-reviewing community at TheSpeakeasy.info. He lives with his wife and two daughters in North Carolina.