The New Covenant, part 1

Therefore, when Christ came into the world, he said:
“Sacrifice and offering you did not desire,
but a body you prepared for me;
with burnt offerings and sin offerings
you were not pleased.
Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—
I have come to do your will, O God.’ “First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them” (although the law required them to be made). Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

Hebrews 10:5-10

            Jesus and the Apostles recognized the meaning and formulary of the concept of covenant to be the same as it had always been throughout the Old Testament period, but they saw the emphasis of covenant as being different. For them, it was different in a radical and revolutionary way: it was not about form, it was about purpose.  It had been understood that God’s will had been expressed in our covenant duty, but Christ and the Apostles used the word will as a synonym for the word covenant, and in this they changed its emphasis: covenant in the New Testament period is all about purpose. It was no longer a matter of WHAT the covenant was, but WHY God was making a treaty with men.

Christ as Covenant

Jesus Himself was Covenant:

“I, the LORD, have called you in righteousness;
I will take hold of your hand.
I will keep you and will make you
to be a covenant for the people
and a light for the Gentiles,

to open eyes that are blind,
to free captives from prison
and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness.

Isaiah 42:6-7

            Jesus quoted this passage in Matthew 12… He stood between God and Man: He was Man’s only access to God…He was Covenant.

Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”

John 14:6-7

            This declaration immediately creates two camps: those “in Christ” and those “outside Christ”.  There is opposition and hostility between the two. Those who are outside of Christ are described by Paul as “dead, culture led, philosophy led, Satan led, disobedient, separated, excluded,  without God, without hope, hostile, far off, foreigners and aliens. (Eph. 2:1 ff.) and those “in Christ” as “raised up, saved, recreated, brought near, at peace…” (Eph. 2:14 ff.).  In this, Paul is using covenant terminology, and thus his orientation is clear.  In a covenant context, those who were “in Christ” are Covenant Parties.

Baptism as Pledge

And now what are you waiting for? Get up, be baptized and wash your sins away, calling on his name.

Acts 22:16

            In Noah’s time, water was judgment; it put to death the sin of the times. Water also saved Noah, by God’s grace. Water was judgment, and it separated the living from the dead. The water of Christ is also a judgment: it is a judgment on the sin of the old life, and a pledge by both God and convert. The convert pledges his life to God; God pledged admission to covenant.

and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also—not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a good conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus Christ

1Peter 3:21

            The water, as death, provided a Hebrew oath or pledge. Prayer cannot provide this, and a careful inspection of the New Testament will reveal the fact that there is no conversion narrative or account that ends with a prayer of conversion; a “sinner’s prayer”. Each and every single time there is a conversion narrative, there is a Baptism. It is simply inconceivable that there can be a covenant pledge without death.

By no means! We died to sin; how can we live in it any longer? Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? We were therefore buried with him through baptism into death in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, we too may live a new life.

If we have been united with him like this in his death, we will certainly also be united with him in his resurrection. For we know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin— because anyone who has died has been freed from sin.

Romans 6:2-7

This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

Matthew 26:28

Peter replied, “Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 2:38

Baptism and Belief

There is nothing magic about Baptism. It is not a magic ritual you can perform and receive a magic result, and there is no special significance to water as opposed to some other substance other than water is required by covenant. The person being Baptized is giving his testimony of his faith and belief that Jesus died, was buries and rose again. In fact, his testimony is “I believe that Jesus was buried and rose up again, just as I am going into this water, cut off from life, and will be raised up again.” He is further saying, “As Jesus died and rose again, so also my old way of life is dead and buried… and as Jesus rose up again, so also I will rise up again in a new life.” This is the crucial connection between Baptism and belief, and either one without the other is not productive.

There are many errors among Christians at the present time regarding Baptism, and while this class does not have the purpose of debating Baptism, one thing needs to be very clear: When a person enters the water of Baptism, they are saying “yes” to faith in Christ, and they are saying “yes” to the covenant command to be Baptized. One may not enter covenant by saying “yes” to faith in Christ, and “no” to the covenant command to be Baptized!

So far we have the following formulary:

New Covenant

Parties:            Christ and those “in Christ”

Terms:             live “like Christ”

Promises:        Eternity “with Christ”

Being “in Christ” requires entry into the New Covenant. This is accomplished by a partnership between belief and obedience; believing Christ, and being Baptized into Christ. Next week: Terms of the New Covenant.

About Don Merritt

A long time teacher and writer, Don hopes to share his varied life's experiences in a different way with a Christian perspective.
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4 Responses to The New Covenant, part 1

  1. I like what you posted under your subheading of ” Baptism and Belief.” I grew up in a Baptist Church but I now just claim to be a believer in Jesus Christ and attend a “Grace” church. Yes I have been baptized, but more importantly I have accepted Jesus Christ as my personal savior. I think the biggest argument I have heard against not needing to be baptized are among those who put a lot of their belief in dispensation and the fact that Paul doesn’t go to full lengths to say we need to. So, thank you for how you articulated that point under that heading.

  2. Steve B says:

    You have a friend dying in hospital who doesn’t know the Lord. Are you going to give him the gospel? You are on the battlefield and a friend is wounded and will probably die, are you going to give them the gospel. You are at a crucifixion and the crucified person asks you to remember them will you say no because they cannot be baptized?

    Will you be the one to tell D.L. Moody that he wasted his time on the battlefields of the civil war? Are you going to tell hospital chaplains that they are wasting their time?

    • Don Merritt says:

      No Steve, I’m going to share the Gospel in all of those cases and trust the Lord to decide what to do when the people come to accept His mercy. Then, having done my part, I’m going to submit to His decision with the full expectancy that those souls will be received with open and loving arms. In normal cases I am going to share the gospel and urge the recipient to be baptized, just like you will do!

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