New Covenant Terms
In the Old Covenant, man’s promises were the terms of the covenant; man’s obligations. That these obligations needed to be kept was obvious, and those obligations are clearly listed. What are our obligations (terms or stipulations) living under the New Covenant? This is not as easy to answer as it is for the Old Covenant! The New Testament, unlike the Old, does not contain lists of things we must do or not do; in fact the New Testament is not a record of rules and regulations at all. The New Testament is not the covenant. The New Testament is the record of the covenant, it bears the covenant, it give a brief background and history of its conception, and it gives an explanation of how the covenant is to be executed… but it is not a legal code book. It contains practical discussions of problem solving, and it shows how the Apostles used the new means to end the old system of decision making, and all of this was based not on a legal code, but rather on the execution of a mission assigned to us by Christ Himself:
Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”
The New Covenant priority is to complete the mission; we are required to do whatever it takes to MAKE DISCIPLES. In all that we do, this is our obligation, our duty and our priority above all else. If we operate in this fashion, we are keeping covenant. If we are keeping covenant, we are “like Christ”. Little else need be said!
Jesus gave us His command to make disciples, and this word “disciples” sums up our proper aim. He gave a considerable amount of instruction on what a disciple is, how a convert becomes a disciple, and how a disciple should behave. In this term, we find parties, terms and promises. (See Acts 6:1,7; 12:24; 16:5) Being a good disciples involves being as much like Christ Himself as possible (Luke 14:26) following the word of Christ (John15:7-12), willingness to suffer as He suffered (John 15:20), and doing the kinds of things Jesus did, thus becoming fully perfected, equipped, matured… fully like Christ (Luke 6:40) Jesus used the term disciple interchangeably with the term “servant” (John 15:20).
And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the likeness of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.
Note here Paul’s use of parallelism: Making disciples is parallel with election. Perfecting them is parallel with stipulations of covenant. Becoming perfected is the summation of the promises.
Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.
Another term that deserves notice is “mystery”. The “mystery of God” when used in a ministry context means covenant. Jesus was the mystery revealed (Matt. 12:28). The spreading of the Gospel was the mystery being revealed (Mark 4:11). Paul stated that the mystery was no longer hidden (Rom. 16:25 ff.). In Ephesians Paul defines the “mystery”:
Surely you have heard about the administration of God’s grace that was given to me for you, that is, the mystery made known to me by revelation, as I have already written briefly. In reading this, then, you will be able to understand my insight into the mystery of Christ, which was not made known to men in other generations as it has now been revealed by the Spirit to God’s holy apostles and prophets. This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Jesus.
I became a servant of this gospel by the gift of God’s grace given me through the working of his power. Although I am less than the least of all God’s people, this grace was given me: to preach to the Gentiles
the unsearchable riches of Christ, and to make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery, which for ages past was kept hidden in God, who created all things. His intent was that now, through the church, the manifold wisdom of God should be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly realms, according to his eternal purpose which he accomplished in Christ Jesus our Lord. In him and through faith in him we may approach God with freedom and confidence.
Parties: Israel and Gentiles in “one body”
Terms: “The administration of the mystery”
Promises: “In the promises of Christ Jesus… unsearchable riches”
Ministry of Reconciliation
Paul seldom used the word “covenant” in his writings. Rather than say “Old Covenant” he preferred the term “Law”, for he knew it was part of the Covenant. When speaking of the New Covenant he often used the name of Christ, for he knew that Christ is the personification of the Covenant. In the following passage, he demonstrates his thinking by using a parallel in which he begins with the word “covenant” and then used the word “ministry” which then changes to the term “ministry of reconciliation”.
He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.
2Cor. 3:6 New Covenant stipulation is ministry.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation:… We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God.
2Cor. 5:18,20 Ministry is the ministry of reconciliation. Therefore, New Covenant stipulation is the ministry of reconciliation.
Chapter three discusses the two covenants; chapter four discusses ministry and being a servant of Christ, and Christ’s definition of a servant (disciple). A servant advanced the best interests of his Master. The best interest of Christ is for all men to “believe and obey” the Gospel, become reconciled to God and live like Christ.
All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.
When you sum it all up, the terms of the New Covenant are to do whatever is necessary to complete the mission outlined in the Great Commission. The text does not actually list a set of regulations; of do’s and don’ts for the Christian to follow, for the New Covenant is all about God’s PURPOSES, not following a code. When we place the correct priority on the mission of making disciples, and our lives are lived as Christ’s servants, then we are like Christ. Therefore, the stipulations of the New Covenant are to become and live LIKE CHRIST.