After participating in this discussion blog for several months, I've become discerned that many of my seven day Adventist Brethren are unaware of what the new covenant means. So I ask the question; What does the new covenant mean to seventh day aventist in the context of Hebrews 8: 7-13.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. 8 For he finds fault with them when he says: "Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
I fully agree that covenant is equivalent to relationship. As a therapist I remind my patients that all relationships positive or negative are based on an agreement. The old and the new covenant were based on a relationship with God. However, the relationship changed after the death of Christ in that we can approach him through the Spirit because of the sacrifice of Christ. Prior to Christ death were were bound by sin and condemned by the law. We are now free to live under the influence of the Spirit no longer bound by the law because through the new birth the Spirit lives in us fulfilling the law (love,) which is the Character of God exemplified by the life of Christ. This is confirmed by the Apostles who point to deeds of sacrifice and Character growth as examples of life under the control of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23). These acts serve as our evidence of faith which are fulfillment of the law of Love.
H. Leon Bryan
In ordinary parlance, we mean by the term covenant, "an agreement or contract between two parties." Either party is free to enter into the agreement or not as he chooses. But the Biblical term is somewhat different in meaning. The Hebrew word berith means "to bind," "to fetter," "a binding or a bond." The relation of God’s people to Him is expressed in a berith. The Greek word diatheke implies a free promise on the divine side and an undertaking of obligations on the human side. In both cases it implies an obligation imposed by a superior upon an inferior. The initiative is taken by God, and only in a secondary way does man have any initiative at all. Man has freedom as to whether he will enter into a covenant relationship. But he has no privilege to reject the terms or to suggest others. God the Creator is in an altogether different position from man the creature. "I alone am God" is the fundamental statement of all divine revelation. It reveals the absolute barrier that separates the divine God from man. All relationships between God and man are a gracious condescension on the part of God.
In God’s covenant with Israel at Sinai, just what is the relationship between them? Are there two covenants held out to Israel or only one? Did God make a covenant that He knew could not be kept, in order that Israel might learn the folly of trying to keep the law in their own strength? Is God actually offering to make the old covenant with Israel the gateway to the everlasting covenant, indicating two stages in God’s dealing with men?
In the actual operating of the covenants of the Bible there are two parties. Each enters into a relationship with the other. Each has some response to make in relationship to the covenant’s promises and terms. The judgment of the New Testament on the Sinaitic covenant is that it was faulty. It is obvious that there can be nothing wrong from God’s side. He cannot be charged either with desiring or planning a faulty covenant. He makes everything perfect. Therefore the fault must lie with Israel.
But God found fault with the people and said: "The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. Hebrews 8:8
What kind of covenant was God seeking to make with Israel? Was the "old covenant" at Sinai one of divine appointment, or a divine adjustment to Israel’s faulty response? Is not God limited by the nature of sinful man?
In the first place, the covenant that God planned to make with Israel at Sinai was none other than the same covenant He made with Abraham. Three times in Genesis, chapter seventeen, the covenant made with Abraham is called the everlasting covenant. Nine times it is designated "my covenant." The occasion for God’s plan to deliver Israel from bondage is that "God remembered his covenant with Abraham, with Isaac, and with Jacob." Ex. 2:24. In calling Moses to lead the children of Israel, He states that His purpose in delivering Israel is to establish "my covenant." (Ex. 6:3-5.)
In the second place, the Lord was pleased with the response that Israel made at Sinai when they said, "All that the Lord bath said will we do." Ex. 24:7. Moses declared that God told him it was the right response to make. "And the Lord heard the voice of your words, when ye spake unto me; and the Lord said unto me, I have heard the voice of the words of this people, which they have spoken unto thee: they have well said all that they have spoken." Deut. 5:27, 28.
Exactly what constitutes the difference between the old and the new covenants?
First, since the new covenant writes the law of God on the heart, it must be concluded that under the old covenant the law was not written on the heart. Paul defines this condition in 2 Corinthians 3, indicating that the old covenant was of the letter and not of the spirit. Under the old covenant man’s heart was not right with God. This was remedied under the new covenant.
The old covenant stands upon the faulty promises of men, whereas the new covenant stands upon the eternal promises of God. (Heb. 8:6-8; Rom. 10:3, 4.) Under the new covenant, God promises to do all: to keep the heart, to give all power to men, in order that they might obey His will and His law. Under the old covenant, man endeavors of himself to attain righteousness.
The fact that God gives men the law to live by does not mean that the law constitutes the old covenant. "Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life?" asked the rich young ruler. "If thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments," was Christ’s reply. Does this sound anything like the stated requirements at Sinai? What was Christ counseling the young man to do? Try the impossible? Or was He telling him the truth?
If the covenant mentioned in the Old Testament, from Sinai to Malachi, is none other than the everlasting covenant, why should there be need for those days spoken of by the prophet Jeremiah, "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel"? Jer. 31:31. Surely this indicates that the covenant existing in Jeremiah’s day is to be abrogated by the coming of the new covenant. Otherwise, why not continue with the same covenant found all the way through the Old Testament? What is the force of Paul’s words: "In that he saith, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away." Heb. 8:13.
The answer is contained in the correct understanding of the term "new covenant" and the reason for its being called new.
In the first place, the established interpretation is that it was ratified by the blood of Christ at the cross. Daniel declares of Christ, "He shall confirm the covenant with many for one week." Dan. 9:27. The word "confirm" means to cause to prevail. During the brief period of His earthly ministry, Jesus fulfilled the terms of the ancient covenant made with the seed of Abraham. Paul says of this: "Now I say that Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision for the truth of God, to confirm the promises made unto the fathers." Rom. 15:8. Thus Christ secured the benefits of the ancient covenant to "many," that is, to the believers in Israel.
In the second place, this covenant is called new because God’s everlasting covenant had been so completely lost sight of that it appeared to be an entirely new covenant. This text is taking cognizance of the fact that while both God and His servants the prophets thought mostly in terms of the everlasting covenant, the nation of Israel thought in terms of the old covenant of works.
"Even the people of Israel had become so blinded to the precious teaching of the prophets concerning God, that this revelation of His paternal love was as an original subject, a new gift to the world." [Mount of Blessing, p. 114.]
The Jews had lost sight completely of the everlasting covenant. The new covenant was to write the law of God in their hearts, but writing the law in the hearts of men was not new. Isaiah spoke of it as sealing "the law among my disciples." (Isa. 8:16.) The whole of Hebrews 11 is a historical record of it.
"Through the grace of Christ they may be enabled to render obedience to the Father’s law. Thus in every age, from the midst of apostasy and rebellion, God gathers out a people that are true to Him, -- a people ‘in whose heart is his law.’" [Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 338]
It is this writer’s suggestion that the later prophets and the New Testament writers were obliged to deal with the utterly mistaken conceptions concerning the Sinai covenant. We must never forget that the Judaism of Christ’s day represented a perversion of the economy and testimony given by God to Moses. It is to offset these misrepresentations of the old covenant idea that the gospel writers are strong in their assertions of an opposite tenor and direction. This swing away from Judaism in the New Testament has been falsely interpreted as the abrogation of the law of God. The New Testament writers are compelled under the circumstances to press home the differences on account of Jewish errors and their hardness of heart. The real battle of Christ, John, and Paul was to deliver the church from every shred of Jewish legalistic bondage that had been fastened on Israel during the previous fifteen hundred years.
In the third place, the use of the term "new covenant" is occasioned by new revelation that came with Christ’s incarnation, life, death, and resurrection. Progressive revelation is an important part of the Bible record.
"God’s work is the same in all time, although there are different degrees of development, and different manifestations of His power, to meet the wants of men in the different ages. Beginning with the first gospel promise, and coming down through the patriarchal and Jewish ages, and even to the present time, there has been a gradual unfolding of the purposes of God in the plan of redemption." [Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 373]
"Christ in His teaching presented old truths of which He Himself was the originator, truths which He had spoken through patriarchs and prophets; but He now shed upon them a new light. How different appeared their meaning! A flood of light and spirituality was brought in by His explanation. And He promised that the Holy Spirit should enlighten the disciples, that the word of God should be ever unfolding to them." [Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 127.]
from The Covenant and the Law by Edward Heppenstall
I asked what do you think?
I agree with some of this, and disagree with portions. I think we as SDA have a tendency to fail to understand the new covenant because it threatens our uniqueness. However, the entire principal of born again Christian is based on the new covenant. The law (old covenant,) was given to us prior to the mediator to point out sin. The new is based on the Spirit (not law,) and provides sinful man with the option of following the direction of the Spirit. Adam was not given the law of the letter, because He was not born in sin. He had the choice to disobey, but was not hamstrung with desire to sin as we are from birth. The new birth gives us the opportunity to grow in Character so that we are able to fulfill the law of love because we love, not because it says to or we have to. We must also faith and flexibility regarding the letter of the law, because under the direction of the Spirit it may have different purposes and meaning for different people.
We also should not stand in judgement over those who we feel have violated our interpretations of the law. But, we should stand in defense of those who are being oppressed, and help those who have physical and emotional needs so that we can grow in love.
Religion can be as much a crutch as psychoactive drugs or any other vice. If we are selfish in our religious life and try our best as sinners to keep the law as we see it, then religion is simply a security blanket, failing to fulfill us internally. I allows us to look at Christians brothers who are doing Gods work as sinners, and as we walk by doing nothing for anyone but ourselves. I have heard may Christians purport their holy lives by telling me what the refrain from doing. Yet, they fail to tell me what the are doing for others as evidence that they are Children of God displaying the influence of the Holy Spirit. A humble Christian is not proud, and they realize they are not doing enough. They have no need to aggrandize what they are doing because they realize the deep debt that has been paid for them.
Jason tell me what you know about the covenant personally, how has it affected your live and allowed you to love others more deeply. How has it made you closer to our redeemer.
The Law is not the old covenant. A law cannot be a covenant. He new covenant is still based on the Law. This time it will be written in our hearts. The HS will assist us only if we allow Him to. Jesus was a man like us who allowed the HS to control all aspects of His life; not once did He sin.
Adam was told not to eat the fruit , the ten commandments were entwined in this command. Eve broke all ten when she eventually ate the fruit; Adam broke a few also.
You said : "We must also faith and flexibility regarding the letter of the law, because under the direction of the Spirit it may have different purposes and meaning for different people."
The truth is the truth is the truth. There is no room for relativism. The HS is not about confusion. There ie no 'my truth' and 'your truth'
Adam and Eve needed no covenant or law, they were not born in sin. The law was given to us to point out our rebellion. What I mean by flexibility, is that we cannot look strictly at the letter and attempt to make it fit. We must be willing to follow the direction of the Holy Spirit even when it appears to be in conflict with our understanding. For example, God gave the Israelite's the Sabbath and created laws to govern that day. The primary rule was to cease from work. A Jew could not work, nor could they cause anyone else to work. After the commandment was provided a man was put to death for carrying firewood on the Sabbath, (Numbers 15:23.) Thus, it was clear God wanted this command to be followed very carefully. The Jews who returned to promised land after exile were determined to ensure that the Sabbath was followed so the created the oral law (Talmud today,) with specific instructions on what work was and how to avoid doing it. When Christ came to redeem us, he violated many of those laws according to the letter of the pharisees and teachers. At one point when Challenged Christ replied (God mad the Sabbath for man not man for the Sabbath) Mark 2:27.
This was a profound statement that allows us to see that God provides a way for us to commune with Him, rather than just command obedience. The Sabbath wasn't created to make man Holy, but as a venue to be in a relationship with God. In a sinful world work for one's benefit (profit,) is generally wrong. But, healing, and simple task such as eating grain off the stalk is not.
If the laws are written on our hearts, our internal impulse will be to act in accordance to love, which may not always follow the letter, but it will always follow the Spirit. This in a nutshell is the new covenant.
21 Does this mean that the Law is against God's promises? No, not at all! For if human beings had received a law that could bring life, then everyone could be put right with God by obeying it. 22 But the scripture says that the whole world is under the power of sin; and so the gift which is promised on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ is given to those who believe.
23 But before the time for faith came, the Law kept us all locked up as prisoners until this coming faith should be revealed. 24 And so the Law was in charge of us until Christ came, in order that we might then be put right with God through faith. 25 Now that the time for faith is here, the Law is no longer in charge of us.
26 It is through faith that all of you are God's children in union with Christ Jesus. 27 You were baptized into union with Christ, and now you are clothed, so to speak, with the life of Christ himself. 28 So there is no difference between Jews and Gentiles, between slaves and free people, between men and women; you are all one in union with Christ Jesus. 29 If you belong to Christ, then you are the descendants of Abraham and will receive what God has promised.