1.3 The New Covenant

By baptism, you became part of the seed of Abraham, an heir of the promises to him, and therefore you entered the new covenant. The promises to Abraham constitute the new covenant, and they were made relevant  to you through your baptism. It's this aspect of baptism which we want to consider now in rather more detail. First of all, consider what it means to be in covenant relationship with God. It means that He sees us always in that position, as always in Christ- unless we break that covenant. Therefore God does not see us as in covenant with Him as (e.g.) we sit and read our Bibles, and then out of covenant with Him as we (e.g.) snap at our wife. God pleads with Israel over 20 times in Jeremiah to simply return unto Him, to come back to covenant with Him, rather than stop committing sins A, B and C, and start obeying commandments 1,2, and 3. 

We read of the new covenant that was made with us by the sacrifice of Christ on the cross. Heb. 8 proves that we are under the new covenant by quoting from Jer. 31, which is a prophecy of how in the future, Israel will repent, and will enter into the new covenant. Twice the Spirit uses Jer. 31:31 to prove to us that we are under the new covenant now (see Heb. 8:6-13 and 10:16-19); yet Jer. 31 is a prophecy of how natural Israel in the future will enter into that covenant, after their humiliation at the hands of their future invaders. So we are being taught that our entering of the covenant now is similar to how natural Israel will enter that covenant in the future. The point is really clinched by the way the Spirit cites Jer. 31 as relevant to us today. The reasoning goes that because Jer. 31:34 speaks of sin forgiven for those who accept the new covenant, therefore we don't need sacrifices or human priesthood now, because Jer. 31:34 applies to us. So therefore God writing in our hearts is going on now, too. This is confirmed by Paul's allusion to Jer. 31 in 2 Cor. 3:3. God wrote with His Spirit on our hearts, He made a new covenant on the covenant-tables of our heart. Likewise 2 Cor. 1:22: " Who hath also sealed us, and given us the earnest of the spirit in our hearts" . There are several prophecies which speak of Israel entering that new covenant, and what it will mean to them. All of them, in some sense, apply to us who are now in the new covenant. All of us should be earnestly seeking to appreciate the more finely  exactly what our covenant with God means, exactly what covenant relationship with God really entails.

Us Today, Israel Tomorrow

But firstly, I just want to prove beyond doubt that we are intended to read the Old Testament prophecies of Israel's entrance into the new covenant with reference to ourselves.

Israel in the future under the new covenant 


Us today under the new covenant

" Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean" (Ez. 36:25)


Cp. Christian baptism; " Let us draw near...having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water" (Heb. 10:22)

" This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days...I will put my law in their inward parts and write it in their hearts 


" The Gentiles (believers) shew the work of the law written in their hearts  " (Rom. 2:15; 2 Cor. 3:3)

and will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer. 31:33)


This describes our present relationship with God under the new covenant (1 Pet. 2:10; 2 Cor. 6:16)

Is. 55:1-3 prophesies Israel's future acceptance of the new covenant: " Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters... come unto me...and I will make an everlasting covenant with you"


These words are alluded to by Christ is His appeal to us: " If any man thirst, let him come unto me" (Jn. 7:37,38)

" I will make a covenant of peace with them; it shall be an everlasting covenant" (Ez. 37:26)


The covenant of peace was the priestly covenant (Mal. 2:5)

" I will ransom them from the power of the grave...O death I will be thy plagues, O grave I will be thy destruction" (Hos. 13:14)


We are now the spiritual priesthood under the new covenant (1 Pet. 2:5)

This will be our experience too; the description of Israel's national resurrection is quoted about our personal resurrection (1 Cor. 15:55).


A New Heart

Paul in 2 Cor. 3:16 reasons that when Israel's heart shall turn to the Lord Jesus, then the veil that is on their heart will be taken away. But now, through the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, we each with unveiled face can behold the glory of the Lord Jesus (2 Cor. 3:18 RV). The clarity of vision concerning Christ which Israel will eventually come to should be ours now; our hearts should turn to Christ now, as theirs will do. The Old Testament gives us much information as to how  Israel's heart will turn to Christ.

There is a repeated theme that Israel's entry into the New Covenant will be associated with God doing something to their hearts, confirming their own change of mind. In other words, the covenant is largely a matter of the mind. This new state of mind is in fact fundamentally part of being in covenant relationship with God: " This shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel...I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts..." (Jer. 31:33). This leads us to the paramount need for us to develop genuine spiritual mindedness, the thinking, the breathing of God's Spirit in our minds. So God will act upon Israel's heart directly, using the medium of His word to do so. The initiative is God's; He  will write His word upon their hearts. He is not passively offering people the opportunity to do it to themselves; He will do it to Israel. The same heart-swop operation is described in Ez. 36:25,26: " Then will I sprinkle clean water upon you, and ye shall be clean: from all your filthiness...will I cleanse you (cp. our baptism into the new covenant). A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you...I will put my spirit within you (note the double emphasis), and cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep my judgments, and do them" . Being in the new covenant is therefore characterized by having a new spirit, a new mind, and therefore a new way of life. And so Heb. 10:20 calls the new covenant " a new and living way" , a new, living way of life. Jer. 31:33 said that God would place His laws in Israel's heart; in Ez. 36 we read that He will place His Spirit in their hearts. So the way in which God will give Israel a new heart will be through their response to the word. Thus they too will enter the new covenant.

Dry Bones

The prophecy of Ez. 36 is expanded by Ez. 37. The description of Israel receiving a new heart, being spiritually re-created, is taken up in earnest in this chapter. It describes the bones coming together, the Spirit of God entering into them through the prophecy of the Son of man (Ezekiel), and their resurrection. This is all couched in the language of Adam's creation; firstly as  a body, and then the spirit being breathed into him (1). 2 Cor.5:17 describes us after entry into Christ at baptism as a " new creation" .

What all this means is that under the new covenant, we really do experience God acting upon our hearts, through His word. The very least we can do, once we are aware of this, is to read the word daily, and think upon it.  As we read those words, God is writing upon our hearts, our inward parts, the handwriting of God Himself is being placed on our innermost beings. When you think of it like that, there really can be no excuse for not reading the word daily. Rom. 6:4 says that after baptism we walk in " newness of life" , the " new and living way" of the new covenant (Heb. 10:20). Sometimes we can see a very dramatic change in someone at the time of their baptism. Yet spiritually, mentally, that great degree of change should be going on and on and on, so that as the years go by we should become almost unrecognizable when compared to our former selves. There are some in the churches today of whom this is true. Sometimes you meet the parents of a brother or sister, parents who are not in Christ. You can scarcely believe that the brother is their son! His tone of voice, intonation, mannerisms, his gait as he walks...he's from a different family. And so for each of us, this newness  of life should just keep on and on. And as we grow newer and newer, we ought to be growing closer to others who are growing in the same way, forming a new family identity. How wonderful it is to see an ecclesia made up of converts whose natural families are not in Christ, and to see them becoming bound closer and closer together as they grow in sharing the spiritual family likeness.

No More Fading

Some fear, quite rightly, that we can easily go wrong in our thinking about the Spirit of God. They fear that we will end up saying that God just forces us to be spiritual without our freewill effort. Such an idea is of course quite wrong. What we do know is that God will lead us closer to Him if we draw nigh unto Him. That this work is done by His Spirit cannot be doubted (for how else does He work?). Spiritual growth is a mystery in this sense. As we don't know how the bones grow in the womb, so we don't know the ways of God; and this passage from Ecclesiastes is picked up by the Lord in Jn. 3- the process of being born again by the Spirit cannot be defined. Even the Lord himself, in matchless intellectual humility, said that He as the sower didn't understand how the little seed of the Gospel turned into the plant of spiritual maturity. Think of the contrition of heart which Israel will have in the last days, weeping for their part in the crucifixion, as a man mourns for his only son (Zech. 12:10), before they can enter the new covenant. That intensity of repentance must be ours. This certainly requires freewill effort. And yet we must also bear in mind that the giving of this new heart to Israel is not purely in response to their effort; often God says that such massive spiritual help from Him is not really proportionate to the effort Israel will make. He will do it for His holy Name's sake, and for the sake of the patriarchs. And ditto for us.

" And the Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto them that turn from transgression in Jacob...this is my [new] covenant with them, saith the Lord; My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words (notice the parallel between Spirit and word) which I have put in thy mouth, shall not depart out of thy mouth...for ever" (Is. 59:20,21). In other words, the sense of Spiritual strength from God which Israel will have will not just diminish into nothing, it will not just fade away. I think this is one of the saddest aspects of our present spiritual experience. You see a keen young brother emerge from the waters of baptism, entering the new covenant, throw himself into the study and preaching of the word, he grows spiritually....and then he slips, slips and slips, until he slides down the slippery path into the world. We go to a Bible study, a Bible school, we read the word of the new covenant together in intense fellowship. And then it all slips away, we lose the reality of our calling, we're strong for the next day, perhaps the day after, and then back to base level. But then we will spiritually run and not faint, walk in the new and living way and not be weary. This is surely one of the most wonderful aspects of the Kingdom life; constant growth, no regrets, no looking back over our shoulder, no sense of spiritual anti-climax. No more fading away spiritually, instead the energy of constant growth.

Real Repentance -?

But here we are in this life, getting on with the job of keeping ourselves buoyed up, driving ourselves onwards and upwards in appreciating the covenant we are in. The memorial service is a physical reminder and a personal re-statement of the fact that we really are in this new covenant. We take to ourselves the cup of the new covenant which is made with us in the blood of Christ which we see symbolized in the wine (Lk.22:20; 1 Cor.11:25). We must seriously ask ourselves whether we are repenting as we ought to be, whether our contrition is as deep as it should be, whether we really see the seriousness of sin, whether we really repented at baptism, or just went through with it because we saw it as the logical thing to do in the light of what we understood from the Bible.

It would be a foolhardy Christian who answered 'Yes' to those sort of questions. Sin is a deceiver, Paul says. We've all been through the experience of committing a sin, one we've not done before; we repent, very deeply, and believe firmly in God's grace toward us in this matter. But then we do it again, say the next week. And we are sorry, we have regret, but not the same intensity of feeling. And then we do it daily, it becomes part of our life, we shrug it off, we make excuses. Sin is a deceiver. Let's remember that. This is why James speaks of confessing our faults to each other, really being serious about our problem of sin, talking about it with each other after the meeting.

But the more serious we are about this, the more firmly we will believe and appreciate that we have been given forgiveness. Under the new covenant, Israel will all " Know Yahweh...for  (because) I will forgive their iniquity" (Jer. 31:34). So being under the new covenant means that we will know Yahweh, on account of our sins being forgiven. We will be certain of their forgiveness, not just hoping for the best. As we face the cross, as we face up to our own sinfulness, we should be really moved. We should know Yahweh, know His saving grace, know  our sins are forgiven. Israel will shed rivers of tears as they come to realize what the new covenant really means for them. Do we? Have we shed a tear at the breaking of bread, or as we consider what our covenant means to us, as we consider how deeply we have sinned?  Have we? Perhaps we have, but perhaps we don't do so now, or not so often. Perhaps that's explicable in terms of just getting older. Perhaps we're slipping. The clear connection between Israel's contrition on accepting the new covenant and ours is a real difficult challenge to take on board. We really are being asked to go a long way down the road of self knowledge and self realization. And if we can do this, then there is the sure comfort that the Spirit will take away our heart of stone and give us a soft heart, patterned after the gentleness and grace and sensitivity of the Lord Jesus. For this is what the new covenant  is all about. So we must realize that naturally we are hard hearted, self-centred, cold as stone to the warmth of God's love. But He really is changing us away from this. So let's not be hard hearted as the world is, let's not share their looks, the hard, pert lips of the modern girl of today, that sort of macho indifference of the modern man. Let's be soft, not sloppy and turning a blind eye, but let's let the gentleness of spirit of the Lord Jesus really work in us, let's allow  God to write in our hearts.


(1) As Adam received the breath / spirit of life, stood on his feet and was then placed by God in the garden of Eden, so Israel go through the same process, being placed instead in the land of Israel (Ez.36:27,28; 37:14). There are reasons galore for identifying Eden with Israel (see The Last Days).

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