And take…the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:17
Volume 13, Number 52
In this issue:
Continued from last week)
The Universal Application of the Gospel
Inasmuch as the gospel is to be preached to all nations, we necessarily conclude that all men are answerable to the law of Christ (Matt. 28:19; 1 Cor. 9:21; Gal. 6:2; Jas. 1:25). By establishing the universal appeal and application of the gospel, one also establishes that all men are answerable to the terms of the “new covenant” or “new testament.” This being true, one must either obey the terms of the covenant to inherit the blessing contained therein, or through violation of the covenant bring punishment upon oneself (which is also specified under the terms of the covenant). That Jesus rules all men today through the word of His power (the gospel) cannot be successfully denied (cf. Psa. 110:1-3; Matt. 28:18-20; Heb. 1:3-5, 8). To reject His word is to invite God’s judgment of wrath in the last day (Jno. 12:48; Rom. 2:4-11; Acts 17:30-31). Since all men are under the blessings of the new covenant when its terms are obeyed, all men are also under the punishment of the new covenant when its terms are disobeyed (remember the covenant of circumcision which illustrates these points, Gen. 17:10-14).
Defining the Word “Covenant”
This study focuses on the covenant(s) God has made with man and whether it is scriptural to describe them as “testaments.” That is, can we regard the new covenant of Christ as a “last will and testament?” If we do not properly define the terms we are using we will surely misunderstand each other and the word of God (Eph. 5:17; 2 Tim. 2:15). Therefore, let us take some time to define the words we are using in this study. Out of the 284 times the Hebrew word ‘beriyth’ is found in the Old Testament, the King James Version of the Bible translates it 264 times by the English word “covenant.” By definition, it means “a compact” or “league” (Strong’s Dictionary, p. 24; Young’s Analytical Concordance To The Bible, p. 207). “It is probable that it is ‘to bind,’ but that is not definitely established” (International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, II:727). And again, “if this root idea is to bind, the covenant is that which binds together the parties” (Ibid.). A covenant between God and man is a “divine ordinance with signs or pledges” (Online Bible). In the New Testament, the word “covenant” is translated by the Greek word “diatheke” which means:
1) “a disposition, a contract” (Strong’s
So, by definition and by translation, what is a “covenant” of God with men may rightly be called a “testament,” since both words can be used to translate the same Greek word.
The Law of Moses was a covenant (diatheke) which God made with Israel (Gal. 4:24; Heb. 8:9; cf. Deut. 5:1-3). The “tables of the covenant” were the laws “engraven on stones,” the Ten Commandments (Heb. 9:4; 2 Cor. 3:7; Ex. 24:12; 32:14-15). God said that the “tables of the covenant” was “the law and commandments which I have written” (Exo. 24:12). God regarded the Sinaitic covenant as commandments. When Hilkiah found “the Book of the Law” and read it to Josiah, it was also known as “the Book of the Covenant” (2 Kings 22:8, 11; 23:2). There was no difference.
The clincher is in 2 Corinthians 3:14-15, where the covenant given to Israel by Moses is called the “old testament!” The same Greek word (diatheke) is used interchangeably to speak of the “old covenant” and the “old testament” (Heb. 8:13; 2 Cor. 3:14). When it comes to defining and applying the words “covenant” and “testament,” some brethren are making a distinction where there is no difference!
In the New Testament, the word “testament” is used to translate the same Greek word — diatheke — as is used to translate “covenant.” Scholars in the Greek language understood that one of the aspects of a covenant is the commanding of certain conduct if one wanted to obtain the benefits of the covenant. So, when the context warrants such a construction and translation, the word “testament” was used to translate diatheke. Notably is this regard is Hebrews 9:16-17:
“For where there is a testament, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is in force after men are dead, since it has no power at all while the testator lives.”
Just as a human will or testament is brought into effect upon the death of the one who made it, even so the covenant or testament of Christ became active upon His death. He is the Mediator of a “new covenant” which is described as a testament in Hebrews 9:15, 16-17. Again, brethren are making a distinction between “covenant” and “testament” where there is no difference!
The Commanding of a Covenant
There are essentially two types of covenants. A covenant which is made between equals is called a “parity” covenant. The covenant between Abraham and Abimelech illustrates this sort of covenant (Genesis 21:22-27, 31-32). In this type of covenant, both parties participate in the formation of its provisions (its terms and conditions) and agree to the finished product (negotiate a mutual agreement) before it is a binding contract upon the participants. In the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech, the conditions were set (21:23), there was a process of negotiation and agreement followed by recognizing the binding nature of the covenant (21:24-26, 27, 31-32). Both parties are said to make the covenant between themselves. Obviously, since man and God are not equals, this is not the sort of covenant which exists between God and man. A covenant between God and man is known as a suzerainty or vassal covenant. This sort of covenant is made by a stronger party and bound upon the weaker party (as a conqueror over the conquered). The stronger party establishes the terms and conditions of the covenant and commands them upon the weaker party. And, the weaker party is bound by the provisions of the covenant at the point of command. It is not a mutual covenant to which the weaker must agree before its terms and conditions become binding. When a stronger party commands a covenant upon a weaker party, it is in force when the stronger party says so, whether the weaker party agrees to it or not! If he wants the favor of his lord, he submits to the terms of the covenant. If not, his rebellion against the covenant will surely be punished. Psalm 111:9 describes this as the type of covenant God makes with man: “He has sent redemption to His people; He has commanded His covenant forever: Holy and awesome is His name.”
God’s covenants with man are not parity covenants, they are vassal covenants. Man does not stand in a position of strength or power before God. Rather, we are those who have been overcome by sin, and God in His mercy has established a covenant which will bless us when we, by faith, obey His word and will. Man does not validate God’s covenant so as to make it effective. God’s covenant is binding from the point at which He commands it.
Please note that God commanded His covenant with Israel:
covenant” (It is not a covenant Israel had to approve before she was
obligated to submit to it) – Exodus 19:5-6. “They did not keep the
covenant of God; They refused to walk in His law” (Psalm 78:10).
These passages teach us that the old covenant (the Old Testament) was commanded to Israel, not merely offered to her. To disobey the covenant or testament brought punishment (Deut. 28-30; Jer. 31:31-32). (Cont. next week)
You can find the complete outline of this sermon plus PowerPoint and MP3 Audio files at BIBLE ANSWERS
Scripture Reading: Isaiah 53:1-3
1. Isa. 53:3:
Christ’s relationship knowledge of grief was foretold. Grief: “lit., with
sickness” (Pul Com.).
Jesus was acquainted with grief:
I. DUE TO THE HARDSHIPS OF DAILY LIFE, Matt. 8:18-20.
A. He Lived A Poor And Grueling Life, Lk. 8:1-3; Matt. 8:19-20; Eph. 5:20; Eccl. 7:14.
II. DUE TO HIS FAMILY, Jno. 7:4-5.
A. His Brothers Rejected Him while He was Alive, Mk. 3:21; Matt. 10:36-39; Eph. 5:22, 25, 28.
III. DUE TO HIS FRIENDS.
A. Closest Companions Caused Him Grief, Jno. 13:18, 21, 27; 36-38 (Lk. 22:60-61); Jno. 16:32; Matt. 10:22; Prov. 17:17; 18:24 (Eccl. 4:9-12).
IV. DUE TO DOING GOOD, Jno. 5:15-16.
A. Rather than Acknowledged and Praised, He was Persecuted, Lk. 11:53-54; Matt. 5:10-12.
V. DUE TO ENDURING TEMPTATIONS, Heb. 2:18
A. We don’t Think of Jesus’ Temptations as a Source of Grief, but they were, Heb. 4:15; Lk. 22:28
VI. IN HIS DEATH, Isa. 53:3-6, 10.
A. He Endured a Cruel Death for Us, Matt. 27:27-31; Jno. 19:30; Rom. 6:2-4; Gal. 2:20 (Isa. 53:12).
Concl. Do not despair when you are put to grief for doing God’s will; look to Jesus, 1 Pet. 4:12-13; Heb. 12:2.
A ‘Sputnik Moment’
President Obama delivered his State of the Union message Tuesday night. In it he called on Americans to harness their ingenuity and innovation in the face of difficult economic realities and forecasts. He called it this generation’s ‘Sputnik moment’, alluding to the first Soviet satellite that ignited the space race.
Human ingenuity and inventiveness are a mark of our Creator’s hand upon us. They may yet be an asset to this country; time will tell. Still, human ingenuity will never improve on things relating to the immortal soul and our quest to know God. For example:
1) Human ingenuity cannot improve on redemption from sin. The crucifixion of “the Lord of glory” is that which human “eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him” (1 Cor. 2:8-9). Man did not conceive of nor accomplish redemption from sin (Rom. 3:23; 6:23). God did, and revealed His plan in the gospel. He sent the Savior to redeem sinners and reconcile us to Himself (Rom. 3:24-26; Col. 1:19-23). Human philosophies deceive and will not save. The gospel of Christ does (1 Cor. 1:18-25; Col. 2:8).
2) Human ingenuity cannot improve on the inspired word of God. God has communicated His will to mankind by His Son (Heb. 1:1-2). The Son sent His apostles into the world preaching the saving gospel (Matt. 28:19-20). By divine inspiration they spoke and wrote the will of God (2 Pet. 1:20-21; 2 Tim. 3:16-17). God’s word, the Bible, is incorruptible and abides forever (1 Pet. 1:22-25). Men have tried to improve on it, and men have tried to destroy it. Both have failed. God’s word is living and powerful and will save those who put it into their hearts (Heb. 4:12; Jas. 1:21).
Unfortunately, a ‘Sputnik moment’ may be accompanied by prideful conceit in human ability. Humility and reverence before our Creator (along with thanksgiving) is essential whenever we set out on a quest to achieve. Remember, God has already been there! (Job 38:1-4; 42:1-6; Isa. 46:10)
Created by Chuck Sibbing. 01/30/2011
The Spirit's Sword is a free,
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