So, remarkably, we find that the Christian covenant is very much made up of the Abrahamic covenant. Reckoning faith as righteousness (Gen 15:16). Blessing the nations (Gen 18:18). Producing justice and righteousness within those in covenant relationship (Gen 18:19).
If you’ll recall the lesson taught here some time ago, God’s blood oath with Abraham also speaks to the Christian covenant. God symbolically promised to pay, with his own life, the price for the sins of Abraham (and his descendants) in blood (Gen 15).
It’s not all there, but a lot of it’s there.
Then in the Law of Moses, we find the promise of Deu 30:6 for God to circumcise the hearts of his people, a promise that the prophets later explained would be fulfilled through the outpouring of the Spirit.
So what was “new” in the new covenant? Why is the covenant of Christ better than the covenants that preceded? After all, the theme of Hebrews is the superiority of Christ and his covenant.
Well, let’s return to —
(Heb 11:39-40 ESV) And all these, though commended through their faith, did not receive what was promised, 40 since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect.
The saints of the First Covenant were saved by the same promises that save us. But there are very important differences. Let me name some. The readers will likely think of others.
1. We are saved by promises that have been much more fulfilled than the promises on which the Ancients relied. Jesus has already died on the cross. He’s already been resurrected. He’s already ascended.
Some of these things were partly, vaguely anticipated by the prophets, but only in part. No one expected the Messiah to be resurrected. There are OT passages that were read after the resurrection as promising a resurrected Messiah — but before the resurrection, no one read them that way.
We are blessed to live in an age when these things are not only revealed but testified to. They have happened! We therefore should have much greater confidence in the promises of God.
There remain promises not yet fulfilled — as the Revelation and many other passages make clear — but we enjoy the benefits of more promises kept and more mysteries revealed than the Ancients.
2. The blood of Jesus reaches back to Abel and ahead to the Second Coming, but we live in the age when the faith by which the saving power of the blood is accessed is faith in Jesus as well as faith in God. Jesus has been revealed as God the Son.
It’s tempting when studying covenant theology to conclude that the Jews remain saved by faith in YHWH even when they deny that Jesus is the Messiah and LORD. But the scriptures plainly teach to the contrary.
In each age, and under each covenant, we must believe in YHWH as he has revealed himself. The Israelites had to believe not only in the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob but also in the God who was present on Mt. Sinai and whose voice thundered across the desert and whose finger carved the Ten Commandments. If they denied that the God they met in Sinai was the God of Abraham, they would not have been saved.
Just so, now that God has performed an even greater miracle — sending his Son, allowing him to die on the cross as a sacrifice, resurrecting him, and returning him to heaven — if the Jews deny that Jesus is the Messiah and God the Son, they do not have the faith of Abraham.
In fact, one of the truly surprising things about this study to me has been that Paul never seems to bother to defend that claim. Why is it that faith in the God of Abraham fails if the believer denies that Jesus is the Messiah? Why must the Jew believe both in God and Jesus? Paul never really says. (If I’m wrong, PLEASE correct me.) It’s obvious from Acts and all of Paul’s letters that faith in Jesus is absolutely essential, but why it’s true we have to surmise.
My surmise is that Jesus so perfectly reveals the nature of God that, if we can’t see God in Jesus, we can’t see God. If Jesus does not leap off the page as obviously Messiah and God the Son, then our hearts are stubborn and our eyes are blind. If we don’t see Jesus as God, we are, in effect, idolaters, because we’re worshiping a god who is not the true One God of Abraham and Moses.
(I’m open to better explanations.)
[to be continued]