It was brought to my attention this week that the brethren at the Berean Bible Society have once again1 posted their firm convictions about the Body of Christ being under the New Covenant.
“It is our firm conviction that the Body of Christ falls under the umbrella of the New Covenant.” – Paul M. Sadler, What We Believe
Would not this vague ‘umbrella’ doctrine lower our heavenly position in Christ to that of an earthly covenant, and diminish the simplicity that is in Christ by blending Prophecy and Mystery?
John Nelson Darby thought it would when he wrote his Synposis of the Bible over one hundred years ago:
“The first covenant was made with Israel; the second must be so likewise, according to the prophecy of Jeremiah… Although there is no difficulty here, it is important to have light with regard to these two covenants, because some have very vague ideas on this point, and many souls, putting themselves under covenants — that is, in relationship with God under conditions in which He has not placed them — lose their simplicity, and do not hold fast grace and the fulness of the work of Christ, and the position He has acquired for them in heaven.” – J.N. Darby, Synoposis of the Bible, Hebrews 8
The mystery of Christ teaches that the position of the new creature, the Body of Christ, does not depend upon a promised covenant, but upon the very gospel of the grace of God first delivered to the apostle Paul to us (Col 1:20-28). And as others have said before, the gospel is not a covenant.
“Strictly speaking the gospel, the proclamation of the salvation of God, is not a covenant.” – Arno Gaebelein, Annotated Commentary
“The gospel is not a covenant, but the revelation of the salvation of God.” – J.N. Darby, Synposis of the Bible
Both of these dispensational forefathers knew that the gospel given to Paul that creates the Body of Christ was not the teaching of the New Covenant which was made with Israel.
Since unashamed workmen separate prophecy from mystery we must separate the Body of Christ from Israel’s New Covenant.
What is the New Covenant
The New Covenant was part of God’s prophesied purpose to make a peculiar people on the earth to bless all nations (Gentiles) (Exo 19:5-6).
The New Covenant would accomplish for Israel what the Old could not, that is, provide Israel the ability to serve God in righteousness on the earth. It provided for the forgiveness of Israel’s sins and the spiritual ability to walk in God’s statutes (Jer 31:31-34; Eze 36:27).
In short, it would provide salvation to Israel, and through them to the world. The New Covenant would allow Israel to fulfill its God given destiny to have dominion over all the earth as God’s peculiar people (Deut 14:2, 26:18).
The fulfillment of the New Covenant is still future when Israel receives its kingdom (Acts 3:19-21; Heb 8:13; 1 Pet 1:13). How, then, can the Body of Christ be under it who were not recipients of its promises, and who are not on earth at the time of its fulfillment?
None of these promises were given to Gentiles, and what a strange thing it would be to place the Body of Christ, which possesses a calling higher than anything prophesied to Israel, under an earthly covenant (Eph 2:6, 3:18).
Partaking of Spiritual Things
“Paul clearly teaches in Romans that we are partakers of Israel’s spiritual blessings (Rom. 15:27 cf. Eph. 1:3-14). There is absolutely no possibility that this could refer to anything other than the New Covenant.” – Paul M. Sadler, What We Believe
It is true that the Gentiles in Romans 15:27 were partakers of the spiritual things of the remnant of Israel. Yet, nothing in Paul’s epistles necessitates Gentiles be under any of Israel’s covenants of promise to receive these spiritual blessings.
More likely the spiritual things referred to in Romans 15:27 are the ones mentioned in Romans 11:11.
“I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy.” – Romans 11:11
At one time, salvation was “of the Jews” (John 4:22), but now, Paul says, it is come to the Gentiles. What a reversal! How could salvation come to Gentiles without any covenants and without Israel’s salvation (New Covenant)? Only through the mystery of Christ, where Gentiles no longer go through Israel (or its covenants) to receive blessing, but access God freely through Christ by His grace.
While it is true that the New Covenant promised salvation to Israel, it was not salvation through Paul’s mystery gospel. The salvation of Israel was tied up in covenants, promises, laws, and prophecy. Paul’s gospel of salvation was not a covenant.
Gentiles did not need a covenant to receive by grace the few blessings listed in Jeremiah 31 or any of the numerous spiritual blessings bestowed uniquely upon the Body of Christ not promised to Israel.
Not one Israelite in time past ever experienced all the spiritual blessings of the mystery of Christ since they were hid in God (Eph 3:8-10).
The Blood of the New Testament
“Who could fail to see that Paul charges us to remember the blood of this covenant until the Lord comes…” – Paul M. Sadler, What We Believe
Indeed, Paul emphasizes that every member of the Body of Christ is a partaker of the blood of Christ in a special communion, but not partakers of the New Covenant:
“The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?” – 1 Cor 10:16
Just as the gospel is not a covenant, the communion of the blood of Christ is not a covenant. That same blood of Christ shed for the New Testament is what is now preached by Paul as the means of redemption for all men without a covenant:
“In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace;” – Ephesians 1:7
The blood of Christ is what reconciled all things to God, not just the covenanted earthly things, but also heaven, which is the topic of the mystery of Christ:
“And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven.” – Col 1:20
The ‘Umbrella’ of Christ
Why would we need to be under the New Covenant umbrella when we have access to God directly through Christ by his grace and not through a promised covenant (Rom 5:2, Eph 2:18)?
Indeed we share in common with Israel the need for the blood of Christ for salvation. Israel needs the blood for their promised New Covenant salvation, while the Body of Christ receives the benefits of his blood freely by grace apart from any covenant (1 Cor 2:7-12).
We are “made nigh” not by a covenant, but by the blood of Christ (Eph 2:13). As a result a new man is created that possesses “all spiritual blessings”, will inhabit heavenly places, and ministers the manifold wisdom of God (Eph 3:10-12).
In light of the the numerous spiritual blessings given freely to the Body of Christ, it would seem there is not enough room under a New Covenant umbrella to hold all of the unsearchable riches of Christ.
“If note is taken of the four blessings which this covenant promises, it will be seen that these—and vastly more—are the present possession of those who comprise the Church.” – Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, Chapter XII
Rather than the umbrella being the New Covenant, the umbrella that contains us all is Christ, at once, both the head of the Body of Christ, and the mediator of a better testament for Israel.
The preeminent Christ is the connection between the two programs of God, not a mere covenant given to Israel. The earthly purpose will be fulfilled by Christ through his promised covenant, and the heavenly purpose is accomplished by Christ in a mystery on the cross.
“That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:” – Eph 1:10
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1 Their article “What We Believe” has been sent out eight times in the past eight years in their Two Minutes With the Bible email. My response was first published in 2012.