The Blood of the Everlasting Covenant
A reader asks: How does Hebrews 13:20 relate to the discussion about "One Covenant" or "The Eternal Covenant?" Does this passage give credence to the idea that God has only had one covenant?
First, the book of Hebrews abounds in points of contrast. Indeed, contrasts are the fiber and fabric of the letter. If one doubts it, let him take them away and see what he has left!
Second, the thirteenth chapter, true to the nature of the book, is soaked and saturated with sure and certain contrasts. (a.) There are two sources of strength (v. 9). (b.) There are two altars, and, by implication, two tabernacles (v. 10; Cf. 8:2; 9:2). (c.) There are two bodies of sacrifice, the "bodies of those beasts (animals)," and the body of Christ (v. 11; Cf. Col. 1:22). (d.) There are two "end-results" of those sacrificed bodies. The "bodies of those beasts...are burned without the camp," while the body of Jesus was "brought again from the dead" (vv. 11, 20). (e.) There are two "bloods," the blood of animals and "his own blood," the blood of Christ (vv. 11, 12; Cf. Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:18-23). (f.) There are two high priests, the Old Testament high priest and, by implication, Jesus, our high priest--someone had to bring the offering into the sanctuary; in the Old Testament, it was the high priest; in the New Testament, it is Christ (vv. 11, 12; Cf. 3:1; 5:1-6; 9:25, 10:10-14). (g.) There are two cities. One is earthly Jerusalem; the other is "the heavenly Jerusalem" (v. 14; Cf. 11:16; 12:22). (h.) There are two covenants. One is "everlasting" (in contrast to that which is temporary) having been established "through the blood" of Christ (v. 20; Cf. Matt. 26:28; Heb. 9:18-10:14).
Third, the contrast between that which is temporary and that which is "everlasting" threads and weaves itself throughout the book of Hebrews. (Does this need to be proven to Christians?!) (a.) There is the "changeable" versus the "unchangeable priesthood" (5:6; 7:24). (b.) There is the provisional, temporary tabernacle and there is the eternal, "true tabernacle" (8:2; 9:2, 11, 12). In short, there is the shadow and there is the substance. (c.) There is a kingdom which could be, and was, moved, and there is a "kingdom which cannot be moved" (12:28; Cf. Dan. 2:44; Lk. 1:32, 33--What is the difference between a kingdom which "shall never be destroyed," and of one of which "there shall be no end," and one "which cannot be moved'?). The "everlasting covenant of 13:20 is the same as the "new covenant." The blood of the new covenant is the blood of Christ (Matt. 26:28). The blood of the "everlasting covenant" is also the blood of Christ; hence, the "everlasting covenant" is the "new covenant." (d.) There is a law which could be, and was, changed, and there is a new and living way, or law, which cannot be altered, shaken, or abolished (2:3; 7:11-14; 8:10; 10:20, 26-29; 12:25). (e.) There was a temporary covenant and there is "the everlasting covenant" (13:20; Cf. Gal. 3:6-4:7).
Fourth, study the contrasts made by use of the word, "better," in Hebrews (7:19, 22; 8:6; 11:4; 12:24). (a.) There is "a better hope" (7:19). Better than what? The contrast is with the "law." The "better hope" of 7:19 is the "better testament" of 7:22. The "law," the "firstcovenant" made nothing perfect, but the "better hope," the "second" covenant did. This "better hope" is the means whereby "we draw nigh unto God." By the law, we cannot draw nigh unto God. This is what the Holy Spirit signified (9:8). However, through the "new covenant," the "better hope," we draw nigh unto God. (b.) The "better covenant" of 8:6 is the same as the "better testament" of 7:22. Note this: Under the law, Christ could not serve, could not minister (8:4). But under the "new covenant" he has "obtained a more excellent ministry." The law is the "first covenant." Under it Christ could not minister. Under the "new covenant," he ministers, serves. How, then, are they "one covenant"?
(c.) Were Cain and Abel's sacrifices "one sacrifice"? No, Abel's was "better," and it was another sacrifice, one other than Cain's (Gen. 4:3-7). Likewise, when we read of a "better covenant," we are reading of another (not the same) covenant.
(d.) In 8:6, "he (Christ) is the mediator of a better covenant." In 9:15, "he is the mediator of the new testament." In 12:24, Jesus is "the mediator of the new covenant." Christ is not the mediator of two covenants. He is "the mediator of the new, and not the mediator of two."
Utilizing the argument of the Hebrew writer in 7:11-14 (since the priesthood has been changed, "there is made of necessity a change also of the law"), we draw some parallel and corollary conclusions. Since the tabernacle system has been changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law (9:1-17). Since the sacrificial system has been changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the covenant (8:1-4; 9:12-14; 10:1-14; Cf. Gal. 2:16-21).
It is by and through "the blood of the everlasting covenant," not through that covenant which was temporary and provisional, that we have "obtained eternal redemption" (Cf. "eternal redemption" with "everlasting covenant;" 9:12-14; 10:10-14). How could a covenant be "everlasting" when its systems and sacrifices, its provisions and pronouncements, are to be altered, set aside, annulled, superseded, and "pass away"?
The "everlasting covenant" is no more the same covenant as that of the Old than is the priesthood of Aaron the same as that of Christ (8:4). The "everlasting covenant" is no more the same covenant as that of the Old than is the sacrifice of animals the same as that of "the offering of the body of Jesus Christ" (10:10). The "everlasting covenant" is no more the same covenant as that of the Old than is David's civil kingship the same as Christ's spiritual reign and rule (1:5-9).
Finally, the "first," or "old" testament was dedicated with the blood of animals (9:18, 19). It was identified as "the blood of the testament" (9:20). Get that; hear it. The blood of animals was "the blood of the (first, or old) testament." In contrast, Jesus' blood is the "blood of the new testament" (Matt. 26:28; Lk. 22:20). This blood, his blood, dedicated the new testament--"And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance" (9:15). The new testament did not become of force before the death of Christ (9:16, 17).
Again, the word "better" plays a prominent part. It was "necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with better sacrifices than these" (9:23). Does any Christian not know what that "better sacrifice," that better blood is?! His blood, his sacrifice, cleansed and purified that which the old typified (9:24-27). Hence, the blood of Christ dedicated the new covenant (10:9, 10, 19, 20). This is why, therefore, that the Hebrew writer said that we are come "to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling that speaketh better things than that of Abel" (12:22, 24). His blood is the blood of the new covenant, "the blood of the everlasting covenant" (13:20). That covenant is as distinct from the first covenant as the blood of animals is separate and distinct from the blood of Christ.
CONCLUSION: This know and believe. Whenever men pervert and pollute obvious truth, they have a hidden agenda, a doctrine, a practice, a form of worship, and a way of life they are seeking to justify. Since they cannot otherwise have their views and philosophies accepted by them that believe and know the truth, they must wrest the Scriptures in order to fit their system into the mold and pattern of truth. Do not be deceived. Despite their protestations to the contrary, this is the path of all those who are ensnared in this "one covenant" controversy. False teachings have their consequences, and this "one, eternal covenant" idea is no exception.
Some will sympathize with and apologize for the advocates of the "One Covenant" doctrine. Others will say that they cannot see where it makes a difference. "After all," they will say, "those who believe the 'one covenant' theory are just like us in every other form of doctrine, work and worship; so, what's the big deal?" The "big deal" is that those of the 'one covenant' view, or any other false idea, are not "just like" those whose deeds and doctrine are after the New Testament order. One might not be able to identify all the consequences of their false position, and he may not immediately see the ungodly lifestyle that their view promotes, but he can know such things are there and that, sooner or later, they will surface. It is not a harmless diversion. It has moral and doctrinal tentacles that will drown men in destruction and perdition. At least, that is what Peter said (2 Pet. 2:1-3). While "they feast with you" and "promise (you) liberty, they themselves are the servants of corruption" (2 Pet. 2:13, 19).
Of course, these things were not seen at first glance. These "false teachers" were not seen as wolves. They appeared in sheep's clothing; that is, they came in privately and secretly introduced their poison. They spoke alluring, enticing words and were received as great and good men (2 Pet. 2:18; Cf. Acts 8:9-11). So it is with this "One Covenant" idea. "Be not deceived." You can make certain that something is "rotten up the creek." "And what I say unto you, I say unto all, watch" (Mk. 13:37). (See material below for more complete information.)
Perhaps the most thorough, comprehensive answer to the question under discussion was given by Ashley S. Johnson. The material which follows is from a sermon he preached on February 20, 1899. It is found in his book, "The Two Covenants," 123-139. It is reproduced below for your study and reflection.
Monday, February 20, 1899; 7:30 p.m.
SERMON No. VIII.-THE NEW COVENANT (PART 1).
Text: "Now the God of peace, that brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, that great shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, Make you perfect in every good work to do his will, working in you that which is wellpleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to which is glory for ever and ever. Amen" (Heb. 13:20-21).
I think I may say that we are now prepared for the discussion of the new covenant. I have read these introductory passages because I think they are the most appropriate ones on the subject. They emphasize particularly the thought of the blood of the everlasting covenant. What blood was that? Whose blood was it? When was that blood shed? Certainly it is not the blood that was shed when the mark of circumcision was placed upon Abraham and his children. What covenant is meant? Certainly it is not the covenant dedicated by the blood of goats and calves at mount Sinai. Certainly it is not the covenant that was broken so many times by Israel in the days of Moses and Joshua and Samuel and David and Isaiah and Jeremiah and the other prophets. I think that we may get a better understanding of these passages by reflecting a little on some of the passages discussed already. But in order that I may impress on you the thought that the blood of the everlasting covenant is the blood of Jesus I submit His own words. Matthew testifies as follows: "For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins (Matt. 26:28)." Again, I call your attention to the testimony of Paul: He that despised Moses' law died without mercy under two or three witnesses: Of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace (Heb. 10:28,29)?" Again, the testimony of the same writer: "And to Jesus the mediator of the new covenant, and to the blood of sprinkling, that speaketh better things than that of Abel. See that ye refuse not him that speaketh : for if they escaped not who refused him that spake on earth, much more shall not we escape, if we turn away from him that speaketh from heaven (Heb. 12:24,25)." I call your attention to this fact: We are under a new covenant or testament-the blood of that covenant or testament is the blood of Jesus, that blood was shed on Calvary and the covenant wherewith it was dedicated is the everlasting covenant or the everlasting testament.
I shall have to trust to your memories largely to establish the connection between the argument now and the argument in the past, but I shall present two of the most important passages that have been discussed already by way of refreshing your minds: "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)." Again: "Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, 0 God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all (Heb. 10:9,10)." I pause here long enough to re-emphasize two thoughts: The old covenant is taken away, the new covenant is established. In the second verse that I quote be uses another word, the word "will." He might as well have said covenant or testament but he said "will," declaring that we are sanctified by that will by the offering of the body of Jesus once for all. I think I could abundantly establish my proposition by the Scriptures of the New Testament but I want to show you that even the prophets of God under the first covenant or first testament looked forward to the establishment of the second testament or the new testament. I read from Jeremiah. His testimony came hundreds of years after the inauguration of the covenant at Sinai. It is therefore valuable not only as showing that the new covenant was to be established but in his estimation it was to take the place of the old: "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel. After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for they shall know me from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more (Jer. 31 :31-34)." Let us analyze this prophecy. It was uttered fully six hundred years before the birth of Christ and therefore nine hundred years after the inauguration of the covenant at Sinai. Understand me: This prophet was a competent witness. He was a member of the first covenant by virtue of birth, of blood, of life, of choice and I want to carefully study what he has to say. First, he declared that the day would come when God would make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; second, that it would not be like the covenant that He made with them when He took them by the hand and brought them out of Egypt; third, that the covenant that He would make with them after those days would be that His law should be put in their inward parts-hearts; fourth, that He would be their God and they should be His people; fifth, that they should no more exhort one another to know the Lord because all of them should know Him; and sixth, He would be merciful unto their unrighteousness and remember their sins no more. This prophet who understood fully the law of Moses, or the covenant at Sinai, was doubtless impressed with the differences. Back at Sinai the law was written on tables of stone, but looking forward to the time of Jesus he said that the new covenant should be written on the hearts or the inner parts of men. A vast difference, if you please. Cold and pulseless stone; living hearts, living minds! Stone engraven by the finger of God; hearts made warm and tender under the influences of His love! But I desire to pursue the idea of the prophet and therefore I turn to the New Testament Scriptures: "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God; Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life (II Cor. 3:5,6)." Who said this? Paul. Who was he talking about? Jesus and His apostles. What was he talking about? The new covenant and its ministers. Jeremiah had said that God would make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah. Paul says here that he and his associates were ministers of a covenant. Yes of the new covenant, not of the letter, that is the law, but of the spirit which giveth life. How delightful it would be if we could call Paul back to earth and have him testify further on the subject. How I should like to sit down at his feet and take my Bible and read to him Jeremiah's prophecy and ask him to tell us just what it means! But hold, that is not necessary. He told us that and he left it on record that we might find out for ourselves. I will turn to the record and read: "But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers, in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord! I will put my laws into their minds, and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: And they shall not teach every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more (Heb. 8:6-12)." There are the words of Jeremiah quoted by Paul. Notice how he introduces them and how he closes them. In his introduction he says of Jesus that He had obtained a more excellent ministry, that is a more excellent ministry than that which existed under the old covenant, and that He is the Mediator of a better covenant or testament and that this better covenant or testament is established upon better promises; that is, better promises than the promises of the old covenant. He quotes, the words of the prophet approvingly, declaring that God had found fault with them and that he no longer regarded Himself under obligation to them and finally reaches the climax in the oft-repeated 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)." Again: "Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, 0 God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering oftentimes the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins: But this man, after he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the right hand of God; From henceforth expecting till his enemies be made his footstool. For by one offering He hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified. Whereof the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us: for after that He had said before, This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin. Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, By a new and living way, which he hath consecrated for us, through the veil, that is to say, his flesh; And having a high priest over the house of God; Let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the profession of our faith without wavering; for He is faithful that promised (Heb. 10:9-23)." Here is a perfect mine, not of precious stones, but of precious truths. Let us dig some of them out. First, Jesus came to do the will of God-He removed the old and established the new. Second, by His will, or testament, or covenant, we are sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus. Third, the priests and sacrifices of the old covenant can never take away sins-behold the contrast: the old "can never take away" sins; the new way sanctifies by one offering. Fourth, He who gave Himself is now at God's right hand and bringing His foes into subjection to His authority. Fifth, He is perfecting and sanctifying forever. Sixth, the Holy Spirit is witness of these things. Seventh, again the apostle quotes and confirms the prophecy of Jeremiah relative to the new covenant, its laws and the permanent removal-forgiveness of sins. Eighth, no other offering is now needed for sin, in order to the forgiveness of sins. Ninth, we have the privilege to enter into the real Holy of Holies with boldness by the blood of Jesus. Tenth, the way into the presence of God is a new way, not an old way, or a way part old and part new. Eleventh, we have a high priest over the house of God-in the presence of God. Twelfth, we may have our hearts sprinkled-delivered-from the consciousness of sin, and our bodies washed with pure water. Thirteenth, we can hold fast our profession without wavering under our faithful High Priest. Here are thirteen startling, searching, revolutionary truths, not one of which was true or could be true under Moses-under the first covenant! See: Under the first, many priests, many offerings, no real remission of sins, no good conscience! See; Under the second, one Priest, one Offering, sin forever blotted out, good conscience, all by the new way! Question: Where is the man who in view of these things, would desire to re-establish the old covenant or go back and live under its provision even if it were possible? Where is the man who would prefer the law to the Gospel? Where is the man who would prefer Aaron to Christ? Where is the man who would prefer the sacrifice of bulls and calves and goats, to the sacrifice of Jesus once for all? Where is the man who would prefer annual remission of sins to permanent remission of sins? Where is the man who would prefer the tabernacle made by hands on earth to the tabernacle made without hands, eternal and in the heavens? Where is the man who would prefer to be represented before the mercy seat on the tenth day of the seventh month once a year, to having a high priest in the presence of God day and night, perpetually?
Now certainly these things do not and cannot mean that Christ has resuscitated or reconstructed the old-the first-or that He has grafted His way on to the old way; but that He hath by His own life, by His own death, by His own blood, by His own resurrection, by His own ascension to God, consecrated for us a new way, a living way, and in view of this we are invited to draw nigh and partake of His principles and provisions with true and honest hearts.
In view of these Scriptures I raise this question: Is the new covenant a continuation of the old? Or is the new covenant an amplification of the old? Or is the new covenant a separate, a distinct institution? As a matter of fact I have proven to you repeatedly and overwhelmingly that there are two covenants or testaments. Indeed it does not take any proof but your own eyes. Here is your Bible. On the title page of the first part of it you know how it reads: "Holy Bible." What does it embrace? The merest tyro in knowledge of the word of God would answer, the scriptures of the Old and the New Testaments. Turn to the title page of the New. Understand me, now, that these title pages were not put here by Divine authority but by somebody who did not know what he was doing, and yet the fact of the two covenants is made apparent. Here we read: "The New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ." It would be all right to say the testament of our Lord Jesus Christ or simply the New Testament, but to say the New Testament of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ would imply that the Old Testament came by Him but it did not come that way. The Old Testament came by Moses not by Christ. So there are two testaments-there is no doubt about that. You may not know anything about the contents of them but they are there. You are bound to concede it, you are bound to admit it, you are bound to confess it, and you are bound to act upon it. What then? Either ye have two rival testaments, rival law-givers, rival ways, or one is the continuation of the other, or the first is entirely superseded by the second. But there are two and therefore they cannot be identical. Argument after argument has been adduced to show that the covenants are identical, that the testaments are identical. Any man who can look and read knows that this is not so. They are not identical. Two things cannot be identical in this world. Two things may be similar. They may be very much alike. There is a man in this world who looks so much like me that often people used to walk up to him on the streets and shake hands with him and call him "Brother Johnson" and my own friends used to meet me and call me by his own name. We are similar, in the estimation of our friends, but we are not identical. Suppose I admit for argument's sake that the testaments are somewhat similar, does that prove that they are one? Suppose I prove that one man is very much like another man, does that prove they are one man? Not by any means. I hold out before you two hands. They look very much alike. They are similar, they are not identical. They cannot be. They are two and you cannot make anything else but two out of them. Admitting that there are testaments and that they are identical, for argument's sake, then the weight of authority and the weight of modern ideas would be in favor of the new testament and we would discard the old testament. Admitting that both the old testament and the new came from God the very idea that one is the Old Testament and the other the New Testament would lead me to say that if I have to take one without the other, I will take the newest! Who would not? We are always anxious for the latest news, for the latest cablegram, for the latest telegram, for the latest information, and on that ground I say if the testaments are identical-but they are not-it stands to reason that we should take the second, that we should take the last, take the new. The first testament, the second testament, the old testament, the new testament; the first covenant, the second covenant, the old covenant, the new covenant, the everlasting covenant, the everlasting testament-anybody ought to be able to see the difference! Paul in the Galatian letter says that there are two covenants and instead of trying to argue that they are identical he undertakes to show that they are not and that one is not the continuation of the other, and that the new testament is the testament under which we must live and must find salvation if we find it at all. He proves that by introducing to us Abraham and Sarah and Isaac on the one side and Abraham and Hagar and Ishmael on the other. If Hagar and Sarah were identical the covenants are identical. Why, according to my knowledge of the Scriptures, along about the time Ishmael was cast out they lacked a great deal of being identical. They were not even harmonious! If it can be proven that Ishmael and Isaac were identical then it can be proven that the covenants are identical, but from my knowledge of the word about the time Ishmael was cast out, they were far from identical or even from harmony.
If it can be proven that the flesh on which the old covenant is based is in harmony with the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit on which the new covenant is based, then I will admit that the two covenants are one. Hear the words of Paul: "He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second (Heb. 10:9)." Jeremiah said, and Paul endorses it, that the new covenant would be unlike the old. The law under the old covenant was written on stone; under the new covenant on the hearts of men. Under the old covenant there was a remembrance of sin once every year, under the new covenant God declares that He will remember our sins and our iniquities no more.
On this question of the identity of the two covenants I desire to call your attention to a startling fact. Many of the Jews who were converted to Christ had an idea that the new covenant was a continuation of the old. John the Baptist met just such an idea as that when he started his work. They gathered about him, and on the ground that they were Abraham's children, desired to be baptized and doubtless many of you remember what he said but I will turn and read it. They gathered about him desiring that they might claim the privilege of what he was doing by reason of the fact that they were Abraham's children; said he unto them: "And think not to say within yourselves, We have Abraham to our father: for I say unto you, that God is able of these stones to raise up children unto Abraham (Matt. 3:9)." Nicodemus had the very same idea when he came to Jesus by night. He could not rise above the idea of flesh, Abraham's flesh, Isaac's flesh, Jacob's flesh, pedigree, lineage, geneology-and the covenant based on these things. When the Master told him that he must be born again, the best that he could get out of it was that he could not enter his mother's womb and be born the second time. How utterly material were the ideas -begotten by the old covenant! He was a member of the old covenant, had been born in it, had been circumcised when eight days old and therefore he thought to claim the privileges and precepts and blessings of the reign of the Lord by declaring that he was of Abraham's seed. This claim was all right so far as the old covenant was concerned. But the Lord swept it all from him and said unto him, touching the new covenant--His kingdom: "Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother's womb, and be born? Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Marvel not that I said unto thee, Ye must be born again (John 3:3-7)." The greatest controversy in apostolic times was on this very point. On one side were arrayed Stephen, Paul, Peter James and the church at Jerusalem; on the other many Judaizing teachers who desired to bring the law of Moses into the church of Christ.
The identity of the covenants is argued from the standpoint that there is one God and one object in each covenant. I admit that, but it does not argue anything against my contention for the simple reason that God's object was served under the imperfections of the old covenant, and in the fulness of time He sent forth His Son made of a woman, made under the law, to redeem them that were under the law, that they might be adopted into a new family.
Again: in order to establish the claim that the covenants are identical, that is to say that the New Testament is a continuation of the Old Testament, that the Gospel is a continuation of the Law it is asserted that baptism comes in the room of circumcision, that circumcision is therefore taken away and that baptism taking its place in the new covenant the old covenant is perpetuated and therefore there is only one covenant and that the blood of Jesus is the blood of that everlasting covenant. But I do not think that the argument will stand the test of revelation and reason. Let us for a moment put it to the test. I will just admit for argument's sake that there are two covenants, that they are identical, and that in order that the new might continue the old, that circumcision was taken out and baptism put in, and I will submit the thing to the word of God and see if it will stand. First, circumcision was a mark in the flesh. Proof: "And Abraham took Ishmael his son, and all that were born in his house, and all that were bought with his money, every male among the men of Abraham's house; and circumcised the flesh of their foreskin in the selfsame day, as God had said unto him. And Abraham was ninety years old and nine, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin. And Ishmael his son was thirteen years old, when he was circumcised in the flesh of his foreskin (Gen. 17:23-25)." Baptism is not a mark of the flesh. Therefore baptism did not come in the room of circumcision; therefore the new covenant is not identical with the old; therefore the new covenant stands out by itself and is not engrafted on to the old. Second, circumcision was a proof of membership in the covenant: "This is my covenant, which ye shall keep, between me and you and thy seed after thee; Every man child among you shall be circumcised. And ye shall circumcise the flesh of your foreskin; and it shall be a token of the covenant betwixt me and you. And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed (Gen. 17:10-12)." Baptism is not an evidence that any man is a member of the church. While I would not say that he can be a member without it, I can say that there are thousands who have been baptized that are not fit to belong to the church. Therefore baptism did not come in the room of circumcision; therefore the new covenant is not identical with the old covenant; therefore the new covenant stands out by itself and is not engrafted on the old. Third, the law of circumcision affected only the male population. "Every man child among you shall be circumcised (Gen. 17:10)." Baptism does not come in the room of circumcision in that particular because the command was to baptize all believers, and I will give it to you in the exact words of our Lord Himself: "And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature. He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark 16:15,16)." Therefore baptism did not come in the room of circumcision; therefore the new covenant is not identical with the old; therefore the new covenant stands out by itself and is not engrafted on the old. Fourth, circumcision was administered when the child was eight days old. Proof: "And he that is eight days old shall be circumcised among you, every man child in your generations, he that is born in the house, or bought with money of any stranger, which is not of thy seed (Gen. 17:12)." There is no time stated in the New Testament when a man shall be baptized. It is not a question of days, it is not a question of years; it is a question of faith in Christ. Said our Lord and Master: "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned (Mark 16:15,16)." Therefore baptism did not come in the room of circumcision; therefore the new covenant is not identical with the old; therefore the new covenant stands out by itself and is not engrafted on the old. Fifth, the uncircumcised child was cast out of the covenant. Proof: "And the uncircumcised man child whose flesh of his foreskin is not circumcised, that soul shall be cut off from his people; he hath broken my covenant (Gen. 17:14)." Who among the advocates of the identity of the covenants will dare believe or go so far as to affirm that of the unbaptized child? Not one. They may stoutly insist on the identity of the covenants, that the child ought to be baptized, but not one of them has ever gone to the point of saying that the unbaptized infant is lost. They would not dare do it. Therefore baptism did not come in the room of circumcision; therefore the new covenant is not identical with the old; therefore the new covenant stands out by itself and is not engrafted on the old. Sixth, those who were circumcised were debtors to do the whole law of Moses. Let me give you the proof: "Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if ye be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law (Gal. 5:2,3)." Will the advocates of the identity of the covenants, the advocates of the theory that baptism comes in the room of circumcision affirm that those who are baptized are in debt to do the entire law of Moses? No sir, not one of them will so affirm. Therefore baptism did not come in the room of circumcision; therefore the new covenant is not identical with the old; therefore the new covenant stands out by itself and is not engrafted on the old. Circumcision was not even a type of baptism. It was a type of a circumcised heart and life. Proof: "For he is not a Jew, which is one outwardly; neither is that circumcision which is outward in the flesh; But he is a Jew, which is one inwardly; and circumcision is that of the heart, in the spirit, and not in the letter; whose praise is not of men, but of God (Rom. 2:28,29)." Again: "And ye are complete in him, which is the head of all principality and power: In whom also ye are circumcised with the circumcision made without hands, in putting off the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ: Buried with him in baptism, wherein also ye are risen with him through the faith of the operation of God, who hath raised him from the dead. And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses (Col. 2:10-13)." Therefore baptism does not come in the room of circumcision; therefore the new covenant is not identical with the old; therefore the new covenant stands out by itself and is not engrafted on the old; and therefore I conclude, by the very logic of the facts as they appear before us, that the argument is without foundation either in reason or revelation and that it is not endorsed by the wisdom of those who have read deepest into the word of God.
I hear somebody say: "Your argument seems forcible enough, your proof seems strong enough; but it occurs to me that if God made a covenant with Israel and Israel broke it and God made another covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah that He trifled with men. Not by any means. In making that covenant and discarding it he proceeded on the line on which He proceeds in all of His works and on the very line that you proceed upon in all of yours. Old things are constantly passing away. The vegetation of last year is mouldering back to dust, the flowers that exhaled their delightful fragrance have long since gone forever and the songs of birds that awoke the echoes of last spring are heard no more and it is a physiological fact that every seven years, probably in less time than that, a man discards the body in which he lives and Nature blesses him with another and so God our Father discarded the old institution, found fault with it, found fault with Israel, found fault with the men who had broken it, and declared that He would make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. I wish to call your attention further to the idea of discarding the old and accepting the new. Progressive development in the kingdom of God! The gradual unfolding of the law of love, of the purpose, of the power and of the glory of God! Hear the words of the Master Himself: "And he said, So is the kingdom of God, as if a man should cast seed into the ground; And should sleep, and rise night and day, and the seed should spring and grow up, he knoweth not how. For the earth bringeth forth fruit of herself; first the blade, then the ear, after that the full corn in the car. But when the fruit is brought forth, immediately he putteth in the sickle, because the harvest is come (Mark 4:26-29)." We know that is so. First the germ, then the little shoot appears, then the stalk, then the ear, then the full corn in the ear. So it was in the development of God's purpose. First, the intimation, then the promise, then the covenant of circumcision, then the law, then the tabernacle, then the prophecies, then the Son of Man on earth, then the story of His death, burial and resurrection told to the children of men.
Again, I hear the objector say that if my conclusions are correct he would like very much to know why it was that Jesus and the apostles endorsed the law. I am quite sure I can answer that satisfactorily and very quickly, but I want to get the matter fully before you and therefore I turn and read to you from the Scriptures: "And, behold, one came and said unto him, Good Master, what good thing shall I do, that I may have eternal life? And he said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one. that is, God: but if thou wilt enter into life, keep the commandments. He saith unto him, Which? Jesus said, Thou shalt do no murder, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Honor thy father and thy mother: and, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself (Matt. 19:16-19)." I hear a man say if the law is done away, if the old covenant is done away, if we are under Christ and not under Moses, if we are under the New Testament and not under the Old Testament, why did Jesus our Master tell this inquiring soul to keep the commandments? Paul did the same thing in a sense. Let us turn and see just what he said: "Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for lie that loveth another hath fulfilled the law. For this, Thou shalt not commit adultery, Thou shalt not kill, Thou shalt not steal, Thou shalt not bear false witness, Thou shalt not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is briefly comprehended in this saying, namely, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself. Love worketh no ill to his neighbour: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law (Rom. 13:8-10)." This is apostolic testimony. Again: "If ye fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one Point, he is guilty of all. For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if thou commit no adultery, yet if thou kill, thou art become a transgressor of the law (James 2:8-11)." Again: "Speak not evil one of another, brethren. He that speaketh evil of his brother, and judgeth his brother, speaketh evil of the law, and judgeth the law: but if thou judge the law, thou are not a doer of the law, but a judge. There is one law-giver, who is able to save and to destroy: who art thou that judgest another (James 4:11,12)?" I am sure you can see I have been fair. I have given the whole subject in the exact words of Scripture-Jesus endorsed the law, Paul endorsed the law, James endorsed the law. What then? Well, I hear you say that: "I do not see but one conclusion and that is that all that you have said on the subject is an abortion and that we are under the law and there is no way of getting out from under it." I am afraid you have only given these Scriptures a very superficial investigation. But suppose I admit that Jesus taught or appeared to teach that a man must keep the law, that Paul taught or appeared to teach that a man must keep the law, that James taught or appeared to teach that a man must keep the law, what then? Only this and nothing more; we ought in view of other Scriptures be careful about the conclusion toward which we push our investigations. I lay down a rule of interpretation for your benefit here and now: When a passage of Scripture is apparently susceptible to two or more interpretations give it that interpretation that will allow everything else plainly said on the subject to be true. Or in another manner, in taking a position in reference to any passage of the word of God take a position that will not contradict anything else said on the subject. Or to put it in another form still: take a position that will harmonize with everything else that is said on the subject because there is no doubt of one thing, and that is, if the Bible is true it is harmonious from beginning to end. If it is a fact that our Lord meant to teach, that Paul meant to teach, that James meant to teach that the law is still in force and that all men in the Church are under the law, then it follows as certainly as night follows the day that there are some things in the New Testament that cannot be true. It cannot be true that there are two covenants. It cannot be true that the law was nailed to the cross, yet Paul says it was. Here are his own words: "Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out by the way, nailing it to his cross (Col. 2:14)." It cannot be true that the Roman Christians were not under the law, yet Paul so affirms: "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14)." It cannot be true that the ministration of death written and engraven on stones is taken away: "But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance: which glory was to be done away (II Cor. 3:7)." It cannot be true that the Lord took away the first that He might establish the second: "Then said he, Lo, I come to do thy will, 0 God. He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second (Heb. 10: 9)." It is a positive fact that the first covenant is taken away. But have you not made a mistake about what Jesus and the apostles meant in making their statements concerning the law? Suppose I turn back to the Scripture and read all Jesus said and see if we do not find another conclusion warranted. Taking up the reading where I left off: "The young man said unto him, All these things I have kept from my youth up, what lack I yet? Jesus said unto him, If thou wilt be perfect, go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come and follow me. But when the young man heard that saying, he went away sorrowful: for he had great possessions (Matt. 19:20-22)." But listen to me: The Lord Jesus was born under the law. He lived under the law, He was obedient to the law, He enforced the law during His natural life, and the reason that He told this young man to keep the commandments was that the law was still in force at that time. He held out a perfect life to the young man but it was not in keeping the law, but in forsaking all and following Him! How vast and far reaching the thoughts and issues involved in this command. After this Jesus went further than this. I will give you the exact words: "Then Jesus spake to the multitude, and to his disciples, saying, The scribes and Pharisees sit in Moses' seat: All therefore whatsoever they bid you observe, that observe and do; but do not ye after their works: for they say, and do not (Matt. 23:1-3)." Does this involve the matter in contradiction and absurdity? not by any means. What reason can be given for His teaching? I answer: The reason Jesus did this was that the law was in force all his natural life up to the very last moment of the agony on the cross. Therefore as an obedient Son of His Father, and as an obedient Son of Abraham He was bound to honor the law and to honor Moses and to honor the observance of the ordinances of Israel. This is absolutely and irresistibly conclusive. After He arose from the dead He gave other commandments. After He arose from the dead He told the apostles to go and make disciples and never once mentioned a single ordinance of Moses or of the Law (Matt. 28:16-20). But what about Paul and James ? Let us see: Paul was arguing this one thing, that all there ever was in the law of Moses from the beginning to the end might be summed up in one point, and that was that a man should love his neighbour as himself. Love does not work ill to anybody; therefore if I love my neighbour I work him no ill; therefore the conclusion of Paul that the man who lives with love in his heart fulfills every obligation laid down by Moses because he will not and cannot do things that Moses said not to do, because he cannot do it with love in his heart. What about James? I will let him talk for himself. I think he makes it harder for the advocates of the law of Moses in the church of God than any one else who has argued on the subject. He puts it this way, that if a man violated one command of the law he was guilty of the whole and therefore it would be utterly impossible for him to be anything else than a sinner, the word law covering the whole ground. If a man should steal he had violated the law, if a man should kill he had violated the law, if a man should covet he had violated the law, if a man should do anything that the law prohibited he was a sinner. He also talks about the royal law. What is that? It is the same thing that Paul presents in the Roman letter, that a man shall love his neighbour as himself, and I will say this to you brethren without hesitation, that if love burns upon your heart, love of God and love of man, there is no necessity why you should be under any law because a man who loves will never harm, and the man who loves God will not intentionally disobey Him. Nor is that all. James had in his mind another law. Hear him in the very same connection: "So speak ye, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty (James 2: 12)." This is not the law of Moses. The law of Moses was the law of sin and death: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death (Rom. 8:1,2)." The ministration of death was written and engraven on stones. The law of Jesus is the law of liberty. Again, let James testify: "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed (James 1:25)." Here is a remarkable fact, so remarkable that it never has had a parallel in the history of man: Perfect law and perfect liberty hand in hand! There is no law in this world or in the history of this world so far as I know that can be justly designated the law of liberty the perfect law of liberty-save the Gospel of the Soil of God. So we are not living by the law of Moses, we are not to be judged by the law of Moses, we are not living in obedience to Moses, we are not to be judged by Moses in the last great day!
Again, I hear a man say that if I am not under the law-the law of Moses-then I am not in any danger of sinning for sin is the transgression of the law: "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law; for sin is the transgression of the law (I Jno. 3:4)." Hear me: All unrighteousness is sin. We are under the law of liberty but we are exhorted by Paul not to use or abuse that liberty. Therefore a man may be a sinner under the reign of Jesus Christ, under the law of the spirit of life in Jesus Christ.
Let me sum up the ground as I have passed over it tonight: We are sanctified by the blood of Jesus, His blood dedicated the new covenant, the new covenant is based on the heart, on the mind of man. In the new covenant God remembers our sins against us no more. In the new covenant we are not to exhort one another saying, "Know the Lord," for all of God's children are to know Him from the least unto the greatest. And while we are not under the law of Moses we are under the law of liberty, under the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus. What does this mean? Hear me! Under the law of Moses a man was kept from sin by statute if kept from it at all; such a thing as liberty was not known, not recognized, not dreamed of. Under the Gospel, under Christ with His law written in the heart, and in the conscience-we have liberty! Sin is also the transgression of law, but it is more: "All unrighteousness is sin (I Jno. 1:17)." But it is more: "Abstain from all appearance of evil (I Thess. 5:22)." The Christ-His covenant works on the character, on the purposes, on the desires, on the source of actions. It takes away the desire to sin and puts in the place of it a determination not to sin. Before the law was given, certain things were just and honest and right-they were not made more so by the law, for it only defined things. Now that the law is abolished these things are still right, still honest, still just. The gospel plants the truth in the heart, and the life takes care of itself. Only the Son of God can make and keep us free in Him only is life-in Him only is liberty. He is the way, the new way, the only way. He invites you to come, to come with all your heart, just as you are, to come today, this hour, now! May God help you to come in His own appointed way!
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