Sermon No: 158523-Covenants - Part 11a- The New Covenant



SERMON TOPIC: Covenants - Part 11a- The New Covenant

Speaker: Gavin Paynter

Language: ENGLISH

Date: 22 May 2022

Topic Groups: COVENANTS, NEW COVENANT

Sermon synopsis: At the Last Supper, Jesus used the term “new testament” to describe the covenant he established between God and mankind. He uses the word “new” to contrast the covenant to the one which Moses was the mediator.
1 Cor 11:25 (KJV) After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament [diatheke] in my blood …

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COVENANTS

PART 11a: THE NEW COVENANT

DISPENSATIONAL COVENANTS

A covenant has always been a crucial part of God’s relationship with his people. Covenant is a legal concept often used in the Bible as a metaphor to describe the relationship between God and humankind.

A dispensation can be defined as a particular system God uses to deal with his people during a certain period of time.

Each dispensational period starts with a distinct COVENANT and ends with a JUDGEMENT.

TERMINATING JUDGEMENTS

The Dispensation of Law began with the Old Covenant and ended with the judgement of repentant men’s sin on the cross.

The Dispensation of Grace began with the New Covenant and will end with the judgement of unrepentant men’s sin in the Tribulation.

THE FIRST COVENANT

 The Torah was called the Book of the Covenant (Exodus 24:7).

Exodus 24:7 (NIV) Then he took the Book of the Covenant [Heb: berith] and read it to the people …

The Book of Hebrews calls that covenant “the first covenant” (when contrasted with The New Covenant).

The translation of the Scripture from Hebrew into Greek, known as the Septuagint (LXX), used the word diatheke as the equivalent of the Hebrew berith.

The translation of the Scripture from Hebrew into Greek, known as the Septuagint (LXX), used the word diatheke as the equivalent of the Hebrew berith.

The pagan authors generally used diatheke to refer to the legal disposition a man makes of his goods for after his death * (i.e., a last will or testament).

The English word “testament” comes from testamentum, the word which the Latin Christian writers used to translate the Greek diatheke.

Hebrew: berith

Greek: diatheke

Latin: testamentum

English: testament

COVENANT TYPE

At the Last Supper, Jesus used the term “new testament” to describe the covenant he established between God and mankind. He uses the word “new” to contrast the covenant to the one which Moses was the mediator.

1 Cor 11:25 (KJV) After the same manner also he took the cup, when he had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament [diatheke] in my blood …

NEW TESTAMENT

The Old Covenant (Law) or the Old Testament and is between God and Israel (the Jews).

The New Covenant (Grace) or New Testament is an agreement between God and all mankind (Gentiles and Jews). The Latin term “Novum Testamentum” appears to have been first coined by the 2nd-century Christian writer Tertullian, who writes:

All Scripture is divided into two Testaments. That which preceded the advent and passion of Christ—-that is, the law and the prophets—-is called the Old; but those things which were written after His resurrection are named the New Testament. The Jews make use of the Old, we of the New: but yet they are not discordant... *

Christians also use the term “testament” for the collection of sacred books containing the history and the terms of the two main covenants; distinguishing between the Old and New Testaments.

THE OLD TESTAMENT

In this usage the expression Old Testament (he palaia diatheke) is first seen in the writing of Melito of Sardis (c. 170 AD). *

* Accordingly when I went East and came to the place where these things were preached and done, I learned accurately the books of the Old Testament, and send them to thee as written below. Their names are as follows: Of Moses, five books: Genesis, Exodus, Numbers, Leviticus, Deuteronomy; Jesus Nave, Judges, Ruth; of Kings, four books;[2] of Chronicles, two; the Psalms of David, the Proverbs of Solomon, Wisdom also, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Job; of Prophets, Isaiah, Jeremiah; of the twelve prophets, one book ; Daniel, Ezekiel, Esdras. From which also I have made the extracts, dividing them into six books. ~ Eusebius EH4.26.13–14:[1]

LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT

The word “testament” is aptly applied to some of God’s covenants because it indicates a specific type of covenant in which a single party stipulates all the terms of an inheritance.

The main difference between this and a royal grant is that a testament (will) requires the death of the testator in order to be put into effect.

Heb 9:16-17 (NIV) In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living.

BLOOD COVENANTS

This is one of the reasons why blood (symbolic of a death) is so significant in both the New and Old Testaments (Covenants).

Heb 9:18-21 (NIV) This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies.

The Law required that the blood of animals be sprinkled on the altar for a sin offering, indicating the substitution of the victim’s blood for that of the sinner.

Heb 9:22 (NIV) In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.

To bring about atonement and to establish the New Covenant it was necessary for Jesus to shed his blood.

Matt 26:28 (NIV) This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.

COVENANT TYPE

The New Covenant is generally regarded as unconditional because unlike the Law the promises and blessings are not based upon our performance. But some point out that it is a last will and testament to heirs or children - and that there is a condition attached to becoming a child of God in the first place, which is faith.

John 1:12 (ESV) But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God …

Thus, in a sense it has elements of conditional and unconditional covenants but nothing like the Old Covenant which was extremely conditional - hundreds of conditions in fact - all with attached blessings and curses for obedience or non-performance.

SUPERSEDED

The conditions of a will or testament can only be legally changed by the existence of a more recent testament, which supersedes the previous one. When a newer will or testament is made, the older one is automatically made obsolete.

Heb 8:13 (NIV) By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear.

Due to persecution, the Jewish Christians who were the recipients of the letter of Hebrews were being tempted to renounce the New Covenant and return to the Old Covenant of the Law. The author shows that they will be going back to something that would disappear due to obsolescence.

THE GOSPEL OF THE KINGDOM

After John the Baptist, the proclamation of the Law was replaced by the preaching of the gospel.

Luke 16:16 (NASB) "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John; since that time the gospel of the kingdom of God has been preached …”

The New Covenant was first predicted by Jeremiah.

Jer 31:31-34 (NIV) “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they broke my covenant, though I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord.

“This is the covenant I will make with the people of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. I will put my law in their minds and write it on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest,” declares the Lord. “For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

THE NEW COVENANT

The author of Hebrews quotes this to show that it was fulfilled in our covenant of grace.

Heb 8:8-12 (NIV) But God … said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant… This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time … I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will they teach their neighbour, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”

God is the initiator of the Covenant (remember that a single party stipulates all the conditions in a last will and testament):

Heb 8:8 “The time is coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant …”

The covenant is substantially different from the Old Covenant:

Heb 8:9a “It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers …”

The characteristics of the New Covenant as promised are essentially four. The New Covenant is:

Internal, not external: written on minds and hearts (31:33).

Intimate, not distant: “I . . . will be their God, and they shall be my people” (31:33; cf. Ex. 19:12).

Direct, not mediated: no more Levitical priesthood (31:34).

Cleansing, not covering: sins are blotted out and forgotten, not merely covered up (31:34). *

THE 3 CATEGORIES OF THE LAW

The Old Covenant may be divided into 3 parts:

The Moral Law (Exodus 20:1-26) i.e., the 10 Commandments

The Civil Law (Exodus 21:1 - 24:18)

The Ceremonial Law (Exodus 25:1 40:38). i.e., the tabernacle, the priesthood and the order of service.

1) THE CEREMONIAL LAWS

The ceremonial laws are called hukkim or chuqqah in Hebrew, which literally means “custom of the nation.” *

They include instructions on regaining right standing with God (e.g., sacrifices and other ceremonies regarding “uncleanness”), remembrances of God’s work in Israel (e.g., feasts and festivals), specific regulations meant to distinguish Israelites from their pagan neighbours (e.g., dietary and clothing restrictions), and signs that point to the coming Messiah (e.g., the Sabbath, circumcision, Passover, and the redemption of the firstborn). *

Moral

Ceremonial

Civil

1) THE CEREMONIAL LAWS

Christians are not bound by ceremonial law.

We are not required to observe memorial festivals, such as the Feast of Weeks and Passover, do not apply.

Col 2:16 (NIV) Therefore do not let anyone judge you … with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration … These are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ.

These feasts are fulfilled in Christ e.g., Passover (the crucifixion), Firstfruits (the Resurrection), Pentecost (the pouring out of the Holy Spirit) etc.

CIRCUMCISION

In Acts 15:1-21, the Council of Jerusalem addressed the controversy regarding whether Christians were required to be circumcised. They were prompted by the Holy Spirit to release Gentile Christians from this Old Covenant requirement.

Circumcision is no longer required.

Gal 5:2-6 (NIV) … if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace … For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

Ours is a spiritual circumcision “of the heart”.

Rom 2:29 (NIV) No, a person is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a person’s praise is not from other people, but from God.

SACRIFICES

We are not required to offer animal or food sacrifices:

Heb 10:1-4 (NIV) The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship … It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.

In the New Covenant there is a once-off sacrifice that is sufficient to pay the price of sin forever.

In the New Covenant there is a once-off sacrifice that is sufficient to pay the price of sin forever.

Heb 10:8-10 (NIV) First he said, “Sacrifices and offerings, burnt offerings and sin offerings you did not desire, nor were you pleased with them”—though they were offered in accordance with the law. Then he said, “Here I am, I have come to do your will.” He sets aside the first to establish the second. And by that will, we have been made holy through the sacrifice of the body of Jesus Christ once for all.

SPIRITUAL SACRIFICES

The only sacrifice we need to offer is a spiritual one where we are encouraged to “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.” (Rom 12:1, ESV)

TERTULLIAN (circa 200) writes that “it follows that, after all these precepts had been given carnally, in time preceding, to the people Israel, there was to supervene a time whereat the precepts of the ancient Law and of the old ceremonies would cease, and the promise of the new law, and the recognition of spiritual sacrifices, and the promise of the New Testament, supervene” *

DIETARY LAWS

We do not have to observe the dietary laws in the Old testament.

Col 2:16 (ESV) Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink …

Jesus released us from the dietary laws "because this kind of purity is merely external.

Mark 7:18-23 (ESV) “Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?” (Thus he declared all foods clean.) And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.”

We are also not required to observe ritual purity regulations or non-Biblical traditions.

We are also not required to observe ritual purity regulations or non-Biblical traditions.

Mark 7:5-8 (NIV) So the Pharisees and teachers of the law asked Jesus, “Why don’t your disciples live according to the tradition of the elders instead of eating their food with defiled hands?” He replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “ ‘These people honour me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.’ You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions.”

THE SABBATH

There is still debate in Protestant churches over the applicability of the Sabbath.

Some say that its inclusion in the Ten Commandments gives it the weight of moral law. *

Others believe that Jesus has fulfilled the Sabbath and become our Sabbath rest.

Col 2:16 (ESV) Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of … a Sabbath.

Rom 14:5-10 (NIV) One person considers one day more sacred than another; another considers every day alike. Each of them should be fully convinced in their own mind. Whoever regards one day as special does so to the Lord … You, then, why do you judge your brother or sister? Or why do you treat them with contempt? For we will all stand before God’s judgment seat.

2) THE CIVIL (JUDICIAL) LAWS

The Westminster Confession adds the category of judicial or civil law. These laws were specifically given for the culture and place of the Israelites and encompass all of the moral law except the Ten Commandments. This includes everything from murder to restitution for a man gored by an ox and the responsibility of the man who dug a pit to rescue his neighbour’s trapped donkey (Exodus 21:12-36). *

Christians are not under the law (Rom 10:4) but all the law is useful for instruction (2 Tim 3:16).

3) THE MORAL LAWS

The moral laws (mishpatim in Hebrew) are based on God’s holy nature and include the Ten Commandments.

As such, the ordinances are holy, just, and unchanging. Their purpose is to promote the welfare of those who obey. The value of the laws is considered obvious by reason and common sense. The moral law encompasses regulations on justice, respect, and sexual conduct… *

THE LAW OF CHRIST

We have noted previously that, with the exception of the Sabbath, the Ten Commandments are repeated in the rest of the New Testament writings.

Paul also refers to what is called “the Law of Christ”:

Gal 6:2 (ESV) Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.

1 Cor 9:21 (ESV) To those outside the law I became mas one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law.

Nowhere does the Bible specifically define the term “the law of Christ”. But many understand it to refer to Jesus’ reply when asked, “Which commandment is the most important of all?”

Mark 12:29–31(ESV) Jesus answered, “The most important is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD

These 2 commandments effectively summarize the Moral Law in the Decalogue in terms of our relationship with God, and our relationship with our fellow man (neighbour).

Our relationship with God (LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD):

Ex 20:3 (NIV) “You shall have no other gods before me.

Ex 20:4 (NIV) “You shall not make for yourself an idol …

Ex 20:7 (NIV) “You shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God …

Ex 20:8 (NIV) “Remember the sabbath day …”

RELATIONSHIP WITH FELLOW MAN

Our relationship with our fellow man (LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOUR):

Ex 20:12 (NIV) “Honour your father and your mother …

Ex 20:13 (NIV) “You shall not murder.

Ex 20:14 (NIV) “You shall not commit adultery.

Ex 20:15 (NIV) “You shall not steal.

Ex 20:16 (NIV) “You shall not give false testimony against your neighbour.

Ex 20:17 (NIV) “You shall not covet … anything that belongs to your neighbour.”

Paul makes this exact point when he says that “The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” (Gal 5:14)

Rom 13:8-10 (NIV) Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for he who loves his fellowman has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “Do not commit adultery,” “Do not murder,” “Do not steal,” “Do not covet,” and whatever other commandment there may be, are summed up in this one rule: “Love your neighbour as yourself.” Love does no harm to its neighbour. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

THE LAW OF CHRIST

Believing the New Covenant to be a new dispensation, George R. Law has proposed that the Law of Christ is recorded in Matthew 5-7. He suggests that Matthew’s record of the Sermon on the Mount is structured similar to the literary form of an ancient Near Eastern covenant treaty. *

If this record in Matthew can be identified as the record of the promised New Covenant, then its contents can also be identified as the formal presentation of the Law of Christ (and includes Christ’s new Ten Commandments). *

TORAH-OBSERVANT CHRISTIANS

Some believe that Jesus’ assertion that the law will remain in effect until the earth passes away (Matthew 5:18) means that believers are still bound to it. Others, however, understand that Jesus fulfilled this requirement (Matthew 5:17), and that we are instead under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2), which is thought to be "love God and love others" (Matthew 22:36-40). *

Torah-observant Christians view Mosaic Law as of continuing validity and applicability for Christians under the new covenant. This view is based on the idea that Jesus, as the Son of God and Messiah, could not and did not change the standard of Godly obedience, but rather affirmed both the "weightier" and "lesser" matters of Torah for those who have put their faith in him. **

THE END OF THE LAW

But Christ is the end of the Law:

Rom 10:4 (ESV) For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. But the righteousness based on faith says…

Jesus fulfilled the Law. The Law of Christ he gave at The Sermon On The Mount supersedes the Mosaic Law.

When Jesus said “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfil them.” (Matt 5:17, ESV), he immediately follows with a discourse of the form “You have heard that it was said to those of old … But I say to you …”

Matt 5:21-22 (ESV): “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder … But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment …

Matt 5:27-28 (ESV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart …

Matt 5:31-32 (ESV) “It was also said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.’ But I say to you that everyone who divorces his wife, except on the ground of sexual immorality, makes her commit adultery …

Matt 5:33-34 (ESV) “Again you have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.’ But I say to you, Do not take an oath at all …

Matt 5:38-39 (ESV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.’ But I say to you, Do not resist the one who is evil …

Matt 5:43-44 (ESV) “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbour and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies …

In the Law of Christ (as presented in the Sermon on the Mount) he addresses topics like:

Murder, adultery, divorce: focus not on external obedience but on thought life and motives.

Giving, prayer, fasting: focus not on external visibility of these righteous acts but motives.

Revenge, loving enemies, judging others: no more “eye for eye”.

Our attitude to money, worry.

Integrity (Let your yes be yes)

COVENANT SIGNS

A contract must be signed to make it legally binding.

A covenant sign was a visible seal and reminder of covenant commitments.

Circumcision was the sign of the covenant with Abraham, and the Sabbath was the sign of the covenant with Israel at Sinai.

Both of these practices have been contentious issues in the church. However as they are remnants of previous covenants, it is important to remember that legally a more recent covenant supersedes previous ones. This explains why neither of these apply to those who partake of the New Covenant.

NEW COVENANT SIGN 1

The signs of the New Covenant are:

Baptism: In the Old Covenant, circumcision was a sign that the individual stood in covenant relation with God.

While Colossians 2:11-12 is the only reference where circumcision is explicitly associated with baptism, some see it as implying that, for the Christian, water baptism is the parallel sign of the covenant relationship.

Col 2:11-12 (NIV) In him you were also circumcised, in the putting off of the sinful nature, not with a circumcision done by the hands of men but with the circumcision done by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism and raised with him through your faith in the power of God, who raised him from the dead.

1 Pet 3:21a (NIV) and this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also …

Isn’t salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone? If baptism “now saves you” isn’t that baptismal regeneration? But Peter continues:

1 Pet 3:21b (NIV) —not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God.

In other words, Peter is not talking about water baptism. but about what water baptism symbolizes – salvation (baptism into the body of Christ). We are not saved by water baptism (the covenant sign) but by the covenant it symbolises.

NEW COVENANT SIGN 2

The cup (Communion):

While the cup was the other New Covenant sign, Jesus speaks of it being the covenant.

Luke 22:20 (NKJV) Likewise, He also took the cup after supper, saying, this cup is the new covenant in My blood, which is shed for you.

The covenant sign would be a reminder to all of the covenant of security. Everyone who saw the pile of stones and the pillar in the Jacob- Laban covenant would know that there was a covenant of peace.

Likewise when we partake of Communion, which is the second sign of the New Covenant, we are reminded and reassured of God’s good purposes towards us.

1 Cor 11:25-26 (NIV) In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.” For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.

COVENANT PARTIES

Among Christians, there are significant differences on the question of membership in the New Covenant.

The first major split is between those who believe that only believers are members of the New Covenant, and (reflecting the idea of the Jewish covenants as national or community covenants) those who believe that believers and their children are members of the New Covenant. *

These differences give rise to different views on whether children may be baptised: the credobaptist view and the paedobaptist view. Secondarily, there are differences among paedobaptists as to the nature of the membership of children in the covenant. *

In the ancient Middle East there was often a covenant meal, celebrating the sealing of the covenant. Hence we read of a covenant meal in the cases of the covenants between Isaac and Abimelech (Gen 26:28-31), Jacob and Laban (Gen 31:43-54), and the Israelites and Gibeonites. (Josh 9:14-15)

COVENANT MEAL

The first Passover and all subsequent ones were associated with a covenant meal.

Ex 12:3-11 (NIV) Tell the whole community of Israel that on the tenth day of this month each man is to take a lamb for his family, one for each household … That same night they are to eat the meat roasted over the fire, along with bitter herbs, and bread made without yeast … Eat it in haste; it is the LORD’s Passover.

Jesus used his last Passover meal with his disciples as a covenant meal to institute the New Covenant in which he would be the Passover lamb - who was symbolically eaten by his disciples as a covenant meal. Thus the bread and the wine have become the symbols or sign of this covenant.

Luke 22:20 (NIV) In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood …”

When Jacob concludes a covenant of friendship with the formerly hostile Laban, we find the characteristic covenant meal.

Gen 31:54 (NIV) So Jacob … offered a sacrifice there in the hill country and invited his relatives to a meal. After they had eaten, they spent the night there.

The meal itself indicates the cessation of enmity. You don’t want to sit down and eat with somebody that you don’t like. You sit down and you eat generally with those that you do like, with whom you want to have fellowship, a friendship relationship. *

Like Jacob, we have a ceremonial meal (remembered in Communion) confirming a covenant of friendship.

The Bible refers to “a covenant of salt” and “the salt of the covenant.”

Lev 2:13 (NIV) Season all your grain offerings with salt. Do not leave the salt of the covenant of your God out of your grain offerings; add salt to all your offerings.

According to the New Oxford Annotated Bible, “of salt” most likely means that the covenant is “a perpetual covenant, because of the use of salt as a preservative.”

THE SALT

E.g. 1: God establishes a priestly “covenant of salt” with Aaron.

Num 18:19 (NIV) “Whatever is set aside from the holy offerings the Israelites present to the LORD I give to you and your sons and daughters as your perpetual share. It is an everlasting covenant of salt before the LORD for both you and your offspring.”

E.g. 2: When God promised David an everlasting kingdom it is called “a covenant of salt.”

2 Chron 13:5 (NIV) “Don’t you know that the LORD… has given the kingship of Israel to David and his descendants forever by a covenant of salt?”

A Middle Eastern saying, “There is bread and salt between us,” meant that a relationship had been confirmed by sharing a meal. *

When men ate together they became friends. cf. the Arabic expressions, “There is salt between us”; “He has eaten of my salt,” which means partaking of hospitality which cemented friendship; cf. “eat the salt of the palace” (Ezra 4:14). Covenants were generally confirmed by sacrificial meals and salt was always present. **

However the term “covenant of salt” doesn’t just illustrate the perpetual nature of the covenant but also the friendly nature of it.

In the New Covenant we have a covenant of friendship. Hence when Jesus shares the covenant meal (Last Supper) with his disciples he says:

John 15:15 (NIV) “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

A COVENANT OF FRIENDSHIP

THE OATH

In legal circles, an oath is a solemn, usually formal, calling upon a higher power (e.g., God) to witness one's determination to speak the truth, to keep a promise, etc.”

In the Bible, an oath made the covenant binding.

Heb 6:16 (NIV) Men swear by someone greater than themselves, and the oath confirms what is said and puts an end to all argument.

As was common practice, the covenant between Abraham and Abimelech was sealed with an oath (Gen 21:31). So too were the covenants between Isaac and Abimelech (26:31), Jacob and Laban (31:43-53), and Jacob and Esau (25:33).

God also confirms his covenants with an oath.

Abraham tells his servant about God’s covenant oath. (Gen 24:7)

Moses emphasizes to Israel that their covenant is sealed with an oath from God. (Deut 4:31)

The Davidic covenant was bound with the surety of an irrevocable oath (Psalm 132:11)

Because there is no higher power, God swears by himself.

Gen 22:16 (ESV) and said, “By myself I have sworn, declares the LORD, because you have done this and have not withheld your son, your only son …”

We too as the “heirs of what was promised” in the New Covenant have our covenant confirmed by God’s oath.

Heb 6:17 (NIV) Because God wanted to make the unchanging nature of his purpose very clear to the heirs of what was promised, he confirmed it with an oath.

While humans might swear false oaths, we have covenant promises made on oath by someone who is incapable of lying.

Heb 6:18 (NIV) God did this so that, by two unchangeable things in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled to take hold of the hope set before us may be greatly encouraged.

When Jesus is appointed the high priest of the New Covenant forever, God guarantees this with an oath.

Heb 7:20-22 (NIV) And it was not without an oath! Others became priests without any oath, but he became a priest with an oath when God said to him: “The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind: You are a priest forever.” Because of this oath, Jesus has become the guarantee of a better covenant.

CONCLUSION

The oath gives us confidence and assurance in the covenant promises.

When Laban wanted to protect himself from his feared aggression from Jacob, he sought a covenant, a promise and an oath.

When God wanted to assure our doubting hearts, that he would fulfil all his promises to us, he gave us a covenant. He even swore an oath so that we could be sure that he was absolutely unchanging in his purpose, not only to save us, but to give us every blessing that he has ever promised us in his Word.




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