How Does the Church Relate to the New Covenant? or, Whose New Covenant Is It, Anyway? -- By: Richard Daniels

Journal: Faith and Mission
Volume: FM 16:2 (Spring 1999)
Article: How Does the Church Relate to the New Covenant? or, Whose New Covenant Is It, Anyway?
Author: Richard Daniels


How Does the Church Relate to the New Covenant?
or, Whose New Covenant Is It, Anyway?

Richard Daniels

M.Div. Student
Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary
Wake Forest, North Carolina 27587

Introduction

The New Covenant theme as seen in this passage and its antecedent, Jer. 31:31–34, is, according to Kaiser, “One of the most important, yet sensitive of all theological texts.”1 He claims that any exegesis of this passage will deal with some of the greatest theological questions of our day and inevitably “scandalize” some evangelicals because of their commitment to either a covenantal or dispensational theology.2 The controversy arises out of the way in which different theological camps interpret the meaning of this passage with respect to the church or how they relate the church to the New Covenant.

Beyond this, the passage is an important one to understand because of its unique characteristics. The Jer. 31:31 passage is the only Old Testament usage of the expression “new covenant”; and it, coupled with the Hebrews citation, stimulated Origen to be the first to name the last twenty-seven books of the Bible “the New Testament.” This passage is the largest piece of Old Testament text to be quoted completely in the New Testament, and it is the subject of nine other New Testament texts: Matt. 26:28, Mark 14:24, Luke 22:20, 2 Cor. 11:25 (all dealing with the Lord’s Supper); thrice more in Heb. 9:15, 10:13, 12:24; and twice more by Paul relating Christians to Israel and to the covenant in Rom. 11:27 and in 2 Cor. 3:6.3

The interpretation of this passage depends largely on contextual and theological issues. There is little contention over lexical or grammatical issues beyond understanding some of the key words. However, understanding the context of the book as determined by its assumed recipients, the purpose of the writing, and its genre also contributes to a correct understanding of our passage, so we will deal with these questions first.

Historical and Contextua...
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