The Church’s Relationship to the New Covenant -- By: Rodney J. Decker

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 152:607 (Jul 1995)
Article: The Church’s Relationship to the New Covenant
Author: Rodney J. Decker

The Church’s Relationship to the New Covenant

Rodney J. Decker

[Rodney J. Decker is Assistant Professor of New Testament, Calvary Bible College and Theological Seminary, Kansas City, Missouri.]

[This is article one in a two-part series.]

The church’s relationship to the New Covenant has stimulated considerable discussion in dispensationalism. Despite numerous studies a consensus on the question has not emerged. Three major positions are evident, one of which may claim a majority of followers, though the other views are still represented. This series of two articles seeks to explain the significance of the issue, summarize the Old Testament data, note the key questions to be resolved, synthesize various positions, and suggest a viable conclusion.

The question of the New Covenant addresses the relationship between Israel and the church—a crucial issue in dispensational hermeneutics. Since the New Covenant is set forth in the Old Testament and is related there to the nation Israel, any involvement of the church raises significant questions for dispensationalists.1 For covenant and other nondispensational theologians the church’s relationship to the New Covenant is hardly an issue because they view the church as the New Testament Israel. For them the New Covenant belongs to the church by intent and inheritance.

Traditionally dispensationalism has distinguished the church as a mystery—an entity not revealed in the Old Testament.

Therefore if the church does relate to the New Covenant in some way, an explanation must be provided.

The New Testament citations of Old Testament passages on the New Covenant are involved. Are they cited as fulfillment passages? Or do these quotations illustrate another use of the Old Testament? Is it permissible for the church to fulfill or otherwise receive the benefits of the New Covenant promised to Israel in the Old Testament?

The standard of life for believers is another issue to be addressed. Should the New Covenant be viewed as the rule of life for believers in the body of Christ—a replacement for the Mosaic Covenant, which was the rule of life for believers in Israel?

Related to the question of the believer’s rule of life is the relationship of the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. Was the Mosaic Covenant one of several manifestations of what covenant theologians call the covenant of grace? Or is the Old Covenant fully replaced by the New Covenant?

Six New Testament verses refer specifically to the New Covenant: Luke 2...

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