The New Covenant: Enacted Or Ratified? -- By: Stephen R. Lewis

Journal: Chafer Theological Seminary Journal
Volume: CTSJ 08:4 (Oct 2002)
Article: The New Covenant: Enacted Or Ratified?
Author: Stephen R. Lewis

The New Covenant:
Enacted1 Or Ratified?

Stephen R. Lewis2 *

[*Editor's note: Stephen R. Lewis earned a Th.B. from Multnomah School of the Bible, a Th.M. in Historical Theology from Dallas Theology Seminary, and a Ph.D. in Higher Education from the University of North Texas. Dr. Lewis is the Academic Dean of CTS as well as professor of Church History and the History of Doctrine. His email address is [email protected]]


Today many ask, “What is the sine qua non (absolute essential) of Dispensationalism?” Most dispensationalists would answer that it centers around three propositions:3

  1. God’s ultimate revealed purpose is to glorify Himself, freely and fully expressing His attributes and character.
  2. A consistent literal or plain interpretation of the Bible is essential for understanding God’s revelation properly.
  3. This literal interpretation leads to distinguishing Israel from the Church.

If so, why do many dispensationalists say that God also extends Israel’s New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31) to the Church?

Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah.4

Predictably, amillennial Replacement Theology equates Israel and the Church here. Oddly, most dispensationalists join them in claiming that God enacts the New Covenant with the Church. Jeremiah 31:31 raises a crux hermeneutical question:

If this were the Church, which part of it would be the house of Israel and which part would be the house of Judah?

Why not say that the New Covenant is only enacted with Israel? How could the Church fulfill a prophecy pertaining to Israel and Judah? Does not New Covenant enactment await the future Kingdom when Jesus Christ reigns on David’s throne?

While God has entered into agreements with all mankind,5 Israel is the only nation with which He has entered into a covenant relationship. Scripture states this truth both positively and negatively.6 One cannot legally, morally, or spiritually transfer God’s covenants with Israel to another people. God must, therefore, fulfill His covenantal promises to Isr...

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