The New Covenant and the Church -- By: Homer A. Kent, Jr.

Journal: Grace Theological Journal
Volume: GTJ 06:2 (Fall 1985)
Article: The New Covenant and the Church
Author: Homer A. Kent, Jr.

The New Covenant and the Church

Homer A. Kent, Jr.

The relevance of the new covenant to the church today requires a careful look into both the OT and the NT. When Jesus mentioned the new covenant as he was instituting the bread and the cup, he clearly indicated its significance for the church. When the OT is examined to discover what this new covenant involved, and when the NT is investigated for further clarification, it becomes clear that only one new covenant is in view, even though different groups may derive somewhat varying benefits from it. The essence of the new covenant is spiritual regeneration, enjoyed now by Christian believers and prophesied for national Israel at the second coming of Christ.

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The concept of “covenant” is a pivotal one in biblical studies. Both the OT and NT utilize words denoting this idea, and their contexts reveal how crucial certain covenants were in explaining the actions which followed. Gleason Archer’s definition of the term may serve as a working guide:

A compact or agreement between two parties binding them mutually to undertakings on each other’s behalf. Theologically (used of relations between God and man) it denotes a gracious undertaking entered into by God for the benefit and blessing of man, and specifically of those men who by faith receive the promises and commit themselves to the obligations which this undertaking involves.1

Students of Scripture are particularly concerned with the covenants which God has announced for man. Inasmuch as these are expressions of his will, his promises, and his demands, they are supremely important to the Christian who has committed his trust and allegiance to God and the doing of his will.

In the OT six covenants are clearly mentioned: Noahic (Gen 6:18; 8:20–9:17); Abrahamic (Genesis 15, 17); Mosaic or Sinaitic (Exod 19:5, 20); Palestinian (Deuteronomy 29–30); Davidic (2 Sam 7:4–16; 23:5); and New Covenant (Jer 31:31–34; Ezekiel 36–37). In addition some would posit by deduction an Edenic Covenant, and would separate the Mosaic into Sinaitic and Levitical.

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