Editorial: Thinking About The New Covenant And Persecution -- By: Stephen J. Wellum

Journal: Southern Baptist Journal of Theology
Volume: SBJT 18:1 (Spring 2014)
Article: Editorial: Thinking About The New Covenant And Persecution
Author: Stephen J. Wellum


Editorial: Thinking About The New Covenant And Persecution

Stephen J. Wellum

Stephen J. Wellum is Professor of Christian Theology at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary and editor of Southern Baptist Journal of Theology. He received his Ph.D. from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, and he is the author of numerous essays and articles and the co-author of Kingdom through Covenant (Crossway, 2012).

When we compare and contrast life under the old covenant versus life under the new covenant there are a number of differences which immediately come to mind. Obviously the greatest difference is what the old covenant typified and anticipated has now come to pass in Christ. So, for example, and certainly not limited to these points, circumcision has given way to its fulfillment, namely the coming of Christ, his glorious cross work, and the reality that the entire community of Christ’s people is now a regenerate people, born of the Spirit, in contrast to the mixed nature of Israel. Or, the sacrificial system tied to the entire priestly work has now given way to the work of our great High Priest, who by the offering of himself has brought to fulfillment what the old system pointed forward to, namely the full atonement of our Lord and the accomplishment of our justification before God. In many, many ways the old covenant in all of its structures, types, and patterns has reached its telos, terminus, and fulfillment in Christ.

However, there is also another way in which the old is different than the new covenant. When one thinks of the words, “suffering” and “persecution,” it is important to think through how these concepts differ depending upon which covenant we live under. Generally speaking, under the old covenant,

one of the great blessings of that covenant was that the people of God were not to suffer and experience persecution if they remained faithful to the Lord. So, for example, when one reads Deuteronomy 27-28, one is struck by the fact that if the people obeyed God, they would have received not only physical and material wealth but also victory over their enemies. Yet, conversely, if they disobeyed God, they would experience the curses of the covenant, namely, various forms of suffering and persecution. Now it is important to quickly note that this is generally speaking. Even old covenant believers lived in light of Adam’s sin and thus experienced the reality of death. In fact, this is one of the reasons why the book of Job is so important in the OT canon. Without it, one could get the false impression that the blessings of God are always material and physical and that it is only due to sin th...

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