The New Covenant -- By: Larry D. Pettegrew

Journal: Masters Seminary Journal
Volume: TMSJ 10:2 (Fall 1999)
Article: The New Covenant
Author: Larry D. Pettegrew


The New Covenant

Larry D. Pettegrew

Professor of Theology

Theologians of all kinds focus on Christ as the key to understanding the biblical covenants. Two significant characteristics of the New Covenant promised to Israel are its newness in replacing the Mosaic Covenant and its everlasting and irrevocable nature. For Israel the New Covenant promises her transformation through providing her a new heart, her final and permanent forgiveness, and the consummation of her relationship with the Lord. Through Israel God will also bless the Gentiles because of this covenant. As mediator of the New Covenant, the Messiah will be identified with Israel as God’s Son, Servant, covenant, and Abraham’s seed. Though the Messiah is not yet identified nationally with Israel, He is already identified with the church. Terminology and provisions spelled out in the NT indicate that Christ inaugurated the New Covenant at His first advent. Though the New Covenant will not be fulfilled with Israel until her future repentance, the church through Spirit baptism into Christ participates in that covenant.

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Strange as it may seem at first, many covenant and dispensational theologians seem to agree that union with Christ solves the problem of how the church relates to the New Covenant. Of course, the theological underpinnings and implications are different for each system. When covenant theologian Vern Poythress argues that the covenants are fulfilled in Christ, he implies that Israel has no future as a covenant nation. Advising covenant theologians how they should explain that Israel’s covenant promises are fulfilled in the church Poythress writes,

The argument is strongest if one does not bluntly and simplistically assert that the church is a straight-line continuation of Israel. Rather one proceeds by way of Christ himself as the center point of fulfillment of the promises. Christ is an Israelite in the fullest sense. In fact, though all Israel be rejected for unfaithfulness (Hos. 1:9), yet Christ would remain as the ultimate faithful Israelite, the ultimate ‘remnant’ (cf. Isa. 6:11–13; 11:1).1

Church saints united to Christ thus replace Israel as the recipient of the covenant blessings.

On the other side of the spectrum, some traditional dispensationalists teach that union with Christ solves the problem of how the church relates to a covenant not made with her. According to them, the church does not participate in the New Covenant at a...

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