29 Sep 2021

The “New/REnewed” Covenant: Already, but Not Yet

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Christian hope, eschatology, Hebrew Bible, Hebrews, Jeremiah, Romans

The Messiah has come.
The Messiah lived.
The Messiah taught.
The Messiah suffered.
The Messiah died.
The Messiah has been raised bodily in the flesh in harmony with the Scriptures.

The life of a disciple of the Messiah is a life of ALREADY but NOT YET. Have you noticed that?

There is a Past Tense. God has saved us (Eph 2.8, etc)
There is a Present Tense. God is saving us (2 Cor 4.16, etc)
There is a Future Tense. God will save us (1 Pt 1.5, etc)

We have eternal life and yet die.
We are saved but live in hope of the redemption of our mortal bodies.
We have the first fruits of the Spirit as a down payment.
We share in the kingdom and yet wait for God’s will to be done on earth as in heaven.

Christians live in anticipation of the future where, as the saying goes, faith shall be sight.

This dynamic of the Christian life and faith, I think also applies to the so called “new” covenant as well. We have noted before that Jeremiah means a REnewal of the covenant between God and his People. (See Jeremiah 31.31-34: Explorations in “New” an “Renewed” in the Bible.) But have you ever noticed what Jeremiah says (and his contemporary Ezekiel who speaks of a covenant renewed as well). Central to Jeremiah’s promise are these words (and they are echoed in Ezekiel),

I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts …
No longer will they teach their neighbors,
or say to one another,
‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least to the greatest

Central to the notion of this renewal is that God’s people are so intimately connected to Yahweh (we “know” him) that his will is ALREADY inscribed on our hearts, we will not have teaching or teachers. The whole idea in Jeremiah is that it was possible to rebel against the Lord because God’s law was external to the people, but now will be part of the DNA make up of the person. It is pretty hard to counteract DNA.

When the Hebrews Preacher quotes Jeremiah 31, he does not seem to indicate that this part of the promise has been realized yet. Why would he/she be teaching if they already knew what it was that God desired? Clearly they did not understand.

But many do not seem to realize that the Hebrews Preacher is not the only person to quote Jeremiah 31 in a sermon/letter. But it is important to see that Jeremiah 31.31 is in fact quoted and NOT applied to Christianity at all or at least to its present state. Who and where?

It is the apostle Paul who quotes Jeremiah 31.31, he does so in Romans 11.27. In the context, Paul is discussing the fate of Israel (the very folks the covenant is renewed with in Jeremiah 31.31-32). Gentile believers were bragging/boasting over Israelites (Romans 11.13, 18, 20) and Paul tells those Gentiles not to be “wiser than you are” (11.25). Paul combines a quotation from Isaiah 59.20-21 and Jeremiah 31.31 to put a stop to such Gentile arrogance. But Paul applies Jeremiah 31.31. Look at what he says,

Out of Zion will come a Deliverer;
he will banish ungodliness from Jacob

(Isa 59.20)”

Interestingly enough, verse 21 mentions (like Ezekiel and Jeremiah) a covenant where the Spirit is placed in them so they know the will of God.

And this is my covenant with them,
when I take away their sins”
(Jer 31.31)

Here Paul quotes Isaiah 59 and Jeremiah 31 and applies them to the future. He does not even apply those texts to Gentiles in Romans 11 but Israel. So we read in Romans 11.27,

As it is written:

The deliverer will come from Zion;
    he will turn godlessness away from Jacob
[=Isaiah 59.20].
And this is my covenant with them
    when I take away their sins”
[=Jeremiah 31.31].

Paul says Jeremiah’s new/renewed covenant is still a future hope for Israel even as it has already come in part. The full realization of God’s promise thru Jeremiah, Isaiah and Ezekiel is still yet to come. It is Already, Not Yet.

I don’t know about anyone else, but I have to struggle to know God’s will and sometimes I never know just what God wants.

I don’t know about anyone else but I have needed teachers many times to help me understand God’s word.

I don’t know about anyone else but in my experience I’ve met (and am one) hundreds of Christians that God’s law is not tattooed on their heart. So the renewed/new covenant came with the Messiah, just as salvation did but we wait for it yet.

So the renewed/new covenant is here and we participate in it. Yet, just as we have eternal life yet wait for it. So the renewed/new covenant is a yet to come in its fullness just as we have experienced resurrection in baptism but wait for it in the future. So like all aspects of Christian faith we share in the renewed covenant by God’s amazing grace but wait for its realization in the Eschaton. That is the time when our bodies will be redeemed from the stain of sin, our minds will be renewed and our hearts pump with the beat of the Holy Spirit that like Jesus himself our will is naturally that of God’s.


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