Posts Tagged ‘new covenant’

The New Covenant’s true meaning

“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 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. “But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. “No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.” Jer. 31:31-34

7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second.
8 For he finds fault with them when he says:
Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah,
9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers
on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt.
For they did not continue in my covenant,
and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord.
10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel
after those days, declares the Lord:
I will put my laws into their minds,
and write them on their hearts,
and I will be their God,
and they shall be my people.
11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor
and each one his brother, saying, Know the Lord,
for they shall all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities,
and I will remember their sins no more. (Hebrews 8:7-12)

So what’s so new about the new covenant? And what in the world does that have to do with infant baptism or baptism for that matter? Well, as a matter of fact these two passages are being used as proof texts in contra to paedo-baptism or as some in the Presbyterian circles would like to call “Covenant Baptism”. This question really has to do with who are members of the new covenant or who are to be considered as part of the new covenant and recipients of the covenant sign of baptism. Baptist claim that membership in the new covenant is qualitatively different from membership in the old covenant and Heb. 8 it is claimed and asserted that sets forth this clear difference and that in light of this difference the children of believers are not to be recognized as covenant members and receive the sacrament/sign of baptism. THis position suffers from many weaknesses and it is based on poor exegesis. Nevertheless, Paedo’s and Credo’s are in agreement that it is indeed true that there is something new in the new covenant.

The Dispensationalist and “Reformed” Baptist will say that Jeremiah is prophesying that the New Covenant that is to come is going to be different than that of the Old Covenant in that it is in the heart and spiritual. The Old Covenant was not in the heart nor spiritual (depending which baptist you talk to). This is the writers’ point in Hebrews 8. that those in the New Testament church will be saved and regenerate. The New Testament presumes a regenerate membership in the church when they write. Regenerate people are the only ones in the New Covenant. Jesus will radically bring about a new kind of way in dealing with men. There will be no more need to teach the law because God will teach it to all and write it on their hearts. They say that in the day of Pentecost this is clearly seen as the Holy Spirit comes to dwell in men.

In the paedo view this view point makes no sense. Romans 8:9 “But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His”. Abraham was as much saved and filled with the Spirit as any Christian.

We ask this question, Is Jer. 31 speaking of a new covenant?

The Baptist says, yes, “New”. It’s right there in black and white. “New!”

We understand that, but you should always take time to do a word study or two, and be sure of your syntax and grammar. Now I do not claim to be a Hebrew or Greek expert by no means but I do have the tools for research. So Even though we are talking simplistically about the covenant, we should address the word here. This is a little more heavy than how we have been talking, and may be a bit technical. The Hebrew word is not just the simple “new” but “renew” or “refresh.” The word for “new” is an adjective that is used 53 times in the Old Testament. It comes from the verb form of the word. That verb form is its root and its basic meaning. When we trace the verb through the Old Testament, it is used to mean, “renew or repair” cf. Isa 61:4; 2 Chron. 24:4, 12; Psalm 51:10 (12) Lam. 5:21; 1 Sam. 11:14; 2 Chron. 15:8; Job 10:17; Psalm 104:30; Psa. 103:5; 2 Chron. 24:4; 24:12; and etc. The idea around the word itself as an adjective means taking something already existing and “renewing it”; either repairing it to a previous state or in taking something that was already and making it better. As both a noun and adjective this word refers to things new in this sense, and to things restored. Now some like to think that this word is exclusively meant as “brand new.” But this doesn’t do justice to its use in the Old Testament. They will quote verses like, Exodus 1:8. Now there arose up a new king over Egypt,” or Isaiah 43:19. “I will do a new thing.” These surely seem like “new” is “brand new don’t they?

There is more to it than just quoting a verse or two. For example, without going into great detail, is the station of “kingship” new or not? Is having a new king something brand new or a renewal of the class of kingship? How does the Hebrew mind think about this? How does the rest of Scripture demonstrate this? A new king does not make the class of “kingness” new, even though a new king is a good element of fulfillment to kingship. What about Isaiah 43:19? How would you explain the new things that God does? Does God do “new” things, or is He eternally immutable? It seems we have a theological riddle. How would one reconcile the eternal immutably of God, and Him doing “new things?” I mean, after the act of creation and containment of creation, does He change from doing old things to doing new things?

The obvious and biblical answer to that is yes and no. For God, of course not. He never does “new” things. It is not like He had a plan, made a mistake, and decided to do something “new.” But in our eyes, the realities surrounding the fulfillment of anything God does makes it new to us.  The Lord’s mercies are completely new every morning right? But also “renewed” every morning. (Lam. 3:23). Job desired that his glory was “fresh” in him, Job 29:20. This does not mean “new” but renewed. God’s glory cannot be “new,” as in brand new since it always is. A survey of the Old Testament will show that such a “renewing” in Hebrew is considered as new, though its cognate is old, and simply refreshed. It is almost never used of “new, as in “brand new,” even when God says he does “new things” or “new kings” are put on thrones. There is more to the Hebrew mind and language than thinking one dimensionally about words.

Now considering the context of Jeremiah 31. Chapters 30-33 have an overall structure that uses a repetition of “Behold” four times. It structures the “Restoration” ideas surrounding “Israel” and “Judah.” (Restoration passages are VERY important.) They were in exile and God is promised to bring them out of exile and renew the covenant He had with them. He is not going to renew it like the covenant he made with Moses – with burdensome Laws, so to speak. Rather, He will fulfill it in Christ. The context of Jeremiah is comparing Abraham’s covenant with the Mosaic Law, the tablets of stone, and the promises of the Lord to Abraham, of which we know Christ is the fulfillment. Abraham’s covenant is not new. It is refreshed, renewed, fulfilled, completed, etc., in Christ (which ultimately points to the use of this passage in Hebrews 8). For instance, we are dealing with the same God, the same law, the same people (the elect), the same fallen status of people (in sin), the same status of God (gracious and longsuffering, but also judicious), the same status of justification (by faith alone), the same stipulation (blood covers sin), the same provision of the stipulation (Christ), and the same reward (peace with God and everlasting life). What is really new then?

Now a classic Dispensationalist baptist will say, “I would have said that regeneration is the new thing – the law written on the heart.” But that does not seem to fit well. Was Abraham regenerate??

The greater context of the text does not limit Jeremiah 31 to just “regenerate people”. The restoration ideas do not limit the passage to merely an internal aspect to the covenant. If that were really true, then things like the Lord’s Supper, and Baptism, outward and external sacraments in the New Covenant, would not be necessary. But Jeremiah 31 is not simply speaking about something internal – it is much bigger than that. It includes Israel’s children, and the fulfillment of all the promises to Abraham. Jeremiah 30:20 says, “Their children also shall be as before, And their congregation shall be established before Me; And I will punish all who oppress them.” And Jeremiah 31:17, right before our passage says this, “There is hope in your future, says the LORD, That your children shall come back to their own border.” Listen to what Jeremiah 32:18 says, “You show lovingkindness to thousands, and repay the iniquity of the fathers into the bosom of their children after them, the Great, the Mighty God, whose name is the LORD of hosts.” And we should not forget Jeremiah 32:39 says, just a chapter after, but in the same context, “then I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear Me forever, for the good of them and their children after them.” If it is really only just about “a regenerate church membership” then why mention the “good of the children?” Oftentimes Jeremiah 31:31ff is ripped from its context, and misread. Now we are talking about a “renewed Covenant” or a “refreshed Covenant” in Jesus Christ which makes a lot of difference.

Next question then; What covenant is being contrasted with in this renewed or refreshed covenant in this passage? Is it Abraham’s? No. It’s the Mosaic covenant. The covenant here is a renewing, or refreshing of the Abrahamic promise over the scaffolding of the Mosaic covenant. The covenant made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, one that the Messiah will bring in, is going to be the Abrahamic Covenant fulfilled.

What about writing the law on the heart? It is clear that the contrast is one of regeneration. But ask, was Abraham regenerate? Is Paul too stupid to use Abraham as the Father of our faith? We would have to say “yes”, Abraham was regenerate. Was he saved by grace through faith? Yes. Did he have the Spirit indwelling him as you and I do? Without a doubt (Romans 8:8!!!!).

If this is the case, what makes this renewed covenant in Jeremiah 31 different? What about Hebrews 8? It quotes this at length surrounding the ministry of Jesus as High priest forever? Is Hebrews wrong? What is wrong is the interpretation of Jeremiah 31 that Baptists bring to Hebrews 8. Hebrews 8 quotes the whole passage in Jeremiah. But what if you misunderstand Jeremiah 31? Will you ever understand Hebrew 8? Nope!

This is a renewed covenant, the scaffolding of the Mosaic covenant is gone, and the writing is on the heart. But this is not new, it is the renewed covenant of Abraham, and that is an important point. What else is different about this renewed covenant? It says no one will teach his neighbor saying “know the Lord for they shall all know me from the least to the greatest”. Isn’t this regeneration? No! It can’t be since it is the renewed covenant of Abraham fulfilled in Christ. Many think this meant that those in the New Testament church would be regenerate. That is why Baptist assert “our church only baptizes people on profession of faith.” It cannot be talking about regeneration and just regeneration. Abraham, as Reform Baptist say, was regenerate and that happened before the promise. So Jeremiah’s “newness” or “renewed” covenant is not just talking about regeneration alone. Let’s ask this question: Do we have teachers today? Yes, we have teachers today. But the text says we will not have any more teachers in this renewed covenant. No one will “teach one another saying…”

But we have teachers today. Are we saying the New Covenant is not now? Of course not!

Already/not yet aspect of prophecy

The New Covenant, or Abrahamic Covenant, is a “now and not yet” covenant despite those Baptist who want to deny this fact. In the Old Testament the Abrahamic Covenant was awaiting its fulfillment. But Abraham was saved. It was a “now” and “not yet” covenant. It was “now and not yet” in promise. Jeremiah, although, is quite plain and we need to take the text as it stands. In the New Covenant there will be no more teachers. The verb “teach one another” is “they teach one another.” It is third person. “No one [they] will teach his neighbor.” In the fulfillment of the New Covenant, the renewed covenant of Abraham, there will be no more teachers. When will everyone, from the least in the kingdom to the greatest in the kingdom, know the Lord? And remember, this is a time when there are no more teachers. Do regenerate individuals not need teaching despite their having the Holy Spirit? Do all regenerate church members “know the Lord” exhaustively and completely? I think not.

We would have to say in heaven. Only in heaven will everyone know the Lord completely and in heaven there will be no teachers. I use this same logic with Full Preterist as they attempt to use Jer. 31 as an already fulfilled prophecy.

The renewed covenant made with the house of Israel and Judah is the Abrahamic covenant fulfilled in Christ. It is set in contrast to the ceremonial and judicial laws given at Sinai because the blood of bulls and goats do not really save. Jesus Christ inaugurates the coming of this new kingdom and renewed covenant. In doing so, the New Covenant is “now” for us, since we are saved; but it is also “not yet,” in that in heaven all people will know the Lord form the least to the greatest. There are teachers now in inaugurating the renewed covenant, but there will be no teachers then. There are saved people now, just as in the Old Testament, but the “knowing” is complete only in heaven. No church, anywhere, is made up of all regenerate people, and is without teachers or pastors. Many people think that the New Testament church is supposed to be made up of only regenerate members. That is why dispensational churches only want to baptize regenerate people, those who simply make a profession of faith, and leave the children out. Although, in reality, they have no “proof” in any way of ensuring the person is saved, but they will baptize them anyway. But Jeremiah is not talking about excluding or including people in this way. In the time of Abraham, even people like Esau were included in the covenant, and the New Covenant, is not consummation with a completely regenerate “membership” until we get to heaven. Only then will we have no more teachers.

Its because of thier backwards hermeneutic. Hebrews 8 stops short of the verse quoted so credos figure that’s all they need to pay attention to as if the writers of Hebrews did not understand the Jeremiah chapters in context. If an Old Testament prophecy about the New Covenant expressly included the children of believers when it was written, the New Testament cannot contradict this meaning. It can expound on it and explain it, but never contradict it, otherwise we are left at best with a hermeneutic of severe discontinuity, and at worst we have a contradictory Bible.

The visible administration of the New Covenant (or more simply put, the New Covenant itself) is made up of believers and their children (Jer. 30-34; Isa. 59:21; Zech 10:6-12; Ezek. 37:24-28). Now, the Baptist may say in response that the New Covenant is made up of only the elect. But even if they say that, given their inward/outward distinction, even if only the elect are in the New Covenant “inwardly”, this has no bearing on the “outward” administration, since I think they believe non-elect persons can be part of the “outward” administration. And given that the OT prophecies of the New Covenant explicitly include our children (just like EVERY covenant before it using the same exact language), Baptists have no grounds to exclude our children from the outward administration of it.

Now the question is how are the children included in the outward administration? Are they brought into the church by means of a covenant sign? Or are they just a part of the church by proximity? Also, I’m curious. When Baptist talk about “professing believers”, do they have in mind only people that have the capacity to utter the sentence, “I confess Jesus as Lord” with their mouths? Or is not faith itself, even if it cannot be professed in intelligible words (I believe infants have faith) enough to be included in the church?

And now that I think about it, where exactly does the New Testament teach that only those who publicly profess faith are to be baptized and included in the external administration of the covenant (which I assume you would say is the visible church – if I’m wrong about that, I apologize)? Now, if you say that this is based upon specific examples of baptism in the New Testament, you are committing an is/ought fallacy because you are establishing a universal requirement with a particular example. The absolute most you can say based upon each baptism example is that it is permissable to baptize professing believers, but you cannot say that this is a requirement. So I ask you again, where is the principle specifically given in the New Testament that baptism and inclusion in the church is limited to those who profess faith?

Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Circumcision is technically not a guarantee that father Abraham had faith or even righteousness, what circumcision guarantees is God’s promise, that righteousness will be credited on the basis of faith alone. Saying this another way is that circumcision is the sign that authenticates the truth of God’s promise, that HE will accredit righteousness to the one who has faith. What is certified is not necessarily truth about Abraham or any one else circumcised, but a truth of God. Circumcision certifies the truth of God’s promise in the gospel, that all who have faith will be accounted righteous.

Therefore becoming the sign/seal of God’s promise. Baptism is the same thing as sign and seal. In both, God, through the signs promises to be the God of that person when that person has faith and also promises that upon faithlessness that person will be cursed and cut off from the people of God, again consider Ishmael in the OT and Simon the Sorcerer baptized by Phillip.

Abraham possesed faith before circumcision to show that circumcision is the sign of promise to all those who believe like Abraham. Baptism becomes a seal when faith is present.

So I don’t need a verse that says “baptize babies”. Thus we are on equal footing. Furthermore, with the other things Scripture teaches us, (according to my view of course) a disciple is a believer and children of believers should recieve the covenant sign as well. So, we both infer. You cannot show a verse that says don’t baptize babies and I don’t have one that says “do baptize babies”. What we must do then is look at how the bible considers children…the WHOLE text…”tota Scriptura”. If we can show that the Bible considers children as covenant members then we don’t have a problem.

Warning passage of Heb. 10:29

In light of all this, can the Baptist make sense of the warning in Hebrews 10? I don’t think so.

A friend of mine on facebook stated: “Also, with regard to Hebrews 10:29, it says, “How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified…” This passage can also be rendered as, “…the blood of the covenant by which He (Christ) was sanctified”. The “he” is not referring to the apostate who is in “covenant”, but is referring to Jesus as the one sanctified. Read John 17:19. Jesus says, “For their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they themselves also may be sanctified in truth.”

But what my buddy here fails to realize is that this rendering of the text doesn’t make any sense of the context. The context is clearly speaking of the same person who has committed apostasy. Sure, did Christ sanctify Himself? No doubt, but in this immediate context this is not the rendering. Either way, you still have a person profaning the blood of the Covenant by which Christ was sanctified. Therefore the apostate is still profaning the blood of the Covenant, for how can a person NOT in the covenant profane the blood of the covenant? It just doesn’t make any sense. What also doesn’t make sense contextually is that the writer of Hebrews is writing about an apostate then in a blink of an eye in one quick sentence is talking about Christ then suddenly turns his attention back to the apostate. These Covenantal warning passages make it clear that there is indeed covenant breakers in the New Covenant just like there was in the Old Covenant. In other words there would be no need to warn regenerated elect members of the new covenant that they have the ability to fall away lest you affirm Arminianism.

Again therein lies the Baptist problem. It is a misunderstanding of what the Covenant of Grace is stemming from the promise made with Abraham. Baptists would have to discontinue the Covenant in order for their view to fit but even then it still doesn’t fit tightly because they cannot account for the Covenantal warning passages to the Church not to unbelievers. This where your dispy comes out.

29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? 30 For we know him who said, Vengeance is mine; I will repay. And again, The Lord will judge his people. 31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.” Hebrews 10

Can a baptist account for this passage? Absolutely not!


The “newness” of the new covenant then specifically pertains to the external apsects, the outward administration, of the covenant of grace. The new covenant is not new in its nature or membership as our Baptist brothers would like to believe. One single covenant of grace exists and Gods’s elect have been justified in the same way throughout redemptive history which is by grace through faith. The usage of the Jeremiah 31 text in the Hebrew 8 passage does nothing to establish a change in the membership of those who are in the new covenant nor are children excluded in the new covenant. Covenant membership still includes believers and their children and those who believe that Heb. 8 particularly verse 11 is teaching the exclusion of the children of believers from membership in the new covenant need to carefully investigate and observe that the word “least” (greek: mikros) in 8:11 is also used elsewhere in the NT to refer to children (Matt. 18:6, 10, 14; Luke 9:48). This is also true of the Hebrew word for “least” qaton (Jer. 6:11-13). The congregation of people of God has included children throughout redemptive history and children are still included in the new covenant (luke 1; Eph. 6). These reasonings the Baptists claim abbrogates the inclusion of children in the new covenant but this exegetical logic holds no weight and lacks explicit change in administration since this excluding children in the new covenant is such a radical idea, we would think that there would be a clear command to do so, don’t you think?

In Christian unity,
Ricky Roldan