Israel’s Covenants and The Body of Christ

The following article is the result of the statement, below, I posted on my Facebook page, in April, 2015. Upon receiving follow-up comments and questions, I thought it might be profitable for some, if I expanded on the subject of the Abrahamic covenant, as well as the Old and New covenants.
I wish to give credit, and thanks, for the majority of the volume of this article to a Mr. Don Samdahl, who has a very informative, doctrinal website (doctrine.org) where I found that he had already written out much of what I was going to write. I have edited his article, so as to reflect my thinking on this important doctrine.

“Over the years, I have asked the following question in my Bible classes. When do the Old Covenant (Testament) and New Covenant (Testament) begin in the Bible? Most folks will answer “Genesis” for the Old and Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John for the New. In fact, the Old Covenant begins in Exodus 19 and the New Covenant begins with the “death of the testator” (Christ death at Calvary) … Hebrews 9:15-16. A more important issue for understanding Paul’s unique message for the Body of Christ is “With whom was the Old and New Covenants made?” Most will answer Israel for the Old and the Body of Christ for the New. In fact, they are both made with the house of Israel (Jeremiah 31:31, Hebrews 8:6-13). So, we understand that the New Covenant (made with Israel, not the Gentile nations) is initiated AT the cross, but the information regarding the formation of the Body of Christ (Jews and Gentiles without distinction or favor as one New Man) is BY the cross, and is not made known until revealed to the Apostle Paul (Ephesians 2:16). The major point is that the Body of Christ does not gain salvation and blessing from God on the basis of a covenant relationship, but rather by Grace. Big difference!”

Before God called Abraham, He had established only one covenant (the Noahic covenant) with the human race. Beginning with and after Abraham, God would establish several covenants. All of them would be with the new race, the Jews. In addition, God revealed himself through Jewish prophets, and the Jews became the recipients and custodians of the written Word of God (Romans 3:1-2, 9:4-5). These divine actions meant that the Jews became the repository of God’s revelation to man and the mediators of divine blessing. Thus, the ONLY path of God’s blessing to Gentiles lay through the Jews.
The Abrahamic Covenant was the foundation of all future covenants God would make with Israel. The source of all covenantal blessings–to Jew and Gentile–was the Messiah. The great message of hope of the Jewish prophets throughout the Old Testament was the coming of the Messiah and His kingdom (Zechariah 14.9). Numerous prophetic verses revealed God’s plan for blessing Gentiles through Israel and the Messiah (Isaiah 2.4, 11.10, 42.1-7, 49.5-7, 60.1-3 cf. Luke 2.25-32; Isaiah 61.4-7, 62.1-5; Jeremiah 3.15-18; Zechariah 8.20-23).
God’s desire and objective for Israel was that they be a kingdom of priests (intermediaries between God and man) and a holy nation (Exodus 19:5-6). In such status, they would be His agency through which blessing and salvation would be extended to the world, as promised in the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12:4, 26:3-4, 28:13-14). These are the “fathers” of Israel to whom the promise was made. Therefore, when Christ (the son of David, the son of Abraham) enters into His earthly ministry, He comes to call apostate Israel to repentance and cleansing (water baptism…the purification rite for initiating a priest into their office) since they are key to salvation and blessing for the world (Matthew 11:11-13, 9:13, John 1:31).
As clearly defined in scripture (Romans 15:8) Jesus Christ was a minister of the circumcision (Israel) to confirm the promise made unto the fathers. Now, we may understand why His ministry was focused primarily on Israel. He is to be a light to lighten the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel (Luke 2:32… in the context of God’s purpose through Israel, only. *Remember, there is no Body of Christ, at this point). Now, those verses make sense that speak of Christ being sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (Matthew 15:24) and instructing His disciples to NOT go to the Gentiles (Matthew 10:5-7). On the rare occasions when He ministered to a non-Jew (i.e the centurion in Matthew 8:-10, the Canaanite woman in Matthew 15:22-28, and the Samaritan woman in John 4:7-22) you will note that these people acknowledged their place in the way God was dealing with mankind, under the Law, with Israel being the favored nation and Gentiles having no hope and without God in the world (Ephesians 2:11-12).
According to the plan God had revealed in the covenants and through His prophets, Gentiles would be blessed through Israel (Isaiah 60:3). The zenith of blessing would be the Messianic kingdom (Zechariah 14.9). But the promised blessings and the kingdom required Israel to accept her Messiah, for He would implement all the blessings. But the Jews rejected their Messiah (Acts 2.22-23, 3.13-14). This rejection precipitated a theological crisis. How could the Jews be blessed in light of their rejection, and furthermore, how could Gentiles be blessed since their blessing depended on Israel? The answer to these questions from God’s revelation in the Old Testament was clear: they couldn’t. No program or mechanism existed to bless Jew or Gentile in light of Jewish rejection of the Messiah.
Paul, the apostle of the Gentiles however, taught that Gentiles, especially the Church, the body of Christ (in which there is no Jew or Gentile, Galatians 3.28), had received God’s blessings apart from Israel (Romans 11:11-13).
The first usage of the term “covenant” in the book of Acts is in Peter’s second sermon to the Jewish nation. In this sermon, Peter continued the message of repentance that John the Baptist and Jesus had preached (Matthew 3.1-2, 4.17; Mark 1.14-15). Peter appealed to the Jews to repent and accept Jesus as the Messiah (Acts 3.11-26). He reminded them they were the “sons of the prophets” and heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant (Acts 11:25). The second use of the term is found in Stephen’s defense before the Sanhedrin (Acts 7:8). He too reminded his judges that they were the descendants of Abraham and heirs of the Abrahamic Covenant.

The Church and the New Covenant
God’s promise of the New Covenant was made to Israel (Jeremiah 31.31-34; Ezekiel 36.24-28) just as all the other covenantal promises had been. The New Covenant, however, was different from the other covenants. The others promised earthly, physical blessings to Israel. The blessings of the New Covenant are primarily spiritual, rather than physical.
Conspicuously absent from the Old Testament was the Church (Body of Christ). God never revealed He would create the Church, the body of Christ, in which Jew and Gentile would be equal in Christ. Jesus, in His earthly ministry, revealed nothing of the Church. The Twelve (even at Pentecost) knew nothing of it. Everything at Pentecost was Jewish and Peter addressed Jews only (Acts 2:5, 10, 22, 3:12, 25-26, 5:31).
How do we learn about the Church? The risen, glorified Christ revealed this great truth to Paul. Paul alone received this revelation and taught that it was a secret (a mystery)) until God had revealed it to him (Romans 16:25-26, Ephesian 3.1-9).
Since the Body of Christ was kept secret, the fact that it would participate in the New Covenant could not have been known. As Paul disclosed the secret of the Church, he also revealed how the Body of Christ participates in the spiritual benefits of the New Covenant. As noted above, the provisions of the New Covenant differ substantially from those of Israel’s other covenants. The other covenants involved physical blessings, e.g., land, nation, kingdom, etc. But the promises of the New Covenant are spiritual (i.e. forgiveness of sins and the indwelling Holy Spirit. Members of the body of Christ experience forgiveness of sins, the indwelling Holy Spirit, knowledge of the Lord, and a new heart (Romans 3:21-28, 1 Corinthians 6:19)
Paul and the New Covenant
The Lord Jesus Christ (from heaven’s glory) commissioned Paul as the apostle of the Gentiles (Galatians 1:1, 11-16, 2:7-9, Roman 11:13). Since this was his ministry (Galatians 2.7-9) we need to examine how Paul dealt with the subject of covenant with regard to Gentiles and especially with the Church, the body of Christ. Paul used the term “covenant” 9 times in his letters.
In his letter to the Romans, Paul wrote the following concerning the Jewish people:

Romans 9:3-4
Here, the scriptures identify the physical nation of Israel as the possessors of the covenants and promises of God.
“For I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh; Who are Israelites, to whom pertaineth the adoption , and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law, and the service of God, and the promises.”
Ephesians 2.11-12
Writing to the Ephesians, Paul explicitly declared that Gentiles were excluded from Israel’s covenants:
Wherefore remember, that ye being in TIME PAST Gentiles in the flesh, who are called “Uncircumcision” by that which is called the “Circumcision,” in the flesh made by hands; That at that time ye were without Christ , being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Romans 11.27
Paul revealed God’s plan for the future of national Israel in light of their rejection of their Messiah and their present status of judicial blindness, in Romans 9-11. Paul confirmed everything that the prophets had written. God was not finished with national Israel. He vigorously argued God had not replaced Israel with the Church. In Romans 11.25-27 he wrote: ” For I would not brethren, that ye should be ignorant of this mystery, lest ye should be wise in your own conceits; that blindness in part is happened to Israel until the fulness of the Gentiles be come in. And so all Israel shall be saved; as it is written, There shall come out of Sion the Deliverer, and shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob. For this is my covenant unto them, when I shall take away their sins.” (Isaiah 59:20-21, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Ezekiel 36:24-28) (Isaiah 27.9)
1 Corinthians 11:23-25
Jesus instituted the Lord’s Supper with the Twelve (Matthew 26.26-29; Mark 14.22-25; Luke 22.14-23). The apostle Paul received his information about its significance, not from the Twelve, but directly from the risen Lord. Paul wrote:
“For I have received of the Lord that which also I delivered unto you, that the Lord Jesus in the same night in which He was betrayed took bread; and when He had given thanks, He brake it and said, Take eat; this is my body, which is broken for you; this do in remembrance of Me. In the same manner also He took the cup, when He had supped, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood; this do ye, as oft as ye drink it, in remembrance of Me.” 26 For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you do, shew the Lord’s death till He come.”
This passage was Paul’s first mention of covenant (testament) in relation to the Church, the body of Christ. From it, we learn that while the covenants were to Israel, members of the Church, the body of Christ, are to keep the Lord’s supper. Why is this, if, as we have seen, all the covenants God made beginning with Abraham were with the Jews? The significance of the Lord’s supper is that it represents the Lord’s death for our sins. * (Christ did not die separate deaths for Israel and the Body of Christ. He shed His precious blood one time, as the totally sufficient sacrifice that would forever settle the issue of sin’s penalty for both of God’s great People agencies, Israel and the Body of Christ, and restore His authority in both created Places, Earth and the Heavenlies, through His two great Purposes, Prophecy and Mystery). His death for our sins is a spiritual benefit and forms the basis for the New Covenant. And as we have seen, the New Covenant’s blessings are primarily spiritual rather than physical.
2 Corinthians 3:6
In Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians Paul went on to discuss the New Covenant. He declared;
“Who also made us able ministers of the new testament, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Our Apostle goes on to speak of the old covenant (Mosaic Law) which is referred to as the “ministration of death and condemnation”. He compares this to the spiritual aspects of the new covenant which is referred to as the “ministration of the spirit and the ministration of righteousness”. This passage makes it clear that old covenant, which was God’s program of administering His purpose, through Israel, in time past, has now been superseded by the administration of His Grace, where one may find Liberty rather than bondage.
Though the New Covenant was not made with the Body of Christ, the spiritual blessings associated with it (because of our identity in Christ) may be realized in our lives by God’s Grace. Romans 8:1-4 states, “There is now therefore now no condemnation to them which are IN Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of Life IN Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the Law (old covenant) could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending His own son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh; that the righteousness of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh but after the Spirit.”
Because of the New Testament spiritual benefits that have been made available to the Body of Christ (by Grace, not by covenant through Israel) we are instructed to agree with God and live unto Him and not ourselves (Romans 6:11-14). Since we live IN the Spirit we are encouraged to yield our members as instruments of righteousness, to be led by the Spirit, and to walk IN the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-18, 25).
Galatians 3:12-18
“And the Law is not of faith, but the man that doeth them shall live by them. Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us; for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree; that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles THROUGH Jesus Christ, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith. Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto. Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made (Not to Gentiles). He saith not, And to seeds, as of many, but as of one, and to thy seed, which is, Christ. And this I say, that the covenant that was confirmed before God in Christ, the Law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect. For if the inheritance be of the Law, it is no more of promise; but God gave it to Abraham by promise.”
Paul wrote the Galatians to correct the false teaching that they were subject to the Mosaic Law. Some Jews (most of whom were believers in Jesus the Messiah) were teaching Paul’s converts they were under the Law (Galatians 3:1-2). Such teaching was undermining Paul’s teachings of grace (Galatians 1.6-9; cf. Acts 15.1, 5). To counter this error, Paul used the Old Testament (which the Jews of Judea would understand) itself to prove his doctrine. As seen in the above text, he argued the Abrahamic covenant took precedence over the Mosaic covenant . The covenant God gave Moses at Mt. Sinai did not supplant the covenant He had established with Abraham. Why did Paul make this point? Paul made it because the doctrines he had received from the risen Lord were doctrines of Grace not Law. Paul used Abraham as his example of one who was justified by faith alone Romans 4:1-5).

Read and study this passage from Romans 4 where Abraham is presented as the universal example of faith.

8) Blessed is the man to whom the Lord will not impute sin.
9) Cometh this blessedness then upon the circumcision only, or upon the uncircumcision also? For we say that faith was reckoned to Abraham for righteousness.
10) How was it then reckoned? when he was in circumcision, or in uncircumcision? Not in circumcision, but in uncircumcision.
11And he received the sign of circumcision, a seal of the righteousness of the faith which he had yet being uncircumcised: that he might be the father of all them that believe, though they be not circumcised; that righteousness might be imputed unto them also.

(Here is the principle of faith, required in all God’s dealings with mankind).

12And the father of circumcision to them who are not of the circumcision only, but who also walk in the steps of that faith of our father Abraham, which he had being yet uncircumcised.
13For the promise, that he should be the heir of the world, was not to Abraham, or to his seed, through the law, but through the righteousness of faith.
14For if they which are of the law be heirs, faith is made void, and the promise made of none effect:
15Because the law worketh wrath: for where no law is, there is no transgression.
16Therefore it is of faith, that it might be by grace; to the end the promise might be sure to all the seed; not to that only which is of the law, but to that also which is of the faith of Abraham; who is the father of us all,
17(As it is written, I have made thee a father of many nations,) before him whom he believed, even God, who quickeneth the dead, and calleth those things which be not as though they were.
18Who against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations; according to that which was spoken, So shall thy seed be.
19And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sara’s womb:
20He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God;
21And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform.
22And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness (He believed the promise that he would have a son).

23Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him;
24But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;
25Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification.
When God gave to Abraham the good news of the covenant of promise (with the associated physical and spiritual blessings) he simply believed God. He received the promises by faith (Galatians 3:6-8). Because of this, his faith was imputed (counted as) for righteousness. Faith (believing what God requires of us) is what is necessary to have righteousness imputed to our account, as well.
In TIME PAST, the righteousness of God was available through the Abrahamic covenant (with the sign of circumcision). Later, the Law of Moses was added (that strengthened that middle wall of partition that God put between Jew and Gentile… Ephesians 2:14) with its accompanying sign of the Sabbath. Today, we are not being asked to believe in a promised land, or to have a great name, or to have a child when we are past child bearing age, to join ourselves to the house of Israel, to be circumcised, observe Sabbath days, ordinances, rituals, etc. As we see in Romans 3:21-22, that NOW, the righteousness we need is no longer being manifested through the instrumentality of the Law, or any of Israel’s covenants, but rather the person of the Lord Jesus Christ! Today, it is the gospel given to the Apostle Paul and the preaching of Jesus Christ according to the revelation of the mystery that is now been made known to all nations (without distinction) for the obedience of faith (Romans 16:25-26).
Galatians 4:21-31
21) Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law?
22) For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman.
23) But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise.
24) Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar.
25) For this Agar is mount Sinai in Arabia, and answereth to Jerusalem which now is, and is in bondage with her children.
26) But Jerusalem which is above is free, which is the mother of us all.
27) For it is written, Rejoice, thou barren that bearest not; break forth and cry, thou that travailest not: for the desolate hath many more children than she which hath an husband.
28) Now we, brethren, as Isaac was, are the children of promise.
29) But as then he that was born after the flesh persecuted him that was born after the Spirit, even so it is now.
30) Nevertheless what saith the scripture? Cast out the bondwoman and her son: for the son of the bondwoman shall not be heir with the son of the freewoman.
31) So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.
Paul uses convenantal language, here, to illustrate the argument made to the Galatians that believers of his gospel are not under Law but under Grace. From God’s perspective the Law was perfect Romans 7:12). But man’s fallen nature is unable to keep it (Romans 7:14, 8:3) Because of this, the Law was bondage. Grace, however, is freedom. As previously stated, the righteousness of the Law may be manifested in our mortal flesh through the operation of the Holy Spirit, as we yield ourselves to the Spirit, and not the flesh.
In conclusion, may we rejoice in God’s amazing Grace and unlimited Love. Scripture informs us that He will yet fulfill His great purpose through the nation Israel, based on the covenant promises He has made. Today, we are justified, sanctified, and glorified by Grace through Faith. We are blessed with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places IN Christ. We (the Body of Christ) are God’s peculiar people through whom He is working out His purpose, to the praise of the glory of His Grace!

Grace to you and Peace!
Larry Gabbard

Categories Bible Studies | Tags: | Posted on May 6, 2015

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