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Replay: Why is one covenant (the new covenant) not enough?

Posted by on Aug 11, 2012 in community, fellowship, members | 14 comments

Replay: Why is one covenant (the new covenant) not enough?

Two years ago, I wrote a post called “What is one covenant not enough?” In Christ, we are all already part of the new covenant. Because of that covenant we are all now children of God and, therefore, brothers and sisters with one another. That covenant alone covers how we should interact with and treat one another. So, why do so many feel that we still need more covenants, i.e. a church covenant?

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Why is one covenant not enough?

According to Jesus, all of those who belong to God are now covenanted with God. For example, Jesus said that his blood represents this new covenant:

And he took a cup, and when he had given thanks he gave it to them, saying, “Drink of it, all of you, for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.” (Matthew 26:27-28 ESV)

In the same way, Paul recognized that he currently served people who were under a new covenant with God:

Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. (2 Corinthians 3:5-6 ESV)

Finally, the author of the book of Hebrews explains how Jesus (as our high priest) is a better mediator of this new covenant:

This makes Jesus the guarantor of a better covenant. (Hebrews 7:22 ESV)

So, all of those who are in Christ – who have been saved by the blood of Jesus Christ – are covenanted together with God… not based on their (our) ability to keep a covenant, but based on God’s promises (for example, see Hebrews 10:23).

We are in a covenant with God, and are therefore covenanted together with one another. Our covenant with God includes new familial relationships with others who are covenanted with God. Just as God is our father, his children (and all of his children) are our brothers and sisters. Our familial responsibilities toward one another are included in our relationship with God.

Thus, I cannot choose how I should treat someone who is in Christ. That relationship and those responsibilities are already ours because of our joint relationship with God.

So, the question that I’ve been struggling and wrestling with is this: If we are already covenanted with God and if we are already brothers and sisters with one another, then why do we need a separate “church covenant”?

A “church covenant” can only do two things: 1) It can remind of us our relationships and responsibilities which already exist, whether we have a covenant or not. And 2) it can specify with whom we share those relationships and responsibilities.

If we are relying on a “church covenant” for reason #1 above, then the “church covenant” is nothing more than a reminder of the new covenant in Christ. We are already covenanted with God through Christ, and therefore covenanted with all other people who are part of the same covenant. Thus, this is really not a “church covenant” but the new covenant.

The problem with #2 above is that our relationships and responsibilities extend to all brothers and sisters in Christ that God brings into our lives. If we use a “church covenant” to include some believers and exclude others, then we are dividing the body of Christ and making distinctions that only God can make. We are trying to choose who to love and who to serve. (Of course, this makes life much easier, but it doesn’t make it a life that lived according to the gospel.)

So, why do we need a “church covenant”? Why is one covenant (the new covenant in Christ) not enough?


14 Comments

Comments are closed. If you would like to discuss this post, send an email to alan [at] alanknox [dot] net.

  1. 8-11-2012

    Alan,

    We don’t need “church covenants”, as you say. To me these kinds of things exist only to give the appearance of commitment and fealty to a local church, reducing the term ‘covenant’ to nothing more than being another ‘agreement’ or ‘arrangement’ that we will inevitably toss to the ground when we are bored with it, or when we ‘feel’ God is calling us to a different church. Fah.

    I do not believe that you and I are walking covenantally because of The New Covenant. I do not believe The New Covenant automatically dictates that A = B, B = C, so A = C. I do not see the inference in The Scriptures for saying we are all in covenant together through The New.

    I have said repeatedly I am a covenant son to Yaweh through The NC. Salvation is covenant. It is not an agreement or a business deal or a convenient arrangement. Covenant. Serious business.

    I also maintain several covenants between my House and the Houses of others. These covenants were struck through the breaking of bread and wine, established in the Name of Jesus, with Him as the witness. Not to mention the marital covenant I have with my bride, of course.

    Covenant is where you will find sons like me, and I am so glad you are talking about it here on your blog. Our Father has always dealt with His creation through covenant, beginning with the one He established after the flood, and culminating with the best and greatest of all covenant, The New Covenant. Covenant sonship separates intellectual converts from adopted disciples.

  2. 8-11-2012

    Donald,

    In the New Covenant we relate to God. As God’s children, we also relate to one another. For instance, “Love one another” is a new covenant command. We do not need another covenant to tell us how to treat one another or others. Instead, the way we treat one another is already dictated by our relationship with God through the new covenant.

    -Alan

  3. 8-11-2012

    Alan,

    By your referring to “Love one another” as a covenantal command, implying this puts all believers in covenant with one another, then how do we then view those in The World we are commended to love as well? Are they in covenant with us, based on a covenantal command?

    You and I are not automatically walking covenantally together because of our individual covenant with Christ. You and I would need to establish our own covenant together, if we chose to walk thusly.

    Not seeking to be contentious here, I promise!, but where in The Scriptures does it say we are all walking together covenantally within The New Covenant? If anything, we are as brothers as in family through Yaweh as our Father. But brotherhood in Christ is not covenant with one another.

    Do you see what I am asking, or am I doing a circular chase?

  4. 8-11-2012

    Donald,

    The command “love one another” and other new covenant commands only apply to those who are under the new covenant, not to those who are not under the new covenant.

    I do not need another covenant to tell me how to treat either other believers or nonbelievers. The new covenant covers not only my relationship with God, but also my relationship with other believers.

    -Alan

  5. 8-11-2012

    Alan, my friend, you said:

    “We are in a covenant with God, and are therefore covenanted together with one another. Our covenant with God includes new familial relationships with others who are covenanted with God. Just as God is our father, his children (and all of his children) are our brothers and sisters. Our familial responsibilities toward one another are included in our relationship with God.”

    I totally agree we are indeed family in Christ, and sons of Yaweh accordingly, but I simply disagree that we are by default then in covenant with one another. Covenants need to be sought out and struck with Yaweh as our witness. You and I, while brothers and servants together, are not, by any stretch, in covenant together. For that to happen, you and I would represent our Houses and speak covenant words to one another, binding our two Houses together this side of Heaven.

    I am not seeking to beat this dead horse, but I simply disagree with you. We are family, yes. But we are not in covenant with one another. We are in covenant with Yaweh, and that’s where we start. My brie and I struck covenant with one another, of our own choosing, as we entered into marriage. My love for her was not enough. Am I making sense or am I coming across as though I am babbling? :)

    Looking forward to your thoughts.

  6. 8-11-2012

    Alan,

    By the way, this comment:

    “The command “love one another” and other new covenant commands only apply to those who are under the new covenant, not to those who are not under the new covenant.”

    …is full of holes. You see that, right? Not an accusation. Simply an observation. For if I only applied Kingdom Principles to Kingdom family, what’s the point of The Cross, then?

  7. 8-11-2012

    Alan,

    You wrote this statement years ago, on a separate post:

    “You will not find anything like this in Scripture. We are connected to one another through our mutual relationship with Jesus Christ, not through a man-made covenant, regardless of how much biblical language we include in that covenant. Our covenant is with God. That covenant with God includes responsibilities toward all brothers and sisters that God brings into our lives.”

    It seems you have changed your position on this, adding to it the ‘we are in covenant with one another through God’s covenant with us’. Is that a fair assessment?

    The above statement came from your post: http://www.alanknox.net/2007/09/discussing-church-and-covenants/

  8. 8-11-2012

    Donald,

    If I am covenanted with God, and that covenant includes how I tread and interact with you, then you and I do not need another covenant. We are already bound to one another because we are in covenant with God.

    As to the earlier statement, I think it’s parallel with the statement in this post. I have changed my position on many points, and you’ll probably find statements that I’ve made in the past that I currently disagree with. But, I think these two posts are complimentary, and not at odds with one another.

    If you explain how that statement about the command “love one another” is full of holes, I’ll probably better understand your position.

    By the way, is your only concern that I said “We are in covenant with one another”? Are you agreeing that our covenant with God dictates our relationships with one another, and also dictates that we are connected to one another as family?

    -Alan

  9. 8-11-2012

    Alan,

    In Hebrews 8:6 we read that Jesus,”is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises”.

    The New Covenant is not a covenant between man and God, but between Jesus Christ and God with the believer as the beneficiary. Our “mediator” Jesus, acts on behalf of His people as “a go-between”.

    The implication of your article is great, one covenant is enough, because it is the perfect covenant mediated by the perfect mediator, who is guarantor of the covenant relationship He has mediated on behalf of his people.

  10. 8-12-2012

    Alan,

    Quite tired right now, as it is past 1 AM here in CT, but I would like to address one thing you asked about.

    You asked me:
    “If you explain how that statement about the command “love one another” is full of holes, I’ll probably better understand your position.”

    Your original statements was as such:
    “The command “love one another” and other new covenant commands only apply to those who are under the new covenant, not to those who are not under the new covenant.”

    When I read that, my mind saw it as saying, “The command for us to love one another only applies to us, as New Covenant believers, to love other New Covenant believers.” This meant to me that we were not to show such love to those in The World. I misread your statement, and I see that now. I was wrong, and I fully admit it. :)

    @Aussiejohn,

    You said:
    “The New Covenant is not a covenant between man and God, but between Jesus Christ and God with the believer as the beneficiary. Our “mediator” Jesus, acts on behalf of His people as “a go-between”.

    I disagree. The Old Covenant was between man and God, albeit with deficiencies. The New Covenant is between man and God, but is perfect, even to the point of putting The Old Covenant to death. I am walking covenantally with Yaweh, through the blood of Christ. I am a son, since His Son made it possible for me to be adopted covenantally. The Lord has always dealt with us as His people through covenant, beginning with Abram, and ending with The New Covenant. Indeed, there is one mediator between man and God, and that is Christ Jesus, but His mediation equals adoption, Salvation, and redemption for us, not for Him.

  11. 8-12-2012

    Setting aside the specific word, ‘covenant’, your post brings to mind a pamphlet by J G Vos from my Reformed Presbyterian days, arguing that a church board should make no laws binding the conscience of believers…if the command was already in Scripture than no additional rule was called for…and if it was NOT in Scripture then the body had no business going beyond the direct commands of Scripture. Would that many of the church groups I had been in would have taken that stance!

  12. 8-13-2012

    Just wondering… in the New Testament, is the word “covenant” used about the relationships between brothers and sisters in Christ in some context other than the new covenant? I’m asking seriously, because I haven’t searched for it.

    -Alan

  13. 8-24-2012

    My previous church used the Second London Confession of 1689 as a doctrinal statement. My current church pastor said “it is just a statement we use as a legal document because of shared property (ie: the church building)”.

    According to most of the information I looked up for reasoning on changing churches, they all said I should be aware of what they believe or “have a covenant document”. I’m not sure that it is a valid way to find out what people believe. You can’t get a sense of covenant without the fellowship.

  14. 8-24-2012

    Susan,

    I like the way you connect covenant and fellowship. The way that I understand our covenant with God, it includes how we should relate to one another. And, since we are now indwelled by the Holy Spirit (through the new covenant) we are also in fellowship with one another, without the need of another covenant.

    -Alan