It may come as a surprise to some Christians that there is a conversation and/or debate about the topic of the New Covenant as it pertains to the church within those who see a distinction between Israel and the Church. This is so because of a commitment to take the passages about the new covenant, found in the Old Testament, as seriously referring to the nation of Israel. Jeremiah said “‘Behold, days are coming,’declares the Lord, ‘when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,’ declares the Lord.” (31:31-32) Thus, dispensationalists rightly understand it to be referring to a literal fulfillment in the future in the nations of Israel (the Northern Kingdom) and Judah (the Southern Kingdom).
Having taken this position, there then raise questions about a few references to the New Covenant in the New Testament. Some of these include (1) Jesus’ own references to it on the night of the Last Supper (in the four gospels), (2) Paul’s discussions of the issue in a couple epistles (1 Cor. 11 and 2 Cor. 3), and (3) The multiple discussions of it in the Epistle to the Hebrews. Some of these passage could be taken as suggesting that . The dispensational interpreter’s commitment to (1) interpret the NT in light of the OT and (2) to interpret to NT in its own context make these new covenant passages in the NT very challenging. I should simply state that to suggest the church is not under the New Covenant does not mean that we lack spiritual blessings. It recognizes that there is a different relationship from the new covenant by which we in the church gain access to “every spiritual blessing.” (Eph. 1:3)
Thankfully, the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics met several years ago to give some discussion to further the conversation. The purpose of this post is to share some links to resources to online versions of articles that I have located pertain to this issue, and also give reference to book forms of these articles. To be sure, many of these links are technical and may be a challenge to follow but they are the best of what is an important topic. In the church, many think in terms of the new covenant when it comes to the Christian life that a biblical understanding of the topic is important, whether we recognize a relationship for the church or not. See a list of four main views below and various links to articles about the topic. I Hope they are helpful for someone who is studying this area.
Four Dispensational Views of the New Covenant
1. The Church has no relationship to Israel’s new covenant
(1a) Only one new covenant for Israel which is to be ratified and begin fulfillment at the start of the millennium
(1b) Two new covenants — the Church has its own covenant without having a relationship to Israel’s covenant.
2. The Church has a relationship to Israel’s new covenant
(2a) Indirect — not as legal participants but receiving blessings due to union with Christ
(2b) Direct — as legal participants in the new covenant promised to Israel as God expands his promise
This outline is taken from New Covenant Categories, by Mike Stallard.
- Why Do Dispensationalists Have Such a Hard Time Agreeing About the New Covenant by Rod Decker
- The Law, the New Covenant, and the Christian: Studies in Hebrews 7–10, by Rod Decker
- Dispensationalism, the Church, and the New Covenant in the Detroit Baptist Seminary Journal by R. Bruce Compton
- Hermeneutical Ramifications of Applying the New Covenant to the Church: An Appeal to Consistency in the Journal of Dispensational Theology by Christopher Cone
- 2 Corinthians 3:6 and the Church’s Relationship to the New Covenant in the Journal of Dispensational Theology by George Gunn
- The Lord’s Supper and the New Covenant by George Gunn (unpublished version of paper, uncertain if ever published)
- A Blog post titled New Covenant By Mike Stallard
Books (several of the articles above were the basis for parts of these two books):
- Mike Stallard, ed. A Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant. Published by Regular Baptist Press.
- Christopher Cone, ed. An Introduction to the New Covenant. Published by Tyndale Seminary Press.