Tag Archives: baptism

The Lord’s Supper (conclusion of The Sacraments)

Besides calling attention to Christ’s ongoing life (instead of his death alone), the Lord’s Supper goes beyond baptism by representing comm-union.  Protestantism does not believe in celebrating  the Lords’ Supper in solitude.  The Lord’s Supper, as said before, symbolizes the ongoing nature of that fellowship, plus the ongoing unity of all believers, like the several members of of a human body, in the one Lord Jesus with whom they died and now live.  Baptism is administered individually, denoting personal entrance into Christ’s fellowship.  And here is where we go wide awry in this whole matter of “preparation” and self-examination, which is kind of a carry-over from the Catholic custom of “going to confession” before taking communion, and even there, the horizontal reference is involved – namely, ones relation to fellow-communicants, rather than between the communicant and God, for I understand that a Catholic may attend mass and not take communion, without going to confession.

The custom of preparation and self-exam also stems from “fundamentalistic” influence, which believes that a Christian can be saved today and lost tomorrow.  True, every Christian has his spiritual ups and downs, but that is one of the very reasons for which the Lord’s Supper has been instituted and is intended, namely, to strengthen weak faith, by drawing on the Lord Jesus.  Much like prayer, when we need the Lord’s Supper the most we might feel the least worthy of it, which is a good reason why we should participate.  Spiritual weakness is a reason for going to communion, not for staying away.

As regards the touchy question of admission to communion on the part of non-members, we are guilty in this regard often of giving greater importance to a picture of God’s truth than the inspired truth itself.  Any one who presents himself before the preaching of God’s Word is surely adding to his condemnation if he responds negatively, and yet we encourage such persons to keep coming.  Consistency would recommend that if we bar some people from communion we ought to bar them from the two-edged “sword of the Spirit.”  In practice this means that groups like the LDS have some clear thinking and principal behavior when they open their “tabernacles” to all who wish to enter, but limit the temples and the worship therein, with the sacraments, to members.  We try to worship and do evangelism simultaneously , which is difficult in a normal service, but it is unChristian and discourteous to invite unchurched neighbors to any and all of our public services only to tell them politely that from one of the ceremonies they must abstain.  As regards our long-suffering children, who sit through long communion services in the hope that we may provoke them to a holy jealousy, it were better that a separate service be held for non-communcants; no part of a congregation should ever be told, “This part is not for you.”

Apart from that, by what criterion is one to examine himself to see just how sinful and miserable he is or isn’t?  Just how much faith should he have in Christ for salvation, and how can that be measured?  How strong must be the resolution to live the Christian Life (presumably by one’s own efforts)?

The Bible assumes (and so should we) that every member of Christ’s body is always “worthy” to take part in the Lord’s Supper;  readiness is something that should mark him constantly, not just at inspection time.  In the classic passage where Paul says we should “examine ourselves” he is not talking at all about the participants worthiness; you and I might have had our doubts about some of them on that score, and think that Paul should have scolded them.  To the contrary, he says that they were not celebrating the meal in a proper way, and they should give thought to that.  “Either celebrate it with the right attitude toward the meal and others, or stay at home,” he says.

When he says, “You eat and drink judgment upon yourself because you do not discern (see in this meal and its celebration) the Lord’s body” he is certainly not saying that they weren’t thinking about Jesus and his “physical” body; that was part of the problem.  They were not thinking about fellow-Christians, that body of Christ.  They were thinking only of “Jesus and me.”

Paul is saying nothing more nor less than Christ did when he talked about leaving our sacrifice on the altar (the Lord’s Supper on the table) until we are “one” with our fellow-Christian.  On that score we can and do “fall out of grace” between Lord’s Suppers.  That was the sin of the prodigal’s older brother, for the likes of whom the parable was told  – not a rescue mission story.  If the crash programs of family-visits that some churches have prior to the Lord’s Supper lay stress on that aspect of our Christian life, well and good.  But let us not let our reconciled state with God be an object of quarterly or even weekly analysis and anxiety;  that is not entering into God’s “rest”.  A nervous stomach is bad for digestion, either physical or spiritual.

Other weaknesses in the Lord’s Supper celebrations which confuse its participants as to purpose and meaning include:

  1. Inexact typology in one of the forms says that just as a great many berries are squeezed into a single container of wine, or many kernels of wheat are mixed  into one loaf of bread, so are all the members of Christ’s church molded by his Spirit into a unified whole.  This is a pretty picture, and we are allowed to make up such illustrations of our own as “types” of spiritual truths.  In this case, however, the analogy is not found in Scripture but, in fact, is exactly the reverse of what the Lord’s Supper intends to depict, mainly , that from the one to the many, we who partake of the one Lord Jesus Christ find our unity, despite being as “different and apart” as members of a human body, in Him as our single source, life-giver.
  2. Similarly, the breaking of the communion loaf (a symbolism to be preferred to the mechanically-cubed pieces) does not, as we said before, depict the fracture of Christ’s body in crucifixion, but, in symbolizing the death of the believers with Christ, may well depict also the fact that they must be “broken” and “poured out” in order to feed others in turn, first of all their own physical “flesh and blood” (relatives, families).  We are not simply to be served, but to serve; not only dine, but work; receive life, but to give it (by dying to self, as a mother “dies” to reproduce life).  Paul makes the startling statement that he “fills up” the sufferings of Christ by means of his personal sufferings in behalf of the gospel and its dissemination.  In Scripture the picture of wheat-kernels is not that they are ground up to make one bread, but that they are buried and die in order to re-create countless others.
  3. That, in turn, reminds of the un-communionlike controversies that ironically have fractured the fellowship within single congregations over the pictures of truth instead of the truths themselves; bad enough that we create denominations over disputed doctrines; the height of heresy (which basically means “trouble-making”) is to quibble over symbolism.  In the case of baptism it has taken the form of immersion vs sprinkling, but that quarrel can be understood because the reality behind the picture is at issue; two or more things are thereby being represented.  In the case of the Lord’s Supper, individual congregations (the basic unit of the church) have split over the question of individual versus common cups, and wine vs. grape-juice.  Both quarrels arose from failure to understand typology; it’s the common drink, not the container(s).  It’s the color and form of that drink, not the material, which is the point of comparison.  Would those who insist upon wine be agreeable to the white variety? So, a red soft-drink is acceptable (to say nothing of grape-juice) as in many (overseas) communions.  Perhaps not even color is significant; wine (or grape-juice) was the “coffee” of the culture in which Jesus lived and died.  It is not without significance that Jesus did not speak of that after-dinner beverage by name, but he and Paul consistently referred to it as “the cup.”
  4. It is the “cup of blessing” (or “thanksgiving”) which is the term the Israelites had used for 1400 years previously.  The pastor’s hand of benediction upon it is harmless enough, but it is we who do the blessing (praising), not God; we bless Him for it!  Much better that the cup of celebration be raised (by one or all) in tribute and toast to the host and the King.  Let’s let God’s pictures be picturesque!
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Baptism, continued (The Sacraments, Part II)

Baptism “in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit” can also mean nothing more than the washing away of sins, which for many people is all that salvation amounts to; a kind of ticket to heaven, which is about what the word “sacrament” really means.  It is better to use such a word as “ordinance”, a practice or ritual which our Lord ordained, instituted.

Again, if this is all that baptism represents, it might be well if we were baptized more than once, for we all keep sinning even after our regeneration, all of which sins have to be forgiven.  Some early Christians put off baptism until death was imminent (since repeated baptism was not allowed then any more than now), and the Catholic custom of extreme unction, a form of baptism or anointing at the end of life, has something of that early Church idea behind it.  (Accuracy recommends stating that this 7th of the Roman Catholic sacraments originated in the good advice of James 5:15 as to anointing the sick.  This practice is sadly neglected in all communions.)  Jesus indicated our need of repeated or continuous washing in his example of foot-washing in the Upper Room (same hour that he instituted the Lord’s Supper), and it may seriously be considered whether that pious practice on the part of some churches ought not be a third sacrament for all of us.  The Bible does not say how many sacraments there ought to be, or what constitutes one.  If it be said that sacraments have to do with our relation to God, the answer is that the Lord’s Supper has a horizontal dimension as well, and most sins, for which we have to be forgiven, are committed against our fellow human beings. (Without adding another sacrament we might well imitate the Roman Catholic Church by sprinkling ourselves [!] with water at such times as entering worship services.  While this does not depict the reciprocal nature of our repeated sinning and need of mutual forgiveness, it is an apt picture of its continuing persistence as well as God’s ongoing  forgiveness.)

But in that same situation in which Jesus washed his disciples’ feet, he said plainly that there is a once and for all cleansing that makes any exact repetition unnecessary and superfluous. (John 13:10)  This was pictured in the Old Testament by the fact that in addition to the daily ablutions of hands and feet by the priests, at their ordination there was an elaborate ceremony in which they were completely bathed, shaved, and put on clean clothes.  It should be remembered – which some of the early Christians forgot – that our baptism, much like the cleansing stream that followed the Israelites in the wilderness, is a continuous thing, constantly washing and refreshing us as we move along through life. (I john 1:9)  In fact, as we all should know, future sins are forgiven by Christ’s one-time atonement as well as those of the past.  In making this point plain the writer to Hebrews asks the rhetorical question, “How many times do you think Christ was or has to be crucified in our stead?”

All this would certainly recommend immersion as a more appropriate mode of baptism than either sprinkling or pouring.  While it may not be warranted to say that immersion is the only permissible mode of baptism, if baptism represented nothing more than complete washing or cleansing from sin, it is a rather inadequate sign (poor picture) to have a baptizee touched on the head with little more than a moist finger, and even that hardly visible  to the “witnesses” outside the immediate huddle around the fount.  Many ministers are making the ceremony more visible, which is the purpose of it all; they should be encouraged to sprinkle the symbolic water on the hands and feet of the recipient as well as the head.  Are we not enjoined to present our entire bodies as living sacrifices, and do we not sing, “Take my hands…. my feet…..”?

But there is something else that the once-ness of baptism (whatever the mode) is supposed to represent, and that is our personal spiritual death and resurrection at the time Christ died and rose again, which is made literal at the time of our second birth and death to “self”, and becomes a matter of consciousness and experience as we reach maturity and discover for ourselves who we are, essentially.  There is no need to argue that for Paul this is the primary meaning of baptism.  (See Romans 6:3,4)  Jesus, of course, spoke of his death as a baptism.  (Cf  II Cor 4:10)

This being so, immersion – which happily symbolizes completeness of cleansing – would seem to be the most preferable mode of baptism on the score of its representation of burial and resurrection.  Certainly the baptismal formula should be stated exactly the way it is correctly written in Christ’s command, “I baptize you into the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit”.  Any child knows that “the name of” is identical with the person who bears it, so that what we are saying at baptism is the person is symbolically engrafted into Christ, becomes one with him and through him with God, as Jesus prayed at the conclusion of the first Lord’s Supper.

In the Old Covenant (Testament) which is a type of the New, the symbolic death of both parties was an important element that we overlook in both the type and its fulfillment.  Parties to a solemn covenant would mix a little blood of each, as pledge of their lives to each other, and invoking death upon either or both in the event of violation.

Next post:  The Lord’s Supper (Part I), a continuation of “The Sacraments”

The “Sacraments” (Ordinances) Part I

So-called sacraments should receive some attention in any course on “preaching” because of the important part they play in worship services and the fact they are New Testament signs or types of spiritual truth which we try to communicate.

Judging from Paul’s and other Scriptural reference to sacraments (I Cor 1:17) it would seem that we either attach undue importance to them or/and are not clear as to their purpose and meaning.  (A few Protestant groups take a dim view of them altogether and leave them optional to their membership.)  Examples of our over-emphasis are the use of the expression “minister of the Word and sacraments” (a non-Biblical addition), and limiting the celebration of the sacraments to the clergy, when they are only the administrants; the officers of the church are in charge of such ceremonies and supervise them.  Protestants as well as Catholics tend to make a “production” of the simple ceremony of the Lord’s Supper by weeks of preparation, long formularies and elaborate liturgies, forgetting that Jesus said, “Do this…”, not “Talk about it,” or “Adorn it.”

And we say that the sacraments are the keys to the kingdom of heaven, reminding of ridiculous caricatures of Peter at the Pearly Gates, but we are inconsistent on that score when we keep a person of uncertain faith from coming to communion and finally may bar him altogether, but do nothing comparable when it comes to the annulment or cancellation of a person’s baptism, by revoking it as having been invalid.  In reciprocity or recognition of other communions we are equally inconsistent.  Most “denominations” (a word that is not found in Scripture) recognize one another’s administration of baptism, but many do not let members of sister (!) fellowships sit down at the Lord’s table unless they subscribe to the peculiar doctrines of the host church.  (No one thing has obstructed the ecumenical movement – not even doctrinal differences – as much as differences in the Lord’s Supper and the ordination of the clergy – a related matter.)  It is the height of irony to recognize, as we should, that there is only “one baptism”, when that is an individual and personal relationship, but not the fact of one comm-union!

Baptism

The most immediate and superficial meaning of this symbol is discipleship.  There were many baptizers in Jesus’ day, some within his fellowship and others not.  This explains the re-baptism of some believers in Ephesus during Paul’s time, see Acts 19.  This seems to be the meaning of baptism in Matt 28:19, where Jesus commands his disciples to make others, baptizing them.  It had this kind of meaning for the Corinthians, who even thought they could be baptized “in the name of ” Paul.  As said above, Paul did not commend those who said they were “of Christ” (versus those of Apollos, et al.), but said they were all deficient in thinking that baptism made them only followers of any one, even Jesus.  (Perhaps this is one way to explain the baptism of the Samaritans by Philip and their later realization as to what it meant. Acts 8)  Paul refrained from baptizing not merely because of the danger of his becoming the spiritual guru to his converts, but lest even Christ, whom Paul preached, be one more, even if the best, of messiahs or religious leaders.  The “Christ” party in Corinth should not have said, “We are OF Christ,” but all of them should have said, “We are IN Christ.” (The NIV wisely translates I Cor 1:12, “I follow Paul, I follow Apollos, I follow Christ.”)

We make a great deal of the fact that  the baptism formula ought to include the words, “…the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit”, in order to assure the deity of Christ (in contrast to the point made immediately above).  (The Early Church, it seems, often baptized only  “in the name of Jesus”.)  Of equal importance in the baptismal formula is the little preposition, which is supposed to be “into” –  more on that point later – instead of the familiar “in“.  All that the latter expression means is “on one’s authority”, be it the law, the army, or some individual,  For example, the Trinitarian phrase is found in many wedding ceremonies (which the Catholics call a sacrament), and is of very dubious significance, since everything that any Christian does is supposed to be “in” the name of the Lord Jesus Christ (Col 3:17), and every marriage ought to be performed in God’s name or on his authority.  (He instituted this wonderful human relationship.)  Anybody, by rights, should be able to perform a wedding (“in God’s name”).  Actually, a clergyman or civil official does not “marry” a couple or even “pronounce” them man and wife.  The wedding couple marry each other, and it is the state (with its license) that declares them to be legally married.

In other words, the baptismal formula as commonly understood, (comparable to the wedding ceremony) means simply “I baptize you on my authority as a minister of the gospel and of God; as an official representative of the church I declare that you are a member of the church.”  (Once more, a baptizee – if an adult – actually baptizes himself; the official is a witness, as he is in the case of marriage.)  Parents of a child should be the ones to baptize their infants, just as they dedicate their children to God and make solemn promises regarding them even before the child was born or conceived.  Our customs tend to confuse membership in Jesus’ body with membership in a visible organization of which a minister is the executive officer.  In some communions an “ordinary” pastor, who himself trained communicants, cannot himself “confirm” them.

Baptism, Part II of the Sacraments, next post.  

Children (Minors) in Covenant, Part I

How do “minor” members of the church fit into all this (i.e. the “covenant”)?  In theory they play such an important part that sometimes the “tail seems to wag the dog”.  Eg – minor members are called “baptized” ones, as though the “full” members are not.  We speak of “covenant education”, as though it were limited to youth, when it is a lifelong process.  People who join a church as adults are sometimes called “non-covenantal” members, and at least one baptismal fount has on it the quote, “Suffer the children to come unto me”, as though others were the exception by way of admittance to that rite.

That which – like any type – is supposed to be a source of assurance or enlightenment to “children” of any kind or age, is in the case of covenant membership quite baffling.  On the one hand they are baptized as tender infants and told thereafter they belong to the church; then in adolescence they are expected to “join” church.  (At that point they are assured that all the “privileges” of such membership are now theirs, but such privileges vary mightily with the individual churches.) “Baptized” membership is supposed to guarantee Christian education of what is called a “covenantal” kind, but there is often no discernible difference between it and a “non-covenantal” Christian school next door, or even the public one across the street that has prayer and Bible reading, or even a Christian teacher.  They are told in one breath to act like Christians (sometimes the label of “covenant-member” is invoked if they don’t, or even “covenant-breaker!”) but in the next breath they are told that they are prone to sin against God and society in thought, word, and deed almost constantly, and that it is heresy to think of themselves in any other “presumptuous” terms.

Well, let’s look at the “type”.  (As always, great care must be taken not to confuse the essence of the type with what logicians call the accidents or incidentals (which would make allegories out of types.) This is true, for example, of the fact that in the Old Covenant (whether with Abraham or Israel) only males received the initiation rite; women-folk were “included” in covenant the way that they are in male church-voting even today in some churches.  (Female ordination involves other principles than church membership and its privileges.)

  1.  Children were undeniably participants in covenant in the Old Testament.  Boys were circumcised the eighth day after birth, and both sexes (an important point) took part in Passover from infancy.
  2. Children shared in “covenant” only as secondary participants, not as principals.  Scripture has no examples of God making covenant with minors.  Children shared as beneficiaries (and/or the penalties, the baneful results) of the various covenants, and, insofar as they were capable, did have minor active roles to play to the extent of their ability.  But, as to covenant made “to thy seed after thee” the reference is to the renewal or reaffirmation “in their generations”, when the children reached an age of accountability.
  3. Some “minor” members in some situations, an entire generation through its leaders – or even a whole genealogy through unfaithful ancestor(s) – broke covenant in adulthood.
  4. Nothing is said as to the internal or eternal condition of the participants of the covenants, especially infants.  The type (picture) had to do with membership in the “chosen” community; some who did not physically leave it were false members, as Paul indicates in Romans 9-11; on the other hand we are not to assume that all the children of Achan or Korah, Dathan, and company were eternally lost.

In the light of the foregoing, we may make the following assumptions as to children of professing Christians today (in or “under” the “new covenant”, the New Testament).

  1.  We obviously cannot assume that every such child is born again and certain of heaven; circumstances plainly indicate otherwise when some of them (too many) reach the “age of discretion” and simply repudiate their baptism, “church membership”, etc.  On this score alone the practice of infant baptism is on weak ground.  If it be said that all (male) children received the Old Testament covenant initiation (membership) sigh and all youngsters took part in Passover, let it be reminded that nothing was said in the type as to spiritual salvation.   As to unbaptized “Christian” children who die in “minority”, some Scripture indicates that this part of God’s providence was also to their eternal salvation, which may be equally true of unbelievers’ children who die in infancy.  To think that baptism or the lack of it, per se, has anything to do with salvation is superstition of the worst water.
  2. So-called New Testament “covenant membership”, apart from baptism or anything else, has little practical meaning for children if the parents are not conscientious in the Christian tutelage, example, and parental prayer life that their professed new life entails for them.  Example:  If a missionary child were kidnapped and raised by heathens, its Christian ancestry (for generations) and/or baptism would have little significance.  This calls for some sharp thinking.  Some strongly “covenant” churches are half-hearted about baptism of adopted children from unknown parentage.  This makes the miracle of regeneration (or at least predisposition to it) a matter of genes.  What is more, a single Christian parent entitles to infant baptism in some churches on the strength of I Cor 7:14, but nobody baptizes the “unbelieving husband” because he is sanctified.  In fact, if he is an impediment to his wife’s sanctification of the children (as they often are, silently or actively) the significance of their baptism is more sentimental than sensible.  Completeness demands the statement that countless Christian parents are committed to the Christian training of their children, but to whom the word “covenant” is completely unknown in word or concept.  Many will dedicated their children to God in a church ceremony that includes the same promises as in churches that practice infant baptism; others do not even do that.  The results of godly example and instruction in all these instances are largely the same.
  3. While it is presumptuous (facts proving otherwise) to assume that all children born to Christian parents will themselves become Christian, if history and the Scripture type of “covenant” mean anything we may assume as to each one of them, until they give evidence to the contrary, that they are and have been born again.  (Once again, this warranted assumption does not give warrant for baptizing.  Adults are baptized not on the basis of their presumed regeneration, but profession of faith.)

It is obvious that point #3 is a far cry from raising a child (in a Christian home or school) with the attitude that until he gives evidence to the contrary he is a lost sinner.  The conflicting or contradictory fact is that such a child often is a born-again Christian, of the same immature level that his intelligence, personality, or sex are.  No wonder such children grow up with as many, if not more, spiritual problems and identity crises than a child raised in an admittedly non-Christian home, none of whose members is unduly concerned as to their spiritual condition.

Covenant, Part I

There is one “type” in Scripture of great importance, long duration, and inclusive of many “sub-types”.  That is the word and concept, “covenant”.  Few doctrines in the Bible are more controversial, confused, misunderstood, even meaningless.

The chief reason for this is the fact that few Christians realize that “covenant”, like such things as the ark of the covenant and the rite of circumcision, was or is a type, and not a final “truth”, like the fact of our atonement  Once upon a time it had reality, “fact”, significance in its own, just as Jonah was an actual historical person with a message for us (about evangelism and enemy-love) if Christ had never come.  But, in addition, he (and his experience) was a picture of Christ.

A great part of the Christian church keeps the idea and term “covenant” alive today (as though we were to embalm Jonah and display him).  Premillenarians – who dislike the present use of the word “covenant”, predict a “thousand years” when it will be very much restored.  Catholics continue some of its elements with priests, sacrifices, alters, etc.  Calvinism makes so much use of the word that it has become a catch-all cliche to avoid clear thinking and good communication.  Some of its denominations are known as “Covenanters”, who even have the Old Testament ideal of a union of church and state (like Israel’s theocracy); they sing only psalms in church, etc.  Other individual congregations have the word “covenant” in their name, but we all make that confusion of Old Covenant and New when we persist in speaking of a church building as “the house of God”; we ought to quit the use of that typological word once and for all.  Some Calvinists reverse this anachronism by talking about the “church” in the Old Testament; this is like calling Moses the first Calvinist.

Here are some of the facts (realized by very few who use the word “covenant” the most); the first occurrence of the word is ages after Adam lived and died; (after the Flood!).  The familiar phrase “covenant of grace” occurs nowhere in Scripture and “covenant” by itself is hardly found in the New Testament.  “Covenant of grace” is basically a contradiction in terms, because “covenant” is a very legal term, and is part of the dispensation of “law”.  IF we can speak of a “covenant of grace”, it did not begin with the New Testament (as it is often thought), but immediately after the Fall.

What we call the “old covenant of testament” (not the 66 books) began as late in history as 1400 BC, maybe millions of years after creation.  The “new covenant”, on the other hand, did not begin at Jesus’ birth; he lived and died in the “old testament”, so that the Four Gospels are included in the New Testament much as the preface and introduction to any book, and Moses’ story of creation to his own times in preparation for the Old Testament, technically not a part of it.

Look at all the different ideas on the covenant TODAY, on the part of those who think the arrangement is still in force!  Some think children of Christian parents belong to it, others do not.  Some say that “our” part in covenant is to “believe”; others say that faith is a gift of God and hence part of “his” side; our obligation is to obey, serve him.  Some think that children who are in the covenant are saved, born again, and will go to heaven if they die in infancy.  Others say that covenant says nothing on that score, but simply makes children members of the Christian “community” and the beneficiaries of Christian nurture which “covenant parents” promise as their part of the contract.

The result of all this contradiction and uncertainty is that instead of the clarity and assurance that any and every type were designed to bring (like the sacraments today)., this only makes for confusion and doubt, on the part of all human part-icipants, but especially parents and children.  (Some even have the idea that if you are a childless adult you are not an active member of any covenant.  Some think children are more so than grown-ups!)  When it comes to the sacraments, which are “covenantal” (using that Old Testament term for the New Testament) signs, some churches permit children to participate in both, some in neither, and some insist that they must in baptism but not in the Lord’s Supper, when – as we shall see – if it is one or the other, the Lord’s Supper should have the preference.

Following the Fall, when man and God became enemies, and before they were made friends again (and more) by the reconciliation of the God/man Jesus Christ, God provided a system of agreements, legal contracts (which is another word for “covenant”), that would bring man as close as possible to him before their at-one-ment in Christ.  These covenants were something like a truce between hostile nations, and, on the part of the human participants, just about as meaningless, since the latter kept on breaking the terms.  These covenants employed mediators (like Moses), and even angels, whose service in the Old Testament was primarily between God and man, while in the New, since they (God and his people) have become inseparable friends, their service is between man and Satan, in defense of the former against the latter.

The covenant between God and Israel was not only an interim thing to be replaced by something completely different (as grace took the place of “law”), but was to be a picture (type) of God’s relation to the church (the fulfillment, or reality).  Israel, as a “chosen” nation, was itself a picture of the Body of Christ; this is why Christ chose exactly 12 apostles, paralleling the 12 tribes.  (Does the frequent use of the number “seven” regarding the church indicate the church’s growth by addition – three, God’s “number”, plus four, that of creation – as well as by multiplication/reproduction – three times four – which was primarily the Old Testament source of growth?)

From all this it will be evident that the purpose and function of “covenant” were served and completed when Christ came and said on the eve of his crucifixion, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood.”  If it be said, “Ah, there!  We are in a covenant still today,” the answer is that the reality that was symbolized in the obsolete sign still continues, but not the form.  A perfect analogy is the fact that we are still under “law” today in the sense that Adam was, before the fall, or we will be in heaven, while Scripture categorically says that the law per se, in its Old Covenant form, has served its purpose and is passed away.  So too with “covenant”, an integral part of a arrangement by law, itself being a legal instrument.  Jeremiah predicted the days of a “new covenant”, in which external law would be no more – a covenant without a contract, and an era of “law” without laws.