Israel's New Covenant and the Body of Christ

by Jerry Shugart

JerryShugart2@yahoo.com

Two New Covenants?

Mike Stallard, the editor of Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant, wrote that "one of the most interesting aspects of the Council on Dispensational Hermeneutics from 2009 was that the two-new covenants view was not voiced during the deliberations of the council. If anyone present held the view, he did not speak up. This may show that few traditional dispensationalists today hold to the Lewis Sperry Chafer approach to handling the new covenant; that is, there is a new covenant for the nation of Israel while there is a distinct and separate new covenant for the church. Consequently, this view is not represented among the various views discussed in this book" [emphasis added] (Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant, ed. Mike Stallard [Schaumburg, IL: Regular Baptist Books, 2012], 10-11).

The Greek word translated "covenant" in the NT is diatheke. Not only Chafer, but also John Walvoord and Charles Ryrie, correctly saw a New Diatheke for the nation of Israel and another one for the Body of Christ. My study is in defense of the idea that the New Diatheke promised to the nation of Israel is a separate and distinct diatheke from the New Diatheke which is in force today and applies to those in the Body of Christ.

The New Diatheke which is promised to the nation of Israel is best described as being one of the "covenants of promise" mentioned in the following verse:

"That at that time ye were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants (diatheke) of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world" (Eph.2:12).

In his commentary on this verse Geerhardus Vos says that "in Eph. ii. 12...Paul regards the 'diatheke' as so many successive promissory dispositions of God, not as a series of mutual agreements between God and the people" [emphasis added] (Geerhardus Vos, "Hebrews, the Epistle of the Diatheke," The Princeton Theological Review, Vol. 13, No.4, 1915, 609).

A promissory disposition is in regard to a promise to bestow or transfer something of value to another. J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan say that diatheke "is properly 'dispositio,' an 'arrangement' made by one party with plenary power, which the other party may accept or reject, but cannot alter. A 'will' is simply the most conspicuous example of such an instrument, which ultimately monopolized the word just because it suited its differentia so completely" [emphasis added] (J.H. Molton and G. Milligan, The Vocabulary of the Greek Testament [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1930], 148).

The New Diatheke which is in force today and is in regard to those in the Body of Christ is the "Last Will and Testament" of Christ. The New Diatheke promised to the nation of Israel is the New Covenant of Jeremiah 31:31-34.

Sir Robert Anderson wrote that "Our spiritual and eternal blessings do not depend on a covenant made with us, but upon a testament under which we are beneficiaries" (Anderson, Types in Hebrews [Grand Rapids: Kregel, 1978], 56).

This study will prove that the only diatheke which is in operation now and which applies to the members of the Body of Christ is the "Last Will and Testament (diatheke)" of Christ and not the New Covenant (diatheke) promised to the nation of Israel.

It will also be proven that the Last Will and Testament of Christ is the "gospel" of Christ and therefore when the word diatheke is used in regard to those in the Body then it is the "gospel of Christ" which is in view and not the New Covenant (diatheke) promised to the nation of Israel.

These facts should put an end to the wild speculation that Christians partake of the New Diatheke promised to Israel.

The "Last Will and Testament of Christ" is the "Gospel of Christ"

There can be no doubt that the spiritual blessings received through the gospel are described in terms of the Last Will and Testament of Christ. First and foremost is the fact of the Lord Jesus' death, that sinners are reconciled to God by His death (Ro.5:10). Believers of the gospel are the "heirs" of the will and receive the "inheritance" which flows from His Last Will and Testament:

"That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Eph.3:6).

"That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph.1:12-14).

T. M. Morris wrote: "Having considered Christ as the testator, let US NOW LOOK AT THE GOSPEL AS THE 'LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF CHRIST'...There is, in every testament, provision implied or expressed that it should, with all convenient speed, be published and made known. This is necessary, that the legatees may become aware of that which has been bequeathed to them, and be in a position to put in their claim. Christ has ordained and provided that His disciples should publish His will and testament to all the children of men. We are 'put in trust with the gospel.' We are bound to publish the glad tidings in every direction" (Morris, Christ's Last Will and Testament).

William Beck wrote the following about Martin Luther's idea that the Greek word diatheke carries the meaning of the "gospel":

"For Luther the 'berith' of the Old Testament was, in essence, the Gospel-promise of Jesus Christ, while the 'diatheke' was the Gospel-promise completed in the Christ who was already born, sacrificed, risen, and who was coming again to give His people the ultimate inheritance: forgiveness of sins in heaven. This is why he writes: 'And so that little word 'testament' is a short summary of all God's wonders and grace, fulfilled in Christ' (LW:XXXV:84)" [emphasis added] (Beck, The New Testament: God's Word to the Nations, [Cleveland: Biblion Publishing, 1988], 533-534).

With all this in mind we can understand that the nation of Israel will receive blessings through the New Covenant and the blessings which believers receive now are through the instrumentality of the Last Will and Testament of Christ, the gospel of Christ:

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Ro.1:16)

Those in the Body of Christ do not receive their spiritual blessings from the New Covenant which is promised to the nation of Israel, as the Progressive Dispensationalists argue. Instead, all of those blessings are received through the Last Will and Testament of Christ, the gospel of Christ.

Next we will see that according to the Apostle Paul the Last Will and Testament of Christ is exactly the same thing as the gospel of Christ.