Israel's New Covenant and the Body of Christ

by Jerry Shugart

Are the Promises of the New Covenant Now in Effect?

In his book The Case For Progressive Dispensationalism Robert Saucy says that "the Old Testament prophecies, the promise of salvation under the new covenant, and the promises to Abraham and David all contained provisions for the blessing of the nations along with Israel. This blessing of the nations was ascribed to the messianic era. This era has arrived, according to the New Testament, and thus the promises of the new covenant have begun to take effect and are available to all who will receive the Messiah" [emphasis added] (Saucy, The Case For Progressive Dispensationalism, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1993], 138).

According to Saucy the OT prophecies of the new covenant contain provisions for the blessing of the Gentiles and the promises found in the new covenant have begun to take effect. With that in mind let us look at those OT prophecies:

"Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, even the sure mercies of David...Behold, thou shalt call a nation that thou knowest not, and nations that knew not thee shall run unto thee because of the LORD thy God, and for the Holy One of Israel; for he hath glorified thee" (Isa.55:3,5).

"For I the LORD love judgment, I hate robbery for burnt offering; and I will direct their work in truth, and I will make an everlasting covenant with them. And their seed shall be known among the Gentiles, and their offspring among the people: all that see them shall acknowledge them, that they are the seed which the LORD hath blessed" (Isa.61:8-9).

First of all, in his book on page 112 Saucy says that the words "everlasting covenant" are referring to the "new covenant." And these OT prophecies reveal that the Gentiles will receive blessings through the agency of Israel at a time when the LORD will glorify and bless that nation. The following prophecy foretells of the time when the new covenant will be in force and the nation of Israel will be a blessing to the world and it will be the Jews who will bring the world unto the knowledge of Christ:

""And I will bring them (Israel), and they shall dwell in the midst of Jerusalem: and they shall be my people, and I will be their God, in truth and in righteousness...And it shall come to pass, that as ye were a curse among the heathen, O house of Judah, and house of Israel; so will I save you, and ye shall be a blessing...In those days it shall come to pass, that ten men shall take hold out of all languages of the nations, even shall take hold of the skirt of him that is a Jew, saying, We will go with you: for we have heard that God is with you" (Zech.8:8,13,23).

These prophecies regarding Gentile salvation are not now being fulfilled so no one in the Body of Christ has received any spiritual blessings as a result of the new covenant. The Apostle Paul says that salvation has come to those in the Church as a result of the fall of Israel:

"I say then, Have they stumbled that they should fall? God forbid: but rather through their fall salvation is come unto the Gentiles, for to provoke them to jealousy. Now if the fall of them be the riches of the world, and the diminishing of them the riches of the Gentiles; how much more their fulness?" (Ro.11:11-12).

From Paul's words here it is plain that the spiritual blessings enjoyed by those in the Body of Christ have nothing whatsoever to do with Israel or the new covenant promised to that nation. Therefore, Saucy is in error when he writes that "according to the Scriptures, the salvation of God that flows from the Cross is given to all mankind through the new covenant" (Ibid., 111).

The Greek Word Diatheke

In the NT passages which refer to the covenant promised to Israel the Greek word translated "covenant" is diatheke. According to Vine the word "primarily signifies 'a dispostion of property by will or otherwise'" [emphasis mine] (Vine's Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words)

J. H. Moulton and G. Milligan say that Greek word "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).

For more information concerning the meaning of the Greek word diatheke please go to Appendix #1 on page 12.

We will now look at verses which speak of the Last Will and Testament of Christ, the diatheke which is the instrument by which those in the Body of Christ receive their spiritual blessings. Then we will see that according to Paul the Last Will and Testament of Christ is the gospel of Christ. And the Scriptures provide abundant evidence that the instrument whereby believers receive spiritual blessings is the gospel of Christ and not the new covenant promised to Israel, as the Progressive Dispensationalists teach.