During the Passover meal on the night before His death, Jesus passed the cup and
said, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood" (Lk. 22:20,
cf. 1 Cor. 11:25).  What is the meaning and significance of the New Covenant for Christ's
disciples?


The Basis

The New Covenant amplifies and confirms the promise of blessing made by God to
Abraham in Genesis 12:1-3 (cf. Ezek. 16:60).  God said, "And I will bless you, . . . , and so
you shall be a blessing; .  . . . And in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed."
This unconditional promise of God for Abraham and, through His descendants to the world,
has its realization in the New Covenant.  


The Inauguration

The major Old Testament text on the New Covenant, Jeremiah 31:31-34, is expounded
in Hebrews 8:6-13.  There the writer of Hebrews declares that the New Covenant "has
been enacted" (perfect tense).  It is in force and was inaugurated at Christ's death (Heb.
9:16-18).  


The Provisions

The provisions of the New Covenant are elaborated in Ezekiel 36:25-28 (see also Jer.
31:31-34, Isa. 55:3, 61:8-9).  The death of Christ, inaugurating the New Covenant,
provides:

     1.   Spiritual cleansing and forgiveness of sin, "I will      sprinkle clean water on you"
(36:25, Jer. 31:34, 1 Jn.   1:9).

     2.   Spiritual rebirth  regenerating the soul, "I will give   you a new heart  and put a new
spirit within you" (36:26, Tit. 3:5).

     3.   The indwelling ministry of the Holy Spirit, "I will put  My Spirit within you" (36:27, Jn.
14:17).

     4.   Empowerment  for godly living, "I will . . . cause you   to walk in  My statutes, and
you will be careful to      observe my ordinances" (36:27, Jer. 31:33, Rom. 8:4-5).

     5.   A vital relationship  with the living God, "So you will  be My people, and I will be
your God" (36:28, Jer. 31:33-34, Jn. 1:12).


The Participants

The New Covenant is said to be made with "the house of Israel and with the house of
Judah" (Jer. 31:31).  On this basis some have suggested that the New Covenant is with
the Jewish people only.  Others have suggested that there are two New Covenants--one
for Israel and the other for the church.  Yet others have implied that the New Covenant is
for Israel, but the blessings of the Covenant may be appropriated by the church.  

The New Testament reveals that God has future for ethnic Israel. The specificity of the
promises in Gen. 12:1-3, Deut. 30:1-10, and 2 Sam. 7:12-16 imply this. Yet in the body of
Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile (Gal. 3:28).  Paul declares that believing Gentiles
are heirs to the promises God made with Abraham (Gal. 3:14,29, Rom. 4:16).  

Participation in the New Covenant by faith enables believing Gentiles to share in the
rich spiritual heritage of the people of Israel (Gen. 12:3).  Those who were once "separate
from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of
promise, having no hope and without God in the world" have been "brought near" by the
blood of Christ (Eph. 2:12-13).  As a result, believing  Gentiles "are no longer strangers
and aliens," but "fellow-citizens with the saints, and are of God's household" (Eph. 2:19).
Together, believing Jews and believing Gentiles are one people of God.


The Significance

The New Covenant is one major aspect of God's plan for re- creation.  This plan
includes new birth (Jn. 3:7), new creations (2 Cor. 5:17), a new heart (Ezek. 36:26), a new
spirit (Ezek. 36:26), a new song (Psa. 96:1, 98:1, Rev. 5:9, 14:3), a new commandment
(Jn. 13:34), the new man (Eph. 4:24, Col. 3:10), a new name (Rev. 2:17), new heaven and
a new earth (Rev. 21:1), and a new Jerusalem (Rev. 21:2).  Describing the eternal state,
the Lord declares, "Behold, I am making all things new" (Rev. 21:5).

So significant is the New Covenant in relationship to Christian life and ministry that the
Apostle Paul by the Spirit of God is pleased to call believers "ministers of a New Covenant"
(2 Cor. 3:6).  Unlike the Old Covenant with its passing glory (2 Cor. 3:7,11), the New
Covenant is characterized as "everlasting" (Isa. 55:3, Jer. 32:40, Ezek. 16:60, 37:26).  This
renewed covenant is based on God's unconditional promise and gracious provision in
Christ.  Unlike the Old Covenant under Moses, the New Covenant mediated by One
greater than Moses, will never be broken (Jer. 33:20-21).  
The New Covenant
J. Carl Laney