Archive

Posts Tagged ‘Bible Study’

Responding Again To The Ten Lost Tribes Myth

December 14, 2012 6 comments

A recent VeritasDomain post, a devotional exhortation to Christians including teachers, emphasizes the importance of studying and being careful to “investigate everything carefully,”  with the example of the gospel of Luke and Luke’s introduction.

 the Christian ought to study things with care and sharpness if we want to emulate Luke. Can you say with a clear conscience, that your studies have reasonably “investigated everything carefully”? This glorifies God when we do this, knowing that He’s a God of truth. … the Christian ought to present the things he studied with equal care and sharpness (like the way he ought to study)”

The same morning I also had brief conversation with a pastor-teacher on a topic that includes one of the interesting details addressed in Luke’s infancy narrative:  Anna of the tribe of Asher.   When this individual (not for the first time) stated in a group (as though it were a fact),  that the people now living in Israel are only from the two tribes of Judah, and God has yet to gather the (lost) ten tribes, I mentioned a few things regarding this error, as something that has been addressed by many including David Baron, John MacArthur and others, and specifically linked John MacArthur’s sermon on that topic in Luke 2.

The teacher in question dismissed the whole topic as a “long-standing debate” he was familiar with but unconvinced of, even saying that John MacArthur was “quite speculative,” and that he doesn’t support Anglo-Israelism (so as to also discredit David Baron’s detailed work)–and then put forth a few scriptural “proofs” for his position, including his statement that the presence of people migrating from the Northern tribes to the south is something different from gathering all 12 tribes and that God has actually promised to regather the specific people scattered in the Assyrian captivity, thus only those people constitute the ten tribes.

(For additional reference see this previous post, a review of David Barron’s classic work.)

To begin with, the basic issues are the same regardless of whether someone supports the particular Anglo-Israelism addressed by David Baron.  As Baron even pointed out, the idea first began among Muslim Arabs by the 1oth century.  As anyone would know who has read it, Baron’s study covered the whole idea, regardless of the particular form.

Now to the specific scriptural “proofs”:

And it’s not true that the Bible mixes and matches the terms Jew and Israel. Jesus “came to His own” — the Jews who rejected Him. In John 11:54 we read that Jesus no longer walked among the Jews.  But when He sent His apostles out, He told them:  “Do not go in the way of the Gentiles, and do not enter any city of the Samaritans; but rather go to the lost sheep of the house of Israel. And as you go, preach, saying, ‘The kingdom of heaven is at hand.’” (Matt. 10:5-6)

Regarding John 11:54:  Every reasonable individual who reads this passage understands the context, which is plain enough: “the Jews” referred to the leaders of the Jews.  Furthermore, during and after this time Jesus did walk among many non-leaders of that same group of people, who were following Him.  By this reasoning, the Jewish leaders were true Jews of the tribe of Judah and Benjamin, and the non-leaders were from the other ten tribes. What does this have to do with asserting that the Jews are a different tribal group restricted to only Judah and Benjamin?

Then Matthew 10:5-6:  This claim goes way back within the Lost Tribes group, a verse that David Baron addressed (showing that these ideas are not unique to the Anglo-Israel view).

(a) In Matthew x. we have the record of the choice, and of the first commission given to the apostles. “These twelve,” we read, “Jesus sent forth, and commanded them, saying, Go not into the way of the Gentiles, and into any city of the Samaritans enter ye not; but go rather to the lost sheep of the house of Israel.” Of course, the merest child knows that this journey of the twelve did not extend beyond the limits of Palestine, but the “Jews” dwelling in it are regarded as the house of Israel, although many members of that “house” were also scattered in other lands.

Citation of Ezekiel 36:22-28:  Therefore say to the house of Israel  [Northern Tribes, in distinction from the House of Judah]…”

Response:  This assumes a particular meaning of “house of Israel” as only meaning the specific Northern Tribes population that was scattered in the Assyrian captivity.  But what in this text specifically relates to such an identification in the first place?

Further, as brought out by many expositors, we are to understand from actual history that the deportation to Assyria involved the leaders, the wealthy, the nobility – but not every single individual that lived in the north, and indeed not even the majority of the population.  Such was indeed standard practice amongst conquering nations.  Judgment was upon the nation itself, such that the deportation removed the northern tribes’ political power and influence as a nation; it did not remove even the majority of the people, as evidenced by the later statements in 2 Chronicles of the large population still remaining in that geographical area after the Assyrian exile.

But as to the history and identification of Assyria and Babylon, David Baron further notes:

Jerusalem was finally taken in B.C. 588, by Nebuchadnezzar—just 133 years after the capture of Samaria by the Assyrians. Meanwhile the Babylonian Empire succeeded the Assyrian. But although dynasties had changed, and Babylon, which had sometimes, even under the Assyrian régime, been one of the capitals of the Empire, now took the place of Nineveh, the region over which Nebuchadnezzar now bore rule, was the very same over which Shalmaneser and Sargon reigned before him, only somewhat extended.

Now Babylon stands not only for the city, but also for the whole land, in which the territories of the Assyrian Empire, and the colonies of exiles from the northern kingdom of “Israel” were included. Thus, for instance, we find Ezekiel, who was one of the 10,000 exiles carried off by Nebuchadnezzar with Jehoiachin, by the river Chebar in the district of Gozan—one of the very parts where the exiles of the Ten Tribes were settled by the Assyrians more than a century previously. …

This proclamation, which was in reference to all the people “of the Lord God of heaven,” was issued in the year B.C. 536, two years after the conquest of Babylon by Cyrus, and was, we are told, promulgated “throughout all his kingdom,” which was the same as that over which Nebuchadnezzar and his successors reigned before him, only again somewhat extended, even as the kingdom of Babylon was identical with that of Assyria, as already pointed out. Indeed, Cyrus and Darius I are called indifferently by the sacred historians by the title of “King of Persia” (Ezra iv. 5), “King of Babylon” (Ezra v. 13), and “King of Assyria” (Ezra vi. 22).

Another important point brought out in the prophets, though, and missed by the Lost Tribes advocates, is that God’s purpose in the schism—as a punishment on the House of David—ended with the Babylonian captivity.  As Baron points out, specifically addressing Ezekiel’s prophecies in the section including Ezekiel 36:

The point, however, to be noticed in this and other prophecies is the clear announcement which they contained that the purpose of God in the schism—as a punishment on the House of David—was now at an end, and that henceforth there was but one common hope and one destiny for the whole Israel of the Twelve Tribes—whether they previously belonged to the northern kingdom of the Ten Tribes, or to the southern kingdom of the Two Tribes—and that this common hope and destiny was centred in Him Who is the Lion of the Tribe of Judah, and the rightful Heir and descendant of David. In like manner Jeremiah, in his great prophecy of the restoration and future blessing (chaps. 30-31), links the destinies of “Judah” and “Israel,” or Israel and Judah together; and speaks of one common experience from that time on for the whole people.

Daniel’s prophecy also shows this, that the purpose of God in the schism was now over, in that Daniel includes “not only the men of Judah and inhabitants of Jerusalem in his intercessory prayer, but ‘all Israel that are near, or far off, from all the countries whither Thou hast driven them.’

The Good Shepherd: Symbolic Picture of the Man Born Blind in John 9

December 7, 2012 1 comment

In listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s Gospel of John series, I have now come to the great 10th chapter, the discourses about Jesus as the Shepherd over the Sheep.  Previous teaching that I’ve heard on this subject focused on a few ideas, such as the reference to shepherds in Ezekiel’s prophecy, or comments about the major features of sheep and how we are like sheep.

As always, S. Lewis Johnson went further, with many interesting observations.  Throughout this chapter we see a shepherd who knows us intimately, who knows everything about us, and yet is not ashamed to be our shepherd.  In fact, this great Shepherd delights in being our Shepherd.

Also, the following point, which I had never noticed before: John 10 is connected with the event in John chapter 9, the healing of the blind man.  The words at the beginning of chapter 10 (“Truly, truly” in the ESV) in John’s gospel never occur at the beginning of a new discourse, never introduce any new material.  Rather, the first verses in John 10 give a symbolic picture of John 9.  From this message in the John series:

 Now, in chapter 9 we have the blind man who is healed.  He was blind from his birth.  He’s remarkably healed.  Then we have controversy between the blind man and the Pharisees.  And finally the blind man is thrown out of the synagogue.  But Jesus finds him and unveils himself to him fully, and it is climaxed by his confession, “Lord, I believe,” and he worshipped him.  So when we read John 10 we are to think of that particular action.  For example, in John chapter 10 we read of false shepherd in verse 1.  “Verily, verily, I say unto you, He that entereth not by the door into the sheepfold, but climbeth up some other way, the same is a thief and a robber.”  In verse 5 we read, “And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him.”

Now these strangers and robbers that he refers to in this symbolic picture, these are references to the cruel actions of the Jews in chapter 9 towards the blind man.  In John 9: 22 we read, ” These words spake his parents, because they feared the Jews: for the Jews had agreed already, that if any man did confess that he was Christ, he should be put out of the synagogue.”  These are men who seek to come in some other way, so we are think then when we read of the thieves and robbers, of the Jewish men who sought to keep the blind man from coming to Jesus Christ.

In John chapter 9 we notice the remarkable response of the blind man, and that of course is designed to represent the response of the sheep, referred in chapter 10 and verse 3 and 4.  “To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out.  And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice.”  So the response of the sheep is like the response of the blind man in John chapter 9.  And the care of the shepherd for the sheep, referred to in chapter 10, is like the care of the Lord Jesus for the blind man for when he was thrown out of the synagogue, according to John 9:34 we immediately read, “Jesus heard that they had cast him out; and when he had found him, he said unto him, Dost thou believe on the Son of Man?” and brought him to faith in himself.  So what we have then in chapter 10 is an allegorical or symbolic picture of the event of chapter 9 with further suggestions as to the meaning of what had happened.

The Seven-Fold Witness to Christ

September 24, 2012 3 comments

Continuing through S. Lewis Johnson’s study through the gospel of John, we find seven witnesses to the truth of Christ and who He is.  The first five of these are described in John 5, followed by two in John 15.  From SLJ’s message in John 5:
1.  The witness of the Son himself.   (John 5:31-32)
2.  John the Baptist  (John 5:33-35):  a burning and shining lamp, which the people enjoyed for a time.
3.  The mighty works, the miracles He did  (John 5:36)
4.  The witness of the Father.  (John 5:37-38)
5.  The witness of the Scriptures  (John 5:39-40):   “You search the Scriptures for in them ye think ye have eternal life and they are they which testify of me, and ye will not come to me that ye might have life.”
6.  Witness of the Holy Spirit  (John 15:26)
7.  Witness of Believers  (John 15:27)

Concerning the 5th witness:  how do we search the scriptures? And how do they testify of Christ?  Here S. Lewis Johnson observed:

… there are two ways to search the Scriptures.  We may the search the Scriptures as some people do, not only the Jews but some of the Protestant interpreters today.  How did the Jews search the Scriptures?  Did they search the Scriptures to find Jesus Christ in them?  No.  They didn’t search to find Jesus Christ in them.  They searched the Scriptures somewhat like this.  They numbered all of the verses in the Old Testament.  They counted the words and the Old Testament.  They counted the letters of every book in the Old Testament.  They calculated the middle word in the book.  They calculated the middle letter of each book.  They enumerated verses which contained all of the letters of the alphabet or a certain number of them, and all other kinds of things like that.  An individual might spend his whole time studying the Scriptures in that way and never really come to the Lord Jesus Christ.  There are many Protestant interpreters in our theological institutions today who search the Bible in that way.  They speak about various types of hypothesis concerning the makeup of the Scriptures, some of which might be of some help to us in interpretation but devoting all of their time to the scholarly theories concerning the origin of the Scriptures and the character of the Scriptures.  The whole point of the Scriptures, the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ, is missed.

There is, of course, no life in the Scriptures themselves.  But if we follow where they lead us they will bring us to Him so that we find life not in the Scriptures but in Him through them.  That is the purpose of the word of God, to bring us to the one of whom they speak, and those Scriptures are the inspired word of God, designed to lead us unerringly to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  But it’s possible to search the Scriptures in another way.  “You search the Scriptures because in the you think you have eternal life but they are they which testify of me.”  If in the reading of the Bible and in the study of the Bible you should imagine things about Jesus Christ which are not really true of Him, then ultimately what you have is what Calvin called a shadowy ghost in the place of Jesus Christ.  It is possible for us to construct ideas about our Lord that our not found in the Bible at all.  Those have no reality whatsoever.  Calvin is absolutely right.  You have then only a shadowy ghost.

Why they rejected Jesus:  specifically the Jews in John 5, but also with application to all unbelievers:

  • the moral cause (John 5:41-44):  They sought the praise of men rather than the praise of God.  That always leads to deception when we seek the praise of men.  There are Christians like that.  There are people who teach in theological seminaries who are more interested in the praise of other teachers in theological seminaries and other individuals than they are in the praise of God it would seem.

Think of the wretchedness and the absolute demonism of preferring false Christs to Christ.  But that’s what he says, “I am come in my Father’s name and ye received me not.  If another shall come in his own name him ye will receive.”  Ultimately that’s a reference to the coming of the antichrist who will come as the Christ and we who have not received Him shall receive him (the antiChrist).

We as believers can have confidence in the rational ground of our faith, as expressed in these seven testimonies to the living Christ.

The Four Gospels: Focus and Emblem

July 9, 2012 4 comments

From this introductory message to the gospel of John series, a summary of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

It’s well known that each of the four gospels has a particular emphasis, what the writer wished to bring out concerning Christ and His earthly ministry.  Matthew’s gospel presents the King of the Jews. Mark brings the servant of Jehovah. Luke emphasizes the service and sacrifice of Christ. John’s gospel shares with us the Divine Son.  The differences even in the introduction make sense given this guideline.  Matthew presents the King’s genealogy, and Luke presents the genealogy of the Son of Man (all the way back to Adam).  Mark is telling about a servant, and who cares about a servant’s genealogy?  Likewise, John’s gospel emphasizes the Divine nature, the eternal self-existent Son.  God has no genealogy.

Something new I’ve learned:  in the early church, each gospel was represented by a particular symbol, or emblem.  These symbols relate the gospels to the four living creatures described in Ezekiel 1:10 and Revelation 4:7.

As for the likeness of their faces, they four had the face of a man, and the face of a lion, on the right side: and they four had the face of an ox on the left side; they four also had the face of an eagle.

  • Matthew:  The Lion — the Lion of the Tribe of Judah
  • Mark:  Man; the adverb “immediately,” the servant active in carrying out His Father’s will
  • Luke:  The ox, the animal of service and sacrifice
  • John: The Eagle, which can look straight into the rays of the sun.

Mark’s gospel actually uses the term “Son of God” more frequently than John, so some overlap occurs.  But John’s gospel is preeminent in showing our Lord in His divine nature and divine personality.  The early church called John “The Theologian.”

From internet googling, I found one site, Catholic Resources, that lists the specific emblems assigned, by four early Christian authors, to each of the four gospels.  As shown, and noted in S. Lewis Johnson’s introductory message, some variation did exist in the early Church concerning the precise emblem identities.  The ox and the eagle were most consistently identified as Luke and John, but the Mark and Matthew emblems varied more.

Early
Christian Author
Human/Angel Lion Ox Eagle
Irenaeus of Lyons Matthew John Luke Mark
Augustine of Hippo Mark Matthew Luke John
Pseudo-Athanasius Matthew Luke Mark John
Jerome Matthew Mark Luke John

Doctrine and the Spirit

May 10, 2012 2 comments

This week has seen some excellent blog articles on the ever-important topic of doctrine and the Holy Spirit:

Phil Johnson at Pyromaniacs:  “What is Written”

The Cripplegate:  Driscoll vs. Calvin, Doctrine vs. the Spirit

Then, from listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s Romans series (in Romans 10) recently, the following great words:

Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.  …  Mr. Moody said, “I prayed for faith and thought that some day faith would come down and strike me like lightning.  But faith did not seem to come.  One day I read in the tenth chapter of Romans, ‘Now faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God.’  I had closed my Bible, and prayed for faith.  I now opened my Bible and began to study the word of God, and faith has been growing ever since.”

If you want to know how to have faith, begin and grow, it’s through Scripture.  The reason the apostles had faith was because they had contact with Jesus Christ.  The only way in which you can have contact with Jesus Christ is through the Scripture.  By the Scriptures you may be with our Lord Jesus Christ.  You may be with Him when He preaches the word.  You may be with in that boat on the Sea of Galilee when the storm comes.  You may be with Him in the synagogue when He casts out the money changers.  You may be with Him as he makes his way toward Calvary.  You may even be with Him around the cross of Calvary, and Hear him cry out, “My God, My God, why hast Thou forsaken me?”  You may be with Him in his resurrection.  You may hear the lessons that He taught the apostles.  You may really be there by the Holy Spirit.  You see, faith comes through contact with Jesus Christ in the word of God.  That’s the only place that you can find faith, but we go looking for every other place than that place.

The Mature Christian Worldview And Its Fruit

March 1, 2012 Leave a comment

I’ve enjoyed reading Dan Phillips’ books (see this post).  From those books and other recent events, the following are just some observations about the Christian life and our worldview.

From The World-Tilting Gospel:  yes, studying God’s word can (and often does) lead to pride and looking down on others who haven’t studied it.  Dan admitted it happened to him; it happened to me as well.  However, NOT studying God’s word will also bring pride.  Pride can feed on anything, and even on absolutely nothing, such as the deliberately-empty “waiting on God” attitude.

From God’s Wisdom in Proverbs: a very good point about how we choose our friends and even (especially) marriage partners: we should choose our friends not only from those who are Christians, but from those who are growing and maturing Christians.  Indeed the difference is so important, and how I wish these books had been available in my early Christian days 20 years ago (and that I had read them then).  It is not enough to be satisfied with friends who are Christian, yet who in their daily lives are focused on this world’s cares instead of growing in their knowledge and understanding.

It really is true, that where our treasure is, there our heart will be as well (Matt. 6:21, Luke 12:34).  I think of specific individuals (preachers) and their attitude toward God’s word – and the fruit of such an attitude.  Take for instance the local preacher who continually shows only a low view of scripture and superficial understanding of God’s word, combined with man’s views of scripture (such as progressive creation, amillennialism, preterism).  Like with so many who refuse to believe, the mind is instead focused on pointing out how the words in the Bible really don’t mean what they say they mean, but instead “it really means this.”  What are the fruits of this type of mindset?  He is also very focused on preserving and hanging on to  this life, with casual comments about how our lives are so uncertain, how short our lives are, we never know when it will end; even remarks about how we all say we want to go to heaven, just not right now.

Certainly such a view has some truth — provided that it is balanced with the Christian worldview.  After making such comments about preserving this life, why not continue the application?  When good preachers who highly treasure God’s word and spend their time studying it rather than “reinterpreting it” point out the uncertainty of life, they don’t stop there —  but direct such comments specifically to the unsaved in the audience, imploring them to come to Christ before it’s too late.

Contrast the above attitude with that of individuals with a high view of scripture, who show great depth of understanding, who believe and love the doctrines in God’s word.  The focus is on God’s word and conforming the mind to what God says, rather than trying to conform scripture to man’s understanding.

Here I observe the following fruit from such preachers:  humor and illustrations that focus on our eternal existence.  S. Lewis Johnson would joke about how he didn’t really understand what a certain person said about the term “heavy” – because he hadn’t received any of George Foreman’s blows, and he didn’t want to do that until he had his resurrection body (when he wouldn’t particularly mind). He often talked about what we’ll do when we get to heaven, about meeting with and having conversations with characters from the Bible.  Then he would relate that to the importance of studying God’s word, and why we should even study the minor characters: so that when you meet up with Obadiah you’ll know who he is and know what to talk about him with.

Instead of speculating and reasoning from man’s view to come up with ideas not in the text (such as a preterist view that the “shaking” mentioned in Hebrews 12:26 actually happened at the cross followed by judgment in 70 A.D.), SLJ would speculate about heavenly things, wondering if the saints in heaven are aware of us and what we’re doing.

List of Good Expository Book Sermon Series

February 1, 2012 1 comment

Almost two years ago I posted a list of Bible Books and Sermon Series.  Now it’s time to update the list with a few more names and sermon series.

Since the last post I have listened to all of S. Lewis Johnson’s Old Testament book series (except for his second series in 1984 on Zechariah), and a few more of his New Testament series. Along the way I’ve enjoyed a few other books and series as well, such as Dan Duncan’s church history, and Librivox’s audio recording of “Pilgrim’s Progress.”  Ahead, after finishing the John Bunyan Conference lectures, I hope to go through SLJ’s “Romans” series.

The updated list includes a few additional recent series from Believers Chapel, as well as teachings from two additional church sites:  Twin City Fellowship (pastors Bob DeWaay and Eric Douma), and Richard Mayhue’s sermon series available at his website.

Twin City Fellowship and Richard Mayhue’s material fill in some of the NT book gaps, such as coverage of 1 and 2 Thessalonians and 1 Peter, books not taught by SLJ.  The Twin City Fellowship series are all fairly recent ones, and listed together on a page titled “Bible Studies.”  Richard Mayhue is more known for the several books he has published in recent years, and his work on the staff of The Masters Seminary since 1989.  His available online sermons come from earlier preaching years at Grace Brethren Church of Long Beach, California (1984 to 1989).  After listening to a sampling of these, including introductory messages for 1 Thessalonians, I think I prefer Bob DeWaay’s teaching: fewer overall messages than Mayhue’s, but more in-depth “Bible Study” with PowerPoint presentations to accompany the teachings and the overall study outlines.

Here is the updated list.

Hebrews 11: The Characteristics of Faith

December 3, 2011 Leave a comment

Listening to S. Lewis Johnson’s teachings, I am continually impressed by the richness and depth of good expository teaching.  Consider the first verses of Hebrews 11, a familiar chapter with familiar verses about faith.  SLJ neatly summarizes some interesting points.

The chapter includes several contrasts, showing a faith that operates in several directions:

  • faith in God, against the world

verse 7:  Noah; verse 38: Of whom the world was not worthy

  • faith in the invisible, against the visible:  the conviction of things that we do not see
  • faith in the future, against the present

verse 10, Abraham waiting for the city which has foundations
verse 13, these all died in faith, not having received the promises
verse 20, “concerning things to come”

So these are the characteristic things of faith.  It has to do with belief in the certainty of the divine future.  The verdict of history is, of course, that this is true.  That those who do trust in the Lord God, ultimately, win out.

Verse 1 includes the word “assurance” (ESV), also translated “substance” (KJV).  Interesting to note, here, is that the Greek term is one that could mean “substance” but can also mean “assurance.”  Those words convey different ideas:  substance is in reference to objective realities, that which we look toward.  Assurance is subjective, the inward sense.  So is faith “that which gives us an inward sense of assurance, for the fulfillment of the promises?  Or, is faith itself the substance of the things hoped for?”  As S. Lewis Johnson notes, some of the distinction here may be the quibbling of theologians, because both are true:  faith involves objective reality, the “substance,” as well as our own subjective assurance.

Horner Bible Reading: The Benefits of Genre-Style Reading

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

As I’ve mentioned before, I appreciate the genre Bible reading format (as with the Horner Bible Reading System) and its benefits. Some of the day’s readings will often relate to what I’m listening to in sermons, or a devotional text.  Recently, for instance, the “Days of Praise” devotional considered the topic of rest for God’s people, as contrasted with the devil. The main text was Job 1:7, about Satan going about and never resting.  The devotional cited two texts, which I read shortly afterwards, in Matthew 11 and 1 Peter 5, providing a contrast between “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest,” and the warning in 1 Peter 5 about our enemy prowling about (the same restlessness as in Job 1:7) as a roaring lion.

Then, the endings to each of Isaiah’s 9-chapter sets comes to mind, related to this and what I’ve been listening to, S. Lewis Johnson’s “Messianic Prophecies in Isaiah”.  Isaiah 40 through 66 consists of three sets of nine chapters, different segments concerning the Suffering Servant.  The first two sections end with the identical phrase, “There is no peace, says my God, for the wicked.” (Isaiah 48:22, 57:21). The third one, the last verse in Isaiah 66, contains the same idea.  Just as the devil prowls around, characterized by restless activity, so too the ungodly do not have rest or peace.

Other recent reading parallels include a day the readings included the theme of both Israel’s rejections as well as good times:  the Song of Moses in Deuteronomy 33, as a contrast with the great time of revival in Hezekiah’s day (2 Chron. 29-30), then judgment in Amos 6-7.  That day’s “Days of Praise” also related to some of the readings:  James 2-3 and Amos 6-7, about the evil rich.

Hebrews 8 and the New Covenant

November 10, 2011 Leave a comment

From S. Lewis Johnson’s Hebrews series, a look at Hebrews 8 and the New Covenant.  Here, the text has four questions we must answer.

1.  What is this “better covenant?”
It is the New Covenant, which is an expansion of the Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.  The Bible has many covenants, including individual covenants (such as the one between David and Jonathan), as well as the great unconditional, unilateral covenants, that God initiated:  the Abrahamic covenant, and the Davidic covenant which expands on that.  The New Covenant is given in the Old Testament (Jeremiah 31, also in Ezekiel), the last of Israel’s covenants, the one that provides the redemptive basis for the previous Abrahamic and Davidic covenants.

2.  “What are the better promises?” Hebrews 8:8-12.
The text answers it, in verses 8 through 12, including the words “‘I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts.’”  The New Covenant provides the forgiveness of sins and Divine Enablement.  It could also be described as, “A new inner control center in the individuals who are the inheritors of this covenant.”

3.  “With whom was the New Covenant made?”
The Old Testament says that covenant was made with Israel and with Judah.  Again in verse 10, “with the house of Israel.”  The New Covenant was made with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

We do not err to the side of amillennialists who blur distinctions and say that Israel and the Church are one.  Paul does say in Romans 9 that “not all Israel” is Israel — thus narrowing the field to only those Israelites who believe.  But Paul is not talking about Gentiles at all in that text, and he is not widening the scope to include Genties among that group of “For they are not all Israel, which are of Israel.”

On the other hand, we do not say, as some earlier dispensationalists, that the Church is completely separate from Jeremiah’s New Covenant, so that we Gentiles have our own New Covenant.  Scripture speaks of only one New Covenant, that one in Jeremiah 31, made with Israel and Judah.  Thus comes the fourth question.

4.  How then is the Church of Jesus Christ, or believing Gentiles, related to the New Covenant?
Gentiles are related to it, through the provision in the Abrahamic covenant, that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him.  Romans 11 also describes it in the figure of the olive tree which we are grafted into.

A great summary from S. Lewis Johnson:  if you will look at the fundamental Abrahamic Covenant and the Davidic Covenant and the New Covenant together, as a covenantal program, you will know, you will surely know that in the Abrahamic Covenant provision was made for Gentile believers.