This is one of those books that I started last year, made it about half way, then left it so long I couldn’t remember the first half, so had to go back and re-read it, but now having finished it, I can tell you it has been well worth the time.
As far as I am concerned this is possibly the single best volume in order to understand the covenants, the relationship between law and grace and how the Sabbath relates to both.
It is very dense reading, so I would not recommend it as easy-reading, but the information and the reasoning are excellent.
What follows are my notes from each chapter of the book, some may not be useful to you as sometimes I simply note sections for later reference, but even by skimming my notes you should be able to obtain a reasonably clear idea of the main take-home arguments.
01 The core truth of the covenants
- A covenant is a relationship
- The roots of covenant are found in the relationship enjoyed by the trinity before time began. 1 John 4:8
- All expressions of covenant after that point are simply localised expressions of that root covenant to God’s people at specific times.
- This covenant bears the everlasting gospel to the world
- The covenant is totally changeless OT to NT
02 The Universality of the Covenants
- Recipients of the everlasting covenant were never intended to be exclusive beneficiaries. All who received the covenant promises (Abraham, Noah, David,etc) were intended to then share the good news (gospel) that the covenant is for them too.
03 How God defined the New covenant
- The new covenant has 4 identifying marks, they are
- Sanctification (I will put my law in their hearts jer 31:33, heb 8:10)
- Reconciliation (I will be their God and they will be my people jer 31:33, heb 8:10)
- Mission (no longer will a man teach his neighbour jer 33:34 heb 8:11)
- Justification (I will forgive their wickedness and remember their sin no more jer31:34 heb8:12)
- Using these 4 identifiers we have a tool to identify, analyse and compare covenant passages in scripture.
04 New Covenant DNA in the Old Covenant
- All four new covenant markers appear in the “old” Siniatic covenant
- The review of covenant markers #1 and #4 in this chapter are quite insightful
- God declares that he can even forgive “pesha” that is rebellion which there was no sanctuary service to make atonement for.
- The law is the vehicle in which God reveals himself as a forgiver.
05 How the Old and New Covenants Differ
- The old and new covenants bear the same core promises, but there are at least six ways they differ
- A different response was anticipated
- The new covenant was different from the old in the same way Jesus gave the new commandment to love, which was not a new commandment (spirit versus letter of the law)
- It was a new and more powerful revelation
- It made it new and real to us
- There were new ceremonies
- Jesus came in the middle
- The last is the most significant difference, Jesus life put the spotlight on here covenant revealing so much more beauty that it was a new revelation of the same covenant.
- Jesus personified the covenant
- Jesus’ death made the new covenant with angels too p.68 col1:20
- The ministry of the Holy Spirit was present before Christ p.69
- Because of the Christ event the Holy Spirits ministry was amplified making it seem “new”.
06 The Two Covenants in History and Experience
- The Bible treats the covenants in two ways, Historic and experiential.
- Historic: This relates to broad epoch’s of time, pre and post Christ
- Experiential: this refers to two ways of relating to God
- Old Covenant: Externalised legalism
- New Covenant: Internalised, faith based obedience
- Both experiences are totally possible in both old and new testament times.
- Adam lived in a New covenant experience, meaning it predates both the fall and the ‘old’ covenant. p83
07 Historical and Experiential Applications
- This chapter is an apologetic for commonly misunderstood covenant passages and is best used as a reference rather than contributing to the theological structure of the book.
08 Love and Law in the Covenants
- Both old and new testament cite love as the only appropriate motivation for law keeping.
- All commands are restrictive to the unconverted heart, thus creating legalism.
- Love is the basis of law and to the converted heart it brings total freedom.
09 Covenant Signs
- The Bible describes three covenant signs
- The Sabbath
- The Rainbow
- All have significant meaning in their associated historical epoch, but the Sabbath is the only sign that was relevant from creation through to re-creation.
- The positive case for the Sabbath as a covenant sign is delivered p171-181.
- Apologetic issues are dealt with from p183-203.
10 Covenant Rest
- Gods covenant offers spiritual rest to any who accept it by faith
- Individuals entered this rest (see Hebrews 11) but corporately, Israel did not.
- This rest is signified by the Sabbath, rightly observed.
11 Ten Timeless Truths
- Adam was created within God’s everlasting covenant of love with God’s law written in his heart.
- Adam sinned against God and His covenant, subjecting all humanity to a sinful nature and death.
- The sinful nature manifests itself is an old covenant experience toward God and his law.
- God’s everlasting covenant response to sin was the covenant of redemption.
- God’s covenant of redemption encompasses His four promises/provisions of the new covenant, the gospel.
- God has prepared every heart to receive the gospel and be reconciled to Him as a new covenant believer.
- Through His death and resurrection Jesus gained and extends forgiveness and justification to every sinner.
- The Holy Spirit is the divine agent in the conversion of sinners.
- The Holy Spirit is the divine agent in the sanctification of believers.
- Every believer has been called to share in God’s mission to seek the lost.
“The four divine promises/provision that constitute the new covenant DNA were expressions of God’s everlasting covenant of love which embraced His creation before the beginning of time an continue to do so into eternity. Applied to humankind, they represent God’s total commitment in grace to the eternal happiness and security of His children.”
Quotes I particularly enjoyed
- The life of the trinity is an unceasing offering and receiving of self-giving love. p5
- God’s covenants with humanity are all grace-based, Gospel bearing and mission directed.
- Realising the magnitude of Israel’s failure to fulfil its god-given mission to evangelise the nations with the everlasting gospel! Isaiah confessed on Israel’s behalf:”We have not brought salvation to the earth; we have not given birth to people of the world, Is26:18. P17
- It must not remain in granite but become ingrained. Viewed in that light, God’s timeless, universal invitation to salvation takes the form of a new covenant to each new generation. P.63
- The experiential old covenant represented an illegitimate and perverted use of God’s Law/covenant as a system of merit to earn God’s acceptance and establish ones righteousness before God – an application of God’s law/covenant He never intended. p81
- Just as a magnifying glass can focus the rays of the sun to a pinpoint that can start a fire, so the cross of Christ gathers the rays of God’s covenant love and focusses them to a pinpoint that can ignite faith and inscribe his law in the heart. p136
- Even the Commandment to love is enough to engender legalism in a heart that is controlled by the sinful nature. p 166
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