Saturday, December 20, 2014

Solus Christus: The Covenant of Consummation

For this week of Advent we’ve been looking that the covenants God made with man in the Old Testament, and we’ve seen how they’re related to one another since they’re all under the one covenant of grace that Jesus fulfilled for us in His life, death, resurrection, and ascension. Remember, think of the covenant of grace as an umbrella that covers all of Scripture from the fall of Adam to the end of Revelation. Under this umbrella, the individual covenants of the Old Testament build on each other as ever-increasing waves of revelation about the covenant of grace until they climax with Christ’s fulfillment of that overarching covenant. We’ve looked at the covenant of commencement made with Adam and Eve after the fall, the covenant of preservation made with Noah, the covenant of promise made with Abraham, the covenant of law made with Moses, and the covenant of kingdom made with David. We’ve seen that with each covenant God’s fellowship with man was increased and that each ultimately pointed to Jesus Himself. For today’s Advent meditation we’re going to look at the “new covenant” from Jer. 31:31-34:
31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD33 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”
Does this fit into the unity of the previous covenants? It does. In fact, it represents the promised fulfillment of the earlier covenants, which why it’s sometimes called the “covenant of consummation.” First and foremost, the covenantal refrain is clearly stated in v. 33, “I will be their God, and they shall be my people,” connecting it to the thread that weaves through all the previous covenants. Furthermore, in this passage God promises the covenant of consummation will be better than the covenant of law, but it still connects the two. This covenant will still have the law, but it will be written on the hearts of God’s people. Also, just a few verses later, in Jer. 32:39-41, Jeremiah prophesies that in the covenant of consummation God will “plant them in this land,” clearly alluding to the promises of offspring and land in the covenant of promise and connecting those two covenants. Finally, in a parallel prophecy found in Eze. 37:24-26, the covenant of consummation is overtly connected to the covenants of promiselaw, and kingdom, all in one statement:
24 My servant David shall be king over them, and they shall all have one shepherd [covenant of kingdom connection]. They shall walk in my rules and be careful to obey my statutes [covenant of law connection]. 25 They shall dwell in the land that I gave to my servant Jacob, where your fathers lived [covenant of promise connection]. They and their children and their children’s children shall dwell there forever [covenant of promise connection], and David my servant shall be their prince forever [covenant of kingdom connection]. 26 I will make a covenant of peace with them. It shall be an everlasting covenant with them [covenant of consummation establishment]...
Here Ezekiel shows that in the covenant of consummation all the promises of the God in the previous covenants find their fulfillment. So, the covenant of consummation doesn’t appear on the scene as something previously unknown to the people of God, but rather represents for them “the collation of all the old covenant promises in terms of a future expectation.” That future expectation is Jesus, and Jesus Himself claimed to fulfill this covenant when He instituted the Lord’s Supper:
19 And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.” 20 And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, “This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.” (Lk. 22:19-20)
It’s through the new covenant—the covenant of consummation—that believers have even greater fellowship with God than the Old Testaments saints could’ve ever imagined. With the incarnation of Christ (what we celebrate at Christmas), John tells us in his gospel that God became flesh and dwelt—literally “tabernacled” (alluding to the Old Testament Tabernacle)—among man (cf. Jn. 1:14). With Christ the very presence of God walked, dwelt, “tabernacled” among men. Yet, the greater fellowship of the covenant of consummation didn’t reach its zenith there. Christ purchased salvation for His people and through their union with Him believers have received the Spirit of adoption as sons and daughters so that they might be able to cry out to God, “Abba! Father!” Such an intimacy and fellowship with God (calling Him the Hebrew equivalent of “daddy”) would never have been imagined in the Old Testament. Yet, the covenantal trajectory of ever-increasing fellowship and presence has another level still to come. The final stage of intimacy and fellowship in the covenant of consummation has yet to come. Soon Jesus will return again (in His second advent) to finalize the presence and fellowship that He inaugurated in His first advent. Re. 21:1-3 describes what God’s fellowship with His people will be like at that time:
1 Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away, and the sea was no more. 2 And I saw the holy city, new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. 3 And I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, “Behold, the dwelling place of God is with man. He will dwell with them, and they will be his people, and God himself will be with them as their God.”
God’s covenantal refrain finds is pinnacle in the covenant of consummation. In the present age, believers are adopted as sons and daughters of God through their union with Christ and can call God “Abba.” In the new heavens and the new earth, the ever-increasing trajectory of fellowship seen in all the previous covenants will climax when God recreates all of creation and grants uninhibited, unmediated fellowship with “God Himself.” He will walk and talk with His people just like He did with Adam before the fall.

This is what we celebrate at Christmas, and it’s also that to which we look forward and for which we pray, for we know that the best is yet to come. When one considers God’s work of redemption throughout the ages in His covenants, what He has already done in Christ (in the first advent), and what He will soon do in Christ (in the second advent), the only proper response is praise. We should say like Paul in Ro. 11:33-36:
33 Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
34 “For who has known the mind of the Lord,
    or who has been his counselor?”
35 “Or who has given a gift to him
    that he might be repaid?”
36 For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
On this day of Advent think about “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God” in His work of redemption that He began with His promise to Adam and was fulfilled in Christ. All these covenants and God’s redemptive work in them provide the foundation for all the hope we have in Christ and celebrate at Christmas. When we observe Advent, whether we consciously think about it or not, all these covenants have brought us to where we are in Christ today. Praise Him for His glorious work that brought redemption in Christ. Ask Him to magnify His glory in your heart so that you can’t help but break out into spontaneous praise of “the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God.”

By His Grace,

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