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The Meaning of Covenant

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul
The Truth Network Radio
May 10, 2022 12:01 am

The Meaning of Covenant

Renewing Your Mind / R.C. Sproul

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May 10, 2022 12:01 am

The history of redemption is shaped by the covenants that God has made. But what is a covenant? Today, R.C. Sproul delves into the biblical meaning of this important term and what it reveals about the Lord's faithfulness to His promises.

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When God makes a promise he fulfills it really does show in real time and space.

When Paul announces the gospel in his letters or the preachings in the book of acts they talk about how Jesus was born according to the Scripture. In the fullness of time that God had prepared that throughout all of history.

Everything in Old Testament history before the birth of Christ was moving towards that moment God makes promises throughout the covenant with Abraham. For example, establishes the nation of Israel. His covenant with Moses brings about the law and the new covenant through Jesus bring salvation to all who believe God's fulfillment of covenants is critical to the message of both the old and new Testaments glad you joined us today for Renewing Your Mind as we continue Dr. RC Sproul series. The promise keeper the God of the company's as we continue now with our study of the biblical covenants. Our first session I mentioned to you that the basic role of the covenant is that it is the structure of God's revelation in history, and I've used this term more than once. The history of redemption or redemptive history.

Because history is the context in which God works out his plan of redemption and that idea became very controversial in the middle of the 20th century, again, with higher critical scholars chiefly in Germany. People like Rudolph Bultmann who made a distinction between what he called houseguest shift the or salvation history and history and what he meant by how specific. There was something that took place not on the horizontal plane of world history but something that took place above history and sort of some supra-temporal realm. Bultmann you know, by embracing the next essential form of philosophy believe that salvation is not something that happens on this level but it happens vertically or what he said punk Tillie early Zen correct one open immediately and directly from above. Sort of a mystical thing when a person has a crisis experience of faith. Now, at the same time. He said that the Bible is filled with both mythology and real history. But in order for the Bible to have any meaning for us today. It must be demythologized to tear off the husk that holds that Col. of historical truth and so anything that smacked of the supernatural, like the Virgin birth, the miracles of Jesus the resurrection that sort of thing belongs to the realm of myth, not the realm of history, but that's okay. See, because the whole point of that kind of existential thinking and theology that drove the German theologians in the 20th century was that salvation doesn't have to be rooted and grounded in history for it to be real. You can still have the Christ event which is kind of an next essential moment that people have a moment of crisis, and so on. But that is so far removed from the biblical concept of redemption. Oscar Kumon Swiss theologian and New Testament scholar wrote a trilogy of books in the middle of the 20th century concern with this matter of redemptive history is first book was called Christ in time Krista Saunders liked Christ in time in which he examined the timeframe references of the Bible like years, days, hours, and so on and in the second book was on the person of Christ. The Christology of the New Testament, but his third book was entitled salvation in history which was a comprehensive rebuttal to Rudolph Bultmann arguing that the Scripture itself sees God's revelation as inexorably tied and bound up with real history is that there is such a thing as salvation history, because the Bible does give us the history of redemption. The history of salvation and he was seconded on that motion by the Dutch New Testament scholar Herman Ritter, boss who made this observation. Yes the Bible is not written like an ordinary history book is not simply a chronology of the actions of the Hebrew people it's more than that it is indeed the unfolding of the drama of God's work of redemption, so it is appropriate to call the Bible redemptive history, but where the critics would say the Bible is not history its redemptive history. People like Kumon and Ritter boss would respond and say yes its redemptive history, but its redemptive history. The fact that it is concerned with redemption is no excuse to rip it out of its construct and context of real history, the Bible is filled with solutions to real history when we come to the New Testament documents we come to the very birth of Christ, the famous Christmas story in a decree one out from Caesar Augustus that all the walls should be enrolled in that took place when quite radius was governor of Syria.

In other words, the setting for the birth of Christ is placed in real history and people like Pontius Pilate and Caiaphas, and so on are real historical personages.

The Pharaoh of Egypt, Cyrus and Belshazzar Nebuchadnezzar Babel. Those are all real historical figures and what the Bible talks about is God's working in and through the normal plane of history. Again, a distinction that Oscar Kumon made in his first book in the trilogy, Christ sometime was a distinction between two different words for time in the Greek one is the word Karmanos in the word condos is the ordinary Greek word that refers to the moment by moment passing of time I have on my wrist. What we commonly call wristwatch in the more technical term for it is a chronometer chronometer is something that leaders or measures chronicles that measures time the simple passing of day to day and we call this time of history, but the other word in the New Testament.

The can be translated time is the word hi Ross and Kai Ross has a special meaning it has to do, not simply with history but with what we would call the historic everything that ever happens in time is historical, but not everything that happens in time is historic. We use the term historic to refer to specific moments in time that are pregnant in their significance and meaning. Because after that particular event. Everything changes and everything that happens before it in the sense leads up to it. You think of the attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941 that was a historic moment in American history, it changed our culture forever. September 11, 2001, changed our national culture forever is a historic event historic moment, but both of these moments that were historic. These Kai Roddick events take place not in some never never land of existential Gnostic thinking, but actually in the plane of history at the heart of the biblical announcement of the coming of the Messiah is the statement that Jesus came in the fullness of time, the fullness of time where there is playroom and is translated fullness, but it's a kind of fullness that indicates satiation. If I take my glass and I put it under the water faucet at home and I Samba to fill up this glass. If I filled it right up to the edge of the glass that still wouldn't be playroom. I would have to leave the glass under the faucet so that the waters flowing over the top words at the bursting point.

That's playroom fullness so full that there is not any more room for another ounce or another speck of anything to be added to it and that's what the Bible says in the plan of God.

Christ came, in the fullness of time, and that whole idea is inseparably related to the gospel itself that when Paul announces the gospel in his letters were the preachings in the book of acts they talk about how Jesus was born according to the Scripture. In the fullness of time that God had prepared that throughout all of history. Everything in Old Testament history before the birth of Christ was moving towards that. Kai Roddick moment and everything after the death and resurrection and ascension of Christ refers back to those Kai Roddick moments that shape the whole future of the people of God but again and again and again the context of covenant redemption is real history, not some spiritual realm that's outside the measurable views of histories were not only talked briefly. Now about the meaning of the terms that we encounter in the Bible in the Old Testament the word that is translated by the English word covenant is the word be written and we run into a little bit of problem when we come into the New Testament because the old member of the Old Testament is written in Hebrew and the New Testament was written in Greek that we also have the Septuagint which was produced by exilic Jews during the dispersion of the deists Bora when the Jews at that time during the Hellenization process of the conquests of Alexander the great had the subjugated nations and people speaking Greek is why the Jews were speaking Greek writing in Greek New Testament.will during the time of the writing of the Septuagint, less the sacred Scriptures of the Hebrews be lost to the Jewish people who were now speaking Greek, a team of 70 scholars, Jewish scholars came together and translated the Hebrew Scriptures into Greek.

And that's a very important event in the history of Judeo Christianity because there we begin to see how the Old Testament concepts were rendered into the Greek language the language that was not negative to the people of the old covenant, and yet the New Testament is not written in Greek and so having the Septuagint is almost like having a translating code breaking thing because we can compare how the Jews translated their own Scriptures into Greek and then compared with how the New Testament writers use the same lines very important analogically, and so on.

But in any case, one of the problems that the Jews who produce the Septuagint struggled with at the time this translation is what Greek word can we use to render the Hebrew, the writ into the Greek language because the problem was there wasn't any word that really matched the Hebrew term. The writ that is not translated by English word covenant will there were a couple of words that sort of competed in the word that one. The day was the Greek word via FICA, which is how the Septuagint translate for it and how for the most part the effect that is used in the New Testament to translate the Hebrew concept of covenant and this is where we get some of that confusion between old covenant and Old Testament new covenant and New Testament.

Because the primary word for testament seems to be at least the word.

Do you think but here's the problem. Testament in the Greek culture, at least of that time had a couple of things that made it significantly different from the Old Testament concept of covenant. The first thing was that in the Greek culture of the FICA testament was something that could be changed at any time by the testator as long as the testator was still a lot a person could make up his last will and testament and get ticked off at his heirs and write them out of there. Will I tell this to my kids all the time when they give me a hard time you're out of the will. My son and I trade responsibilities for Pittsburgh Steelers games one week.

I'm responsible for the Steelers to win. And then the next week. He's responsible for the Steelers to win at the Steelers lose during his week. That's my customer response.

There goes your inheritance or not much on the line here sister your inheritance of just written you, but we understand that that actually does happen.

The people are disinherited. People are written out of people's will, but when God makes a covenant with his people. He can punish them for covenant breaking, but he never ever destroys the covenant promises that he makes. That's why baptism is so important in the life of the church because baptism is the covenant sign of the New Testament will get that more later automate that is where the promises of God for those who believe are made in there without repentance. And so in this sense, the term via FICA is an adequate to translate the term direct the second way in which its impoverished is that the benefits of the testament of the DSA could don't accrue until after the testator dies. Well, obviously, when God enters in the covenants with people. People have to wait for God to die to inherit the blessings from that covenant because he's incapable of die. So with those two great witnesses you wonder why the Septuagint translators in the New Testament church chose the Greek word Dia Seca to translate the Hebrew, the writ may be telling you more than you want to know about this, but I think it has some significant elements for us and the covenant concept among the Hebrews is not simply an agreement. The concept of the writ is an agreement plus there is a plus something added to the agreement and that something that out of is the divine promise, the divine sanction that rests ultimately on the integrity of God, and on his sovereignty and not on our weaknesses as covenant partners, which is very important for us to understand the covenant promises of God. Now the other word that was considered was sympathetic. I and that has the prefix SYN and you know that's the word that we see with synonym syncretism synchronization and all that and that simply means with in the idea of a similar FICA in the Greek culture was an agreement between equal partners and the Hebrews would have none of that. They didn't want to use that as a translation of the term, the writ because they wanted to clearly maintain that the covenants that God makes with his people are made between a superior and a subordinate knot between two equal parties and so that word was rejected and they came back to the word Dia Seca because in its original use before it developed in the Greek culture and is a word for testament. As I've said it had reference to what is called the disposition for one's self, DSA KM and we call it later. Will Laura testament has a do with an individual's disposition of his goods or property for himself, that is, it refers to his sovereign determining of to whom his estate will be given and so that is an element that blends well with the Hebrew concept because here, God chooses to give promises to whom he will give those promises he makes a covenant with Abraham that he doesn't like with, Robbie, he chooses the Jews. He doesn't choose the fullest things he enters into a covenant relationship with them and says I will be your God and you will be my people, and that's a choice not that the Jews make, but that God makes and that indicates again that plus so even though in the Greek word Dia FICA there is some confusion about its content.

In the Greek culture it more than any other word in the language carries this notion of the plus that is so important to our understanding of the Hebrew notion of covenant not again I'm giving that by way of introduction. As we look at the various covenants of Scripture. I hope that that will become more clear and how important it is for our understanding of the structure of divine revelation.

One last thing in today's session. As I mentioned, we use the language, Old Testament, New Testament old covenant new covenant, and I sometimes tease my students and I say who's the most important prophet in the Old Testament and will say, Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, Daniel, something like that said no, no, the greatest profit in the Old Testament is John the Baptist nation will remain. He's in the New Testament while seven playing with them because of Jesus, and there is none greater Volvos born when there's none greater than John the Baptist. While John the Baptist is born in the book we read of his birth in the book that we call the New Testament but in terms of the history of redemption or the economy of God's redemption. The new covenant had not yet been established at the time of the birth of John the Baptist. We read about him in the book called the New Testament. But they. Of redemptive history and which John is born is the old testament.

He still belongs to that. Of redemptive history know those endless debates about when the New Testament really begins for the new covenant.

And people say begins at Pentecost or begins here begins their unpersuaded that the new covenant begins in the upper room the night before Jesus death when he changes the significance of the Passover and declares the making of a new covenant in his blood, which covenant is then ratified.

The next day on the cross and so I think that's when the period of redemptive history that we call the new covenant really begins with that work of Christ. However, cc the confusion is an ardent most ordinary use of language. When we talk about Old Testament and New Testament were not talking about two covenants were talking about two books. The Old Testament Scriptures and the New Testament Scriptures and so were talking about two segments of the biblical canon, one that we call the Old Testament and the New Testament.

In that sense, the use of the word has nothing to do with the concept of testament, Shinto, or will but when we talk about new covenant and old covenant as I say were not speaking exactly synonymously with the concept of testament, not one other thing before I stop, which I hope incites you to come to the third lecture is that the old covenant. Of redemption does not cover the whole history of the Old Testament because the old covenant doesn't start until the fall. The old covenant and we refer to the old covenant were referring to what God promised after the fall, so now we have to make more distinctions and we distinguish between what we call the covenant creation and the covenant of redemption and will explore those distinctions in our next all true theology is based on some form of a divine covenant weather was in the garden or after the entrance of sin into the world, God has chosen to relate to his people as the prophet Ezekiel puts it, I will be your God and you will be my people and I will dwell among you, we can sum up all of God's covenants with this from Ezekiel I will be your God and you will be my people and I will dwell among you all this week on Renewing Your Mind wearing a portion of Dr. RC Sproul series.

The promise keeper God of the covenants in 14 messages. RC goes over the major biblical covenants, including the Abraham Mike Mosaic and Davidic covenants. If you'd like to continue your study of this important topic. We'd be happy to send you the two DVD set containing the full series does give a donation of any about to leave your ministries when you call us at 800-435-4343 or when you go online to Renewing Your that on behalf of all of my colleagues here at look at your ministries.

Thank you for your generous donation. The basic definition of a covenant is an agreement between two or more parties.

Some covenants like that between Jacob and Laban in Genesis 31 or between equals. If you enter into an agreement with say a business partner.

That too is between equals God's covenants though with mankind are always between unequal's and that's why they're so astounding when you consider them learn more about these amazing promises when you request RC Sproul series. The promise keeper the God of the covenants are number again is 800-435-4343 or online address is Renewing Your would also appreciate it if you'd sure this daily Renewing Your Mind program went through the website look for the share button in the middle of the page. You can post a link to Facebook or twitter or even email a link to your friends or family members look for that your tomorrow. Dr. scroll shows that in the fall. Adam represented the entire human race. What that means is that all human men who dissent from Adam participate in the Adamic covenant we are by nature, as the children of Adam necessarily involved in a covenant relationship with God that's Wednesday here on Renewing Your Mind. I hope you make plans to join us

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