The Covenant with Israel
by Ron Hanko
That God had a covenant with Israel is clear from Scripture. How that covenant is to be understood is a matter of much dispute.…
The great question is whether the covenant with Israel was a different covenant from the one God establishes with His people in the New Testament, and how the Old Testament (old covenant) and the New Testament (new covenant) are related to each other. Are they old and new in that they are different kinds of covenants made with two different groups of people, or are they older and newer revelations of one covenant?
Dispensationalism answers such questions by teaching that the old and new covenants are completely distinct from one another and that they concern different groups of people, have different promises, and have different fulfillments. In its most extreme forms, it even teaches different ways of salvation for Israel in the old covenant and for the church under the new covenant, the Scofield Study Bible notes being an example of this teaching.
There are those who reject dispensationalism, but who still hesitate to completely identify the two covenants. Some find a difference between the promises of the old and new covenants and their fulfillments (premillennialism and postmillennialism). They say that at least some of the old covenant promises have an earthly fulfillment in distinction from the promises of the new covenant, which are spiritual and heavenly.
The Baptists make some distinction between Israel and the church, especially as regards the covenant and its sign. They would say, for example, that Israel is not the church but only a type of the church, and they would refuse to identify circumcision and baptism as the signs of the old and new covenants, respectively.
Others make a disjunction between law and grace. They teach in one way or another that the law has no place in the life of a new covenant believer. This error is called antinomianism.
In contrast to all of this, the Reformed faith insists that there is only one covenant; one covenant people, Israel being the church of the Old Testament (Acts 7:38); one sign of the covenant, circumcision and baptism being essentially the same (Col. 2:11-12); one Savior and one way of salvation (Acts 4:12); one promise of eternal life in Christ (Acts 2:38-39); and one spiritual fulfillment of all that belongs to the promise (Heb. 11:9-10, 13-16). It insists, too, that there is unity between law and grace under both covenants (Rom. 7:12).
The Reformed faith insists on a complete unity of the two testaments (covenants) as a reflection, finally, of God’s own unity. No more than there is division in God can there be any essential division between the old and new covenants.
I would add–One Christ, one bride!