Thursday, 24 September 2009

New Covenant Theology by Tom Wells and Fred Zaspel Part 2

If dispensationalists have tended to deny all connections between Israel and the church, while covenant theologians have tended toward an identification of the two as on entity, NCT has sought to forge a more basic typological connection. Wells points out: is evident that the writers of Scripture read the terms of the Abrahamic covenant in two different ways. Old Testament writers often see the promises as fulfilled to the literal nation of Israel while NT writers find their fulfillment in the church. (p60)
Wells contrasts Joshua 21:43-45 with the perspective of the author of Hebrews. The passage in Joshua states:
43 So the LORD gave Israel all the land he had sworn to give their ancestors, and they took possession of it and settled there. 44 The LORD gave them rest on every side, just as he had sworn to their ancestors. Not one of their enemies withstood them; the LORD gave all their enemies into their hands. 45 Not one of all the LORD's good promises to the house of Israel failed; every one was fulfilled. (TNIV)
Whereas we read in Hebrews 11:39-40:
39 These were all commended for their faith, yet none of them received what had been promised. 40 God had planned something better for us so that only together with us would they be made perfect.
Such a tension between the authors can be resolved by seeing the typological nature of the land of Canaan. It pictured the larger "country" which therefore was also contained in the promises. (p62) We don't make a precise identification of Canaan and the larger country, just as we would not make a precise identification between the OT prophets, priests and kings and Christ himself, i.e. Christ is not a prophet in precisely the same sense as an OT prophet, and Christ is not a priest in precisely the same sense as an OT priest, and Christ is not a king in precisely the same sense as an OT king. The OT type must give way to the NT anti-type.

Wells however, believes that typology cannot quite exhaust the relation of Israel to the church. (p63) He says in the same paragraph:
Covenant theologians have often insisted on an "organic" relation as well, and in one sense they are right. From the standpoint of eternity future, looking back, the church will prove to have been God's elect individuals from every era.
Wells points us to Paul's olive tree metaphor in Romans 11 as speaking of the creation of the church. The church was formed as God got hold of an olive tree, broke off the unbelieving branches to leave only the true/spiritual children of Abraham, and then added to this tree both believing Jews and Gentiles. I conclude with Wells:
First, ancient Israel with her unbelieving branches was never the church of Jesus Christ. Second, Paul does not contemplate unbelievers being added to the olive tree. If God had intended that, he would have had no reason to strip off the unbelieving branches to begin with. Third, there is nevertheless an organic relation between the church and God's individually elect people from ancient Israel. We who are believers in Jesus Christ are now part, with them, of the olive tree as it exists today, i.e., the "invisible" or "universal" church of God. (p65, 66)
For our next post, what type of law must govern this new covenant community?


JohnGreenview said...
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JohnGreenview said...

When we think of 'land' in Scripture it seems as if both 'Eden' and 'Palestine' are paradigmatic (Palestine, or the Promised land is described in the OT as Eden-like) of the new heavens and new earth, the 'better country, that is an heavenly' to which men of faith looked (Hebs 11). Visons of the new creation in the OT and Revelation in the NT use Edenic imagery to describe the new world. However, it is Eden and Canaan and much more.

Another observation about the fulfilment the OT promise of land is that the original promise of land (to Abraham) was to perpetuity. Palestine did not prove to be to perpetuity. Indeed although Israel in one sense possessed the land, in another sense they didn't since they were constantly fighting to oust the Canaanites and never really did so. They were in this sense never at rest. The real rest of Canaan must therefore be future (Hebs 4) and depend on the Messiah.