In response to the sermon of last Sunday, I received from several listeners the question that comes down to: When Paul calls himself a servant of the new covenant, does that mean that God writes the law, as He, in times past had given it to Israel, in the hearts of the believers, today?
First, a few preliminary remarks. In 2 Corinthians 3, Paul refers clearly to the prophecy in Jeremiah 31:31ff
31 Behold, the days come, saith the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day [that] I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: 33 But this [shall be] the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (KJV)
This prophecy is about Israel and Judah, the same people with whom, in the past, the old covenant was made at the time of the exodus. The covenant mentioned is to be realized in the future. This new covenant differs from the old covenant in that it cannot be broken. All obligations are entirely one-sided: YAHWEH promises and it is solely up to Him to fulfill this. Until Israel, “from the smallest to the greatest”, Yahweh, their God will know, this prediction awaits her fulfillment. Although this new covenant, until today still must be established, the basis for it, nonetheless, was completed nearly two thousand years ago. Then the blood of the new covenant was already shed (Luke 22:20) and also emerged “the Mediator of the new covenant” (Heb.9:15; 13:20). Believers of the nations, today already, reap all the blessings of that future covenant. The same Spirit that then will be active among the people of Israel and which will transform them, does this now already to everyone who sees the glory of the Lord (2Cor.3:18); without distinction as to ethnicity
God announced by the mouth of Jeremiah: “I will put my law (Torah = instruction) in their inward parts, and write them in their hearts …”. Israel will not be, as previously, placed “under the law” (Gal.3:23), but the law will be placed in them. It will not be a yoke which bent them down (Acts 15:10), but an inner rule which they will fulfill, effortlessly and naturally, with uplifted head. They will celebrate the sabbath and the feasts of the Lord (Isa.66:23) and probably will have kosher food on their menu, but not as a burden, but as a pleasure. Not because it must be done, but because they want to do it.
Today we live in an interval in which Israel, as a nation, is set aside, temporarily. The message of salvation is, on account of Israel’s unbelief, sent to the nations (Rom.11:11; Acts 28: 28). As Israelis as the Kingdom on earth, before long, will be (ruled from Jerusalem), so “heathens” (of the nations) is the Evangel today. The message that is normative, today, is not “the Evangel of the circumcision”, as James, Peter and John preached this, but “the Evangel of the uncircumcision” that was entrusted to Paul (Gal 2:7-9). There is, now, no Messiah visibly residing in the city of David, but, today, it is “Christ among the nations, the expectation of glory!” (Col.1:27). It is for this reason that circumcision, kosher food and drink, holy days and sabbath or whichever ritual, does not play any role in the teachings of the Apostle Paul. He binds on our heart:
Let no one, then, be judging you in food or in drink or in the particulars of a festival, or of a new moon, or of sabbaths, which are a shadow of those things which are impending — yet the body is the Christ’s.
Colossians 2:16,17 (lit.)
Translation: Peter Feddema