Sunday, April 18, 2010

Two More Differences

Yesterday we examined two differences between the Old and New Covenants.  Calvin continues today with two more differences.  The first is that the Old Testament is "literal" and the New Testament is "spiritual".  Rather than having his own statement about this difference, Calvin opens by quoting the prophet Jeremiah.
Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—  not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD.  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.  No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, "Know the LORD," for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no moreJeremiah 31:31-34 NKJV
This is not exactly what Calvin wrote because he was using the Vulgate and changed up some of the word order, but the important parts are still here.  Calvin refers to 2 Corinthians 3:5-11 when he speaks about the passage from Jeremiah.  It is broken down in the following manner:

  • Old Covenant - literal
  • New Covenant - spiritual
  •  Old Covenant - written on stone
  • New Covenant - written on hearts and in minds
  • Old Covenant - preaching of death and condemnation
  • New Covenant - preaching of life and righteousness
  • Old Covenant - to vanish with time
  • New Covenant - stands forever
The fourth difference that Calvin highlights is the bondage of the Old versus the freedom of the New.  "Scripture calls the Old Testament one of 'bondage' because it produces fear in men's minds; but the New Testament, one of 'freedom' because it lifts them to trust and assurance."  Paul wrote about this difference in Romans 8:15 (NKJV) which reads, "For you did not receive the spirit of bondage again to fear, but you received the Spirit of adoption by whom we cry out, 'Abba, Father.'"  He wrote about it more extensively using the story of Hagar and Sarah in Galatians 4:22-31.  Hagar is under bondage and Sarah is a free woman.  Calvin says that "The Old held consciences bound by the yoke of bondage; the New by its Spirit of liberality emancipates them into freedom."

Calvin tells us that the Old Covenant consists not only of the Ten Commandments, but all the promises made to God's people before the law.  All of his people who followed the commandments by faith working through love have been under the New Covenant since the world was formed.  Galatians 5:6 reads, "For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love."  Calvin writes, "It is that very point which I intend to affirm: all the saints whom Scripture mentions as being peculiarly chosen of God from the beginning of the world have shared with us the same blessing unto eternal salvation."  One more thing that Calvin writes about those under the Old Covenant, "We must also note this about the holy patriarchs: they so lived under the Old Covenant as not to remain there but ever to aspire to the New, and this embraced a real share in it."

Tomorrow's reading: 2.11.11-2.11.14

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