I have been pondering the New Covenant and what might happen if we were to dwell on it as the New Testament writers do. We’ve thought about the wonder of sins forgiven, the profound work of God in the hearts of believers, and now for the last post . . . God in the hearts of believers. Or to put it another way, fellowship with the Trinity!
There are many New Testament passages that seem to point to the believer being “in Christ” or “abiding in Him” and the indwelling presence of God, by His Spirit, in the believer, causing us to cry out to our Abba. This mutual indwelling motif is not uncommon. Sadly, nor is our tendency to treat these notions as some sort of technical truth, a legal reality, as it were, and then focus our reading or teaching on our self-driven effort to live good lives, as if only marginally connected to God.
If we go back to the promises of the New Covenant, there is plenty to rock the original recipients back on their heels. Ezekiel 11 looks forward to when “they shall be my people and I shall be their God.” Good stuff, but what is key to this reality? “A new spirit I will put within them.” Later, in chapter 36, after references already in the preceding chapters, God gets more overt on the indwelling Spirit theme; “I will put my Spirit within you” – this is not normal fare in Old Testament times! Remember that a key theme of Ezekiel is that of God’s special presence (or absence) from the temple. The stunning hope of the city, is the reality of the New Covenant believer – The LORD is there. (Eze.48:35)
In Jeremiah God looks back to the Old Covenant, which was also marital in nature, but the New Covenant is different. They will be His people, He will be their God. Meaning? Well, they will all know the LORD. (Jer.31:34)
In Isaiah there is already the marital motif, the indwelling Spirit and the close relationship. In Joel we read of the pouring out of God’s Spirit on all flesh, and a mutual calling – the LORD calling the people, and the people calling on His name. In Zephaniah there is the hope of the LORD being in the midst of Zion, exulting over her with loud singing, quietening her with his love. In Malachi we look forward to the coming Lord of the future covenant.
I suspect that if we spent time pondering the New Covenant, both in its predictive descriptions, and with sensitivity to the New Testament texts, we would find ourselves preaching more a message of wonder than a message of pressure. More a message of delightful description, than a message of demanding duty. More a message pointing to God, than a message pounding on us.
Perhaps we are just so familiar with the New Testament texts that we miss what they are saying. Perhaps our theology somehow overrides what our eyes could see if they looked carefully. The Christian life doesn’t just include fellowship, it is fellowship. And that isn’t just with each other, it is profoundly with God, through His Christ, by His Spirit.