In the last article we saw that the idea of covenant is biblical and we also saw that throughout church history covenant between believers of a local church was commonly practiced. In this article I would like to look at the biblical source of church covenant.
Because of the new covenant we are members of a new community. Hebrews 10 tells us that the old covenant, the law, was just a shadow of the good things to come, the new covenant. We do not have to offer blood sacrifices or offerings. The blood has been sacrificed once and for all, and Christ’s blood is sprinkled over our hearts to cleanse us from a guilty conscience so that God remembers our sins no more. As a result of this new covenant, you and I have unlimited access into the presence of God, even at this very second. What Old Testament, old covenant, saints longed for, you and I experience at this very moment. The wonder of the thought that you and I, at this moment, have unlimited access to God because we are recipients of a new covenant. Unlimited access to the very throne room of God and will for all of eternity. That’s awesome.
Now, what we see in Hebrews 10, though, was not just how this new covenant affects our relationship to God, although that is huge. It’s not just vertical. The new covenant has horizontal implications as well. In other words, the new covenant doesn’t just affect our relationship to God; the new covenant also affects our relationship to each other.
This is where we see in Hebrews 10:19-25, the author of Hebrews says, “Therefore, in light of the new covenant…let us…” Three times he uses those two words, “let us”. In light of the new covenant, “let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water”. In light of the new covenant “let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful”. And in light of the new covenant “let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”
So basically, what the author of Hebrews says is, “In light of what Christ has done in each of our lives, as individuals, let us do this together.” In light of the new covenant, this is how we live together.
The new covenant, secured and sealed by the blood of Jesus, creates the people of God and controls the people of God. And since it is God’s purpose that there be local churches as expressions of that universal body of Christ, we may say just as surely that the new covenant creates those churches and controls them. In other words when a local number of believers comes together to form a church, they are to think something like this; we are bound to God by the new covenant; and not only that, since we are bound to God by that covenant, we are bound to each other by that covenant too. The covenant that makes us belong to God makes us belong to each other. Therefore our commitment to each other in a local church is a covenant commitment. Our covenant relationship to God implies a covenant relationship to each other. God’s covenant with us creates and shapes our covenant with each other.
So basically when we become a member of a local church we are publically acknowledging and agreeing with the New Covenant. We are entering into something and not creating something. As an individual when you get to the point when you feel, “this is the local body of believers that I feel God calling me to worship with”, then becoming a member is publically acknowledging and entering into the covenant that already exists because of the New Covenant.