THE INCLUSIVE COVENANT (Covenant part 2)
In the last article, we observed that the Old Covenant was to be replaced with a New Covenant. This implied that the Old Covenant was inadequate in some way. Fortunately, the New Covenant is not just a replacement; it is an improvement. The Hebrew author tells us that it is a “better covenant” (Heb. 7:22; 8:6). But how? In what ways?
One area that the New Covenant surpasses the Old is in its inclusivity.
The Old Covenant was a beautiful promise of access to God and His blessings on the condition of obedience, but not everyone could participate. The Covenant was only made to the nation of Israel, the descendants of Jacob. Everyone else? Well, they were “excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenant of promise, having no hope and without God in the world” (Eph. 2:12). The privilege of a covenant with God was a great privilege for Israelites, but a privilege the rest of the world did not have access to.
Non-Israelites did not have the right to go to the temple and offer up sacrifices to God and find mercy and forgiveness. They could not be assured that God would send prophets to them, giving them guidance in times of turmoil. They did not have promises of victory in war. They did not have assurances that plagues and famines would not come upon their nations. They did not have a right to the land of Canaan. These are the things only the Israelites had (assuming they obeyed God, keeping their part of the covenant).
It is no wonder that the Jews (New Testament term for Israelites) would get a superiority complex. They were a part of God’s special covenant and the rest of the world wasn’t. That may have seemed like a really good thing to them, but what about everyone else? The Old Covenant was flawed because of its limited access.
Being left out is no fun. Some of us endured that as teenagers, where the cool kids wouldn’t talk to us or older siblings wouldn’t include us. Some adults still endure this, where they don’t seem to fit in and be included. How awful would it be if we had to endure similar treatment from God?
Fortunately, there is a New Covenant. This time, everyone is invited. Jesus opened His arms to all, saying, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest” (Mt. 11:28). He wanted His apostles to go “into all the world and preach the gospel to all creation” (Mk. 16:15) and to “make disciples of all the nations” (Mt. 28:19). The apostles—being Jews themselves—did not fully grasp what Jesus was saying. Only later did Peter come to realize that “God is not one to show partiality, but in every nation the man who fears Him and does what is right is welcome to Him” (Acts 10:34b-35).
This is why we should be so thankful for the New Covenant, because in it, on the grandest scale, in the spiritual areas that matter the most, God has put an end to exclusion. We are all welcome. We can all be a part of the promises and blessings of God. This should be cause of rejoicing. And, in fact, that is exactly what the audience in Pisidian Antioch did when they came to this realization. “When the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord” (Acts 13:48).
Certainly, inclusivity makes the New Covenant better. But that isn’t the only improvement from the Old Covenant. In the next article we will consider how we gain access, and the answer will lead to another aspect of the New Covenant which makes it better.