January 11, 2019 | by: Tony Sanelli | 0 comments
The beginning of a new year is upon us, and with it a new year often brings new hopes and new plans. Many of us will enter new relationships, face new hardships, navigate new jobs, and receive new opportunities and new blessings.
Nevertheless, there are some things in our lives that will remain the same because they ought to. They are foundational to our Christian faith and community. This includes the essential core doctrines of the gospel and our commitment to one another as members of a local congregation.
Our church, like many throughout the centuries, is united on the basis of a covenant. We read a reduced form of this covenant when we welcome new members. Once a year, during our annual meeting, we review, understand anew, and recommit to abide by this covenant.
There are many covenants in the Bible. A covenant may be described simply as a sacred bond sealed with a solemn vow or oath. All Christians are saved on the basis of the new covenant in Christ, and the blessings of this covenant bond were promised in the Old Testament and fulfilled in the new. The author of Hebrews affirms this and writes:
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:10–13).
Here we can see that the new covenant is God’s pledge to forgive the sins of his people and to put his laws within us and to write them on our hearts. It is His promise to be our God and to make us his people. Thankfully, this is not something merely proposed. It was accomplished by Jesus! This is the ground of our unity and hope.
Behind it all lies the fact that God, in His grace and divine initiative, has chosen me, predestined me, purchased me through the cross, and has raised me spiritually from the dead. He has also justified, sanctified, and put His Spirit within me. Writing his Law on my heart, He has now baptized me into this new covenant family. And this is true of each one of us.
The new covenant brings into existence a new body—the universal church of Christ. From Peter and Paul and down to us, there is ONE Lord, ONE faith, ONE baptism, ONE God and Father of all and ONE body.
This expansive body is made visible in local churches. The covenant that binds us to God, thus also binds us to one another in local expressions of Christ’s church. Thus, our relationship to one another is a covenantal one. This covenantal bond is beautifully expressed and made visible in the Lord’s Supper. The Lord’s Supper is a communion with Christ and one another.
The new covenant also governs the local church. It provides structure and guidance by writing the law of God on our hearts. The new covenant causes us to walk in God’s ways by providing us with God’s indwelling Spirit. Walking in God’s way is summed up in the great commandment:
“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36–39).
Loving your neighbor as yourself is spelled out in the New Testament “one anothers.” Our church covenant is simply a summary of those “one another” obligations to God and each other created by these New Covenant passages.
Calling each other to commit to live together in a serious covenantal community is counter-cultural. By now it’s clear to most that we live in a time characterized by radical individualism. Individualism engenders an anti-authoritarian spirit. People are increasingly averse to accountability and commitment to institutions. It is important in such an environment to strengthen biblical community.
I invite you to please review our church covenant in anticipation of our covenant renewal during our annual meeting this January. A copy of the covenant will be made available to each member household. Take the time to read it with your family or with others and pray for our church family to lovingly and sincerely fulfill our obligation to love one another in the Lord.
Tony Sanelli is a Pastor Teacher at Grace Bible Church
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