The New Covenant and Its Leaders
NCW 28, Special Edition I (January 1996):
Answering the Third Rebellion
Q. What actually does the term "New Covenant" mean? As I read the scriptures, they tell me (a) that it is something written in the heart (Jer.31:31; Heb.8:10), (b) that it is not built on the letter of the Law but on the Spirit (2 Cor.3:6), and (c) it makes the first (old) covenant obsolete (Heb.8:13). Jesus said that the New Covenant is the cup of the Lord's Supper (1 Cor.11:23-29; Luke 22:19-20). Who is supposed to be the leader of the New Covenant? In Heb.9:15 & 12:24 it says that it is Jesus, and Jeremiah says that everybody will know the Lord and won't need to be taught anymore (Jer.31:34; Heb.8:11). So why does the Church have Patriarchs and Teachers??
All the scriptures you cite are correct but do not give the complete picture. Jeremiah's testimony, taken up by the writer of Hebrews, is not describing the automatic spiritual state of Christians when they receive Christ, but is the goal of the New Covenant, which will be consummated in the Millennium. To claim that these passages have been fulfilled is to claim perfection.
The apostles taught that the Body -- the Church -- needed to be governed by apostles, prophets, evangelists, teachers and deacons, and receive the various spiritual gifts, until they had reached a "unity of the faith". This is the way the Body is to be organised until that perfection has been obtained. Paul adds: "If anyone thinks he is a prophet, or spiritual, he should acknowledge that what I am writing to you is a command of the Lord. If anyone does not recognise this, he is not recognised" (1 Cor.14:37-38, RSV).
If anybody believes they have obtained the perfection described by Jeremiah or the writer of Hebrews, then they are deluding themselves. More than likely they do not wish to be under authority but wish themselves to rule. There are many "independent" Christians who belong to no Church fellowship who are of this delusion and who have totally stagnated in their discipleship.
Therefore the Church has apostles and teachers, and will have them until the Lord returns.
Finally, the writer of the Book of Hebrews is not describing the earthly leadership of the Church but of the heavenly. Jesus is our supreme High Priest, the one who has offered Himself as a sacrifice in the Holy Place. But He has appointed apostles to lead His earthy Church, to be His representatives, and He has especially chosen a Patriarchate of three apostles to preside over the other apostles and the Church. Throughout the New Testament you will discover, time and time again, that the fellowship of believers are to submit themselves to their authority, for they are God's messengers. Those with the right heart attitude obey, and they obey out of love (1 Jn.5:2-3; 2 Jn.6).
The Lord showed great patience with Israel in times past and speaks of Himself as "daily getting up early" and sending His prophets to exhort and admonish them, "all day long spreading out His hands toward a people that is disobedient and talks back", but they continued to harden their hearts, stubbornly refusing discipline (Jer.7:23-28; 11:7-8; Zec.7:12; Rom.10:21). Little has changed with spiritual Israel, the New Covenant. Thus prophets are called to warn and rebuke. They will be needed until the end of this dispensation until Christians learn proper discipline and submission.
The answer to your question is really very simple: Look into your own heart and judge its righteousness.
This page was created on 8 May 1998
Last updated on 8 May 1998
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