We must now take notice more in particular of the strictly sovereign character of this first covenant of Sinai. The question is this: was this covenant a contract or agreement between Israel and the Lord? Did it thus emanate from Israel and from the Lord as from two parties? Or was it strictly onesided and did it thus emanate from God alone? We must allow the Scriptures to answer also this question for us. We turn again to that passage in.
In this scripture passage the Greek word used for covenant is not ‘suntheekee’ but ‘diatheekee’. How is this Greek word to be rendered? Let us hear Lemski on this matter. I quote him as follows:
“Monographs have been written on the term ‘diatheekee” and its connection with the Hebrew ‘befith’ ‘covenant’. Our versions waver between the translations “covenant”, and “testament”. We give the sum of the matter. The Old Testament dealt with the promises of God to the chosen people. Thereby God placed himself in “covenant” relation to Israel (be- rith). This relation, like the promises and the gifts of God to Israel, is always onesided. It is always God’s covenant, not Israel’s, and not a mutual agreement, not a ‘suntheekee’ (but a diatheekee—O.). This promise and covenant indeed obligates Israel, and Israel assumes these obligations, but the covenant emanates entirely from God. The LXX translated, “be-rith”, “covenant” in this sense, with diatheekee, “testament”, since this term has the same onesided connotation; a will or testament emanates only from the testator. What is more important is that the Holy Spirit Himself translated in this passage in the Hebrews “berith”, “covenant” in this sense, that is, in the sense of “diatheekee”, “testament”—Christ brought about the fulfillment of the Old Testament promises. The result is that now God’s people have the inheritance and are God’s heirs: “If children then heirs: heirs of God and joint heirs of Christ”—, Lemski goes on to say: “Riggenbach defines “diatheekee” as the divine institution of grace which has these features in common with the human testament:
1) It rests solely on the determination of its author.
2) It aims to bestow a treasure.
3) It connects the bestowal with certain conditions in the recipients”.
But regarding this last point, Lemski correctly remarks: “This last point is not well worded; it should be: designates certain persons as the recipients.” Lemski is entirely correct here. I would express myself even stronger. I would say: the statement of Riggen-bach “it connects the bestowal with certain conditions in the recipients” is sheer Arminianism.
Let us now get the above indicated passage () before us. Here follows the literal translation of the original Greek text:
“But now a more excellent ministry He has obtained by so much as also of a better testament (dia-theekee) He is Mediator, one of a kind that has been given legal force on the score of better promises.
For if the first one (that is, testament) was faultless, a place would not be sought for a second one. For faulting them He says:
Lo the days are coming, says the Lord, and I will consumate a new testament as regards the house of Israel, and as regards the house of Judah.
Not like the testament which I made for their fathers in the day of my taking them by their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt.
Seeing that they themselves did not remain in my testament and I disregarded them, said the Lord, so that this is the testament which I will draw up for the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will give my laws upon their mind and on their heart will I inscribe them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not each one teach his neighbor, and each one his brother saying: know the Lord. Because I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins will I not remember any longer. In saying: A new one, He has declared the first one old. Now the thing declared old and becoming aged is near to vanishing away.”
We see then that the covenant of Sinai was a “testament”, not an agreement, a contract.
It emanated from God alone. It was drawn up by Him alone. He alone was the author of its typical salvation—deliverance from the bondage of Egypt; of its atoning sacrifices; of its heir, the typically redeemed people of Israel; of its inheritance—the typical rest of the earthy Canaan; and of all its promises by which these typical things of the law were held forth. The heirs of this testament had nothing to do but to receive it, which they did and could only do by His mercy.
If this was true of the testament of Sinai, it is just as true, certainly of the testament of which this first testament and covenant was the figure—the true covenant of grace. It, too, emanates from God alone. It was drawn up by Him alone. All the things of this covenant and testament are solely of Him and through Him and unto Him—the Mediator and great priest of this covenant; its salvation, its inheritance arid also its heirs. He chose them in Christ in whom He also created them unto good works which He prepared for them in Christ. Truly, this covenant and testament is God’s alone. The sole duty of these heirs is to receive it, which they do and also choose to do by His mercy. Where then is boasting? Where is the free will of man? Where are conditions? They are excluded, absolutely so.
Thus it is plain that this covenant and testament does not make of its heirs stocks and stones. How can it, if in fulfillment of the promises of this testament God brings them into being as new creatures in Christ, who love their redeemer—God, and cry out His praises and walk in newness of life? It will not do, will it, to call such creatures stocks and stones? A stock and a stone are dead things, incapable of any kind of action.
And so it is also evident that this testament of Sinai and the testament and covenant of which this testament was the symbol and prophetic pre-indication—the true covenant of grace—is not destructive of human responsibility. This is the fault that the Arminian has to find with this testament at Sinai also. The Arminian lodges two charges against this testament.
He says (charge I) that this covenant makes stocks and stones of its heirs. We have already replied to this charge and therefore need take no further notice of it. The Arminian also says of this testament that it is destructive of human responsibility. Let us examine this charge. It verily comes down to this: that this covenant at Sinai (covenant of grace essentially) frees its heirs from the obligation to love and serve their redeemer God and thus allows them to sin with impunity. The absurdity of this charge. Consider that the testator in His testament says to the heirs named in it. He says to them not only “I am the Lord your God, the God of your salvation in Christ Jesus,” but He also says to them “As new born babes, as my regenerated people, love me your God, be holy as I am holy, believe in me through Christ, etc. And in His love He chastizes these heirs for their sins in order that they may become more and more partakers of His righteousness.
How preposterously untrue, then, that this testament is destructive of human responsibility.
Let us get at the real reason why the Arminian says of this testament that it makes stocks and stones of its heirs and is destructive of their human responsibility.
According to this testament, that, according to the Arminian, of course, is not at all taught in the Scriptures but is simply the figmant of the imagination of some Calvinists, the necessity of the heirs choosing to believe and to be saved, is the sovereign and determinate will of God. Such a conception, says the Arminian, reduces the heirs to stocks and stones and is destructive of their human responsibility. For, says the Arminian, if these heirs are necessitated to believe by the sovereign will of the Testator it follows that they are not free in their willing and choosing; it thus follows that they are bound in their willing and choosing, bound by the sovereign determinate will of God. This makes of these heirs stocks and stones and is destructive of their human responsibility. So reason the Arminians.
According to the Arminian then, to make it right for ourselves to say of these heirs of salvation that they are truly free in their choosing and responsible, and thus not stocks and stones, we must allow that their good will to believe and be saved is not necessitated by the sovereign will of God. But why then do they believe? On the Arminian position the answer must be: the believer believes, chooses to be saved, simply because he wills. And so, too, the unbeliever. He chooses not to believe simply because he wills. But this certainly, is equivalent to saying that man sovereignly determines his own destiny.
But is this true? Of course it is not true. Fact is this: The sovereign will of God is indeed the necessity of these heirs’ choosing to believe and to be saved. Yet these heirs for this reason are not stocks and stones. And why not? For the simple reason that God brings these heirs,, by nature dead in sin, into being as new creatures with a new nature and heart, and that thus the choice and the good will of these heirs to believe and to be saved is the free and necessary expression of the holy disposition and inclinations and desires of this new nature and heart. In choosing to be saved, therefore, they are anything but stocks and stones. They are freed children of God whose delight is in the law of God whom they serve as activated by the love of their new heart and as constrained by their living faith and as standing in the liberty where with Christ has made them free.
Let us not be confused by this argument of the Arminians. Let us not pick it up and hurl it as an objection at God’s testament at Sinai. For then we with the Arminians also are guilty of denying sovereign election and reprobation.
In fine. It is as plain as the day, is it not, that this covenant at Sinai was 1) a Testament emanating from God alone; and 2) a Testament of grace.
Let us understand what it would mean, were this Testament a contract emanating from the Lord and
His people instead of from God alone? In the light of above observations it is as plain as the day what this would mean. It would mean that man’s salvation originates partly in God and partly in man. This is precisely the contention of the Arminians. According to the Arminian view, man’s good choice and will to believe is out of man and is thus supplied by man. God supplies the grace but merely to aid man in making the good choice. If man on his part agrees out of himself to persevere to the end in this good choice, God on his part agrees to take the man up into His heaven finally. Thus God promises to save man on the condition that he persevere in his good choice to be saved. This is the Arminian view in contradicton to the view of the Scriptures, the truly reformed view. A third view this is not. We are addicted to one of these two views.
In the Arminian conception the testament of God is verily a contract emanating from God and man.
According to the Scriptures the Testament emanated from God alone; it is truly and absolutely a Testament. It is a kind of testament that God alone can make, He being God. All human testaments are that only in a human, creatural sense. For man is a creature; he is not God.
There are still some question to be answered.
1. If the carnal, reprobated Israel was neither in the first nor in the new covenant, how could and can it despise God’s covenant? There is no problem here at all. Let us ask: Is it necessary for God to love the reprobated in order to make it possible for them to hate Him? No indeed. Did Christ have to suffer and die for the reprobated in order to make it possible for them to reject Him, despise His atoning blood and crucify Him afresh? Indeed not. No more did God have to include the reprobated in the covenant in order to make it possible for them to reject, despise and trample it. To say that it was necessary for God to include the reprobated in the covenant in order to make it possible for them to despise and reject it, is certainly equivalent to saying that Christ had to suffer and die for the reprobated in order to make it possible for them to reject and despise Him. Consider the covenant of grace. Its author is the, God and Father of Christ; its great priest and Mediator is Christ. Its promise is the promise of everlasting life in Christ. Subtract from the covenant God and Christ and the promise and the promised life, and you have certainly no covenant left. Well now, if the reprobated are not loved of God how can they be in His covenant? And if the reprobated are not included in Christ its Mediator and its great priest Christ, how can they be included in the covenant of which He is the Mediator? And if the life that Christ merited was not merited for them, how can the covenant promise them this life? How, in a word, can they be included in the promise and thus in the covenant? This is impossible in the light of the Scriptures.
2. As was explained, the believers of the Old Testa-Dispensation did not continue in the first covenant, the typical covenant of Sinai, except in principle. Buj it may be asked whether the true Israel today does more than keep the true covenant of grace in principle? No, to be sure they do not. According to their sinful flesh they are always forsaking God’s covenant. What then may be the difference between the state of the true church than and now? In this respect of course there is no difference. As long as the believers are in this life they forsake the covenant according to their sinful flesh though in principle they keep it. They will not perfectly abide in God’s covenant until they are in heaven. Once in heaven they will perfectly abide in it. This is what the church triumphant is now doing. It is abiding in God’s covenant perfectly. And consider that the church triumphant is formed of a vast number of saints. The church triumphant includes the departed saints of the Old Dispensation and all the departed saints of the New Dispensation. Together they form a vast number. In comparison with that multitude the true church on earth at any one time is exceedingly small, a small remnant. The church in heaven is the object of our faith. When we speak of the church, it is of that vast multitude that we must be thinking. And that multitude, as was said, abides in God’s covenant perfectly. For the covenant is everlasting. But if that first covenant had not been superceded by the new covenant, there would not be that redeemed multitude, the church, abiding in God’s covenant, and abiding in it perfectly. For, as has been explained, the Mediator and great Priest of that first covenant was but a shadow.
It is that vast multitude of saints in heaven—the church—in whom that prophecy of Jeremiah has reached its perfect fulfillment, namely the prophecy: “And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.” “All shall know me,” this is only true in principle of God’s people as long as they are in this life.
So we must look at these matters, if we want to feel the full force of the fact and truth that this first covenant has been superceded by the new and everlasting covenant of grace, by the true covenant of grace.
3. What now was the purpose of that first covenant with its typical institutions and ordinances, with its typical mediator and typical great priest, and typical salvation and typical rest and with its law over the church but not put in the hearts of the elect, that is, not put in their hearts on account of their being iu his typical covenant? What was the purpose of it all? In the words of Paul, its purpose was to lead, to drive, the elect of God to Christ, to the true Christ of the new covenant. Its purpose was to serve Christ and His people in this way. And, certainly, it did also actually serve this purpose. By this first covenant with its typical things, and with its law that curses the true believers were indeed driven to Christ even all through the Old Testament dispensation. In connection with this first covenant and its typical things, definitely the symbolical-typical sacrifices by blood, all pointing to Christ, they, as Abel, received testimony in their hearts that they were righteous in Christ, the true mediator of the new covenant, the Holy Spirit testifying with their spirits that they were God’s redeemed people and with David, the psalmist, they jubilantly exclaimed: “Blessed is he whose transgressions are forgiven whose sin is covered. Blessed is the man unto whom God imputeth not iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no guile.”—.