Chapter currently under revision – with study group
Christ is the bridge between the Old and New Testaments, actually between all the covenants of the Old Testament and the New Covenant. But in this study, we have narrowed our focus to the relationship between the Abrahamic and the New Covenant. Have you ever wondered why the scriptures say Mary (Jesus’s mother) was a woman born under the law? Why are the genealogies in Mathew and Luke different?
Mary was subject to a system of Levitical and legalistic righteousness, and Jesus was raised in that context. Having that as his background he can identify with the performance-based righteousness most of us struggle under. But Jesus also had a different heritage, one from Abraham allowing him to grow and mature in the understanding of that covenant. We get very tiny glimpses of that in his early life (Luke 2:25-52).
Mathew’s genealogical account begins with Abraham and traces Jesus’s lineage as a descendant of both Abraham and David. Mathew’s starting point is with Abraham and brings the record forward to the Messiah. Luke’s record, goes back to Adam but includes Abraham and David. Going back to Adam portrays our Lord as the son of man or in Paul’s words the “second Adam”.
Mathew seems to be highlighting Christ’s two major roles. He is the mediator of the Abrahamic covenant while simultaneously the rightful heir to David’s throne. We may think of the Gospel of Mathew as tracing his divine life back to Abraham and Luke as tracing his natural life back to Adam. These two genealogies demonstrate the perfect blend of spiritual and natural man. So he is the perfect Messiah: mediator and party to the Abrahamic covenant, fully God and fully man – the absolute perfect incarnation, perfect sacrifice and heir to all things.
Prelude to the Cross
Earlier we said the Abrahamic covenant was unilateral, but normally a covenant has two parties who agree on the covenant terms; on the surface, this may seem contradictory. But consider what occurred at the cross, God cut covenant with himself. Knowing that both Father and Son are distinct persons and yet simultaneously one God will help our understanding.
Let me explain. The second Adam (Christ) as a perfect representative of the human race agreed to be a sin offering ll Cor. 5:21 for us all. As a perfect man, he entered into covenant on our behalf. When a covenant is cut the understanding is that if one party breaks the terms of the covenant that party will be treated the same as the covenant sacrifice (see Jeremiah 34:17-20 for background). God, knowing that we could not keep the covenant terms, provided himself as the sacrificial lamb or the payment for our breaking of the covenant. We could not make the covenant, we were the ones being rescued. God make covenant with himself, Father and Son together entered covenant on our behalf.
This is what God was foreshadowing through the sacrifice of his son Isaac on Mt. Moriah. In that story, God asked Abraham to sacrifice his son who actually was the fulfillment of God’s promise to Abraham. Isaac was also the heir through whom the promises of God would be fulfilled ultimately bringing forth the Messiah. But now God asked him to release all of that, offering Isaac up as a sacrifice. In this archetype, Abraham stands in the place of God and Isaac represented the human sentenced to death. The ram (messiah) was then sacrificed in Isaac’s place. In other words, this story illustrates our rightful sentencing and judgment, but then the lamb of God took upon himself the punishment we deserved and we were set free.
We said above that God cut covenant with himself. Before going on please read Gen. 15:12-19. Abram was put into a deep sleep and had a vision of God passing through the animal portions which he had earlier prepared. As Abram was in a deep slumber he was not allowed to participate in the covenant terms, but God did allow him to witness the covenant ceremony. We should understand that in fact there were two parties to this covenant, but Abraham was not one of them. The two parties Gen. 15:17 were the smoking fire pot and the flaming torch. It is my understanding that this was a covenant God the Father was making with God the Son as the second Adam. So, God did cut the covenant with himself which was a foreshadowing of what Yahweh planned to do in the future at Calvary.
To more fully appreciate what God did in Christ consider some of the elements of a covenant and their New Testament application. A Biblical covenant is established and sealed by an oath, which usually involves a ceremony wherein the parties make their vows and commitments. When God says He made an oath or a vow, it is in reference to a covenant that He has made. In taking an oath, the one so doing promises to preserve the covenant relationship with its terms and conditions. The curse of a broken covenant is death.
When a covenant was established promises were made, gifts were given and food and drink shared. All of these shared experiences served to ratify the covenant. The things exchanged became tokens of the covenant, or the seal of the covenant, without which it was not valid. With the exchange of identity, there was an exchange of names and assets, as is done in a marriage covenant (with the ring as a sign of the covenant through which the marriage is sealed). The covenant was presided over by a witness or a mediator and the covenant was celebrated with a covenant meal of the sacrifice which ratified the covenant. Eating together of the same life-source further bonded them in covenant relationship, partaking of bread and wine were tokens of the sacrifice. All of these elements are easily seen in the New Covenant in Christ’s blood.
Recall that Adam (father of the human race) fell into sin. As a result, the sin nature was inherited through every consecutive generation. Christ, on the other hand, did not inherit that sin nature. Although he was born to a woman under the law, he had a different father. He did not inherit the bloodline from Adam. This is the beauty of the incarnation. Since his bloodline did not trace back to Adam, he did not inherit the original sin like the rest of humanity. And because he had no original sin and never committed sin he was the perfect human being (fully God, fully man).
Now only a perfect human being could rectify the horrible fall of mankind which our father Adam had caused, but only if he was willing. This was the great struggle in the garden of Gethsemane when Jesus prayed, “If it is possible, let this cup pass from me, but not my will but thine be done.” There is also a beautiful passage in Hebrews:
When Christ came into the world, he said to God, “you did not want animal sacrifices or sin offerings, but you have given me a body to offer. You were not pleased with burnt offerings or other offerings for sin, Then I said, ‘Look, I have come to do your will, O God – as is written about me in the scriptures.”
We now see Jesus Christ as heir of both Abraham and David, the last Adam and according to the law the perfect sacrificial (paschal) lamb. It was that perfect life that paid the price for lost humanity which had been sold into slavery through sin.
Personally, I love the picture of Jesus’s baptism. We know from Romans 6:1-5 that baptism is how we identify with the work or Christ. So with whom was Jesus identifying when he was baptized – may I suggest he was identifying with the fallen descendants of Adam. Although he was fully God, he fully and completely identified with us in the waters of baptism. It was at this point, that heaven opened, the Spirit descended and the Father spoke. Is this not the blessing of God, to be fully alive in the natural and the spiritual at the same time.
While immersed in the water the “holy one” was covered over by the sins of mankind. He identified with a lost and desperate people and took those sins upon himself to make atonement for us all.
For God made Christ, who never sinned, to be the offering for our sin so that we could be made right with God through Christ.
2 Corinthians 5:21
But the most incredible thing is that he didn’t leave us under that old system of works-based righteousness. He completely paid the price for our failure, delivered us out of that system and established true righteousness based on faith. This was God’s intention from the beginning. That is the argument Paul makes in Galatians.
Let me pick up on one of the elements mentioned above to help illustrate the profound link between Abraham and Christ. It has to do with the covenant meal. The communion meal we celebrate is a covenant meal. Not only does it commemorate the Lord’s sacrifice, but It links us back to the Abrahamic covenant. Recall from Genesis 14:18 that Melchizedek met Abraham after the defeat of the 5 kings and served him bread and wine. Christ was fulfilling the ministry begun by Melchizedek by serving the bread and wine to his disciples and thereby fully establishing them in the renewed Abrahamic covenant. This is how Jesus could say in John 6 that unless you eat the bread and drink the blood of the son of man you have no life in you. If you don’t participate in the communion meal, you don’t partake in the Abrahamic covenant – he was symbolically saying, I am Melchizedek, and I am restoring you into the Abrahamic covenant – eat and drink with me.
Consider the passage from Jeremiah:
“The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. This covenant will not be like the one I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand and brought them out of the land of Egypt. They broke that covenant, though I loved them as a husband loves his wife,” says the Lord.
“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel after those days,” says the Lord. “I will put my instructions deep within them, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. And they will not need to teach their neighbors, nor will they need to teach their relatives, saying, ‘You should know the Lord.’ For everyone, from the least to the greatest, will know me already,” says the Lord. “And I will forgive their wickedness, and I will never again remember their sins.”
I want to focus on the word “new” in this passage. According to Strong’s concordance, the Hebrew word for “new” is châdâsh which means a fresh or new thing. However, it is derived from the word châdash which means to rebuild, renew or to repair. In other words, what Christ has done for us is a fresh new thing, but it’s origins are found in the Abrahamic covenant. The Abrahamic covenant has been renewed, restored and fulfilled in the Messiah. During the last supper, Jesus was inviting his disciples to become the true children of Abraham. This new or renewed covenant is at the same time both old and new.
As we begin to wrap up our journey, let’s return to a scripture introduced at the beginning:
And you Gentiles, who were branches from a wild olive tree, have been grafted in. So now you also receive the blessing God has promised Abraham and his children, sharing in the rich nourishment from the root of God’s special olive tree.
At the beginning of our journey, I focused on the blessing and promises we have received from the root of Abraham. Now I ask you to consider how does this understanding nourish and enrich your walk with Christ? Do you see yourself as “grafted into God’s olive tree?” Personally, I marvel at how an ancient nomad, called out of a land of idolatry to believe a promise, can so profoundly affect my understanding of God; but nonetheless, this is the wisdom and mystery of God.
Does this seem paradoxical, that something can be both new and ancient at the same time? As you will discover, the scriptures are full of such paradoxical teaching. This has been our goal – rediscovering the Abrahamic covenant and how Christ our high priest makes it châdâsh (new, fresh, repaired and renewed) for his people today.
“Every teacher of religious law who becomes a disciple in the Kingdom of Heaven is like a homeowner who brings from his storeroom new gems of truth as well as old.”
What does all this mean? Our relationship with God is now based on faith and belief in God’s promises. It is his character and his work, not in our holy duties and religious obligations. Beware of those who attempt to steal our spiritual freedom which we have in Christ. Recall this is the same issue Paul addressed in Galatians. We are told repeatedly to guard the freedom we have; don’t let anyone put us back into spiritual bondage.
Can we make it our sincere prayer that we who have been bound up with religious obligations and traditions can see the way out and come into the true freedom of New Covenant living? Think of it this way; Jesus was born under the law, he completely satisfied the law’s demands, paid the price for our failure, introduced a new priesthood and thereby a new legal system — one based on grace, compassion, and truth. This new priesthood existed both before and after the Levitical system and because Christ has satisfied the demands of both he is the bridge which leads us from Levi to Melchizedek or stated differently, from legalism to freedom.
Psalm 110 is a glorious passage but especially verse 4.
“The Lord has taken an oath and will not break his vow: “You are a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek”
Meditation and discussion
Discuss Christ as the bridge between the old and new testaments. Does this help you in your biblical understanding?
What are the tokens of the New Covenant we have in Christ’s blood?
Think on some of the paradoxes in the scriptures; do you find yourself favoring one side or the other. Is it possible to keep both truths of a paradox in balance?
What does it mean to you to be “grafted into God’s special olive tree”?