The Superiority of the New Covenant

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Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
In Bahnsen's Theonomy in Christian Ethics, he said, "The New Covenant is better because it brings the power of obedience with it by the agency of the Holy Spirit" (p. 189, italics his). This prompted a few questions in me:

-Was there any type of obedience to the law in the Old Covenant? (I would hope so!)
-If so, what was the means of this obedience?

Is the answer that the Spirit still regenerated people's hearts in the Old Covenant, but He is much more overt and prominent in the New?
 

TheocraticMonarchist

Puritan Board Junior
In Bahnsen's Theonomy in Christian Ethics, he said, "The New Covenant is better because it brings the power of obedience with it by the agency of the Holy Spirit" (p. 189, italics his). This prompted a few questions in me:

-Was there any type of obedience to the law in the Old Covenant? (I would hope so!)
-If so, what was the means of this obedience?

Is the answer that the Spirit still regenerated people's hearts in the Old Covenant, but He is much more overt and prominent in the New?

Good question! I had a similar one so I will post it too :D.

-Is there any difference between the indwelling of the Holy Spirit and regeneration by the Holy Spirit?

I always thought that when the Holy Spirit took up residence inside of the believer they were regenerated, but I recently saw in a book where a Reformed Baptist brother made a distinction between the two. He taught that OT believers were regenerated, but not indwelt by the Holt Spirit.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The general pouring out of the Spirit is one of the distinct signs of the New Covenant.

The Spirit has always been the Author of the New Birth/Regeneration. Such was Jesus' statement to Nicodemus, that being the teacher of Israel he should have had a grasp of this basic element of biblical religion. And there is not question but that he would have been responsible for all spiritual development whenever it occurred, even during OT times.

In the OT, the Spirit was offered for the special conduct of office, and for the exhibition of God's presence. But in power he did not come and remain on all. There must have been a great general sense of the poverty of his presence than we know now (except for occasions when we grieve him away), a sense that produced great thirst and longing in the regenerated for what was promised with the coming of Messiah.

So, someone like David praying "Take not thy Holy Spirit from me," could have been praying simply not to apostatize (and so prove he was never regenerated); but I think more likely he was praying not to lose the extra gift he had been granted as a king and a prophet.

That thirst which I mentioned, brought about by the Spirit's OT dispensation (as it were) by eyedropper, was assuaged in plenitude when he was "poured out" on Pentecost, drenching the church; and in such a way as would never be recalled, but would be our eternal possession as members of the church. Even if we grieve him, he will not desert us permanently, or leave us without comfort, but in our repentance will always restore unto us the Joy of our salvation. This is the promise of Christ.
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
Good distinction.

I think what is better about the NC is obvious so not sure what the context was Bahnsen is referring to.

That Christ has lived a perfect life in the flesh, made the atonement, resurrected, we have witnesses to it, and a more clear revelation from the NT scriptures, an easier sign of the covenant, no need for a priest or to raise sheep or by them for sacrifice and removed all the OT bondage laws and has written the law in our hearts.
(As Rev. Bruce said, in some new and better way also since the true believers had to have a heart for it in the OT too as Jesus told them)
 

Houston E.

Puritan Board Freshman
The general pouring out of the Spirit is one of the distinct signs of the New Covenant.

The Spirit has always been the Author of the New Birth/Regeneration.

So Bruce, just for clarification, are you saying that in the OT, the Holy Spirit not only regnerated the believer but indwelt them as well?
 

Whitefield

Puritan Board Junior
So for clarity sake: are we talking about the the Covenant of Works versus the Covenant of Grace? I think it is pretty obvious that the Covenant of Grace is superior to the Covenant of Works. Or is Bahnsen talking about a third covenant? Or is he talking about the difference of administration of the Covenant of Grace prior to Jesus' coming vs. after?
 

Zenas

Snow Miser
In Bahnsen's Theonomy in Christian Ethics, he said, "The New Covenant is better because it brings the power of obedience with it by the agency of the Holy Spirit" (p. 189, italics his). This prompted a few questions in me:

-Was there any type of obedience to the law in the Old Covenant? (I would hope so!)
-If so, what was the means of this obedience?

Is the answer that the Spirit still regenerated people's hearts in the Old Covenant, but He is much more overt and prominent in the New?

I'm about to jet out so someone might have said this already, as I haven't read the whole thread, only your post.

Intuitively, it seems he is correct because while there was obedience in the Old Covenant, the New Covenant brings about obedience because Christ is our obedience. The Old Covenant depended on our obedience, whereas in the New, Christ has already been obedient for us. If His righteousness and obedience is indeed imputed, then it follows that yes, the New brings the power of obedience, Christ's obedience.

That may not be what you're looking for though and, again, that's just speaking intuitively.

Later!
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
So for clarity sake: are we talking about the the Covenant of Works versus the Covenant of Grace? I think it is pretty obvious that the Covenant of Grace is superior to the Covenant of Works. Or is Bahnsen talking about a third covenant? Or is he talking about the difference of administration of the Covenant of Grace prior to Jesus' coming vs. after?

Don't think new and old applies to works and grace.

That is a misconception of some Dispensationalists.
 

Confessor

Puritan Board Senior
So for clarity sake: are we talking about the the Covenant of Works versus the Covenant of Grace? I think it is pretty obvious that the Covenant of Grace is superior to the Covenant of Works. Or is Bahnsen talking about a third covenant? Or is he talking about the difference of administration of the Covenant of Grace prior to Jesus' coming vs. after?

The bolded question. The superiority of the New Covenant administration versus the older administrations.
 

Davidius

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Yeah, so far I haven't seen how Covenant Theology allows for any substantial difference in the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Covenants.
 

Davidius

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Yeah, so far I haven't seen how Covenant Theology allows for any substantial difference in the role of the Holy Spirit in the Old and New Covenants.

Is there a scripture that says there should be?

Yes, Jesus tells the disciples to wait until they receive "the promise," which is the outpouring of the Spirit, which means that the Spirit's ministry should be substantially different in some way.
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
Yes, Jesus tells the disciples to wait until they receive "the promise," which is the outpouring of the Spirit, which means that the Spirit's ministry should be substantially different in some way.

There were advents of Spirit-enabling for office in the OT, symbolised by anointing. What our Lord promised in terms of an end of the age outpouring of the Spirit is of the same kind, though different in degree. It should also be regarded as a part of the history of salvation in equipping the NT church for its worldwide mission rather than some individual Christian experience.

In terms of the OP, Ps. 119 makes it abundantly clear that the power of obedience was dependent on the grace of God under the old administration of the covenant of grace.
 
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D. Paul

Puritan Board Sophomore
Does this give any indication of "indwelling"?

1Pe 1:10 Of which salvation the prophets have enquired and searched diligently, who prophesied of the grace that should come unto you:
1Pe 1:11 Searching what, or what manner of time the Spirit of Christ which was in them did signify, when it testified beforehand the sufferings of Christ, and the glory that should follow.
1Pe 1:12 Unto whom it was revealed, that not unto themselves, but unto us they did minister the things, which are now reported unto you by them that have preached the gospel unto you with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven; which things the angels desire to look into.
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
I see those verses as the fulfillment of the promises in Christ actually coming,but I don't see any dif in the operation of the Spirit there?

And the fact they were wait for something does not mean it will be different than had been in times past. Only than it was in that immediate time.

This is, I think, as Christ said that while He was with the disciples they did not need the Spirit for they had Christ. But Christ was limited in his humanity to space and time, whereas when He left the Spirit could come to take His place.
I do think this is and was unique to this time. But this has to do with Christ being here physically and He wasn't in the OT.
John 14:26 But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will send in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you. KJV

John 16:7 Nevertheless I tell you the truth. It is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I depart, I will send Him to you. 8 And when He has come, He will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: 9 of sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 of righteousness, because I go to My Father and you see Me no more; 11 of judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.

12 "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you. 15 All things that the Father has are Mine. Therefore I said that He will take of Mine and declare it to you. NKJV

Also this seems to manifest a dif in how the Covenant of Grace will be administered differently in the new testament times and may be a dif work of the Spirit
Jer 31:33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more." NKJV
 
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Davidius

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Yes, Jesus tells the disciples to wait until they receive "the promise," which is the outpouring of the Spirit, which means that the Spirit's ministry should be substantially different in some way.

There were advents of Spirit-enabling for office in the OT, symbolised by anointing. What our Lord promised in terms of an end of the age outpouring of the Spirit is of the same kind, though different in degree. It should also be regarded as a part of the history of salvation in equipping the NT church for its worldwide mission rather than some individual Christian experience.

In terms of the OP, Ps. 119 makes it abundantly clear that the power of obedience was dependent on the grace of God under the old administration of the covenant of grace.

In my confusion I'm trying to get past (what I consider) vague explanations like "equipping the NT church for its mission."

On what are you basing the claim that the outpouring was different in degree, not in kind? What does "equipping the NT church for its worldwide mission" mean?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
The general pouring out of the Spirit is one of the distinct signs of the New Covenant.

The Spirit has always been the Author of the New Birth/Regeneration.

So Bruce, just for clarification, are you saying that in the OT, the Holy Spirit not only regnerated the believer but indwelt them as well?

In addition to my fuller comments in that post, I think armourbearer has said essentially my point in these words:
the Spirit is of the same kind, though different in degree.
I used the illustration of an eyedropper vs. a bucket. A cup with only a modicum of water in it still has water in it.

So, yes, OT saints were "indwelt," but I think it was apparent to them how far from full they were. All the more when they could note those who were rather more and specially endowed by the Spirit for some special calling. Those few, in my view, were far closer to "ordinary" NT experience than the "ordinary" saint of Old.

Thus, we have Jesus saying "he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than [John the Baptist]." That is to say, the poorest NT saint (in spiritual terms) is in an estate that is more blessed than he who stood in the foremost rank of the OT, none were greater. We can liken that illustration to the observation that our western "poor" today live on a scale that many kings of olden times would envy.

helpful?
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
Thus, we have Jesus saying "he who is least in the Kingdom of Heaven is greater than [John the Baptist]." That is to say, the poorest NT saint (in spiritual terms) is in an estate that is more blessed than he who stood in the foremost rank of the OT, none were greater. We can liken that illustration to the observation that our western "poor" today live on a scale that many kings of olden times would envy.

helpful?

Wouldn't that be because he has seen not just the type but the reality of the Messiah and is after His work not looking for it?
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
Don,
Didn't JtB see the reality?
Didn't he see the Kingdom actually arrive?
Didn't he have the Spirit and power of Elijah?
Wasn't he informed prior to the event how to recognize the baptism of the Spirit on Messiah when it occurred?

Is JtB a NT figure or an OT figure? I would argue he is an OT figure. The key is the Spirit himself, not enlightenment (of any kind). I can think of many a modern NT saint who has a profoundly less complete understanding of Messiah, even in the light of his arrival, than JtB had of him even before his advent.
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
Don,
Didn't JtB see the reality?
Didn't he see the Kingdom actually arrive?
Didn't he have the Spirit and power of Elijah?
Wasn't he informed prior to the event how to recognize the baptism of the Spirit on Messiah when it occurred?

Is JtB a NT figure or an OT figure? I would argue he is an OT figure. The key is the Spirit himself, not enlightenment (of any kind). I can think of many a modern NT saint who has a profoundly less complete understanding of Messiah, even in the light of his arrival, than JtB had of him even before his advent.

I was agreeing with you. Just wondering about that one statement and why it was said.

I would say yes to all of your questions. Except JtB maybe some unusual transitional prophet not strictly OT after all he did see the Messisah none of them did, but he did not see the resurrection but he was the voice preparing the way.
 

Davidius

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
re: drop of water vs. a bucket...

What is the result of this change in degree? We can resist sin more easily? We can perform more miracles (I guess not since most of us are cessationists...)? or what?
 

MW

Puritanboard Amanuensis
In my confusion I'm trying to get past (what I consider) vague explanations like "equipping the NT church for its mission."

On what are you basing the claim that the outpouring was different in degree, not in kind? What does "equipping the NT church for its worldwide mission" mean?

Eph. 4:11, He gave some apostles, etc., to whom the promise of the Spirit was primarily directed. One of the results of the "affusion" of the Spirit is what might be called the democratisation of spiritual function, whereby every believer is seen to be a part of a ministering body and acts in accord with specific gifts the Holy Spirit has blessed him or her with, whereas under the OT leadership was dependent on charismatic individuals acting on behalf of the community.
 

Contra_Mundum

Pilgrim, Alien, Stranger
Staff member
re: drop of water vs. a bucket...

What is the result of this change in degree? We can resist sin more easily? We can perform more miracles (I guess not since most of us are cessationists...)? or what?

DP,
Here's one way of looking at it. Can a man survive in the desert on one canteen of water a day? Let's say he can, but he's going to be limited in how much he can do, how much exertion he can make--by how much water he has. He's not getting a refill until tomorrow. There will be other factors too: skill, stamina, experience.

But what if he had a spring of water always gushing about 10 feet away? How much more could he accomplish? How much would it free him? How much more could he attempt, how much more could he exercise, how much quicker could he advance?

Back to the first situation. What if once a week a very special person stopped by? He had a saline IV and a seemingly endless supply of these refills in his pack. He came by specifically to help you do various tasks neither you nor your neighbors could accomplish in your limited state. But he had a lot of people to see during the week. So, after a couple hours it was "sayonara" until next week.

Finally, now you and your neighbors all have access to an endless supply of water, you have your own IV packs. Some people still live like spartans, just get by on a canteen a day. Others drink a lot of water, but for a variety of reasons don't seem to do much with the gift. Others have a variety of skills (between them, and sometimes as individuals) and they use the plenitude of water to make the most of them.


No analogy is perfect, but I'd like to think this parable helps me understand the OT vs. NT situation a bit better.
 

DonP

Puritan Board Junior
I like your illustration
Brings to mind Eph 5:18
18 ... but be filled with the Spirit, NKJV continuing

Although Ps 23:5 You anoint my head with oil; My cup runs over.
NKJV

So maybe this continually being filled is for all believers now whereas before only some and at some times.
 

OPC'n

Puritan Board Doctor
OT saints were in dwelt by the Holy Spirit for regeneration just like NT saints...no difference. What does Scripture say about all mankind? Romans 3:23 “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”, Romans 3:12 “They have all turned aside; They have together become unprofitable; There is none who does good, no, not one”, John 3:36 ““He who believes in the Son has everlasting life; and he who does not believe the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God abides on him.”, John 8:44 ““You are of your father the devil, and the desires of your father you want to do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own resources, for he is a liar and the father of it.”, and so on. 1Corinthians 12:3 states, “Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God calls Jesus accursed, and no one can say that Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” We can make the conclusion that all mankind is depraved and there is nothing good in him to would chose Christ. Has anyone gone to heaven by any other means than that of Christ? We all would say no. Then how would the OT elect have gone if they first didn’t have the Holy Spirit within them to call Christ Lord? None of them knew His name in order to say, “Jesus Christ is my salvation” but they were chosen by God who does the saving and they knew Christ would come. Jesus said of Himself that He was the Way the Truth and the Life and no one, not OT or NT elect, goes to the Father except through Him. It is then resonable to say with certainity that the Holy Spirit filled the OT saints as He does us now. The only difference is that the Pentecost brought together the Jews and the Gentiles into this new covenant of promise…salvation. The Pentecost was also a time when gifts of the Holy Spirit were poured upon that group of people for that period of time to give evidence to Christ. A Scripture to support OT saints having the permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit (there are more) is Daniel 4:8 “But at last Daniel came before me (his name is Belteshazzar, according to the name of my god; in him is the Spirit of the Holy God), and I told the dream before him…” Notice here the king differentiates between his god and the true God and states that the Spirit of the Holy God was in Daniel. I don’t think we can take this verse lightly and just say, as some do, that the king had no idea who the Holy Spirit was. God talked through the mouth of an ass and He certainly can talk through the mouth of king to show truths.

Another Scripture to confirm the OT saints had the Holy Spirit is 1Peter 1:10-11 “10 Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, 11inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories.”

I know some people believe that the Holy Spirit came and went from the OT elect but that just isn't biblically sound.
 

Houston E.

Puritan Board Freshman
Thanks Bruce, indeed very helpful.
I'm in agreement with your statement, just mainly asked for the onlookers.

BTW, great analogy with the canteen, IV, and gushing water! :think:
 

Peairtach

Puritan Board Doctor
O.Palmer Robertson says that one way in which the Spirit is more prominent in the New Covenant is that He is able to use the resources of a completed written revelation. The Spirit has much more and clearer "raw material" to use.

We see something of this if we remember how the Spirit was much more dependent on the use of the picture book theology of the ceremonials in the childhood Old Covenant, whereas now - in the adolescence of the church - we just have baptism and the Lord's supper.

Also the ignorance and slowness to believe of the disciples before the Resurrection and Pentecost and the new revelation that that brought, shows how Old Covenant ''Christians'' were in an inferior position regarding revelation, as our Lord indicates in relation to John the Baptist, calling him the greatest of the prophets, but saying that the least in the kingom of heaven is greater.
 
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