Read This Week’s Passage: Romans 8:1–17

The True “War Zone” of the Covenants

The scholarly literature on the covenants often gives the impression that the New Testament’s intense portrayal of contrasts between the old and new covenants has exclusively in view the historical old covenant God made with His people at Sinai and the historical new covenant Jesus inaugurated at the Last Supper. While we have noted some significant differences between the historical old and new covenants (the different rituals involved, and so on), we have also seen that at the most fundamental levels they share the same spiritually defining DNA and gospel of Christ. These two giant covenants of their respective historical dispensations were gospel twins. The new covenant was more enlightened and lethal to the kingdom of darkness, because Jesus had come to shed His “blood of the everlasting covenant” (Heb. 13:20) to ratify the covenant of grace, “which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began” (2 Tim. 1:9).

You may find it helpful to review the chart provided in lesson 1 that depicts the historical timeline of the covenants, including the old and new covenants and their common relationship with “the everlasting gospel.” There is no war between God’s historical covenants. Rather, God’s historical covenants wage war as allies against the enemy of souls through their common offer of salvation through “the gospel of Christ” to a world in crisis and threatened with total loss through the pandemic of sin.

This week’s passage, Romans 8:1–17, focuses on the internal “war zone” of the covenants.

Satan cannot change the gospel. It is an objective reality: God forgives sins. He reconciles people born in the pit. He writes His law on the hearts of those who respond to Him with faith and the obedience spawned from faith. A day is coming when all will know Him, from the least to the greatest. Satan can do nothing about these realities. The covenants speak with one voice affirming them.

What Satan can do, and does do, is make every possible effort to keep people away from the gospel, to blind them to God’s covenantal love for them and His promises to redeem them from the pit and crown them with love and compassion (cf. Ps. 103:4). He can seek in every way possible to turn them away from the gospel when they do hear it, luring them to reject it outright or, alternately, lure them to “accept” it and relate to it aberrantly, thinking they are safe when they are not.

The true battle of the covenants is not between God’s historical covenants but is experiential and relational. God will force no one to accept Him or His love for them. His love draws them, woos them, but does not strong-arm them into submission. Everyone will hear the gospel in one form or another, despite Satan’s efforts otherwise (John 1:9). And everyone will respond in one way or another—either with an old covenant experience (rejection, legalism) that leads to total loss, or with a new covenant experience (faith and the obedience spawned by faith) that leads to life. The Bible describes it as a war between “the flesh” and “the Spirit.”

Welcome to the true “war zone” of the covenants.