Israel's New Covenant and the Body of Christ

by Jerry Shugart

VII. The Last Will and Testament of Christ is the Gospel of Christ

There can be no doubt that the spiritual blessings received through the gospel are described in terms of the Last Will and Testament of Christ. First and foremost is the fact of the Lord Jesus' death, that "while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Ro.5:8). Believers of the gospel are the "heirs" of the will and receive the "inheritance" which flows from His Last Will and Testament:

"That the Gentiles should be fellowheirs, and of the same body, and partakers of his promise in Christ by the gospel" (Eph.3:6).

"That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession" (Eph.1:12-14).

T. M. Morris wrote: "Having considered Christ as the testator, let US NOW LOOK AT THE GOSPEL AS THE 'LAST WILL AND TESTAMENT OF CHRIST'...There is, in every testament, provision implied or expressed that it should, with all convenient speed, be published and made known. This is necessary, that the legatees may become aware of that which has been bequeathed to them, and be in a position to put in their claim. Christ has ordained and provided that His disciples should publish His will and testament to all the children of men. We are 'put in trust with the gospel.' We are bound to publish the glad tidings in every direction" (T. M. Morris, Christ's Last Will and Testament, http://biblehub.com/sermons/auth/morris/christ%27s_last_will_and_testament.htm).

William Beck wrote the following about Martin Luther's idea that the Greek word diatheke carries the meaning of the "gospel":

"For Luther the 'berith' of the Old Testament was, in essence, the Gospel-promise of Jesus Christ, while the 'diatheke' was the Gospel-promise completed in the Christ who was already born, sacrificed, risen, and who was coming again to give His people the ultimate inheritance: forgiveness of sins in heaven. This is why he writes: 'And so that little word 'testament' is a short summary of all God's wonders and grace, fulfilled in Christ' (LW:XXXV:84)" [emphasis added] (Beck, The New Testament: God's Word to the Nations, [Cleveland: Biblion Publishing, 1988], 533-534).

With all this in mind we can understand that in the future the nation of Israel will receive blessings through the New Covenant and at Romans 11:26-27 the Apostle Paul places that event in the future. The blessings which believers receive now are through the instrumentality of the Last Will and Testament of Christ, the gospel of Christ:

"For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth" (Ro.1:16)

Next we will see that according to the Apostle Paul the Last Will and Testament of Christ is exactly the same thing as the gospel of Christ.

VIII. Ministers of the New Testament

First let us look at the following verse where Paul speaks about Christians being ministers of the "New Testament" or New Diatheke:

"Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament (diatheke); not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2 Cor.3:6; KJV).

When we compare that verse which speaks of the "ministry" of the New Testament with verses which follow later about the same ministry then we can understand that Paul understood that the words "testament" and "gospel" have the same meaning or signifiance:

"Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not; But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God. But if our gospel be hid, it is hid to them that are lost: In whom the god of this world hath blinded the minds of them which believe not, lest the light of the glorious gospel of Christ, who is the image of God, should shine unto them. For we preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord" (2 Cor.4:1-4).

Paul's words "this ministry" are obviously pointing back to the "ministry" of 2 Cor.3:6 and it is evident that his words "this ministry" are in regard to the "manifestation of the truth, the preaching of "Christ Jesus the Lord"-- "the glorious gospel of Christ."

So we can understand that when Paul speaks of the ministry of the New Testament he is speaking of the ministry of the gospel.

Albert Barnes wrote the following commentary on 2 Corinthians 4:1:

"Seeing we have this ministry - The gospel ministry, so much more glorious than that of Moses 2 Corinthians 3:6; which is the ministry by which the Holy Spirit acts on the hearts of people 2 Corinthians 3:8; which is the ministry of that system by which people are justified 2 Corinthians 3:9; and which is the ministry of a system so pure and unclouded, 2 Corinthians 3:9-11, 2 Corinthians 3:18" (Barnes' Notes on the Bible; Commentary at 2 Corinthians 4:1; http://www.sacred-texts.com/bib/cmt/barnes/co2004.htm).

A.R. Fausset wrote the following about 2 Corinthians: "seeing we have this ministry 'The ministration of the Spirit' (2 Co 3:8, 9): the ministry of such a spiritual, liberty-giving Gospel: resuming 2 Co 3:6, 8" (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, Commentary at 2 Corinthians 4:1; https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/2Cr/2Cr_004.cfm?a=1082001).

Even Progressive Dispensationalist Craig Blaising understands that the ministry in question is the ministry of the gospel, writing that "the message of new covenant blessings is called the Gospel in these verses...God is removing the blindness of human hearts and minds by causing the light of the Gospel to shine 'in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ'" (Blaising & Bock, Progressive Dispensationalism [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1993], 204).

Since we know that the words "this ministry" are referring to the preaching of the gospel and those same words are referring to the ministry of "the New Testament" mentioned at 3:6 then we know that both are referring to a ministry of the gospel. Therefore, we can understand that in Paul's mind when he used the word diatheke when applying it to the Body of Christ his reference was to the gospel which comes in the Holy Spirit:

"For our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Spirit, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake" (1 Thess.1:5).

With that in mind let us look at the same verse again:

"Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament (diatheke); not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2 Cor.3:6; KJV).

When we look at the words describing the New Diatheke (the spirit giveth life) we can understand that the ministry in question is preaching the gospel.

John Calvin certainly understood that Paul was speaking of the ministry to preach the gospel, writing the following:

"'Not of the letter but of the spirit'...There is, however, no doubt, that by the term 'letter,' he means the Old Testament, as by the term 'spirit' he means the gospel; for, after having called himself a 'minister of the New Testament,' he immediately adds, by way of exposition, that he is a 'minister of the spirit,' and contrasts the letter with the spirit" [emphasis added] (John Calvin, Commentary on Corinthians - Volume 2, Christian Classics Ethereal Library).

A.R. Fausset wrote the following remarks on 2 Corinthians 3:6:

"spirit giveth life--The spirit of the Gospel when brought home to the heart by the Holy Spirit, gives new spiritual life to a man (Ro 6:4, 11)" [emphasis added] (Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary, Commentary at 2 Corinthians 3:6; https://www.blueletterbible.org/Comm/jfb/2Cr/2Cr_003.cfm?a=1081006).

The "ministry" which Paul mentioned at 2 Corinthians 3:6 is the one which he refers to here:

"But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God" (Acts 20:24).

Therefore, we can understand that when Paul uses the word diatheke at 2 Corinthians 3:6 the meaning of that word is the Last Will and Testament of Christ, the "gospel of Christ." It is not the New Covenant promised to the nation of Israel which brings spiritual life to believers but instead the Last Will and Testament of Christ, the gospel of Christ:

""Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament (diatheke); not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life" (2 Cor.3:6; KJV).