What’s New, According to the Bible?
We like new stuff… new cars, new homes, new gadgets like computers, cell phones and iPads, new shoes, new large screen HD TVs, make new friends, need new ideas, have a new attitude, new wave, newfangled, new day, new dawn, the New Deal, turning over a new leaf, the new kid on the block, new baby in the family, ring out the old and bring in the new, Happy New Year, brand spanking new, something old something new something borrowed something blue, a brave new world, new and improved, looking for that new workout, that new diet, a new recipe, a new direction, and we even have the emperor’s new clothes.
It was Solomon, the wisest man who ever lived, who said that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9)
2 “Everything is meaningless,” says the Teacher, “completely meaningless!”
3 What do people get for all their hard work under the sun? 4 Generations come and generations go, but the earth never changes. 5 The sun rises and the sun sets, then hurries around to rise again. 6 The wind blows south, and then turns north. Around and around it goes, blowing in circles. 7 Rivers run into the sea, but the sea is never full. Then the water returns again to the rivers and flows out again to the sea. 8 Everything is wearisome beyond description. No matter how much we see, we are never satisfied. No matter how much we hear, we are not content.
9 History merely repeats itself. It has all been done before. Nothing under the sun is truly new. 10 Sometimes people say, “Here is something new!” But actually it is old; nothing is ever truly new. 11 We don’t remember what happened in the past, and in future generations, no one will remember what we are doing now.
He refers to his observation of the effects of repetitious, persistent activity in God’s creation over many generations compared to the brief, comparatively profitless activity of one person which fails to produce lasting satisfaction, so he concludes that all of life is wearisome. He sees life as offering nothing new, and over time nothing will be remembered… so life is futile, it is like chasing after the wind.
But when you read through the Bible, you find A LOT of information on the topic of newness…
New Jerusalem – Revelation 21:2
New Heaven and Earth –
- Isaiah 65:17 (Look! I am creating new heavens and a new earth, and no one will even think about the old ones anymore)
- Isaiah 66:22 (As surely as my new heavens and earth will remain, so will you always be my people, with a name that will never disappear)
- 2 Peter 3:13 (But we are looking forward to the new heavens and new earth he has promised, a world filled with God’s righteousness.)
- Revelation 21:1 (Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the old heaven and the old earth had disappeared.)
New Creation –
- 2 Corinthians 5:17 (if any person is in Christ, they are a new creation…)
- Galatians 6:15 (It is not about religious ritual. What counts is whether we have been transformed into a new creation)
New Song – Ps 33:3, 40:3, 96:1, 98:1, 144:9, 149:1, Isaiah 42:10, Revelation 5:9, 14:3
New Branch – Isaiah 11:1 (Out of the stump of David’s family will grow a shoot— yes, a new Branch bearing fruit from the old root.)
New Strength – Isaiah 40:31 (But those who trust in the Lord will find new strength. They will soar high on wings like eagles. They will run and not grow weary. They will walk and not faint.)
New Path – Isaiah 64:16 (I will lead blind Israel down a new path, guiding them along an unfamiliar way. I will brighten the darkness before them and smooth out the road ahead of them. Yes, I will indeed do these things; I will not forsake them.)
New Name –
- Isaiah 62:2 (The nations will see your righteousness. World leaders will be blinded by your glory. And you will be given a new name by the Lord’s own mouth.)
- Isaiah 62:4 (Never again will you be called “The Forsaken City” or “The Desolate Land.” Your new name will be “The City of God’s Delight” and “The Bride of God,” for the Lord delights in you and will claim you as his bride.)
- Revelation 2:17 (To everyone who is victorious I will give some of the manna that has been hidden away in heaven. And I will give to each one a white stone, and on the stone will be engraved a new name that no one understands except the one who receives it.)
New Heart and New Spirit –
- Ezekiel 18:31 (Put all your rebellion behind you, and find yourselves a new heart and a new spirit.)
- Ezekiel 36:26 (And I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart.)
New Patch and New Wine – Matthew 9:16-17 (no one puts new wine into old wineskins)
New World – Matthew 19:28 (Jesus replied, “I assure you that when the world is made new and the Son of Mansits upon his glorious throne, you who have been my followers will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.)
New Tomb – Matthew 27:60 (Jesus was placed in a new tomb)
New Covenant – Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25, 2 Corinthians 3:6, Hebrews 8:13, 12:24 (there’s way to much theology to even comment right now, but the rest of the message will unpack this new covenant)
New Commandment – John 13:34 (love one another)
New Life – Romans 5:18, 1 Corinthians 15:22, 2 Corinthians 5:15, Galatians 3:21, Colossians 3:1, 11, Titus 3:5, 1 Peter 1:23, 3:7 (this is the essence of the entire New Testament)
New Person – Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Galatians 6:15-16
New Bodies – 1 Corinthians 15:38, 2 Corinthians 5:4
New Way – 2 Corinthians 3:7-12 (the glory of the new covenant)
New Nature – Colossians 3:10 (Put on your new nature, and be renewed as you learn to know your Creator and become like him.)
New Birth – Titus 3:5 (he saved us, not because of the righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.)
New Everything – Revelation 21:5 (And the one sitting on the throne said, “Look, I am making everything new!” And then he said to me, “Write this down, for what I tell you is trustworthy and true.”)
Wow, so much newness. So on this last Sunday of 2013, and as we launch into a new year, let’s take another look at the passage from Jeremiah 31:31-34…
31 “The day is coming,” says the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah. 32 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.
33 “But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day,” 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. 34 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.”
This passage is actually the longest Old Testament passage quoted in the New Testament, and it is applied to the church (2 Corinthians 3:5-18, Hebrews 8:8-12, 10:16-17).
The word “new” is described as “different from one of the same which existed before; made fresh.” There is a larger concept of newness where Scripture expresses God’s concern for people and the creation in four broad categories.
1. God’s New Act: Scripture often calls for us to remember his past activities, such as creation and the exodus, which reveal God’s care for God’s world and God’s people. Although faith is rooted in God’s acts in history, biblical faith does not leave God in the distant past. Time and again writers of Scripture called for God’s people to anticipate God’s new intervention in their lives.
In Isaiah 43:14-21 God promised Babylonian exiles that he was now “doing a new thing” which paralleled God’s acts of saving Israel from Egyptian slavery. It would be THAT big.
By the time we get to the New Testament, God again acted in a new way in Jesus Christ, who offered a new teaching with amazing authority (Mark 1:27). His ministry would be compared to new wine bursting old expectations of God’s involvement in human salvation (Mark 2:22).
There would not only be God acting in a new way, there would be the building of new relationships.
2. New Relationships: The Bible records how God acted in the past to establish relationships, primarily with the descendants of Abraham and the people of Israel at Sinai. Jeremiah anticipated God’s establishing a new covenant with God’s habitually faithless people. This new covenant would make knowledge of the law a matter of the heart, something internal rather than external (Jeremiah 31:31-34; Hebrews 8:8-13).
Take a look at Luke 22:20, After supper he took another cup of wine and said, “This cup is the new covenant between God and his people—an agreement confirmed with my blood, which is poured out as a sacrifice for you.
Luke points to the sacrificial death of Christ on the cross as the basis for this new covenant. In Jesus Christ the believer experiences newness of life (Romans 6:4; 2 Corinthians 5:17) and this renewed life is characterized by new relationships with God and with other people (Ephesians 2:15-16; Colossians 3:10-11). So, we have God’s new acts, bringing new relationships, which leads to new birth.
3. New Birth: Out of the concept of new relationships comes the term, new birth, which refers to God’s gift of spiritual life to undeserving sinners. It is synonymous with regeneration and finds its origin in John 3:1-10, where Jesus told Nicodemus, “Unless someone is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3). Jesus indicated that the idea of the new birth is rooted in the OT when he scolded Nicodemus for not remembering his seminary Old Testament classes: “Are you a teacher of Israel and don’t know these things?” (John 3:10; cp. Ezekiel 36:26-27).
The new birth is caused by the gracious and sovereign act of God apart from human cooperation or effort (John 1:13; Ephesians 2:4-5). We cannot earn our salvation. God brings this new birth through the preaching of the word of God (1 Peter 1:23; James 1:18).
So, today, you must ask yourself these questions, “Have I experienced this new birth? Am I in a new relationship with God through Jesus Christ?” If you are not sure, or know that you have never taken that step of faith, today is the day that you can nail down your destiny.
The result of the new birth is a changed life; a new life (2 Corinthians 5:17) which includes saving faith, repentance (Ephesians 2:8; Acts 11:18; 16:14) and obedience to God’s law (1 John 3:9). With God’s new acts, and new relationships, and new birth, this all leads us to this new covenant.
4. New Covenant: This New Covenant is all about the unity of five divine covenants we find in the Old Testament: Despite their differences, these covenants reveal a structural and thematic unity of grace that is found throughout all the Scripture. It is NOT simply a matter of Law versus Grace, so let’s take a quick look at these previous covenants.
The Noahic covenant preserves the human race from destruction so that the Messiah might be born. It demonstrates the grace of God in that he promises to patiently put up with the human race until the coming of Christ (cp. Acts 17:30).
The Abrahamic covenant follows the covenant of grace as well, creating a historical lineage or family through which the promised Messiah would come.
The Mosaic covenant, too, is part of the covenant of grace and is an extension of the Abrahamic covenant. The Scriptures specifically says that the Mosaic covenant is established because God “remembered His covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob” (Exodus 2:24). By delivering Israel from Egypt and forming them into a nation by giving them the Law, God established an arrangement in which all of mankind might see that they cannot live up to the covenant of works, and then they will realize their need for a Savior.
Within the context of the nation of Israel, God founded the Davidic covenant that provided the divine monarchy through which God would govern his redeemed people for all eternity. God also kept this covenant unconditionally, preserving the rebellious Hebrew nation and bringing them back from exile “for My own sake and for My servant David’s sake” (2 Kings 20:4-6 NASB).
This New Covenant brings the covenant of grace to fulfillment with the life, death, resurrection, and ascension of Jesus Christ who is the promised Messiah of the covenant of grace. So, in the progressive revelation of these covenants, we can see one unified, unfolding story of God’s plan.
Let’s get back to the New Covenant in Jeremiah 31, which lists four provisions, or “I Will” statements, which indicate what God is going to do:
- I will make a new covenant; here God is taking the initiative in making this covenant, this is renewal (v.31)
- I will put my instructions deep within them, writing it on their hearts; this is regeneration. (v.33)
- I will be their God and they will be my people; this is restoration of relationship. (v.33)
- I will forgive their sins and remember them no more; this is removal, complete justification, wiping the board totally clean. (v.34)
This is a profound Word of Hope is for a hopeless people who are alienated from God by their own sin. They have a broken relationship and they are a disobedient people, yet God has not abandoned them. Like the parent of a prodigal child, God longs to gather his people back into his arms again. We know that Jeremiah’s mention of this New Covenant is fulfilled completely in Jesus Christ.
The New Covenant is established by the blood that Jesus shed on the cross. That blood, which guarantees to Israel the New Covenant, also provides for the forgiveness of sins for the believers who are the church. Jesus’ payment for sins is more than adequate to pay for the sins of the whole world.
So, as we make New Year’s resolutions, all these promises that we intend to keep yet faithfully forsake by the end of January, remember this: any plan for the betterment of humanity or society that ignores the sin problem is destined for failure.
It is not enough to change your environment; we need to change our heart problem. God wants to change the hearts of his people so they will WANT to love him and follow him. God initiates a new covenant to replace the old one. Ever since the time of Moses, this old covenant would direct their conduct but did precious little to change their character.
Have you ever wondered why you fail in the Christian life so often? You have been working on your conduct, to adhere to some external list of rules and regulations, do’s and don’ts. What you need is a new heart whereby God will begin to change your character.
Hear the words of the prophet Ezekiel, I will give you a new heart, and I will put a new spirit in you. I will take out your stony, stubborn heart and give you a tender, responsive heart. (Ezekiel 36:26)
Where are you in this new covenant? Have you recognized your alienation from God? Do you understand that Jesus Christ is the only solution to the sin problem and gaining access to the Father? (John 14:6).
God’s new covenant is offered to all those who receive Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior. As the writer of Ecclesiastes tells us, that there is nothing new under the sun, today we see that there is plenty of newness in the Bible and in a relationship with God.
What is holding you back from being ALL IN? You have tried to change your behavior, failing year after year. Now it is time for a new heart, a heart transplant. God’s Word can be written to your heart where he can effectively change your character that will eventually change your conduct.
Perhaps without knowing it, maybe this is what you have been seeking all these years, to see God acting in human history, to experience a new relationship with God and with other people, to understand and accept this new birth (receiving forgiveness and power to live a life pleasing to God), and to embrace the new covenant of which Jesus speaks during the last supper, this new covenant in his blood.