Arthur Pink, 1952
In view of the popular delusion of this generation, with its craze for what is novel and modern, and its contempt of that which is stable and ancient it is perhaps necessary to point out that all new things are not good and desirable nor are all old things to be despised. For on the one hand, we read of "new gods," which Israel wickedly followed (Judges 5:8), and on the other, of "old paths" which we are bidden to ask for (Jeremiah 6:16). In our remarks, we shall dwell the longest on those which are least understood, seeking to furnish help where it is most needed.
1. The new HEART."I will also sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean. I will cleanse you from all your impurities and all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will remove your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh." (Ezekiel 36:25-26). Whatever fulfillment that prediction may or may not have in connection with the Jews at some future day it is made good in the experience of the regenerate in all ages. The language is, of course, highly figurative, nevertheless, it expresses simple but grand realities. It describes the essential features of that miracle of grace which is wrought within the people of God.
First, there is an effectual application of the pure Word of God unto their souls, whereby they are cleansed from the love of sin and conformed unto His holiness. When the love of God is shed abroad in the heart, its affections are drawn unto things above, and it finds its satisfaction in them.
Second, a new heart and spirit are assured. The heart is the cause of all motions and actions. By nature, it is a heart of stone insensible, inflexible, impenitent, impervious to spiritual things unmoved by mercies or judgments, invitations or warnings dead and dry. This is a fit emblem of the vile and inveterate enmity of fallen man against God.
But when He quickens us, then He makes good that word, "I will give them a heart to know me" (Jeremiah 24:7). That is not a mere head knowledge of God, but an experiential one, which is accompanied by an approbation of Him, communion with Him, obedience to Him; or, as Deuteronomy 30:6 says, "To love the LORD your God with all your heart, and with all your soul." That new heart is tender, warm, pliable.
The "new spirit" signifies an enlightened understanding, a sensitive conscience, a submissive will. There is then an inward and universal change, producing a transforming and permanent effect. This is a change which brings its subject to serve God sincerely and cheerfully. Those gifts are the bestowments of God's sovereign favor and are communicated by divine power. Nothing whatever is here attributed to man. God appropriates the whole work unto Himself. The imparting of a vital principle requires a supernatural Agent. To remove the heart of stone and give a heart of flesh is an act of omnipotence.
2. The new COVENANT.This was inaugurated and established by the Lord Jesus, being founded on the blood of atonement. Its contents are described in Hebrews 8:8-12, where Jeremiah 31:31-34 is quoted. "Look, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah not like the covenant that I made with their ancestors on the day I took them by their hands to lead them out of the land of Egypt. I disregarded them, says the Lord, because they did not continue in My covenant. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be My people." Hebrews 8:8-10
At the time God gave that assurance through the prophet, the fleshly descendants of Abraham were divided into two hostile groups, with separate kings and centers of worship. They were antagonistic to each other, and as such strikingly adumbrated the great division between God's elect among the Jews and the Gentiles in their natural state and status (Eph 2:14, 16). But just as God announced that the separate houses of Judah and Israel should "become one" (Ezekiel 36:16), so His elect among Jews and Gentiles are made one by Christ (Eph 2:14-18), and therefore are all born-again believers designated the "children and seed" of Abraham (Gal 3:7, 29), and are "blessed with faithful Abraham" (Gal 3:9).
Thus, the house of Israel in Hebrews 8:10 is to be understood mystically and spiritually (cf. Romans 2:28-29; Gal 6:16). That this new covenant is in force today is clear from, "But now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant" (Heb 8:6), from "This cup is the new covenant in my blood" (Luke 22:20, compared with 1 Corinthians 11:24-25), and from "Wherefore the Holy Spirit also is a witness to us" (Heb 10:15).
The question has been raised, both by Calvinists and Arminians, as to whether the promises of Hebrews 8:10-12 are absolute or conditional, and rarely has one answered to the satisfaction of the other. The former dwelling upon 2 Samuel 23:5, and the latter upon Isaiah 55:3, neither giving due weight to both of those passages.
Personally, we would say that those promises are absolute as they were made by God to Christ conditional as they are made by Christ to us to a full interest in them, faith and obedience are indispensable. To the sinner Christ says, "Incline your ear" (cease your rebellion and submit to My lordship), "and come unto me" (throw down the weapons of your warfare and cast yourself upon My mercy): "hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you" (Isaiah 55:3). Human responsibility is there addressed and enforced. Our compliance with those terms is conversion. Christ will not disgrace His grace by entering into a covenant with those who are still defiant and impenitent. "The honor of God would fall to the ground if we would be pardoned without submission, without confession of past sins, or resolution of future obedience" (Thomas Manton, 1620-1677).
3. The new NAME."To him that overcomes will I give to eat of the hidden manna, and will give him a white stone, and in the stone a new name written, which no man knows but he who receives it" (Rev 2:17).
The "hidden manna" speaks of Christ's feasting him with spiritual and inward refreshments those enjoyments of Himself which the world knows nothing about.
The giving of "a white stone" is a figure taken from a custom of the ancients, that being handed to those acquitted after trial, as a black one was to those condemned. Thus, it signified absolution from guilt.
The "new name" tells of acceptance, as adopted ones take the name of the family into which they are adopted. The giving of a new name not only betokened a new beginning, but carried with it a high honor, as is clear from the cases of Abram (Genesis 17:5), Jacob (Genesis 32:5), Simon (John 1:42), and Saul when commended to a new work (Acts 13:9). The new name is an expression of the Lord's personal delight in the individual overcomer. No one else knows it, because the ground of this knowledge is hidden in his own consciousness and experience. In this world, his name is of no account, but then he will be owned by the Lord of glory, and be advanced to a new dignity!
4. The new SONG.The fundamental passage on this is Psalm 40:3, where the speaker is the Lord Jesus. In the preceding verse, He owns the Father's action in bringing Him up out of a horrible pit and miry clay, setting His feet upon a rock, and establishing His goings. Thus, it is the resurrected Christ who is in view. On the eve of His death, at the Passover supper, He had sung one of the old Psalms (Mat 26:30), but upon His triumph over the grave a new song was put into His mouth, "even praise unto [not simply "His," but] our God." Thus, the members are conformed to their Head in this too, and exhorted, "O sing unto the LORD a new song; for he has done marvelous things" (Psalm 98:1).
This is a call to the renewed soul to celebrate the honor
of the Lamb, who . . .
fulfilled the law on his behalf,
put away all his sins by the sacrifice of Himself, and
brought in an everlasting righteousness for him.
Then has He not given him abundant cause to rejoice and to laud his wonderful Savior? The Son of God took upon Him the form of a servant, became the poorest of the poor, suffered, and died in his stead. Then let him raise unto Him a song of loving gratitude and praise. Let him make melody in his heart unto the Lord, let him give vent to his joy (and not stifle it), let hosannahs resound unto the Conqueror of his foes.
The angels celebrated the wondrous work of God in creation, "The morning stars sang together" (Job 38:7); but the Church has a far grander cause to hymn His praise, even redemption. The new song will be sung in Heaven (Rev 5:9), but the saints are learning to lisp it even now.
5. The new LIFE."Just as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life" (Romans 6:4) abstaining from the things which displease Him, and practicing what honors Him. Thanksgiving is to be translated into thanks-living, showing forth the virtues of "Him who has called us out of darkness into His marvelous light" (1 Peter 2:9).
6. New MERCIES."It is of the LORD's mercies that we are not consumed .They are new every morning" (Lam 3:22-23). Each fresh day brings fresh proofs of His unfailing compassions, chief of which is His renewing us in the inner man day by day (2 Corinthians 4:16).
7. The new EARTH."We, according to his promise, look for new heavens and a new earth, wherein dwells righteousness" (2 Peter 3:13). The question is often asked, "When will the prayer be answered and God's will be done on earth as it is in Heaven" (Mat 6:10)? When the new earth replaces the old one, for there, "The earth shall be full of the knowledge of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea!" (Isa 11:9).