Theology Thursday: Old Testament Covenant Membership and New Testament Salvation

I hope that I will be a little more frequent in my blog posts than just a weekly post on theology. However, it is Thursday and that means THEOLOGY THURSDAYS!!!

This weeks topic is about the relationship between covenant membership in the Old Testament (OT) and a person’s salvation in the New Testament (NT). This topic was brought to my attention as I was reading one of the articles in my ESV Study Bible which I have already commended to anyone in a previous post. The article that I was reading is titled “Old Testament Theology” and it deals with all the different theological themes that are found in the OT. (Monotheism, Creation and fall, Election and covenant, Covenant Membership, Eschatology.)

The theme that sparked my interest for this blog post was “covenant membership in the OT”. The article points out that the OT does occasionally speak of God bringing “salvation” or “redemption” to someone on an individual level however what this is usually implying is that an individual is now experiencing the blessings of “covenant membership” along with all those who God made a covenant with. (i.e. the Jewish people)

The question that the ESV Study Bible begins to raise is whether or not this idea of communal salvation or “covenant membership” is lost in modern Christian ideals. The ESV Study Bible states:

“When Christians speak of personal salvation, they usually are thinking of individuals in isolation, and so have a much narrower meaning in mind; they should consider whether the NT usage is closer to the OT usage than they might have realized hitherto, including both every aspect of their lives and their connections to other believers, and thus extending to a wider range experience than simply their souls.”

The article is not attempting to undermine the importance of a personal experience of salvation or the importance of the individual’s connection with God through the cross of Jesus. What I feel the article is attempting to point out is the possible neglect that modern Christians have of the reality that in many ways the OT Jewish community is shown to be a shadow of the “True Israel” that is the church (Romans 9:6-8). If the OT Israel experienced “salvation” as something that connected them to the blessings of all who are apart of the covenant and not simply and exclusively on a personal level then we should in certain ways understand NT “salvation” through this lens.

We live an a very individualized culture that encourages physical isolation (suburbia!) and “fake” virtual community (facebook). The NT shows that those who experienced salvation lived their lives together in community and that this was the product of a very real personal experience of salvation. There was no break between living in the “new covenant” and experiencing the new community.

[Some sort of cool ending here.]

Until next time.

Michael

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