“For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second one.” (Hebrews 8:7)
“For if the blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a young cow, sprinkling those who are defiled, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, cleanse our consciences from dead works so that we can serve the living God? Therefore, he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called might receive the promise of the eternal inheritance, because a death has taken place for redemption from the transgressions committed under the first covenant.” (Hebrews 9:13-15)
“And he took bread, gave thanks, broke it, gave it to them, and said, “This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me. In the same way he also took the cup after supper and said, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.” (Luke 20:19-20)
During my times of home ownership, I’ve had the fun(?) of replacing two decks on my domiciles. The first one was a rather dramatic situation. My wife, Jeanne, and I had just bought a new home, and after inspection, we knew it was time to replace the deck because I could see the obvious toll that time and the weather had taken. Seriously, the deck boards looked sketchy, and there was dry rot where the boards lay across the joists. Not good. So, my friend Mark, Jeanne, and I decided to take on the task. Just so you know what we were looking at, Jeanne and I lived in a two-story home with a basement walkout. The deck extended out from the main dining room and covered the lower-level walkout, so the deck was about eight feet off the ground. How hard could our task be?
But before we set to work with demolition, there was the little matter of a housewarming party at our new home.
It was a fun event (except for the meal, which I can honestly say I failed). The house was full of congregation members, so full that a bunch of us congregated outside on the deck—about thirty of us. Despite the meal failure, it was a good time.
A few days later, Mark and I set to work. We ripped off the railing and the deck boards and then addressed the joists and posts. I checked the lag bolts that held the deck’s ledger board to the house to learn what we were facing. As I was pulling on the ledger board, it suddenly gave way, and the remaining frame started to fall away from the house. I kid you not! Mark quickly ran to the front of the roughly 20’x10’ deck frame and barely stopped it from crashing to the ground. I bounded into action! With super-human skills (in my mind), I quickly unscrewed the joists and removed them, relieving their weight and subsequent pressure on the outer frame. Then ever so carefully, Mark and I dismantled the remaining surrounding ledger board and, finally, the posts.
What had happened that the deck gave way?
The lag bolts were so rusted only a few had been holding the deck to the house, the same deck that had “supported” thirty people days before! After our demo day’s near disaster, I could only think back about the near miss of our deck collapsing and the lawsuits pouring in. So, for the new deck, I planned to make it better than the old one.
The key component to me was proper lag bolts. Under the old building code from decades earlier when the original deck was built, any ol’ lag bolt would do. When I checked the new and improved code for decks, most of the original infrastructure requirements remained relatively unchanged. However, the significant change I noticed was that only galvanized lag bolts were allowed to fix the deck to our house so it would work as intended and not collapse, causing harm.
My deck story helps illustrate why God created the New Covenant, which Jesus initiated and sealed for us. The previous Creation, Noahic, Abrahamic, and Sinai/Moses covenants didn’t have the right component to hold our Subdue and Rule Mandate’s drive for dominion tight to God. The new “lag bolts,” so to speak, that had to be used are our new hearts and spirits, a new relationship to God’s law, and a new desire/motivation to follow the Lord. Only then can we use our dominion drive properly so we don’t struggle to control other people for our advantage in perfectly rotten and ungodly ways.
Let’s take a moment to examine why the previous covenants failed in these areas and why the New Covenant succeeds in restoring our Subdue and Rule Mandate to God’s original plan. Unlike the earlier covenants, I believe that the New Covenant alone can initiate the Subdue and Rule Mandate’s restoration rather than just restrain or guide it and gives us the power and motivation to use our Subdue and Rule Mandate as God intended.
What the previous covenants couldn’t do to correct the Subdue and Rule Mandate’s misuse, the New Covenant can because the previous covenants couldn’t even restrain the human heart, while the New Covenant replaces the human heart.
The Creation covenant’s tree prohibition obviously couldn’t restrain our hearts and wills. God’s single “Do it My way” law told Adam and Eve how to be and what to do, to be like their King and do what He wants, and we know how that turned out by Genesis 3. Oh, those stubborn hearts bent on following our desires! This moment is when our dominion drives were unleashed, and with uncontrolled hearts, our drive to control followed our craving for security because of our fear of death.
The subsequent Noah, Abraham, and Sinai/Moses covenants contained God’s same law but with expanded terms, commands, and guidelines to give us more detailed parameters to detail how we’re to live God’s way. Everything “inside the fence” made life more like Eden had been – safe, secure, and peaceful, without people stepping on each other to get what they wanted. Everything “outside the fence” made life unsafe, insecure, and anxious, with people wrestling to control their world, even if it meant hurting others.
But those covenants were unable to restrain human nature. As we see throughout biblical history, when people want to break God’s law, they do with impunity. It’s hard to stay within boundaries when you don’t have the heart for it.
Humanity broke the terms of the Creation covenant at the Tree and the Noahic covenant by the time humanity’s single language was scrambled at the Tower of Babel. So, the Lord set about miraculously creating a new people, a new nation, from Abraham. This event reveals the only real solution to humanity’s rebellion problem – people must be “remade” to once again become God’s image, his viceregents on earth.
God’s Abrahamic covenant set the foundation for God’s people first by God revealing Himself to them and, secondly, by binding Abraham’s descendants to Him. But even though Abraham knew God and His ways and faithfully passed that knowledge to his family (Genesis 18:19), the history of Abraham’s offspring shows that the corrupted Subdue and Rule drive, as the ruthless Conquer and Dominate drive, was still active.
Despite Abraham’s faithful track record with God, his descendants certainly did not “do what is right or just” (Genesis 18:19) as their Patriarch did. Abraham’s grandson, Jacob, exerted his Conquer and Dominate urge by first maneuvering his twin brother, Esau, out of the firstborn birthright that was rightfully his (Genesis 25:27-34) and then deceiving his father, Isaac, out of the firstborn blessing (Genesis 27:35). Esau then followed his Conquer and Dominate urge when he sought to murder his brother to get back what he felt was rightfully his (v. 41).
Jacob’s leveraging to get the firstborn birthright and participation in his mom’s deception to get the firstborn blessing God had already promised him is classic Conquer and Dominate in action. All Jacob had to do was “do it God’s way,” and He would have realized God’s words, “the older will serve the younger” (Genesis 25:23). But no, Jacob had to make it happen. Jacob’s Conquer and Dominate “I’ll do this my way to get ahead of my brother and control my destiny” is the main reason the Lord hooked Jacob up with a man, Laban, with even greater Conquer and Dominate skills for gain and security.
Jacob knew God intended for him to have firstborn status in his family. And yet, rather than wait patiently to see how the Lord would work it out, Jacob acted in self-interest, with Rebekah’s help, to secure the firstborn’s family dominion. To break Jacob’s self-determination, God used his year-long sojourn with Laban to teach Jacob how to use his dominion drive properly by submitting to God first by subduing and ruling himself and then the world around him by following God’s way (Genesis 31:4-13).
Jacob’s wrestling match with God in physical form (Genesis 32:24) finally made him realize there were some things (and some beings, i.e., God) he could not and should not try to dominate. When Jacob refused to surrender (i.e., his dominion drive in action) but submitted to God, he could finally receive the blessing the Lord had promised him all along.
A subtle indication of Jacob’s transformation was his name change. God declared His dominion over Jacob by “naming” him as Adam did when he named the creatures under his rule (Genesis 2:19-20). Jacob accepted God’s dominion over him by receiving his new name, Israel, meaning “He struggles with God.” God didn’t take away Jacob’s drive to bring his world under control and manage it. Instead, God helped Jacob learn to submit his dominion drive to God’s authority through His specially designed Laban-Land Institute. Jacob’s new name reflects his graduation.
The Conquer and Dominate struggle for dominion carried on into the next generation of Abraham’s family. God gave Joseph dreams that prophetically revealed Joseph would receive the family’s firstborn son status rather than Reuben, which meant having dominion over the clan, older brothers included.
According to firstborn birth order, Joseph, the firstborn son of Jacob’s favored second wife, Rachel, was second to Reuben, the firstborn son of Jacob’s first but not-as-favored wife, Leah. Fueled by their jealous and rebellious Conquer and Dominate drive, Joseph’s brothers conspired to prevent the threat of Joseph ruling over them from ever happening. They first planned to kill the arrogant twerp but then decided to ship Joseph as far away from the family as possible (Genesis 37:25). After all, a firstborn can’t rule from a distance, can he?
Joseph’s brothers sold him to the passing Ishmaelite traders from Midian on their way to Egypt to prevent him from gaining dominion over them and the rest of the family, as Joseph’s divine dreams decreed. Such family struggles for control and dominance clearly show the corrupted Subdue and Rule Mandate. Despite the operating Abrahamic covenant, the uncontrolled and ungodly dominion drive still manifested between people, even immediate family members.
About four hundred years later, God called His “son” out of Egypt and met the children of Israel at Mount Sinai. There He covenanted with Israel as His firstborn nation among the world’s nations and gave them His laws (covenant guidelines and commands) to govern their lives with Him and each other. However, Israel’s sad history parallels humanity’s history in that outwardly imposed laws are ineffective at restraining the actions of an inward heart set on self-gratification.
The Israelite people had laws against idolatry, false witness, murder, adultery, and stealing. However, their rebellious, self-serving human hearts led the people of Israel into idolatry (2 Kings 17:7-20), murder and false witness (Isaiah 59:1-3), adultery (Ezekiel 22:11), and stealing (Ezekiel 22:29), and all manner of sins against God and people. Why? They didn’t have the hearts to follow God’s parameters meant to keep their drive for dominion and control in check.
The New Covenant can do what the previous covenants couldn’t because it specifically addresses the heart issue via a God-created (bara) changed heart that’s responsive to God (Ezekiel 36:26). The previous covenants provided ideals to strive for and a set of controls in the form of laws and commands if a person’s urges desired other than what God wanted. However, the New Covenant provides the internal transformation that realigns and refocuses our hearts away from themselves and toward God. As we’re transformed, our new heart restores God’s dominion over us and creates a desire for God that realigns and refocuses our dominion drive according to God’s intent.
The Human Spirit
Secondly, what the previous covenants couldn’t do to correct our Subdue and Rule Mandate’s misuse, the New Covenant can because God fixes our dead-to-God human spirit through the New Covenant. Taking our cue from King David and his request for a steadfast (firm, prepared) and willing spirit, we can see from both biblical and human history that our human spirit is definitely not firm toward God after the Fall and is entirely unwilling to follow Him regarding our characters or decisions. If that were not the case, the world would be a utopia.
Sadly, the world has been (and still is) filled with people who are unable and unwilling to walk God’s way. Paul confirms this in his indictment of fallen humanity, “There is no one righteous, not even one. There is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God. All have turned away; all alike have become worthless. There is no one who does what is good, not even one” (Romans 3:10-12).
However, the New Covenant promises a God-created (bara) changed spirit (“I will… put a new spirit within you,” Ezekiel 36:26). The new spirit of the New Covenant is a human spirit that is alive, willing, and able to follow God’s laws and commands which, when followed, prevent us from exerting dominion over other people. A fallen human spirit has no problem infringing, encroaching upon, or usurping another person’s domain, especially for personal benefit or self-satisfaction. Our new human spirit created under the New Covenant can finally follow God’s boundaries to keep us from “lording over” other people and live within God’s boundaries for self-rule/control. No previous covenant could achieve that because they couldn’t create a new spirit in people as the New Covenant does.
So, the New Covenant gives us two components that the previous covenants couldn’t – a new heart and a new spirit. The third “new” component is not really new at all. According to Jeremiah and Jesus, this third component is the same thing that all the “older” covenants had – God’s Law.
God’s Law, His Torah (direction, instruction, law), has never changed because it has always reflected Who God is and What He wills, and God never changes (Malachi 3:6; Hebrews 13:8). So, if God’s Law/Torah has not changed under the New Covenant, what makes it “new” to be a part of the New Covenant? As realtors say, “Location, location, location!”
The Holy Spirit’s Internalized Law
What the previous covenants couldn’t do to correct our Subdue and Rule Mandate’s misuse, the New Covenant can because God innovated the indwelling Holy Spirit and His implanted Law/Torah.
Humanity’s problem from the moment of the Fall was our disconnect from God’s presence and His will. After the Fall, humanity was shut out from God’s presence (Genesis 3:23-24) after having abandoned God’s will (Genesis 3:6). Therefore, as for unsaved people exercising their Subdue and Rule Mandate’s dominion drive according to God’s intent, they are without a Guide and Guidance.
Regarding our Guide, God’s intent was for all His people to dwell with Him forever. That explains Adam and Eve’s intimate interaction with God in Eden (Genesis 3:8) and the freely available Tree of Life to sustain every person’s life forever (Genesis 3:22). Since humanity’s loss of God’s presence and eternal life were the results of the Fall, then the New Covenant’s solution to the Fall should include God’s presence and eternal life as primary aspects of humanity’s restoration, which it does.
The New Covenant promises us a brand new, never-before-experienced-in-human-history interaction with God’s presence – His continual residency in each saved person through His Holy Spirit (Ezekiel 36:27). Since Eden was the place where God lived with human beings, then the New Covenant creates a new “Eden” within us. God’s ultimate goal is to restore the earth to its original God-with-us Edenic state, and He will, but we can enjoy never-ending intimacy with God right now via the New Covenant’s work of salvation! Our Guide comes to reside within us.
Regarding God’s Guidance under the New Covenant, our Guide promised He would bring His Guidance (Law/Torah) with Him. After all, the Holy Spirit, as God, is God’s presence and will.
As the agent of the New Covenant, Jesus connected His and His Father’s presence within the New Covenant believer via the Holy Spirit to the performance of God’s commands. “Jesus answered, ‘If anyone loves me, he will keep my word. My Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him’” (John 14:23, italics author).
The Holy Spirit’s presence internalizing the Father’s Law/Torah is one of the hallmarks of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:33-34; Ezekiel 11:20; 36:27). The indwelling Holy Spirit is how God installs His “ways to live” within us. The Holy Spirit becomes our Resident Rabbi who knows the Law/Torah perfectly, enables the New Covenant person to understand it, and adapts its application continually. Since the Holy Spirit does this for every area of our lives, this most certainly applies to our Subdue and Rule Mandate.
Our subdue and rule commission may now be carried out as God intended as we spiritually regenerated people live His Guidance according to the promptings of our indwelling Guide. The Lord doesn’t leave His New Covenant people alone to fight the battle against self-will and fleshly urges to enjoy, obtain, and achieve (1 John 2:16), which turbocharges our dominion drive into Conquer and Dominate. The Holy Spirit becomes our ever-present Teacher (Rabbi) and Encourager to instruct, explain, and apply God’s covenant directives on how we should righteously exercise our God-given dominion moment by moment according to His will.
The fact of God’s internalized Law doesn’t mean we don’t need to learn God’s Guidance. On the contrary, Jesus Himself told His followers that the Holy Spirit’s purpose was to guide them into all truth (John 16:19) and “remind you of everything I have told you” (John 14:26, italics author). Jesus’ words imply that the New Covenant believer must first learn God’s word to be reminded of it. And contrary to some Christian teaching today, this includes God’s Torah as the foundation upon which all of God’s revealed word stands (Matthew 5:17-19; 7:24-27).
Jesus expects His disciples to engage in the purposeful study of His Father’s entire word, including the Law and the Prophets (Matthew 5:17-19; 7:24-27). Then when we exercise our God-given Subdue and Rule Mandate under the New Covenant, the Holy Spirit teaches, reminds, and trains us reborn believers how to exercise dominion according to His will.
The Holy Spirit’s reminding function is nothing new. God knew His people needed prodding to keep His Torah at the forefront of their minds to guide every moment of their lives. The Holy Spirit’s reminding function is similar to the blue-stranded tassels God commanded His people to wear on the corners of their garments. “Speak to the Israelites and tell them that throughout their generations they are to make tassels for the corners of their garments and put a blue cord on the tassel at each corner. These will serve as tassels for you to look at, so that you may remember all the Lord’s commands and obey them and not prostitute yourselves by following your own heart and your own eyes. This way you will remember and obey all my commands and be holy to your God.” (Numbers 15:38-40, italics author). But rather than an external reminder as it was under the Sinai/Moses covenant, the New Covenant reminder is internal through the Holy Spirit’s prodding.
The advantage of having the Holy Spirit remind us of His word is that He not only prods us into remembering God’s commands and prompting us to obey, but the Holy Spirit helps us with the “how we are to obey” when we need it. That’s where the Spirit steps in to motivate us.
Finally, what the previous covenants couldn’t do to correct our Subdue and Rule Mandate’s misuse, the New Covenant can because the problem of motivation is fixed through the New Covenant.
The New Covenant joins a God-created heart and spirit with the Holy Spirit and His Law/Torah. The New Covenant also fulfills our Heavenly Father’s promise to motivate His New Covenant partner to follow His will. Our new heart and spirit provide the foundation to follow God’s will “so that they will follow my statutes, keep my ordinances, and practice them” (Ezekiel 31:20). The Holy Spirit works with that now-responsive foundation to “cause you to follow my statutes and carefully observe my ordinances” (Ezekiel 36:27). Paul, the New Covenant Apostle to the Gentiles, recognizes the Spirit’s divine motivation under the New Covenant, “For it is God who is working in you both to will and to work according to his good purpose” (Philippians 2:13, italics author).
Amazingly, the Holy Spirit’s teaching and motivating work give us a level of God’s help unknown to even Adam and Eve before the Fall. The Spirit’s help not only starts the restoration process of humanity’s Subdue and Rule Mandate back to God’s original intent – people working shoulder to shoulder to bring creation under God’s dominion shoulder to shoulder (Zephaniah 3:9) – but the Spirit helps us exercise our dominion drive, so we avoid using it to Conquer and Dominate.
The Holy Spirit’s work through the New Covenant teaches us that the only “ground/adamah” apart from the earth to be brought under God’s control and managed is ourselves, not other people, even though they are made of the stuff of the ground. Under the New Covenant, each born-again believer is empowered to rule themselves first and foremost as God’s dwelling place and holy ground (Eden within).
As Adam was called to act as a priest to protect the purity of Eden’s holy and sacred domain (Genesis 2:15) and as a king to expand God’s dominion throughout the earth (Genesis 1:28), so we whom God re-creates must function as the same kind of priest-king relative to ourselves. We are to Subdue and Rule our entire being and guard against sin, which defiles us, the sacred space in which God lives. We are to exert God’s dominion on His behalf in self-control as an influence on the world around us.
As we’ve seen through our New Covenant overview, while both Jeremiah and Ezekiel describe God’s intended goals of the New Covenant, Jeremiah gives it its name, and Ezekiel reveals the process. All that was needed for the New Covenant and restoring our Subdue and Rule Mandate to its original function and scope was the agent of its initialization, Jesus. Jesus began the New Covenant at the end of His earthly ministry, and He will fulfill the New Covenant with Israel’s restoration at His return.
With the correct “lag bolts,” a new heart and spirit, the internalized Law, and new motivation, our Heavenly King firmly reattaches our Subdue and Rule Mandate to its proper location and safe use once again.
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