New Covenant, The (1952 Edition)by Watchman Nee and Witness Lee
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
Printed Copy: Available Online from Living Stream Ministry
In his second overcomer conference in October 1931, Watchman Nee gave seven messages on the truth of the new covenant. These messages were initially published in Watchman Nee’s magazine The Present Testimony, issues 23-26, 32-33, and 36. Before Watchman Nee’s imprisonment in 1952, his Gospel Book Room in Shanghai published a more polished edition of these messages. At that time two new chapters were added on the experience of the new covenant. These new chapters were from messages given to the church in Shanghai in 1949 by Witness Lee. This second edition is a translation of the 1952 publication.
Matthew 26:28: “For this is My blood of the covenant, which is being poured out for many for forgiveness of sins.” Many ancient authorities insert new before covenant.
Hebrews 8:8-13: “For finding fault with them He says, ‘Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, and I will consummate a new covenant upon the house of Israel and upon the house of Judah, not according to the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by their hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord. For this is the covenant which I will covenant with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will impart My laws into their mind, and on their hearts I will inscribe them; and I will be God to them, and they will be a people to Me. And they shall by no means each teach his fellow citizen and each his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all will know Me from the little one to the great one among them. For I will be propitious to their unrighteousnesses, and their sins I shall by no means remember anymore.’ In saying, A new covenant, He has made the first old. But that which is becoming old and growing decrepit is near to disappearing.”
Hebrews 10:16: “This is the covenant which I will covenant with them after those days, says the Lord: I will impart My laws upon their hearts, and upon their mind I will inscribe them.”
Jeremiah 31:31-34: “Indeed, days are coming, declares Jehovah, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by their hand to bring them out from the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was their Husband, declares Jehovah. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares Jehovah: I will put My law in their inward parts and write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they will be My people. And they will no longer teach, each man his neighbor and each man his brother, saying, Know Jehovah; for all of them will know Me, from the little one among them even to the great one among them, declares Jehovah, for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
Second Corinthians 3:6: “Who has also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant, ministers not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.”
Hebrews 13:20-21: “Now the God of peace, He who brought up from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep, in the blood of an eternal covenant, perfect you in every good work for the doing of His will, doing in us that which is well pleasing in His sight through Jesus Christ; to Him be the glory forever and ever. Amen.”
(1) The new covenant is the basis of all spiritual life. Our sins can be forgiven and our conscience can have peace because we have the new covenant. We can obey God and do what He pleases because we have the new covenant. We can also have direct fellowship with God and a deeper inward knowledge of Him because we have the new covenant. Without the new covenant we would have no confidence that our sins are forgiven. It would be difficult for us to obey God and do His will or to have anything deeper than an external and ordinary fellowship with God and knowledge of God. But praise God, we have the new covenant! And this new covenant is a covenant that He has established. Therefore, we can depend upon this covenant.
The brother who wrote “Rock of Ages, cleft for me” (Hymns, #1058) had tuberculosis of the lungs for over ten years. When he was very ill, he wrote a hymn in which one of the stanzas says,
Sweet on His faithfulness to rest,
Whose love can never end;
Sweet on His covenant of grace,
For all things to depend.
He knew what a covenant is. Therefore, he could depend upon the Lord’s covenant.
(2) God’s eternal purpose is made manifest in the new covenant. Therefore, if anyone belonging to the Lord does not know what the new covenant is, he will be unable to know God’s eternal purpose experientially. We know that “death reigned from Adam until Moses” and that “sin reigned in death” (Rom. 5:14, 21). In that age God’s eternal purpose was not revealed. Although God preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “In you shall all the nations be blessed” (Gal. 3:8), we see here just a foreshadowing of grace, not grace itself. “The law was given through Moses” (John 1:17), but the law came in, as it were, alongside (Rom. 5:20). The law does not have any part in the scheme of God’s eternal purpose. “The prophets and the law prophesied until John” (Matt. 11:13), but “grace and reality came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Therefore, it was not until Christ that the age of grace came and that there was the new covenant, thus enabling us to see God’s eternal purpose.
God’s eternal purpose is revealed in the new covenant. Therefore, we need to know the new covenant, for only in so doing can we expect God’s eternal purpose to be accomplished in us. Without knowing the new covenant we cannot touch the hub of salvation. At best we can touch only a little on the periphery. If we know something of the new covenant, we may say that we have touched a great treasury in the universe.
What is God’s eternal purpose? Simply speaking, God’s eternal purpose is to work Himself into the man whom He created. God delights to enter into man and unite Himself with man that man may have His life and His nature. Before the foundation of the world, that is, in eternity, before the beginning of time, before He created heaven and earth and before He created all things and the human race, He had such a purpose. He wanted man to have His sonship; He wanted man to be like Himself; He wanted man to be glorified (Eph. 1:4-5; Rom. 8:30). Therefore, when He created man, He created him in His own image (Gen. 1:27).
In the beginning, in the garden of Eden, we see the tree of life and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God put the man whom He had made into the garden of Eden. He only forbade man to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In other words, He was implying that the fruit from the tree of life should be eaten. But this required that man himself must make an active choice. According to the revelation of the Scriptures, we know that the tree of life denotes God (Psa. 36:9; John 1:4; 11:25; 14:6; 1 John 5:12). If man had eaten the fruit from the tree of life, he would have had life, and God would have entered into man. But we know that the first man whom God made, that is, the first Adam, failed and became fallen. Not only did he fail to receive God’s life, but he ate the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil and became alienated from God who gave life. But how we need to thank God and praise Him, for although the first man failed and fell, the second man, that is, the last Adam (1 Cor. 15:45, 47), accomplished God’s eternal purpose!
In the universe there is at least one person who is mingled with God. He is Jesus the Nazarene, who is both God and man, man and God. This is the Lord Jesus, the “Word” who “became flesh and tabernacled among us..., full of grace and reality” (John 1:14). Although no one has ever seen God, there is one person, the only begotten Son in the bosom of the Father, who has declared Him (v. 18). He is both God and man, and God’s intention is to work Him into man. God desires man to be conformed to the image of His Son (Rom. 8:28-29) and to bring man to the state where He intended him to be, a state where he can please God. This is God’s eternal purpose; this is the new covenant.
(3) We say that today is the age of the new covenant. What does this mean? Here we can only speak briefly, but in chapter 3 we shall speak in more detail. We know that God has never made any covenant with the Gentiles. Since we, the Gentiles, do not have an old covenant, how can we have a new one? Hebrews 8:8 tells us clearly that one day God will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. Strictly speaking, this covenant will not be set up until “after those days” (v. 10), referring to the beginning of the millennium. If this is so, how can we say that today is the age of the new covenant? It is because the Lord is treating His church according to the principle of the new covenant, bringing the church under the principle of the new covenant. He desires the church to have dealings and negotiations with Him according to this covenant until He accomplishes what He desires to accomplish.
The Lord said, “This is My blood of the covenant” (Matt. 26:28). He established the new covenant with His blood so that we can have a foretaste of the blessings of the new covenant. Therefore, we say that today is the age of the new covenant. This is due to the Lord’s special grace. Consequently, we must know what the new covenant is in experience, for only thus are we able to say that we are those who are living in the age of the new covenant.
(4) To know what the new covenant is, we must first know what a covenant is. Furthermore, to know what a covenant is, we must first know what God’s facts and promises are. Therefore, we must speak first about God’s facts and promises. Then we shall go on to see what God’s covenant and the new covenant are and what the characteristics of the content of the new covenant are. We shall also mention specifically how the law was put into man and written upon his heart, what the power of the operation of life in us is, how God became our God in the law of life, and how we can have the inward knowledge that we may know God in a deeper way.
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