I have rescued this from a 2005 blog post which collected a bunch of my posts on the now defunct Gospel Advocate forum, probably done in the early part of the decade.
I have updated it slightly, its rescue now ocurring in light of my post on Dan Mayfield’s graphic and article against Dan Billingsley’s false doctrine.
The four Gospels as new covenant
In considering the new covenant, one must consider as a whole the life, ministry, death and ressurrection of Jesus. The book of Hebrews, which speaks of the covenant as being possible due to the death of the testator (using a word play on the word diatheke, covenant / will), also recognizes that this was only possible because Jesus offered himself “without blemish” (Hebrews 9:14, NRSV). This is a reference to his perfect life, which enabled him to serve as the perfect sacrifice. It was “for this reason,” says verse 15, that he is the mediator of a new covenant.
It is this same writer who clearly keys the ratification of the covenant to his death, who also postulates that Jesus is the guarantee of a better covenant based upon his qualification to the priesthood “through the power of an indestructible life” (Hebrews 7:15-22).
Granted that a primary reference of “indestructible life” is to the resurrection of Christ (see Neil Lightfoot, Jesus Christ Today), we must agree with F. Buschell that “it does not begin then, for in Hb. the historical as well as the risen Jesus is High-priest. If it is by His resurrection, on the basis of His death, that He is fully what He is, He begins to be it already in His historical life. This applies also to the power of indestructible life, which in some sense belongs already to the historical man, Jesus” (TDNT, IV:339).
This is to say that the new covenant, though its terms were published in Acts 2, was present in the person of Jesus during his physical lifetime.
In the same way, Jesus can preach that the kingdom is near (Mark 1:14) at the same time that he will affirm its presence in his person: “But if it is by the Spirit of God that I cast out demons, then the kingdom of God has come to you” (Matthew 12:28). So when did the kingdom begin? Yes, it began, in the expression or manifestation of the church, in Acts 2. But this new expression was already evident in the person of the King during his life and ministry.
Just as the kingdom was still yet future and present during Jesus’ life and ministry, the covenant was present also in him, at the same time that it was ratified in the cross. This is not a contradiction, but merely expands the kingdom / covenant establishment from a single moment or event to a period of time encompassing the life, death and resurrection of Jesus.
As has been well pointed out in previous discussions on this subject [on the GA forum], the gospels were written after Acts 2 in point of time by Christians for Christians to provide not only historical details of the life of Jesus, but also to show that he is the example after whom we pattern our lives. This brings the gospels fully into the life and practice of the church. Each gospel reflects the concerns and needs of a particular time and setting. Thus, we have four accounts of our Lord’s life and not one to reflect that he is the answer to every challenge we face.
This determines therefore our attitude toward such things as a treasury and a myriad of others, for the early church is carrying on the work of Jesus in his way, by his example.
Letters such as James, to cite just one example, are drawing out the Lord’s teaching for their particular audience. Commentators often note the numerous times that James echoes the very words of Jesus.
To cut loose the gospels from the new covenant is to release our Lord from his position as Master of the church and example for our lives.
I am not interested in cranking up the previous discussions on this subject, but as I had not added my two cents worth previously, I add it here to register my dismay at such a perspective and plead to let Jesus lead us by his own teachings and example, at the same time that we rejoice in our salvation by his atoning death. Others are welcome to pick up this subject and deal with it, but this is all I desire to comment presently.