The Holy Assembly and the Everlasting Covenant
By: Jeff A. Benner



TABLE OF CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

PART ONE: THE FIRST COVENANT

1 - What Is A Covenant?

2 - The Covenant with Israel

3 - The Holy Assembly

4 - The Torah

5 - The Sabbath Covenant

6 - The Feasts of the Lord

7 - Other Nations Enter the Covenant

8 - The Desecration of the Covenant

9 - The Promise of A New Covenant


PART TWO: THE NEW COVENANT

10 - The New Covenant

11 - The Holy Assembly

12 - The Torah

13 - The Sabbath Covenant

14 - The Feasts of the Lord

15 - Gentiles Enter the Covenant

16 - The Desecration of the Covenant


CONCLUSION

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11 - The Holy Assembly

In part one of this book we looked at the names and titles of God's People Israel. They were,

  • A People set apart
  • A Holy People
  • A Community set apart
  • A Holy Assembly
  • The Descendants of Abraham
  • Israel
  • The Chosen People
  • A Holy Nation
  • The people of God
  • Children of God
  • Sheep
  • Brothers

Each of these names and titles can be found in the New Covenant and attributed to the believers. Not to a new church of Gentile believers, but to Israel and the Gentiles who enter into the covenant with them. Let us look at these names and titles and see how they are used in the New Covenant.

 

A People Set Apart

Depart, depart, go out from there! Touch no unclean thing! Come out from it and be pure, you who carry the vessels of the LORD. (Isaiah 52:11)

Here we have a First Covenant passage commanding Israel to be separate from the other nations. This passage is quoted in part by Paul.

Do not be yoked together with unbelievers. For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? ..."Therefore come out from them and be separate, says the Lord. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty." Since we have these promises, dear friends, let us purify ourselves from everything that contaminates body and spirit, perfecting holiness out of reverence for God. (2 Corinthians 6:14 - 7:1)

In this passage, Paul is inferring that the command for Israel to be separate from the unbelievers is still a requirement for Israel. By quoting the First Covenant passage, Paul is connecting Israel in the first covenant with Israel in the new covenant. Paul even carries this concept of separation into the act of not touching anything unclean as commanded in the Torah.

Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. (Romans 12:2)

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world - the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he was and does - comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:15-17)

Just as Israel was a people set apart from the world in the Old Testament, They are still to be set apart from the world in the New Testament.

 

A Holy People

I am the LORD who brought you up out of Egypt to be your God; therefore be holy, because I am holy. (Leviticus 11:45)

Just as he who called you is holy, so be holy in all you do; for it is written; "Be holy, because I am holy." (1 Peter 1:15,16)

Here again we have a New Covenant passage quoting a First Covenant passage. This First Covenant command is for Israel in the New Covenant as well.

 

A Community Set Apart

The Hebrew word used in the First Covenant for the community of Israel is "edah". When we looked at this word in Chapter 3 we saw that this word applied to all of Israel, all those born in the line of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.

The Septuagint translated the Hebrew word "edah" into the Greek word "synagogue". By the New Covenant period, this word came to be used for the places of worship and study of the Jewish people as it is today.

The First Covenant concept of community was carried over into the synagogues of the New Covenant period. Each town had a synagogue or community of Jews who met on each Sabbath for worship and study. In one case it is used exclusively of a gathering of believers.

My brothers, as believers in our glorious Lord Yeshua Christ, don't show favoritism. Suppose a man comes into your meeting (synagogue) wearing a gold ring and fine clothes, and a poor man in shabby clothes also comes in... (James 2:1,2)

 

A Holy Assembly

The second Hebrew word used in the First Covenant for a gathering of Israel is "qahal". The First Covenant Septuagint translated this word into the Greek word "ekklesia". We can also see this qahal-ekklesia relationship in the New Covenant.

[Moses] was in the assembly (Greek: ekklesia) in the desert, with the angel who spoke to him on Mount Sinai. (Acts 7:38)

The New Covenant writers continued to use the Greek word ekklesia, used in the Septuagint for the assembly of Israel. When we look at the word ekklesia in the New Covenant, we find that it is used over 100 times for the assembling of the believers. Ekklesia is usually translated as the "Church" in English translations. Many people believe that the Church is new and unique to the New Covenant. As we can see this Greek word was used long before Christ in the Old Testament Septuagint to identify the "ekklesia of Israel" or using the New Covenant English translation of the word; the "Church of Israel". By using the word ekklesia, the New Covenant writers are identifying themselves as the "Holy Assembly" those who have set them themselves apart from non-believers by keeping God's Torah.

Christ loved the church (ekklesia) and gave himself up for her to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, and to present her to himself as a radiant church (ekklesia), without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. (Ephesians 5:25-27)

Remember when we looked at the word holy in the first part of the book? We saw that those who were holy are those who kept the Torah. Was not this God's desire for Israel from the very beginning? Israel failed to make themselves holy and blameless before the Lord, but God did not give up on them. He sent his own Son to earth to be holy for them. He then gave them the Holy Spirit and wrote his Torah on their hearts. Since the word "church" is usually thought of as a new people of God by most people, I will, just as I did with the word Torah, use the word assembly in its place since this word is more consistent with the Old Testament definition.

 

The Descendants of Abraham

If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham's seed, and heirs according to the promise. (Galatians 3:29)

This promise given to Abraham is for all that have faith in that promise just as Abraham did. Going back to our chapter on the covenant with Abraham we remember that God promised Abraham He would be his God and the God of his descendants and that he would make him into a great nation and with an everlasting inheritance. Those who put their faith in Yeshua are also heirs of this promise and are therefore descendants of Abraham. Does this mean that Israel is now rejected as God's people? No.

Therefore, the promise came by faith so that it may be by grace and may be guaranteed to all Abraham's offspring - not only to those who are of the Torah but also to those who are of the faith of Abraham, he is the father of us all. (Romans 4:16)

 

Israel

Therefore, remember that formerly you who are Gentiles by birth and called "uncircumcised" by those who call themselves "the circumcision" (that done in the body by the hands of men) - remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world. (Ephesians 2:11-12)

Here we see that Gentiles, known as foreigners in the First Covenant were excluded from citizenship with Israel and therefore excluded from the covenant with God, but all that has changed with the coming of the Messiah.

But now in Christ Yeshua you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ. ... Consequently, you are no longer foreigners and aliens, but fellow citizens with God's people and members of God's household, built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Yeshua himself as the chief cornerstone. In him the whole building is joined together and rises to become a holy temple in the Lord. And in him you too are being built together to become a dwelling in which God lives by his Spirit. (Ephesians 2:13,19)

Through Christ and his sacrifice, Gentiles become fellow citizens with Israel and are able to enter into the covenant with God. Although the word Israel still applies to the nation of Israel, the Gentiles can join Israel as part of the assembly. There is a teaching within today's churches that the church has become the new Israel by replacing Israel of the First Covenant. This is not true. In chapter 15 we will look at this relationship between Israel and Gentiles. But for now recognize that the church is the Holy Assembly of Jews and Gentiles together.

 

Hebrews

While the name "Israel" is for those who are physically descended from Jacob, the name "Hebrew" applies to the descendants of Abraham. Since all believers, Jews and Gentiles, are descendants of Abraham (Gal 3:7), then all believers, Jews and Gentiles, are Hebrews. When we looked at the Meaning of "Hebrew" in the first part of this book, we found that it meant "the crossing ones". Yeshua mentions this "crossing over".

I tell you the truth, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned; he has crossed over from death to life. (John 5:24)

 

A Chosen People

For he chose us in him before the creation of the world to be holy and blameless in his sight. (Ephesians 1:4)

Therefore, as God's chosen people holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion.... (Colossians 3:12)

But we ought always to thank God for you, brothers loved by the Lord, because from the beginning God chose you to be saved through the sanctifying work of the Spirit and through belief in the truth. (2 Thessalonians 2:13)

Israel has been the chosen people and this has not changed. The Gentiles, who have joined the Assembly, join Israel as fellow citizens and become part of the chosen people.

 

A Holy Nation

But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God. (1 Peter 2:9)

This passage is also a quote from the First Covenant, which was a title given to Israel. God only chose one nation out of all the other nations and that is Israel. All other nations were invited to join Israel and their covenant with the one true God. Here we see that the title, Holy Nation, continues in the New Covenant for those who are in the covenant with God. (Exodus 19:5,6)

 

The People of God

For we are the temple of the living God, As God has said; "I will live with them and walk among them, and I will be their God, and they will be my people." (2 Corinthians 6:16)

This is a quotation of Leviticus 26:12 where this promise is for Israel. In Paul's letter to the Corinthians he is telling them that this promise is also for them.

In the First Covenant God chose Israel to be his people, but God clearly tells Israel that all the nations were to be allowed into the nation of Israel and also be a part of God's people. Those who except Christ are fellow citizens of God's house with Israel as Ephesians 2 has stated. The "Replacement Theology" taught in many churches say that God rejected Israel as his people (divorced?) And made a new group of people out of the Christian Church to be his people. Scripture in no way supports this view, but rather shows that the nation of Israel and all other people who wish to join them and God's Covenant are all fellow citizens.

For there is no difference between Jew and Gentile - the same Lord is Lord of all and richly blesses all who call on him. (Romans 10:12)

This mystery is that through the gospel the Gentiles are heirs together with Israel, members together of one body, and sharers together in the promise in Christ Yeshua. (Ephesians 3:6)

All of God's people are of one body. All people are welcome into this body.

 

Nazarene

This is one name that is new to the New Covenant for the assembly of believers. The book of Acts says that those who followed Yeshua were called Nazarenes, because Yeshua was from Nazareth. The Jewish Religion

(Judaism) is made up of many different sects (similar to our denominations). At the time of Yeshua, there were at least 26 different sects (denominations) within Judaism. Although each sect varied in their views and beliefs of the scriptures, they were all considered a part of Judaism and were fellow Jews. A few of these sects are mentioned in the New Covenant such as the Pharisees, Saducees, and Zealots. One of the newer sects of Judaism was known as the Nazarenes.

We have found this man (Paul) to be a troublemaker, stirring up riots among the Jews all over the world. He is a ringleader of the Nazarene sect. (Acts 24:5)

The believers did not consider themselves as a separate religion, but actually a sect within Judaism. This is evident in the fact that they continued meeting in the Jewish synagogues.

As his custom was, Paul went into the synagogue, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures. (Acts 17:2)

As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish Synagogue. (Acts 17:10)

Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. (Acts 19:8)

The believers of the New Covenant consisted of Jews who continued to believe in the one true God of Israel and the Scriptures. The only difference between the believing Jew and unbelieving Jew is in the acceptance of the Messiah Yeshua who is taught, even in the Old Testament scriptures.

 

Children of God

How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! (1 John 3:1)

Just as Israel was called the Children of God as in so also are the New Covenant Believers, children of God. (Deuteronomy 14:1,)

 

Sheep

For you were like sheep going astray, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your soul. (1 Peter 2:25)

 

Brothers

In Acts 2:24 we have a believing Jew (Peter) calling non-believing Jews, brothers, and In 2 Corinthians 1:1 we have a believing Jew (Paul) calling a believing Non-Jew (Timothy) brother. All who lived under the covenant (the first and the renewed) are brothers in the LORD, and brothers as descendants of Abraham.

 

Conclusion

All of the names and titles that applied to the Holy Assembly of Israel in the First Covenant are also used in the New Covenant for the believers of Yeshua Christ. The New Covenant is not the story of a new group of people chosen by God to be his holy assembly, but the continuing saga of Israel - God's chosen people and the Gentiles who join Israel in the covenant with God. This can be seen in the fact that the same names and titles are used for those under the first covenant in the First Covenant and those under the renewed covenant in the New Testament. Many First Covenant passages applying to Israel are quoted in the New Covenant. These passages in the New Covenant do not say that there is a new Israel, rather it is reminding Israel of whom they are.

 

Chapter Summary

  • All the names and titles applied to Israel in the First Covenant continue as the names and titles of Israel in the New Covenant.
  • In the New Covenant we see Gentiles Joining Israel with the two groups coming together as one people of God.
  • A new name given to the Holy Assembly in the New Covenant is the Nazarene Sect of Judaism.

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Copyright © 2004
Jeff A. Benner

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