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Unformatted text preview: The Better Covenant
WATCHMAN NEE Christian Fellowship Publishers, Inc.
New York Copyright ©1982
Christian Fellowship Publishers, Inc.
All Rights Reserved
ISBN 0-935008-55-1 Available from the Publishers at:
11515 Allecingie Parkway
Richmond, Virginia 23235 PRINTED IN U.S.A. PREFACE
The New Covenant is full of God’s grace. In order to enjoy such
grace each one who belongs to the Lord must know what this New
Covenant is. How sad that many of the Lord’s people today neither
appreciate nor understand this New Covenant. For this reason we
have a burden to release some messages on the New Covenant. Even
so, the New Covenant is such a comprehensive subject that we
cannot exhaust its richness with our limited learning, experience and
words. Still, we look to God’s grace and are willing to share with His
children the little we have received. Our earnest prayer is that God
would enable us to know something of the New Covenant and lead
us into its spiritual reality.
Gospel Book Room
November 1953 CONTENTS
Introduction 7 1 God’s Promise and God’s Fact 13 2 God’s Covenant 31 3 General Remarks on the New Covenant 41 4 The Surety of the New Covenant 51 5 The New Covenant and Testament 61 6 The Characteristics of the New Covenant: (1) Cleansing 69 7 The Characteristics of the New Covenant: (2) Life and Power 81 8 The Characteristics of the New Covenant: (3) Inward Knowledge 133 Final Word 167 At a conference held in Shanghai, China, in 1932, the
author gave a series of messages on the New Covenant.
These were later edited and published in Chinese in
1953 by the Gospel Book Room, Shanghai. They are
now being translated into English for the first time.
Scripture quotations are from the American Standard
Version of the Bible (1901), unless otherwise indicated. Introduction
For this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many unto
remission of sins. (Matt. 26.28; many ancient authorities insert new before
For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord,
that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of
Judah; not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I
took them by the hand to lead them forth out of the land of Egypt; for they
continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is
the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the
Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and on their heart also will I write them:
and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not
teach every man his fellow-citizen, and every man his brother, saying, Know the
Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be
merciful to their iniquities, and their sins will I remember no more. In that he saith,
A new covenant, he hath made the first old. But that which is becoming old and
waxeth aged is nigh unto vanishing away. (Heb. 8.8-13)
This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, saith the Lord:
I will put my laws on their heart, and upon their mind also will I write them. (Heb.
Behold, the days come, saith Jehovah, that I will make a new covenant with the
house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: not according to the covenant that I
made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of
the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was a husband unto
them, saith Jehovah. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of
Israel after those days, saith Jehovah: I will put my law in their inward parts, and in
their heart will I write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And
they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother,
saying, Know Jehovah; for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the
greatest of them, saith Jehovah: for I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin will I
remember no more. (Jer. 31.31-34)
Who also made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter,
but of the spirit: for the letter killeth, but the spirit giveth life. (2 Cor. 3.6) 8 The Better Convenant Now the God of peace, who brought again from the dead the great shepherd of
the sheep with the blood of an eternal covenant, even our Lord Jesus, make you
perfect in every good thing to do his will, working in us that which is well pleasing
in his sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory for ever and ever. Amen.
(Heb. 13.20-21) One
The New Covenant is the foundation of all spiritual life. It is due
to the New Covenant that our sin may be forgiven and our
conscience may regain its peace. It is because of the New Covenant
that we are able to obey God and to do the things well-pleasing to
Him. It is also through the New Covenant that we can commune with
God directly and know Him deeply within. Were it not for the New
Covenant we would have no assurance of forgiveness, no power to
obey and to do God’s will, and no inward fellowship with God and
deep knowledge of Him. Thank God, there is a New Covenant. He
has covenanted with us, therefore we can rest on His covenant.
Resting on the faithfulness of Christ our Lord,
Resting on the fulness of His own sure word,
Resting on His wisdom, on His love and pow’r,
Resting on His covenant from hour to hour.
~FRANCES RIDLEY HAVERGAL This hymn-writer understood what the New Covenant is, and so
she rested on the covenant of the Lord.
The eternal purpose of God is revealed in the New Covenant. He
who is the Lord’s must know this covenant, else he shall not be able
to apprehend God’s eternal purpose in his experience. We are told
that “death reigned from Adam until Moses... sin reigned in death...”
(Rom. 5.14,21). Now during this period the eternal purpose of God
was not yet revealed. But when God “preached the gospel Introduction 9 beforehand unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all the nations be
blessed” (Gal. 3.8), something of the shadow of grace was shown to
us, yet the substance of grace was still unseen. “The law was given
through Moses” (John 1.17), yet “the law came in besides” (Rom.
5.20). It is never included in the eternal purpose of God. “All the
prophets and the law prophesied until John” (Matt. 11.13), but “grace
and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1.17). Therefore, with
Christ comes the dispensation of grace, the New Covenant, and the
revelation of the eternal purpose of God. God’s eternal purpose is
revealed in the New Covenant. By knowing the latter we may expect
the former to be accomplished in our lives. Otherwise, we will only
be able to touch the fringe, not the substance, of salvation. If we
know somewhat concerning the New Covenant, it can then be said
that we have touched the greatest treasure in the universe!
What is the eternal purpose of God? To state it simply, it is God
working himself into the man whom He has created. God takes
pleasure in joining himself with man that the latter may have His life
and nature. In eternity, before time began and before heaven and
earth and man were created, God had already conceived this purpose.
He desired that man should be like Him, glorified and conformed to
the image of His Son (Eph. 1.4, 5; Rom. 8.29,30). For this reason, He
created man in His own image (Gen. 1.27). He then put the man He
created in the garden of Eden, wherein were the tree of life and the
tree of the knowledge of good and evil. God only forbade man to eat
the fruit of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. In other
words, God was indicating to man how he should eat the fruit of the
tree of life, though the man himself must choose actively. According
to the revelation of the Bible, the tree of life points to God (Ps. 36.9;
John 1.4, 11.25, 14.6; 1 John 5.12). If man were to eat the fruit of the
tree of life he would have life, and God would enter into him.
We know how the first Adam—the first man God created—failed.
Instead of receiving God’s life, Adam took the fruit of the tree of the
knowledge of good and evil and was thereby alienated from the 10 The Better Convenant lifegiving God. Nevertheless, we praise and thank God, for though
the first man was defeated and fell, the Second Man—that is, the last
Adam (1 Cor. 15.45,47)—has arrived at the eternal purpose of God.
In the whole universe there is at least one man who is commingled
with God: Jesus of Nazareth, who is at once God and man, man and
God. The Lord Jesus is “the Word [that] became flesh, and dwelt
among us..., full of grace and truth” (John 1.14). Though “no man
hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the
bosom of the Father, he hath declared him” (John 1.18). God’s
eternal purpose is to so work himself into man as to conform him
into the image of His Son. This is the New Covenant.
What do we mean by saying today is the dispensation of the New
Covenant? We will mention it only briefly now and explain it in
more detail in the third chapter. We know God has never made any
covenant with the Gentiles: we who are Gentiles did not have the Old
Covenant; how then can we have the New? Hebrews 8.8 plainly
informs us that one day God will make a new covenant with the
house of Israel and the house of Judah. Strictly speaking, the New
Covenant will come only after those days (Heb. 8.10), that is, it will
ultimately be established only at the commencement of the
millennium. This being the case, how can we say that today is the
dispensation of the New Covenant? This is due to no other reason
than that the Lord treats His church in accordance with the principle
of the New Covenant. He places the church under the New Covenant
principle for the church to communicate and deal with Him
according to this covenant until He accomplishes all that He desires.
“This is my blood of the [new] covenant,” says the Lord (Matt. 26.28
mg.). He inaugurates the New Covenant with His blood that we
might foretaste its blessings. For us to say that today is the
dispensation of the New Covenant is an evidence of the special grace Introduction 11 of the Lord. We must therefore know experientially what the New
Covenant is so that we may live in this new dispensation.
In order to know the New Covenant we need to first understand
what a covenant is; and to understand a covenant we must know
what God’s promise and God’s fact are. We shall therefore speak a
little about God’s promise and God’s fact before we move on to the
subject of God’s covenant—the New Covenant and its
characteristics. We shall deal particularly with the following
important matters: how the law is put within man and inscribed upon
his heart; how the power of life operates; how God becomes our God
in the law of life and how we become God’s people in this law of
life; and lastly, how we actually know inwardly so that we may have
deeper knowledge of God. 1 God’s Promise and God’s Fact In the word of God some writers speak of the
responsibilities which God requires men to bear, while
some speak of the grace which God desires to give to
men. In other words, some refer to God’s demand while
some refer to God’s grace. Many commandments,
teachings, statutes, and so forth are expressive of God’s demand on
men; that is, that for which God requires men to be responsible. But
every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ (Eph. 1.3)—
such as an inheritance incorruptible and undefiled and unfading (1
Peter 1.4)—is indicative of the grace which God is pleased to
accomplish and give to us. So far as the word of God goes, grace
may be classified according to three categories: (1) the promise God
gives to us, (2) the fact God has already accomplished for us, and (3)
the covenant God makes with man, showing what He is determined
to do. As God’s promise and God’s fact are different, so God’s
covenant is different from God’s promise and God’s fact. God’s
covenant, however, includes His promise and His fact. It may be
outlined as follows: Let us first look at what God’s promise is.
Promise is different from fact. Promise points to the future,
whereas fact refers to the past. Promise shows what will be done, but
fact reveals what is done already. Promise tells of what God will do 14 The Better Convenant for man; fact tells what God has already accomplished for man.
Promise indicates what God will do in response to man’s doing; fact
attests to what God has accomplished for us because He loves us and
knows our inability. There are many promises with conditions; that is
to say, if we fulfill certain conditions we shall receive what is
promised. Fact, though, does not demand our begging or imploring;
it only requires us to see and to believe.
Let us offer some illustrations to explain the difference between
promise and fact.
The Lord Jesus comforted His disciples, saying, “Let not your
heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me...; for I go to
prepare a place for you. And...I come again, and will receive you
unto myself” (John 14.1-3). This is a promise which will become a
fact on the day of the Lord’s return. He also said this to the disciples:
“It is expedient for you that I go away; for if I go not away, the
Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send him unto
you” (John 16.7). This too is a promise which is turned into a fact on
the day of the Lord’s resurrection when He “breathed on them, and
saith unto them, Receive ye the Holy Spirit” (see John 20.19-22).
Again He told the disciples, “Behold, I send forth the promise of
my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city, until ye be clothed with
power from on high” (Luke 24.49). This is the promise of promises,
which too becomes a fact on the day of Pentecost when the Holy
Spirit came upon them (see Acts 2.1-4). But this promise is
conditional in that the disciples must wait in the city.
We may also use a parable to analyze the difference between
promise and fact. Suppose A and B are friends. A is sick in bed,
having no strength to work nor money to buy the necessities of life.
B loves A, so he says to A, “Tomorrow morning I will work for you
and bring you the money for purchasing your necessities.” This is
B’s promise to A. Sure enough, B goes forth the next morning and God’s Promise and God’s Fact 15 works for A and subsequently brings him the money he needs to buy
necessities. This shows that B’s promise to A has now become a fact.
If A believes in B’s promise, counting B’s word as trustworthy, he
will have hope and rest on the first day, although he comes into
actual enjoyment on the second day.
Several Principles Regarding God’s Promise
The Bible shows us several principles regarding God’s promise,
such as the following:
(1) “Honor thy father and mother (which is the first
commandment with promise), that it may be well with thee, and thou
mayest live long on the earth” (Eph. 6.2-3). This promise is
conditional. Not every person is blessed and lives long on the earth;
only the one who honors his father and mother may be well and live
long on the earth. If one does not fullfill the condition herein
prescribed, he will not receive the promised blessing nor the
(2) “Now, O Jehovah God, let thy promise unto David my father
be established” (2 Chron. 1.9). This indicates how prayer or asking is
needed for the realization of promise (see also 1 Kings 8.56).
(3) “After the number of the days in which ye spied out the land,
even forty days, for every day a year, shall ye bear your iniquities,
even forty years, and ye shall know my alienation [the revoking of
my promise’—ASV mg.]” (Num. 14.34). This reveals how a promise
may be revoked if men are unfaithful to God’s promise and fail to
fulfill its condition. Of the Israelites who came out of Egypt, only
two persons—Caleb and Joshua—were able to enter Canaan; the rest
fell dead in the wilderness (see Num. 26.65). Clearly God abrogated
His promise towards the unfaithful people. (Though Jacob and
Joseph died in Egypt, they were nonetheless buried in Canaan.
Because they were faithful to God to the end, therefore God did not 16 The Better Convenant revoke His promise to them. See Gen. 46.3-4, 49.29-32, 50.12-13
and 24-25; Joshua 24.32).
(4) “For not through the law was the promise to Abraham or to his
seed that he should be heir of the world, but through the
righteousness of faith. For if they that are of the law are heirs, faith is
made void, and the promise is made of none effect” (Rom. 4.13-14).
This implies that if aside from God man uses the strength of flesh
and blood, or adds anything to it, the promise may become void.
(5) “And these all, having had witness borne to them through their
faith, received not the promise, God having provided some better
thing concerning us, that apart from us they should not be made
perfect” (Heb. 11.39-40). Also, “Ye have need of patience, that,
having done the will of God, ye may receive the promise” (Heb.
10.36). This suggests that patience must be exercised for receiving
God’s promise at the right time.
By the above passages of the Scriptures we may perceive the
following four principles regarding God’s promise:
(1) God’s promise needs our asking Him to fullfill it.
(2) If God’s promise is conditional, it will be given only upon its
condition being fullfilled; otherwise it may be revoked.
(3) If man in his natural strength does anything to the promise, or
if he adds something to it, the promise may also be declared void.
(4) God’s promise is to be realized at God’s time.
How God’s Promise Is Realized in Us
Each time we notice a promise in the word of God, we ought to
pray fervently till the Spirit of God rises within us and makes us feel God’s Promise and God’s Fact 17 that this promise is meant for us. If it is unconditional we should
immediately exercise faith to receive it, trusting that God will do
what He has promised to us and commencing to praise and thank
Him. But if this promise is conditional, we need first to fulfill the
requirement and then pray that God perform according to His
faithfulness and righteousness. Pray till faith springs up from within;
then cease praying and begin praising God. It shall not be long before
we see God’s promise being realized.
Let us illustrate this with some real experiences. (1) At a certain
place there were a few sisters who usually asked God at the
beginning of each year for a promise as to their annual support. One
sister, sensing her own weakness, told the Lord of her need. The
word which the Lord gave her was: “Christ...to you-ward is not
weak, but is powerful in you” (2 Cor. 13.3). Having received such a
word, she was immediately strengthened. Another sister was of the
anxious type. She became frightened whenever she thought of the
past and looked forward to the future. She too told the Lord of her
actual condition. Consequently she received a promise from the
Lord, saying, “Fear thou not, for I am with thee; be not dismayed, for
I am thy God; I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will
uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness” (Is. 41.10). The
six I’s and my’s and the three will’s in this passage caused her to
bow her head and worship God. She was moved to tears of joy and
touched by the fullness of promises. Thereafter, whenever she was
faced with difficulty or temptation she would read this word to
herself as well as to God. Thus was she strengthened, helped and
sustained through many years. These sisters had among them many
similar experiences. The promises which God gave suited perfectly
their needs. They earnestly sought God for promises, and at the end
of each year when they counted the Lord’s grace they could prove
how often God’s promises had comforted and supported them
through the year. 18 The Better Convenant (2) A child of God asked Him for a promise concerning her
livelihood. One day she read these words: “Be ye free from the love
of money; content with such things as ye have: for hi...
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