Belcher turns to the new covenant in chapter 8. His treatment focuses almost exclusively on Jeremiah 31, though he notes that Ezekiel 36-37 is also a key passage. Belcher does an excellent job setting Jeremiah 31:31-34 within the context of Jeremiah 30-33. Interestingly, he observes that the land promise is a major theme throughout this section. He argues that this theme is fulfilled as the gospel goes out into all the world and will be fulfilled when Christ’s people inherit the earth.
Belcher identifies four new covenant promises:
(1) ‘I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts’
(2) ‘I will be their God and they shall be my people’
(3) ‘they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest’
(4) ‘I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more’ (132).
Belcher notes that the Mosaic covenant had the same goals. However, it could not achieve them because the transformation of heart was not a provision of the Mosaic covenant since the Mosaic covenant was shadowy and Christ had not yet come.
Belcher also qualifies the current fulfillment of the new covenant promises, noting that they are at present “provisional.” He argues that the promised inner transformation is still incomplete. Furthermore, not everyone in the covenant now knows the Lord, as promised on the new covenant. Belcher acknowledges that this is a point of debate with Baptists, who hold that only those who know the Lord are part of the new covenant. Belcher demurs, claiming that the threat on Romans 11 that Gentile branches may be removed from the tree, the reality of apostasy (1 John 5:19), the warnings found in Hebrews, and the fact of church discipline all testify that some people who were externally part of the new covenant were not internally members of it.
In general, this is a helpful chapter. Belcher is correct about the need for the new covenant to replace the old. He is correct that the land promise is a major theme in the new covenant passages. I don’t think, however, that the spread of the gospel around the world is a fulfillment of those passages. More significantly, the Baptists are correct that everyone in the new covenant knows the Lord. This is a point of distinction that makes the new covenant better than the old covenant. To assert that this feature is absent at present is, in effect, to deny the inauguration of the new covenant. It is true that the NT warns against apostasy and that church discipline is a necessity in the present age, but this does not falsify the reality that all in the new covenant know the Lord. It simply indicates that fallible humans cannot see the heart. In fact, church discipline testifies to the importance of regenerate church membership. That is, a membership that attempts to restrict church membership to those who are part of the new covenant.