A few weeks ago I posted a notice of a new book entitled Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant (see here). Today I am pleased to interview Dr. Elliott Johnson, one of the contributors to that book. Dr. Johnson joined the faculty of Dallas Theological Seminary in 1972 and currently serves as senior professor of Bible Exposition. He is also the founder of the Asian Theological Seminary and has taught extensively overseas, including the Philippines, Poland, the former Czechoslovakia, Romania, and Russia. He also has ministered in Austria, Brazil, England, Germany, Israel, and Scotland.
1. What was your contribution to Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant?
Dispensationalism provides a model of biblical theology based on an exposition of texts. The most commonly recognized passage referring to the New Covenant is Jeremiah 31:31–34. While Jeremiah affirms that this covenant will be ratified with the house of Israel and Judah, yet the church today also seems to benefit from the covenant (Luke 22:20). How can that be? Three answers are offered in the book which attempt to be faithful to both the Old and New Testament contexts so that the reader can evaluate the answers and reach their own conclusions. My contribution relates to one of the proposed answers.
2. What is your view of the New Covenant?
My view sees the New Covenant as inaugurated with Israel in the Millennial Kingdom, when “all Israel will be saved” (Rom 11:27). Nonetheless, when Christ died on the cross the New Covenant was ratified (Heb. 9:15) as Christ is the mediator of the covenant. So through Christ, believers are beneficiaries of the New Covenant blessings today (Heb. 9:15–17) since Israel as the anticipated recipient rejected the covenant mediator.
3. Who do you think should read this book?
I believe that this book would be most helpful for leaders and teachers in churches which desire to teach the whole counsel of God. Also students desiring a grasp on a biblical theology and worldview that consistently applies Israel’s covenant to the church might also find this work helpful.
4. What one book or person has been most influential in shaping your understanding of the New Covenant?
I have found two works to be particularly influential. Charles Ryrie’s Dispensationalism is a classic treatment of issues related to dispensationalism, including the role of the New Covenant. Another work which I have found particularly helpful is Moshe Weinfeld’s article on berith “covenant” in the Theological Dictionary of the Old Testament edited by G. Johannes Botterweck and Helmer Ringgren, 2:253-79.
5. How does a proper understanding of the New Covenant affect the ministry of the church?
The gospel ministry includes New Covenant blessings (2 Cor 3:1–18). So to understand the church’s ministry today from a biblical point of view, one needs to understand both the gospel and the relationship of the church to these New Covenant blessings.
6. What one or two things have you learned while interacting with other Dispensational scholars on the New Covenant?
Working with other dispensational scholars has helped sharpen my thinking in two ways. First, it has helped me in better answering the question, “What is the relationship between Israel and the church?” This question is important because the answer helps to establish the identity and ministry of the church. Second, interactions with others have provided opportunities to focus on the argument of the Book of Hebrews, namely, “How are promises and covenants addressed to Israel applied to the church?”
I am thankful to Dr. Johnson for his willingness to participate in this interview. I would encourage anyone interested in dispensationalism or the New Covenant to check out Dispensational Understanding of the New Covenant.