As a Particular Baptist, I’m very familiar with Jeremiah 31:31-34. Its a commonly used verse in polemics against Paedo-baptists (as it teaches members of the New Covenant must be regenerate). However, today’s article is not written against the views of our Paedo-baptist brethren, but instead those of the Pelegians and synergists. I was listening to a video recently and stumbled on upon something I don’t believe I’d ever noticed before that colors my view of Jeremiah 31:33. First the verse in context:
“Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah—32 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, though I was a husband to them, says the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. 34 No more shall every man teach his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, says the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and their sin I will remember no more.”
The New King James Version. (1982). (Je 31:31–34). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
Notice how God declares that He will write His law on their hearts. Now for a verse earlier on in Jeremiah, from chapter 17:
“The sin of Judah is written with a pen of iron;
With the point of a diamond it is engraved
On the tablet of their heart
The New King James Version. (1982). (Je 17:1). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
According to God, what is currently written on the heart of the people of Israel in Jeremiah’s day? Its their sin. Why this metaphor or the heart? The underlying Hebrew word (לֵב), means “inner man, mind, will, heart”. It is what drives a man; it is representative of his desires and his loves. So why is the sin of Judah written on their heart? Because that is what they love. That is what drivers their actions. In fact, it is core to their very being. Now back to Jeremiah 31. When God writes on the hearts of Israel, He is changing their desires. Sin was written on their hearts originally, but now He has written His law there. So now, those that are in this New Covenant will be caused to love the law of God. It is now their desire and it drives their actions.
The question to the Pelagians and synergists is, who is responsible for this change? The answer is of course, God. We didn’t cause ourselves to love God’s law. God did. Only God can change our hearts from that which is corrupt, that which is good. So much for the idea that God would never override our free will. If one would try to argue that its our decision that allows God to write on our heart, and thus we still have some sort of free will, this contradicts the purpose for which God is doing the writing. The whole point of Jeremiah 31:31-34 is introduce a New Covenant that has a better result than the old one. In the Old Covenant, the people fell away from God. In the New Covenant, God causes people to always remain. Otherwise, in the context of the passage, how would the New be any better than the Old? So if God keeps us in His covenant, does the person who “chose” to let God do this suddenly lose their free will to leave the Covenant? I don’t hear the opponents of Calvinism saying “we choose to let God undo our free will!”, but that is what their view would necessitate. Rather than looking at ourselves, let us look at what God has done. It is amazing that He took wicked sinners like myself, who loved their sin and turned them into lovers of His law. Let anyone who is in Christ praise Him for this.
Let this also be a warning. If you look at yourself and see that your heart still loves sin, and does not love God’s law, you are not in the New Covenant, and thus do not have the forgiveness of your sins as verse 34 tells us. You cannot be in the covenant and have forgiveness of sins, but not have the law written on your heart. But this is not the end for you. God has the ability to turn your heart to His ways, just as He did mine. Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31), and you will be a partaker of His blood in the New Covenant. Do not merely believe that He exists, but believe who He said He was, and you will find Him to be the perfect savior.