Tuesday, May 1, 2012

The New Covenant

Today I'd like to explain the New Covenant way of faith in Christ in contrast to the Old Covenant.  You'll need to get your Bible out and follow along, reading the passages I cite.

Faith in Christ, Righteousness, and Glory – Read 2 Corinthians 3
  • We are ministers of the New Covenant of faith in Christ, not of the letter that kills, but of the Spirit that gives life.
  • The Old Covenant was a ministry of death (animals sacrificed, people condemned to death)
  • The New Covenant is a ministry that brings righteousness
  • The Old had glory, but now in comparison to the greater glory of the New, the Old has no glory at all.
  • We are being transformed (metamorphosis) into His likeness with ever increasing glory.  This comes from the Lord, not from us.

God's Righteousness vs. Legalistic Righteousness  - Read Philippians 3
  • Knowing Christ is not head knowledge, but a personal intimate knowledge (as in Adam "knew" Eve and she conceived a child)
  • Not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law
  • But a righteousness from God that is by faith in Christ
  • I want that kind
  • To know Christ in the power of His resurrection, fellowship of his suffering, being made like Him in His death
  • Somehow to attain to the resurrection from the dead 

Law Does Not Make Anyone Righteous - Read Galatians 2:15-21

  • Jews by birth like Paul who put their faith in Christ know that a man is not justified by observing the law.
  • Paul died to the law
  • He was a crucified man, and as far as the law was concerned, he was dead
  • He was alive to Christ.  Christ lived in Him.  He lived by faith in the Son of God

Law Was a Tutor to Lead Us to Christ - Read Galatians 3
  • Paul's epistle to the Galatians was correcting a specific error, namely the false teaching (heresy) that says you must seek to obtain justification through ritual law (circumcision), in addition to your faith in Christ. Please see Faith Works! for more on this. 
  • If you want to go back to observing the Law, seeking to be justified by it, you’ve got to do everything written in it.
  • It’s all or nothing, if you are under the Old Covenant.  If you rely on works of the law as your means of justification, then you are under a curse for the part you don’t do.
  • Your other option is to trust Christ, who became a curse for us, when He was on the cross
  • The Law could not give life or righteousness
  • The Law was our tutor to lead us to Christ
  • Now that faith has come, we have another tutor – The Holy Spirit, who takes from the Law – The "Law of the Spirit of Life."  Paul wrote, "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." Rom 8:2 
  • The Mosaic Covenant did not invalidate or nullify the Abrahamic Covenant (3:17)
  • The Law is not contrary to the promise of God (3:21)
  • If you belong to Christ, you are a descendant of Abraham and heir of the promise (3:29) 

Law Defines Sin - Read Romans 3
  • The knowledge of sin comes through the Law (Rom 3:20).  The Law defines what is sin.
  • We have all sinned (Rom 3:23)
  • By faith in Christ, there is a righteousness apart from the Law (Rom 3:21-22)
  • We do not nullify the Law by our faith!  Rather we uphold the Law! (Rom 3:31)
  • "Everyone who practices sin also practices lawlessness; and sin is lawlessness." (1Jo 3:4)
  • Just because we are under grace does not mean we should continue to sin by disobeying God's commands (Rom 6:1-2) 

Freedom of the Spirit-filled life - Read Galatians 5

  • It’s for freedom that Christ set us free
  • The Mosaic Covenant was like slavery and the Abrahamic Covenant was freedom (4:24,25)
  • Stand firm and don’t be yoked again into slavery to sin
  • Don’t use your freedom as a cover up for evil.  Our freedom in Christ is not an excuse to sin by breaking God's commands found in the Word.
  • Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature
  • The Spirit and the flesh are in conflict with each other.  No gray area.
  • If you are walking in the Spirit, it is impossible to gratify the desires of the sinful nature
  • If you live by the Spirit, you are not under Law (5:18)
  • Acts of the sinful nature defined (5:19-21)
  • Fruit of the Spirit defined (5:22-23)
  • There is no law against any of the Spirit's fruit! (5:23)
  • As Jesus said, “Without me you can do nothing.  If you abide in me, you will bear much fruit.” (Jn 15)

Old Covenant Regulated Worship Until the New Order - Read Hebrews 9
  • Old Covenant had regulations for worship, in terms of gifts, sacrifices, food, drink, and ceremonial washings (Heb 9:1,9,10).
  • The Mosaic Covenant regulated the pattern for the earthly tabernacle, which was designed according to the pattern of the heavenly one.
  • All of these external regulations applied only until the time of the new order (Heb 9:10) 
  • These things could never clear the conscience of the worshiper (Heb 9:9)

Enjoy Reality in Christ and Don't Go Back to the Shadows - Read Hebrews 10
  • Law was a shadow of the realities we now have in Christ (Heb 10:1)
  • We now enjoy reality, so why would we want to go back to shadows
  • The Law could never make anyone perfect (Heb 10:2)
  • The sacrifices were a reminder of sin, but could never take away sin (Heb 10:3-4, 11).
  • Jesus took away the first covenant to establish the second.
  • His will was to sanctify us once for all through the body of Christ
  • The New Covenant was prophesied by Jeremiah (Jer 31:31-34).
  • God would write His Law on the tablet of our heart.  We would obey from the heart.
  • God would remember our lawless deeds no more
  • Jesus has made perfect those who are being sanctified
  • He has made us holy by His sacrifice on the cross, and He is making us holy in our practice (Heb 10:10,14)
  • We now have confidence to enter the Holy of Holies
  • We’d better not go on sinning deliberately, because there is no other sacrifice left after we come to know the truth about Christ (Heb 10:26-31).
  • This is very serious!  The punishment for disobedience is more severe! These are the days to fear God more than in the days of the Old Covenant.
  • We need to hold fast to our confession
  • We need to live by faith to please God, and not shrink back to destruction.

The Ancients Pleased God by Their Faith - Hebrews 11

  • Without faith, it’s impossible to please God.
  • All the ancients were commended for their faith, not for their perfect observance of the law.
  • God spoke to each one personally and they obeyed.
  • Even Moses the lawgiver was commended for his faith.
  • Our walk is a walk of faith.
  • Be sure of that which we hope for.

Obsolete Covenant with Commandments We Must Practice and Teach - Read Matthew 5:17-20

Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. (Mat 5:17-20)

  • According to Paul, the Old Covenant is obsolete, which means "gone into disuse." He explained Jeremiah's prophecy of the New Covenant like this: "When He said, 'A new covenant,' He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear." (Heb 8:13)
  • Although the covenant is obsolete -- gone into disuse -- and no man is justified by observing the Law, we must still practice and teach all the commands of the Law and ProphetsOur Lord Jesus said we need to keep the commandments of the Law and the Prophets!
  • We must understand the difference between the covenant, as a means of justification in the sight of God, and the commandments that timelessly represent the will of God.
  • We must distinguish the external regulations for worship (in terms of gifts, sacrifices, food, drink, and ceremonial washings) from the commandments that define sin and express the ways of God for all ages.
  • We must understand and interpret all the words of the holy apostles through the teachings of Jesus.
  • Jesus is our foundation, our Rock. 
  • All of Paul's writings, such as Philippians 3, Romans 3, Galatians 3, and 2 Corinthians 3, as well as Hebrews 10 and 11, must be understood through the teaching of Jesus, such as Matthew 5:17-20.
  • Jesus upheld the commandments and taught the inward meaning of them, particularly the Ten Commandments (Matt 5:21-48).  It's possible to murder someone without touching him.  It's possible to commit adultery with someone without touching her.  It's not enough to love your friends, you must also love your enemies.  The standard for keeping God's commandments is higher now under the new covenant than it was under the old covenant.
  • Jesus also upheld the Sabbath, and taught the inward meaning of this commandment, too.  He is the Lord of the Sabbath, and He observed the weekly Sabbath.  God desires mercy, not sacrifice on the Sabbath.  God made the Sabbath for man.  It is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.  
  • Here is a mathematical formula I use with my children to help them remember that even the fourth commandment, requiring that we keep the Sabbath holy, has not been abolished: Matthew 12 divided by Mark 2 equals Luke 6. Or it can be expressed like this: Mt 12 ÷ Mk 2 = Lk 6.  Go and read these passages, and see for yourself what they all have in common (make special note of Mt 12:1-14; Mk 2:23-28; Lk 6:1-10).  Especially note the consequences for only hearing and not practicing what Jesus commands (Lk 6:46-49)
  • For more on keeping Sundays (Sabbaths) holy, see my blogs on this topic:
Resting from Work (see here)
Keeping Sundays Holy (see here)
The Lord's Day (see here)

Putting it All Together
I realize it is not easy to logically grasp the concepts expressed in the blog, and the tension between "the requirement to practice the commandments" and the fact the that Old Covenant is "obsolete," or gone into disuse.  This seems self contradictory in some ways, but  it is true.  This is why many misunderstand grace and do not believe correctly.

The Law does not make anyone righteous. It was a tutor to lead us to Christ. The Law defines sin.  It was a shadow of the realities that are found in Christ.  Those who are in Christ now enjoy reality and have no need to go back to the shadows in an effort to be made righteous. We are not endeavoring to keep up the law of Moses in conjunction with the gospel of Christ. The ancients pleased God by their faith, not their works of the Law. Yet even though the Mosaic Covenant is obsolete, we must still practice and teach the commands found in the Law.

That doesn't mean we seek to be justified by works of the Law.  We must understand the difference between the covenant, as a means of justification in the sight of God, and the commandments that timelessly represent the ways and will of God. We must distinguish the external regulations for worship (in terms of gifts, sacrifices, food, drink, and ceremonial washings) from the commandments that define sin and express the ways of God for all ages. The Law can never clear your conscience or make you perfect. You cannot rely on your obedience to the Law to save you, because it is only by grace that you are saved through faith (Eph 2:8-10). 

We are not under the Law.  But by faith in Christ, we are able to fulfill the intent of the Law. We are truly righteous and can have a relationship with God and please Him.  We can enter into His presence and worship Him in Spirit and in truth.  "We serve in the new way of the Spirit, not in the old way of the written code." (Rom 7:6).  We should live by the law of the Spirit of life, our divine Tutor, since we can do nothing apart from the Lord Jesus (Jn 15:5).  In Christ, we are free to love, free to serve.  We are no longer slaves to sin.  We are free to obey the Lord's commands.  Not only are we free to obey them, we are responsible to do so!  And if you keep His commandments, you will abide in His love (Jn 15:10).

Attribution notice: Most Scripture quotations taken from the NASB. Most other Scriptures taken from The Holy Bible, New International Version® NIV®, unless otherwise noted. Jesus' New Covenant Cup image from Scripture for Today
Author's note If you enjoyed this article, I recommend reading the following articles below, beginning with the ones in the left column:

Is Obedience Optional?
The Law of Christ 
The Law Fulfilled in Us
The Law Established Through Faith
The Cost of Discipleship
Faith Works!
Costly Grace
Deleted Scriptures in the Bible?
Did Jesus Nail the Law to the Cross?
The Obedience of Faith
Striving to Enter the Kingdom of God
Aim for Perfection
Righteous Deeds and White Robes
Doing What is Right
Your Rewards Are Based on Your Practice
Partaking of the Divine Nature
Walking in the Perfect Will of God
Pressing on Toward the Goal
Obedience by the Spirit
The Ways of Life
The Flesh vs. the Spirit

You can access the main directory for this blog at Seeking the Lord, and find my complete blog directory at "Writing for the Master." Now I'd like to ask a very important question.

Do You Want to Know Him?
If you want to know Jesus personally, you can. It all begins when you repent and believe in Jesus.  Do you know what God's Word, the Bible says?

“Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of God, and saying, ‘The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent and believe in the gospel.’” (Mar 1:14b-15).  He preached that we must repent and believe.

Please see my explanation of this in my post called "Do You Want to Know Jesus?"

Len Lacroix is the founder of Doulos Missions International.  He was based in Eastern Europe for four years, making disciples, as well as helping leaders to be more effective at making disciples who multiply, developing leaders who multiply, with the ultimate goal of planting churches that multiply. His ministry is now based in the United States with the same goal of helping fulfill the Great Commission. www.dmiworld.org.

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