Are you experiencing the blessings of the New Covenant in your life? Many do not understand the Christian's relationship to God's law, and how it is written on the heart of a Christian.
Most "mainstream Christian" ministers and priests teach that Jesus Christ brought a New Covenant that somehow "does away" with the Ten Commandments. Yet even these religious leaders are confused among themselves. Some say that Christ did away with the law at the cross. Others teach that the Apostle Paul brought a new "gospel of grace" that supplants God's spiritual laws. Others say that the Ten Commandments are not binding, and are "spiritualized" away except for those specifically restated in the New Testament.
No wonder there is such great confusion. As Jesus warned: "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?" (Matthew 7:15–16, KJV). Your Bible shows clearly that we live in a deceived world! "And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him" (Revelation 12:9, KJV).
In the midst of this confusion, Christians should realize that God blesses human beings—nations, families or individuals—to the degree that they choose to live by God's basic spiritual law, and that they will receive curses and things will go wrong to the degree they disobey Him.
Does this surprise you? One of the major deficiencies in "mainstream Christianity" is its total misunderstanding of the Old and New Covenants. God Almighty knew in advance that many would misunderstand the Apostle Paul; He inspired the Apostle Peter to write the following warning:
"Consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation; as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures" (2 Peter 3:15–16). "Therefore, dear friends, since you already know this, be on your guard so that you may not be carried away by the error of lawless men and fall from your secure position" (v. 17, NIV). Yes, Peter warned against false teachers who are "lawless men."
The book of Hebrews addresses the New Covenant specifically, more so than any other book in the New Testament. We read: "But now He [Christ] has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises" (Hebrews 8:6). The New Covenant is not established on different laws, but on better promises—the promised indwelling help of the Holy Spirit and the reward of eternal life!
Continuing: "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: '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'" (vv. 7–8).
Nothing is said about finding "fault" with God or His law. The fault was with a physical people who lacked the spiritual love and strength to obey God. This is essentially the same problem that the United States and British-descended nations face today.
"For this is the covenant [relationship with God] that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws [divine, ethical standards of conduct] in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people [a genuinely righteous, Christian nation]" (v. 10). This powerful New Testament verse makes it very clear that, far from "doing away" with God's law, the New Covenant validates God's laws by putting them right into the minds and hearts of true Christians!
How could it be otherwise?
Jesus Christ said: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled. Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17–19).
Jesus "magnified" God's law (Isaiah 42:21, KJV). He taught that Christians are not to murder, and must not even harbor an attitude of hate (Matthew 5:21–24). Not only are Christians forbidden from practicing physical adultery; Jesus added a new dimension: "But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart" (v. 28).
Our Savior magnified or enlarged God's Ten Commandments and made them even more binding. Christians must keep the "spirit" or intent of the law as well as the letter! Jesus' advice to any person seeking eternal life is: "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).
After Jesus Christ died and was resurrected, He told His apostles: "Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you" (Matthew 28:19–20).
Christ's death did not end the need to "observe all things" that Jesus had commanded. Throughout the Gospel accounts, we find Jesus teaching, "Keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17). So, how can human beings possibly reason around their Savior's clear statements?
Some who want to "do away" with the Ten Commandments like to say that God virtually "started all over" in the New Testament. They reason that God's laws, as revealed in the Old Testament, were crude and incomplete, and that God inspired the Apostle Paul to reveal a whole new concept of how to serve Him, which was not wedded to the old teachings of obedience to His laws and ways. Rather, their reasoning goes, one need only have "faith" in Christ and His shed blood in order to inherit eternal life.
This theory of "religious evolution" tries, in one master stroke, to negate the entire way of life that God had revealed to the patriarchs and prophets—which He had revealed through the Word, Jesus Christ, whom many fail to realize was the God of the Old Testament. It portrays the Old Testament as a collection of "interesting" stories, allegories and poetry by the primitive Hebrew people, whose concept of God was gradually developing. It considers the Old Testament histories as largely unreliable, the prophecies as uncertain—and the revealed laws as certainly not binding on Christians today.
Yet, although liberal theologians accept this concept as truth, it is a damnable lie hatched by Satan! In fact, the Apostle Paul told the Gentile Christians at Ephesus: "Now, therefore, you are no longer strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and members of the household of God, having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone," (Ephesians 2:19–20). True Christianity has a "foundation"—an undergirding upon which all else is built. That foundation includes the "prophets" of God—including Moses! God's law came "through" Moses (not from him), just as grace and truth came "through" Jesus Christ (John 1:17).
"Therefore remember that you, once Gentiles in the flesh; who are called Uncircumcision by what is called the Circumcision made in the flesh by hands; that at that time you were without Christ, being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:11–12). These Gentiles prior to their conversion had no hope, and were "without God" because they were aliens from Israel and "strangers from the covenants of promise." Paul stressed that God's "covenants" of old were very important! They helped people become acquainted with God and His way of salvation!
Paul told Timothy, the young Jewish evangelist: "From childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness" (2 Timothy 3:15–16). Remember, the only "Scripture" Timothy had as a child was the Old Testament, which Paul said could make him "wise for salvation."
God did not "start all over" in the New Testament! The entire way of life that the early Church understood and taught had its "roots" firmly planted in the Hebrew Bible—and in the law of God.
When Jesus Christ, James or John spoke of God's law or of the "commandments," they were speaking about the Ten Commandments—often referring to them specifically, in almost the same breath, to make their points clear. "For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet stumble in one point, he is guilty of all. For He who said, 'Do not commit adultery,' also said, 'Do not murder.' Now if you do not commit adultery, but you do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law" (James 2:10–11).
The Apostle John exhorted believers: "He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him" (1 John 2:4). The false teaching that God's spiritual law is "done away" under the New Covenant would simply "blow the minds" of the apostles and prophets who originally wrote about it!
Readers (and translators) of the New Testament sometimes have difficulty understanding the subtle distinction between the English words "covenant" and "testament." These words are both used to translate the Greek word diatheke, which occurs 33 times in the New Testament. In classical Greek, diatheke was used to mean a will or a testament. But in the Greek Septuagint translation of the Hebrew Bible (the Old Testament), the Greek word diatheke is more than 300 times rendered as the equivalent of the Hebrew berith, which always translated into English as "covenant."
"The essential distinction between the two meanings is that in a testament the testator expresses his will as to what shall be done after his death, especially in respect to his property; the covenant is an agreement between living persons as to what shall be done by them while living" (Ralph Earl, Th.D., Word Meanings in the New Testament, 1991, p. 277, quotes E. D. Burton, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians, p. 500).
Dr. Earl concludes his analysis of diatheke by stating: "We would agree with most commentators that the only place [in the New Testament] where this word means 'testament' is Hebrews 9:16–17" (p. 426)!
In other words, scholars acknowledge that if we use our terminology accurately, the "New Testament" should more properly be called the "New Covenant"! And if we are consistent, we must admit that Jesus Christ's instruction, "If you want to enter into life, keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17), applies to all Christians today!
A "covenant" is simply an agreement between two living parties. So, now, let us understand what the Old Covenant involved. In Exodus 19:5, God proposed this Covenant with Israel: "Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine." God promised that, if Israel would accept, He would make the nation His special treasure and a kingdom of priests. Did Israel agree? "Then all the people answered together and said, 'All that the Lord has spoken we will do.' So Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord" (v. 8).
In Exodus 20–24, God spelled out the terms and conditions of His Covenant. In Exodus 20 He restated and codified the Ten Commandments that Abraham, like all of God's servants, had known about and previously kept (Genesis 26:5). These commandments were spiritual laws. Therefore, they are the basis of every relationship God has ever had with human beings, and are the very foundation of holy, righteous character.
God also gave Israel many statutes and judgments that made up the ancient nation's actual civil law. The statutes and judgments were the "law of the land"—interpretations based directly on a "letter of the law" magnification of the Ten Commandments as applied to specific issues.
Abraham—the father of the faithful—understood and obeyed these statutes (Genesis 26:5). Moses stated: "I make known the statutes of God and His laws" (Exodus 18:16). This was before God thundered the Ten Commandments from the mountaintop—before the Sinai Covenant was made.
If we were to accept (for argument's sake) the classic Protestant and Catholic proposition that the Sinai Covenant ceased at the death of Christ, then how could these statutes and laws cease—laws that existed and were empowered before Sinai—by force of the Sinai Covenant's dissolution? Nothing in the Bible ever says that they were dissolved! After all, by the logic of this argument, the Sinai Covenant could not destroy what it did not bring into force!
The bottom line is that Israel agreed to enter into a covenant with God. This covenant was to be a way of life with blessings if they obeyed, or punishment and death if they disobeyed. The Israelites said: "All that the Lord has said we will do, and be obedient" (Exodus 24:7). This was immediately after Moses had read to the people the "Book of the Covenant," which contained the Ten Commandments and the statutes and judgments that were to guide the people's daily conduct (v. 7).
Moses then sealed the Covenant by sprinkling blood on the people (v. 8). "As is evident elsewhere in the Bible, covenants were concluded in order to create quasi-familial relations. Parties bound by covenant regularly employed family terminology [The Lord would be their father (Jeremiah 31:9) and they would be His children (Isaiah 45:11)]. The role of blood was to create an artificial tie of consanguinity [blood relationship]" (The Anchor Bible Dictionary, "Blood," Vol. 1, 1992, p. 763). Now they were committed to obey God's laws and walk in His ways—knowing He would make them a "special treasure" above all nations of the earth if they did so—or terribly punish them if they did not.
Christ came "to confirm the promises made to the fathers" (Romans 15:8). He outlined the terms and conditions of the New Covenant, saying: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God" (Luke 4:4; Deuteronomy 8:3). As He explained: "The law and the prophets were until John. Since that time the kingdom of God has been preached, and everyone is pressing into it. And it is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for one tittle of the law to fail" (Luke 16:16–17).
Remember, when the young man asked Him the way to eternal life, Jesus answered: "keep the commandments" (Matthew 19:17).
Which commandments? Did this forever include the animal sacrifices and ceremonial laws that God later added as a reminder of sin, after He had given the spiritual laws and principles of Exodus 20–24? Animal sacrifice and ceremonial laws were not part of the original Sinai Covenant. These were added later, after the covenant was enacted by blood (Exodus 24:8).
God clearly explains that He did not give Israel these things when the Old Covenant was made. As the prophet Jeremiah was inspired to write: "For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. But this is what I commanded them, saying, 'Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you'" (Jeremiah 7:22–23).
The author of Hebrews describes the physical ministry of the Levitical priesthood: "It was symbolic for the present time in which both gifts and sacrifices are offered which cannot make him who performed the service perfect in regard to the conscience; concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation" (Hebrews 9:9–10).
Animal sacrifices, washings and the carnal ordinances of the Levitical priesthood were added later, as we have seen—and are no longer necessary for the "Israel of God" (Galatians 6:16), now that the sacrifice of Christ has been made and the Holy Spirit is available to spiritually cleanse converted Christians.
God has commanded all Israel to walk in His ways—in the spiritual law of the Ten Commandments, and in the statutes that He gave them. For God—Jesus Christ—never changes His underlying spiritual laws, which reflect His basic character. "For I am the Lord, I do not change; therefore you are not consumed, O sons of Jacob" (Malachi 3:6). And: "Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today, and forever" (Hebrews 13:8).
After Jesus' death and resurrection, God began to share the Holy Spirit with all those who would become the "firstfruits" (John 16:7). On the day of Pentecost, Peter exhorted the thousands of Jews gathered at the Temple of God: "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38).
So, this promise was to "all"—even to those "afar off"—whom God would "call" in years to come (v. 39). Now, notice the conditions by which people may receive God's Spirit and be partakers of the New Covenant. For what purpose did Peter say they were to repent and be baptized? "For the remission [forgiveness] of sin."
These thousands of Jews (v. 41) who heard Peter knew, from their teaching in the synagogues, what sin was! Do you know? Scripture had taught them plainly that sin is a matter of disobeying God's spiritual law—the Ten Commandments (see Exodus 20; Psalm 119). As the Apostle John was inspired to write: "Sin is the transgression of the law" (1 John 3:4, KJV).
At baptism, a truly converted person enters into a genuine New Covenant relationship with God, and must repent of breaking God's Ten Commandments. Sincere repentance means being so sorry that you will forsake your lawless way, then turn around and go the other way—the way of God's law!
Clearly, then, at baptism, a real Christian makes a covenant with the Creator to quit sinning—to stop breaking God's spiritual law! "For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome" (1 John 5:3).
A new Christian looks forward in faith to the promise that the Holy Spirit will empower the mind with love and strength to obey God's law, "because God's love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us" (Romans 5:5, NRSV).
Of course, we will not keep the commandments perfectly in this physical life. However, we are exhorted to "grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Peter 3:18). God expects us to walk in His commandments as a way of life! If we fall short, we are to repent and confess our sins to God, so we can continually be cleansed and forgiven (1 John 1:9–10).
Jesus said: "If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father's commandments and abide in His love" (John 15:10). The Apostle Paul wrote: "I have been crucified with Christ; nevertheless I live, yet not I, but Christ liveth in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me" (Galatians 2:20, KJV).
Through the power of the Holy Spirit, Christ will live His life anew in the truly converted Christian. As Christ does not change (Hebrews 13:8), He will live in today's Christian the same obedient life He lived in the flesh 1,900 years ago while human!
Do you now understand? The New Covenant in no way does away with, or "waters down," even the letter of God's spiritual law. Rather, it empowers genuinely converted Christians, by God's Spirit, to obey that law in the letter and in the spirit. It enables Jesus Christ—through the Spirit—to live His life in Christians: "I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts" (Hebrews 8:10; cf. Jeremiah 31:33). This prepares us for immortality in the Kingdom of God!
No, we do not thereby "earn" our own salvation! This is a false concept that has been foisted on the Protestant world for generations. It is a false, misguided attempt to reason around obedience to God and His laws! Eternal life is God's gift, but God will not give this precious gift to rebellious people who spurn His law and way of life. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord" (Romans 6:23). God will not give immortality to those who rebel against His law of love (1 John 5:3), who would make themselves and others miserable throughout eternity. This also applies to Christians who, after receiving the Holy Spirit, later in life rebel against God and turn to a life of sin. As it is written:
"For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over" (Hebrews 6:4–8, NRSV).
Our initial reconciliation to God, our overcoming and our ultimate salvation are all accomplished through God's mercy—and through the love and strength of Christ living His life in us through the Holy Spirit. But to receive that mercy, we must quit making excuses just so we can "do our own thing." We must genuinely surrender to let Christ rule our lives (Luke 6:46).
If we do so, then when we are glorified—and can participate fully in the New Covenant at Christ's return—we will be "ready." For, as ancient Israel was "married" to Christ, so spiritual Israel (Galatians 6:16)—the Church of God—will be "married" to Christ at His second coming. "Let us be glad and rejoice and give Him glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and His wife has made herself ready" (Revelation 19:7).
Converted members of God's Church—the affianced bride of Christ—will, with the help of the Holy Spirit, have overcome. They will have actively yielded to let God build within them His divine character. They will then truly be "one" with Christ and "one" with God the Father (John 17:20–21).
In this fashion, the purpose of the New Covenant will be fulfilled. Countless repentant and yielded human beings will eventually be imbued with the very nature of God the Father. At the resurrection, when Christ returns, they will be born, literally, into the very Family of God, and so fulfill the great purpose of human existence! How will you respond?