To the learned Pharisees and scribes Jesus said, “And you have not his word abiding in you: for whom he has sent, him you believe not. Search the scriptures; for in them you think you have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And you will not come to me, that you might have life” (John 5:38-40 KJ2000). We can have all knowledge and wisdom, but without His love in us as our motivating force it profits us nothing. The question is will we come to Him as a child or will we be as so many proud scholars that are blind because they say they see? The gospel is so simple that even a child can receive Christ “for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” But men with carnal minds have made it complicated that they might secure for themselves a position among the saints of God. Knowledge puffs up, but love edifies. Oh how we love to accumulate knowledge.
How did the early church ever have faith in Christ without their own personal Bibles and all these scholastic resources and Bible teachers we depend on today? They had no seminaries or Bible schools, no Sunday school classes, and no Vacation Bible schools, study guides, concordances, or daily devotionals to read, yet they had a faith in Christ that turned the world upside down. Jesus gave us the answer to this question in a promise He made before He died, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will show you things to come. He shall glorify me: for he shall receive of mine, and shall show it unto you” (John 16:13-14 KJ2000). So did you read this and say, “Yes, but Jesus was talking to the apostles when He said this and they were special”? Well, Apostle John was so convinced of the need of the Spirit abiding in each saint as their Teacher and Leader that he wrote to the early church and said, “The anointing which you have received of him abides in you, and you need not that any man teach you: but as the same anointing teaches you of all things, and is truth, and is no lie, and even as it has taught you, ye shall abide in him” (1 John 2:27).
Even the prophets of old knew that the New Covenant would have this as a foundation to its existence. Jeremiah wrote,
Behold, the days come, says the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; my covenant which they broke, although I was a husband unto them, says the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, says the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, says the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more. (Jeremiah 31:31-34 KJ2000 – emphasis added)
In the Old Covenant the people of Israel new of the Law as a kind of straight jacket that they had to preform in or suffer the consequences often by being stoned to death. They still broke it because they did not have a heart change with the needed motivating force placed within them. But that is not the way the New Covenant is. It is NOT according to the covenant God made with the Children of Israel when they came out of Egypt and the Law was given them by Moses… which covenant they did not keep. Even Peter described the Law as “a yoke upon the neck… which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear” (See Acts 15:10). So what was God’s solution to the inadequacies of mankind? Ezekiel wrote:
A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them. (Ezekiel 36:26-27 KJ2000)
It is having a new heart put by God in us and His wonderful Spirit placed in us that enables us to do the Father’s will. But what is that will? The writer of Hebrews spoke of a new priesthood in this New Covenant and a new law to go with it, “If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchizedek, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Hebrews 7:11-12 KJ2000). Jesus spoke of this new law saying, “A new commandment I give unto you, That you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this shall all men know that you are my disciples, if you have love one to another” (John 13:34-35 KJ2000).
Are we free to do whatever we will now that Christ has set us free? Not if we are still living by the dictates of our flesh instead of by the Spirit of God. Paul went on to say,
Owe no man anything, but to love one another: for he that loves another has fulfilled the law. For this, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, You shall not covet; and if there be any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. Love works no ill to his neighbor: therefore love is the fulfilling of the law. (Romans 13:8-10 KJ2000)
Love is the summation of the whole law and as we walk in Jesus’ New Covenant commandment of love, which fills our new hearts, we are fulfilling all that God requires of us.
The O. T. covenant was broken and replace by a New Covenant based on Jesus not Moses, “For finding fault with them, he says, Behold, the days come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers… For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he says, A new covenant, he has made the first old. Now that which decays and grows old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:8-13 KJ2000)
The Old Covenant was filled with commands and things for the Children of Israel to do (and not do). It was a covenant based on works. But oh how different the New Covenant is as Hebrew ch. 8 points out. Here the prophet specifies a NEW Covenant that is based on what God is doing in and for us, not on what we have to do for God. It is based on a big DONE as far as man is concerned. There is not a single “thou shalt” or”thou shalt not” in that list, but everyone of the attributes listed start out with God saying, “I will…” When Jesus hung on the cross He cried out, “It is FINISHED!” At that moment all the just requirements of the Old Law were fulfilled as well as the prophesies about the Sacrificial Lamb of God. We and our sins were crucified with Him AND we also rose again with Him and now sit in heavenly places in Christ Jesus in the newness of our New Covenant lives. In that position the only works we can do are those done while resting in Him and these were ordained from the foundation of the world that we should walk in them. All other works not done from this position of resting in the Vine as His branches are dead works and are of no account in God’s kingdom. Speaking of the dead self-righteous works of the Jews Jesus said, “Every tree that my father has not planted will be rooted up.” First Father grafts us in and then we rest and abide in His Son, the Vine. Our fruit comes naturally after that because it is HIS fruit that we bear.
“And whatsoever we ask, we receive of him, because we keep his commandments, and do those things that are pleasing in his sight. And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keeps his commandments dwells in him, and he in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us.” (1 John 3:22-24 KJ2000).
“This is my commandment, That you love one another, as I have loved you.” (John 15:12 KJ2000).
As for the law, anyone who has read Jeremiah, Acts, Galatians, Romans, Timothy or Hebrews knows that the law is there to show us we can’t keep it and to point us to the righteousness that is ours by faith in Christ alone and HIS power to keep us.. The old Adam and his sin nature in us has been crucified and the life we now live we live by the life and faith of Jesus Christ who lives in us. Paul wrote, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, self-control: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:22-25 KJ2000 – emphasis added)
Paul warned us about those who teach the law saying, “Now the end of the commandment is love out of a pure heart, and of a good conscience, and of faith unfeigned: From which some having swerved have turned aside unto vain talk; Desiring to be teachers of the law; understanding neither what they say, nor the things they affirm.” (1 Timothy 1:5-7 KJ2000)
For Christ is the end of the Law [the limit at which it ceases to be, for the Law leads up to Him Who is the fulfillment of its types, and in Him the purpose which it was designed to accomplish is fulfilled. That is, the purpose of the Law is fulfilled in Him] as the means of righteousness (right relationship to God) for everyone who trusts in and adheres to and relies on Him. (Romans 10:4 AMP)
It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. Mark my words… You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love. (Galatians 5:1-6 NIV)
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people.” If Christians deny this they need to return to law keeping and forget the imputed righteousness of Christ. If you keep the law of the tithe or Sabbath Day observances or even circumcision to be righteous you are bound by the law to keep the whole law. “For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed [is] every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (Galatians 3:10 KJV).
If we are truly born again, God has taken out of us that heart of stone and put in us a heart of flesh. He has put His Spirit in us. He has put HIS laws in our minds and in our hearts. We are talking about a NEW creation in Christ! THAT is what the NEW Covenant is all about. “They that are in Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the passions and the lusts thereof” (Galatians_5:24). Of the flesh Paul teaches us (Romans 7:18), “In me, that is, in my flesh dwells no good thing.” And again in (Romans 8:7), “The mind of the flesh is enmity against God; for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can it be.” Of this flesh it is written, “Our old man was crucified with Him” (Romans 6:6).
If we are truly born anew in Christ we are new creatures in Him and He is our righteousness and it is by His grace that we live in Him, move in Him and have our being in Him not in flesh of fallen Adam or the law.
So timely! I went to a Bible study yesterday (for the first time in years) on Salvation by Grace. The study was good but I was astounded at how the leader was so blind to what was being said in the notes she had downloaded from the internet. I wanted to just go to be with some women and try not to be contraversial on my first visit, but I couldn’t help stressing the words grace is ‘unmerited’ favour. Instead the whole conversation turned into a talk on tithing, whereas it was the Pharisee who was saying he tithed and fasted! Enough to do my head in. How can we possibly communicate with people who read the same verses we do and then twist them to mean we have to strive and work????
I know the grief you feel. How often in the past I have gone to a church function hoping to get a touch from the Lord only to have something that was said or taught that grieved the Spirit within me instead. Paul warned the elders of the Church at Ephesus, “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30 KJV). Those who have taught these perverse things to draw away disciples from Jesus to themselves have followers who are no longer disciples of Christ. If we are in Christ it is almost impossible to have fellowship with them as a result. We have to be walking in the same covenant or we have nothing in common with them. Those who teach and follow the law have made the grace of Christ of no effect (Gal. 5:4 & Rom. 4:4-5).
Thanks for your response.
Thank you Michael, It is so true that we go to see if God has anything fresh to say to us or simply to be with other Christians and instead find such conflict within. It seems so clear but to the others, they see it all so differently. They are not evil people at all and I know you are not saying that but they are deceived and think they know the truth when they are still trying to earn their salvation by works. I want to be able to communicate with them, I want to see the blind eyes opened but I guess while people are satisfied with their lot and their righteousness is based on keeping all the church ordinances, spoken and unspoken , then there is no meeting place.
Our way involves death to self and dwelling in Jesus wheras theirs is conforming to the church expectations. They say the same words but mean different things!!
Think about it. What part of our lives as individual believers or what part of the body of Christ would not be altered for the better had we actually believed in this better covenant over the years? How many times must the word “better” be used for people to get it? Obviously by what I can see, a whole lot more. It is a marvel that even those most often found speaking of being saved by grace; nonetheless are soon afterward promoting a law sanctioned sanctification.
What I find so sad is this: Those who allow themselves to be duped thus know full well the misery of any attempt to live by the law. They are not and cannot ever truly be free. Yet instead of going back to God to discover what’s wrong, they plod along and just keep believing in what their earthly masters keep telling them is truth.
The day I settle for anything less than the very heavenly promises God has granted in His Son, and by faith strive to enter in, I have failed to believe in God’s ability to bring these to pass and have reverted to faith in myself. God forbid…..shall I ever return to a yoke of slavery. Thanks for the reminder.
Thanks, my brother! I feel the same way. Whether we approach God through our dead works or by the keeping of some law as our righteousness, we make the cross of Christ of no effect in our lives. Yes, the words “better” and “a new and living way” in the New Testament have pretty well been ignored in today’s church system that is totally patterned after the Old.
Yes today’s church is patterned after the Old Covenant. Unfortunately, it is a system that we are typically “birthed” into when we receive Christ. Usually the first thing we are told to do is to find a “good church” to get “plugged into”. That is just the beginning of our journey into confusion. It might be a different experience if we were plucked off of an island somewhere, received Christ, then exposed to the Christian culture as we know it here. We might have a few more questions, and even more objections to the way things are done. But sadly, whether we were “religious” or not before conversion, we have all been exposed to this culture’s concept of being a Christian, or being a “religious” person. So when we come to Christ, we are led, willingly, into “church” life. I know I was. I just wanted to be where Christians were. (I did wonder where they had been in my life up until that point. It seemed they only “came out” on Sunday mornings and Wednesday nights.) So, wanting to be a “good” Christian, I bought the whole package. Don’t most of us? We have learned, in our upbringing, that the way to earn, or deserve something, is to work for it. So even though we are taught salvation by grace alone, we quickly become captive to the underlying theme of “obedience” and “serving the Lord”, both of which call for “commitment” to a local church, which includes financial support and voluntary service in the building. Then all the other stuff…..daily devotions, daily Bible reading, “witnessing” to others, (not that these are wrong, just that they are presented as mandatory means of sustaining our growth, and for some, construed as the way to maintain their very salvation). I’m not surprised that I fell so easily into the system. I’m not surprised that so many others have, and remain there. I’m not surprised that so many others are satisfied with the way things are; I know I was for quite a while. I’m only unspeakably grateful that the Holy Spirit prodded me into “rebellion”. And I only wonder why He hasn’t done the same for many more. Surely, the many more are yet to come…….
Maureen, I have met a few people who came to Christ due to a personal encounter with Him outside of the church system we have today and their faith and growth in Him was clearly real and wonderful. They had found Christ as their sufficiency and had a viable relationship with Him instead of clinging to the local church to meet all their needs. I think those who come to Christ and learn to listen to the voice of His Spirit early on don’t have to do as we have… spend years unlearning those things that religious men put in us during those early vulnerable and formative years of our Christian walks, unlearning them so we could get back to square one where we were seduced away from the simplicity that is ours with a very Personal Saviour.
Wow Maureen!. That’s it in a nutshell! And I so agree Michael that we would be so much better off not having to unlearn all the chiurchian stuff we learn!
Ahhh, this article is like a cool breeze on a baking hot day! Have you come across the ‘torah-observant’ yet?
Sad to say there are a lot of people who call themselves “Followers of Christ” who are still under the Old Covenant and its laws and are unaware of what it means to walk by the Spirit and not by the strength of their flesh. I am glad you have found your freedom in Christ and HIS covenant.
Thank you for this by the way. I have been feeling like a failure lately because I have been trying to live what I was being told was the way a Christian should live.
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The sooner that you agree with God that you CAN’T be a son of God by your own efforts the better, Fred. We are not called to do in the New Covenant, but rather to BE. it is “in Him (Christ) that we live and move and have our BEING (not doing).” To fail to rest in the righteousness of Christ alone and not our works and doings, is where all your confusion seems to be coming from (Read Hebrew chapter four).
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