In order for Christians to understand this radical way of thinking and living, they must first understand that there two kinds of covenants God enters into as described by Scripture. First, God has often entered into covenants that are based on a mutual agreement, so that God makes a promise to bless based upon certain requirements being met by the recepient of the promise. But there is a second kind of covenant or "promise" that God enters into, and fulfills, with no requirements or necessary stipulations from the recepient of the promise. This kind of covenant is called "an unconditional covenant." Unconditional covenants are entered into because of the mere grace of the promise maker.
Though there are several conditional covenants that God has made with His people throughout history as recorded in the Old Testament, there is one major conditional covenant, under which all other conditional covenants were made. The writer of Hebrews officially calls this covenant that God initiated with His people "The Old Covenant." God said, "If you will obey me . . . then I will bless you. If you disobey me, then I will curse you," and all Israel agreed. But the writer of Hebrews tells us that this covenant has been done away with and replaced with a "New Covenant" (Hebrews 9:15) between God and both Jews and Gentiles - all who will trust His Son. This "New Covenant" is a "better" covenant with "better" promises; promises that are unconditional in nature.
A believer in Jesus Christ is the recepient of promises from God that are based on His mere grace, and have nothing to do with the performance or commitment of the participants. Simply "look to Christ and live." Unfortunately, many pastors do harm to their congregations by not understanding themselves the differences between the two covenants. A New Covenant preacher will tell God's people what God has done for us through His Son, our Saviour Jesus Christ. New covenant messages and ministries will not be on "if you will . . . then God will . . . " but rather, "look what God has promised to do, and will do, for those who trust Him." It is to this ministry, with this message, that Jesus has called all minister to others the good news.
But our High Priest [Jesus Christ] has been given a ministry that is far superior to the ministry of those who serve under the old laws, for he is the one who guarantees for us a better covenant with God, based on better promises. If the first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no need for a second covenant to replace it. But God himself found fault with the old one when he said: “The day will come, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and Judah…” (Heb. 8:6-8 NLT)
I was once asked why our church did not have an active "Promise Keepers" movement within it, and I responded that when emphasis is on "The Promise Keeper," meaning God, then we would be involved. I have found that when ministries are built on the promises of man, they always tend to fail in the end.
However, it is not my desire to focus on the specifics of how a ministry implements New Covenant teaching in terms of tithing, church attendance, Christian commitment, etc . . . There are plenty of web sites that delve into this, including several articles by my own father, Paul Burleson.
The purpose of this particular post is to simply show that under the New Covenant there is a particular characteristic that defines God's people. We are not defined by our "obedience to any law" such as the law of Sabbath keeping, or the law of sacrifice, or the law of Temple worship, or the law of abstinence, or any other Old Covenant law, church law, or man-made law. Rather, we are defined as a people by our desire to solely and completely fulfill one law - the law from Jesus Christ Himself, called "the royal law of love."
Jesus calls this His "new commandment" (John 13:39). It is "new" in that it is a "new" commandment for the "new" man whose been given a "new" name and sings a "new" song as he lives a "new" life where all things are "new" (Rev. 21:5). It is this radical commandment to love one another - to boldly, liberally and continually love people - that is THE IDENTIFYING MARK of God's people. This does not mean that a New Covenant believer cannot be a person of strong convictions,,, but it does mean that love for people is to pervade all he/she does.
One of the best ways to measure whether or not we are living the Christian life to its fullest and its finest is to measure whether our hearts are truly filled with love for people - people who disagree with us, people who are different than us, people who are a delight to us. Do we rejoice when others are blessed? Are we glad when others succeed? Do we do what we do because we love?
These are questions I ask myself almost daily.
In His Grace,