"I went to Jerusalem to become acquainted (Gk. istoria) with Cephas" - Paul's words from Galatians 1:18.

Thursday, October 29, 2015

The New Covenant Understood in the Five "I Wills"

“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 them, and write it in their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know Me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”—Jeremiah 31: 33-34
I am convinced there are a host of problems in the way God's people think about the state of our world today. Many Christians live in fear and bondage because they're looking for something to come instead of faith and boldness in what has already appeared. Evangelicals seem to have little understanding that Christ "made obsolete...and caused to disappear" the Old Covenant and inaugurated a New Covenant through His blood for both Jews and Gentiles alike (see Hebrews 8:13). Many Christians take demands for obedience to the Law and calls to repent for non-performance of the Law and merge these two things (the Law and the Prophets) with the New Covenant message of "love, hope and faith" through Christ's obedience and perfect fulfillment of the Law on our behalf.

After Jesus inaugurated the New Covenant through His death and resurrection in AD 30, there was a forty year period of transition for national Israel to move from the old way of relating to God toward the new. This forty year time period (AD 30 to AD 70) were the "last days" of the Old Covenant; for it was "made obsolete... and was soon to disappear" (Hebrews 8:13). When the New Testament speaks of "the last days," it refers to "the last days" of the Old Covenant demands for obedience to the Law of God in order to receive blessings from God.

Obedience in the Old Covenant required Temple worship in Jerusalem, sacrificial offerings brought to the Temple, and the observance of seven major festivals or holy days (i.e. "holidays"). From AD 30 to AD 70 the Temple still stood. The Jews still brought their sacrifices to the Temple. God's chosen people from the Old Covenant still celebrated the festivals. All the early followers of Christ were Jewish and they preached the good news of Jesus Christ at the Temple in Jerusalem and in the Jewish synagogues throughout the land and even participated in the Jewish Temple festivals.

John, the writer of Revelation, writes to encourage these early Jewish Christian that though they were about to see "the end" of everything Jewish -  the destruction of the Temple,  the fall of Jerusalem, and the furious retribution of the Romans as they marched through the valley of Megiddo to destroy the Jewish way of life - the followers of Christ were never to forget that Jesus is the Christ of God and has established His Kingdom over all, and "the gates of hell" will not prevail against Him building His church. "The end" of the Old was coming; but the New Way of nearness to God through "the obedience of faith" (Romans 16:26) was dawning.

Andrew Murray wrote an outstanding book in 1898 called The Two Covenants (available for .99) where he says the problem with many Christians is that they come to Christ with an Old Covenant mentality - fear of God, repentance toward God, hope in God, and promises to change for God - but find that throughout their Christian life the Old Covenant way of thinking only leads to more fear and bondage. The Old Covenant mentality of "If I obey God, then God will bless me" (Jeremiah 7:23) will never remove the desire for sin from me. Murray says that every believer in Christ must progress from an Old Covenant way of thinking to a New Covenant way of resting in the performance of Jesus Christ who perfectly fulfilled the Law, securing all the promises of God's blessings for His people.

But most Christians don't understand what it means to come to Jesus to rest. When Jesus says His "yoke is easy" and His "burden is light," He meant it. He inaugurated a New Way of thinking about our intimacy and closeness with God. I will only draw near to God in full assurance of His love and blessing for me when I see the New Covenant that Jesus established has nothing to do with my performance. In Jeremiah 31:33-34 God reveals to the prophet five things God will do for His people in the New Covenant inaugurated and established by His Son.

Think through these are the five things and learn to rest in Christ.

(1). God will make the covenant for me - "This is the covenant I (God) will make..."

The New Covenant is unconditional; it requires no conditions from me. Whereas the Old Covenant a quid pro quo covenant -- an agreement where "one thing is returned for another," as in God's blessing for my obedience -- the New Covenant is an unconditional agreement where God's grace is given to me without any conditions.  "This is a trustworthy statement, deserving of my full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, among whom I am foremost of all" (I Timothy 1:15).

(2). God will put His law in me - "I will put My law in them, and write it in their hearts..."

Whereas the Old Covenant was an agreement of Law imposed upon a hardened people, the New Covenant is an agreement with the "law of love " impressed upon a softened people. "By this," Jesus said, "will all people know you are My disciples, by your love for one another" (John 13:35).  This internal law of love which is stamped on the regenerate heart is new in the New Covenant. "A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another" (John 13:35). This new "law" (command) is "written on my heart." I am compelled to love others for "the love of Christ compels me" (II Corinthians 5:14).

(3). God will be forever with me - "and I will be their God..."

 In the Old Covenant God said "Obey my voice, and I will be your God (Jeremiah 7:23 and 11:4). God set conditions on the old agreement,  "There is blessing from me if you obey me" (Deuteronomy 11:27). However, in the New Covenant, "if we are unfaithful, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny who he is" (II Timothy 2:13). God's promise to me in the new agreement is that He will "never fail me." He will "never leave me." He will "never abandon me." (Hebrews 13:5). This New Covenant blessing from God, properly understood,  keeps me free from the love of money and possessions, as well as anxiety over material things (see Hebrews 13:5).

(4). God will forgive even my intentional sins - "for I will forgive their iniquity..."

A person who murdered someone unintentionally in the Old Covenant could flee to a City of Refuge (Deuteronomy 19:4-12). However, the intentional murderer - the one who "lies in wait in hate" (Deuteronomy 19:11) -- would find no mercy, but was handed over to death by the "avenger of blood." Not so in the New Agreement. Even my sins which are clearly intentional, what the Bible calls iniquity, are completely forgiven by God. "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:1). Some might object, "But God can't forgive any future sins which I intentionally commit! He only forgives my past sins for which I'm sorry and seek forgiveness." I ask, "Which of your sins were future when Christ died and how many of your sins, if any, are truly unintentional?" Forgiveness is through Christ's blood "at-one-ment." In the Old Covenant sin separated the sinner from God; in the New Covenant, the work of Jesus Christ brings an "at one moment" (atonement) between God and sinners.

As long I measure whether or not I'm intentional in committing sin instead of focusing on God's initiative in forgiving all my sin -- intentional or not -- I'll never be free from the power of sin. In the New Covenant I am forgiven without conditions. My sin is obviously destructive by sin's very nature; but God's gracious new agreement with me by the blood of His Son insures my forgiveness. When you see a sign that says "Wet Paint: Don't Touch" you immediately want to touch it. The law seems harshly imposed. A sign that says "Wet Paint: Feel Free to Touch It But Know That You'll Get Stained" has a tendency to keep you from touching because someone is lovingly and graciously encouraging you to avoid something harmful to you. The first paint sign “Don’t Touch” represents the Old Covenant. The second paint sign "Feel Free" represents the New Covenant.

(5). God will remember no more my sins - "and I will remember their sin no more..."

When God says "I will remember their sin no more," He sets me free to "boldly enter into the presence of God in my time of need" (Hebrews 4:16). God's new agreement with me through the Person and work of Jesus Christ insures that my struggles in this life never keep me from closeness with God. Instead of worrying about my performance, I rest in Christ's performance for me.

My deliverance is from the Lord.

8 comments:

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

“…there was a forty year period of transition for the Jews from the old way of relating to God to the new.”

This fact was shown in (Acts 21:20 KJ) by James telling Paul: “…Thou seest, dear brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are zealous of the law; and they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.”

BTW: Does this have a typo? “Forgiveness is through Christ’s blood “at-one-ment.”

John said...

Wade, I was going to ask you a question, but you answered it as I kept reading the post. I just cannot understand why so many want to go back to Judaism as the standard for so many things. Especially when it has been made obsolete and has passed. You said that so many have a Old Covenant mentality and that answered the question. It is true about tithing, end times prophecy and other things that put a believer in bondage. In a sense, many have been bewitched. I know that for so long, I was.

Wade Burleson said...

Rex,

"Forgiveness is through Christ's blood 'at-one-ment.' Does this (at-one-ment) have a typo?"

Great question.

No, it's not a typo. When Wycliffe began translating the Bible into English, he coined a word to translate a Greek concept that was difficult to put into English - a concept of "union" or "reconciliation" with God through the death of Jesus Christ.

He coined the word "atonement."

Most people don't know that what Wycliffe did was take a phrase of three words - "at one moment" - and contracted them into one word "atonement."

When Jesus died, there came an "at one moment" between God and sinners. The "at one moment" is the idea of two parties - separated by the offense of one toward another (as God has an offense with sinners who violate His law) - come together "at one" because the debt of the offender has been paid to the Offended. This is precisely what Christ did at the cross.

So, no, it's not a typo, but thanks for helping me explain what most might not understand.

Rex Ray said...

Wade,

I understand what “at one moment” and “atonement” means, but I and spell-check don’t know what “at-one-ment” means.

Is “ment” the start of a new word like “inerrancy” or is this a case of ‘no one is as blind as those who refuse to see’? :)

Unknown said...

:)

ment is the contraction of moment. :)

Janet K said...

Man, I love this. The right word at the right time.

Amber said...

Dear Wade,
I'm so glad I found your blog.
My soul has been stirred and I can sense I'm on the verge of a new, or at least rekindled joy in Christ. My spirit is shouting "yes and amen" aa I read a couple of your most recent posts. I have been a Christian now for just over 20 years, and I came to Christ with joy, believing all of what you are writing about now. But somehow, over the years, I know I have lost much of that joy, have become somewhat cynical, and feel lacking in my intimacy with Jesus. I struggle with a critical nature, living exactly as you have written about. ...trying to please God....having head- knowledge of what you are saying, but in truth I realize I've been living out an old covenant, "if-then" way of life. It was SO good to read your posts and be reminded of the truth that made me fall in love with Jesus all those years ago. I feel joy rising up in me. I just stopped to pray before I decided to write to you, that the Lord would not allow these seeds of truth to be snatched away from my heart, but that they would fall on fertile soil and grow, and produce a crop.
I feel like an excerpt from C.S. Lewis' The Screwtape Letters", where the devil wants me to get distracted from these truths because I almost put off writing you "until tomorrow".
I realized I needed to do this NOW, because I want to live in joy of the truth of the gospel of the New Covenant!
So....here is why I'm writing you. ...I see that you often write people back (Thank you!) and I'm hoping you could explain something to me more accurately, so I can live completely in that abundant joy I feel is so close....
I love what you said about Christ having done the work on the cross, and that I am to rest in Him; I'm not under the law anymore to obey, but should be responding gratefully and joyfully, drawing near to Him by His Spirit in me, and this will make me want to obey Him.
(Sorry, I'm paraphrasing, you said it all so much better). That makes my soul sing (because as I said before, I realize I've been trying to do everything right, beating myself up mentally/emotionally because I fail every day, and that it's always my fault I can't draw nearer to Him, because I displease Him.
So, I want to believe the joyful truth you remind us of, but my old doubts creep in....often in the Gospels Jesus can seem kind of harsh to me, "You of little faith, why did you doubt?", "Anyone who puts their hand to the plow and looks back cannot be my disciple", "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me".....those kind of statements. And of course, I never feel that I'm doing this well, and then I'm back under guilt again. And there's the song, "Trust and obey, for there's no other way, to be happy in Jesus, but to trust and obey". But that doesn't inspire joy in me.... I always tell the Lord, "If I could obey You perfectly, I wouldn't need a Savior!"
I know I fail Him. I want to believe I can rest in Him and worship Him, knowing He's the One Who obeyed perfectly, but what do I do with all His statements in the Gospels also making me feel like I need to obey Him better. I'm sorry this is so long, but I really wanted to fully explain myself, so you could hopefully address this issue for me...I've been wrestling with it for years. It steals my joy, and affects so many areas of my life.
I look forward to hopefully hearing from you. (And I know there are probably lots of typos.....I'm pecking away on my phone because I wanted to get this written right away!)
God bless you and thank you in advance!
Please pray for me too.
Amber

Wade Burleson said...

Amber,

I just now saw your comment - and prayed for you. Thanks for writing (on your phone no less!) such a wonderful comment. Frankly, it's people like you - and words like yours - that make writing articles like this worth it all.

Blessings, Amber - and when you get a chance "Search" in the top left hand box words like "freedom" "grace" "new covenant" etc... and a bunch more articles will come up.