THE NEW COVENANT
THE NEW COVENANT Copyright Š 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright Š 973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The Law of Moses is the old covenant. The salvation that is in Christ is the new covenant. It appears that what we are calling salvation today is different in some respects from what the Bible terms the "new covenant."
THE NEW COVENANT
For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said: "The time is coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. It will not be like the covenant I made with their forefathers when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord. This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Hebrews 8:7-12NIV)
The Law of Moses is the old covenant. The salvation that is in Christ is the new covenant. It appears what we are calling salvation today is different in some respects from what the Bible terms the "new covenant."
As we think about the description of the new covenant, namely the Christian salvation as described in the Book of Hebrews, the first thing we notice is that the new covenant was given to us by the Lord because He was displeased with the results of the old covenant, the Law of Moses. Because God was displeased with the results of the Law of Moses He issued what to Him is a better covenant established on better promises.
Now, in order to judge whether one covenant is better than another we must decide what the goal of the covenant is.
In order to determine what the goal of any Divine covenant is we have to go back to Genesis and ascertain what God's will is concerning man. Why did God create man? What does God expect from man?
The Divine goal for man has four aspects:
That man be in the image of God.
That man be male and female.
That man be fruitful.
That man rule all the works of God's hands.
Every covenant of God has as its purpose to accomplish these four aspects of what man is to be and do. The first two aspects, image and union, are what man is to be. The second two aspects, fruitfulness and dominion, are what man has been created to do.
Before we can understand the four aspects we must realize their fulfillment in Adam and Eve is not their true form.
The true man is the Lord Jesus Christ. Adam and Eve were a temporary arrangement.
The true helper is the Church, the Bride of the Lamb.
The true fruitfulness consists of people in the image of Christ.
The true rulership is authority and power over all things in the heavens and on the earth.
The human race and the physical universe as we know it were never destined to be eternal. They are to be folded up and discarded once God has brought forth His true Adam and Eve.
Jesus Christ Himself is the only Tree of Life. Adam and Eve, apart from eating of the Tree of Life, were dust. "Dust you are and to the dust you shall return."
All of mankind is dust. The flesh profits nothing. Until we become part of Jesus Christ we have no significance. The flesh is but a vain show. It is as the flower of the field: beautiful today and cast into the fire tomorrow.
The Christian religion places great emphasis on avoiding Hell and entering Paradise. There is a real Hell and there is a real Paradise.
But if you study the New Testament carefully you will discover the emphasis is not on avoiding Hell and entering Heaven. The emphasis is on escaping death and entering eternal life. God so loved the world that He gave His only Son that whoever believes in Him would not perish but have eternal life. The issue is life.
The first, material creation is dead. It has no genuine life, its life being merely the circulation of blood. Only in the Lord Jesus Christ is there true life; eternal life; the Life of God; the life that has significance, love, joy, and hope.
Every covenant of God has as its purpose the bringing forth of the four aspects of the Divine fiat:
That man be in the image of God.
That man be male and female.
That man be fruitful.
That man rule all the works of God's hands.
As we said, the true man is the Lord Jesus Christ. The true helper is the Church, the Bride of the Lamb. The true fruitfulness consists of people in the image of Christ. The true rulership is authority and power over all things in the heavens and on the earth.
The ultimate purpose of every divine covenant is to bring about the four aspects in which God is interested, in which God finds pleasure.
One covenant can be judged better than another only if it is more successful in accomplishing the Divine objectives.
Am I making sense so far?
Now, why is the new covenant better than the Law of Moses?
Let us consider the first aspect of the Divine fiat, that of man being in the image of God. The Lord Jesus Christ is the first Man to appear on the earth who actually is in the image of God.
As far as the remainder of the sons of God are concerned, the Law of Moses does not do such a good job. The Law itself is perfect. But since it had to be obeyed by the sinful nature of man, it could not possibly create us in the image of God. Yet we have been predestined to be conformed to the image of Jesus Christ in spirit, soul, and finally, at His appearing, in body.
The new covenant, however, utilizing all the grace of God given us under the covenant, is able to change us from glory to glory into the image of Christ. The new covenant does not depend on our sinful nature to do this. It does require of our sinful nature that we keep the commandments of Christ and His Apostles. We must come to the Throne of Grace that we might receive help in order to do what is written in the New Testament.
But the actual transformation occurs as the Holy Spirit leads us step by step, in the meanwhile feeding us with the body and blood of Christ, with the Divine Nature. Thus we become a new creation in the moral image of God.
And we, who with unveiled faces all reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit. (II Corinthians 3:18NIV)
The second aspect, that of male and female, has to do with our willingness to forsake our independence of thinking and action in favor of being married to Christ. Image is extremely important. So is becoming one with God through Christ. Image and union taken together compose what man is to be. Fruitfulness and dominion compose what man is to do.
The Law of Moses if obeyed with a good heart leads the worshiper into daily fellowship with God. But since God is of Divine Nature and we are but the dust of the ground, our fellowship at best becomes that of friend to friend.
Under the new covenant we pass far beyond the relationship of friend to friend. We are actually married to Jesus Christ until we are one person with Him. Both He and we lose our individuality in order to gain the absolute oneness of the Divine marriage.
In the economy of God, like must marry like. The dust of the ground cannot marry God. Jesus Christ is Son of God and Son of man. We also must be born of a human and then born again of God if we are to become a helper suitable for the second Adam.
Adam and Eve are not really a portrayal of human marriage but of the Divine marriage, in that Eve was taken from Adam. In like manner Christ died on the cross, just as a deep sleep fell on Adam. From Christ was drawn His body and blood, that on these the Bride might be fashioned.
Our marriage to Christ is taking place right now as we keep exchanging our life for His; as we learn to live by His body and blood. The marriage of the Lamb announced in the Book of Revelation is actually a manifestation of the union that is accomplished as we follow Christ during our discipleship on the earth.
Total image and total union. Neither of these can be accomplished by the Law of Moses. Both are accomplished perfectly through the grace given under the new covenant.
That all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so the world may believe you have sent me. (John 17:21NIV)
Scholars have sought to keep the human separate from the Divine, intending for this separation to show devoutness and reverence for God. But the very essence of the Kingdom of God is the uniting of the Divine with the human. In fact, this is the meaning of eternal life. Eternal life is the Life of God, the Life by which Jesus Christ lives. Until the dust of the ground is touched with God's Life we remain an animal creation.
In so many instances the New Testament declares that if we continue to live in the flesh we will perish, or experience corruption or destruction. The idea seems to be that if at some point we do not receive the eternal life that is found only in the Lord Jesus Christ, and (this is of extreme importance for Christian people to understand) if we do not lay hold on this life, sowing to it each day, turning aside from the appetites and drives of the flesh and soul, we will face some form of corruption or destruction in the Day of the Lord.
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16NIV)
The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. (Galatians 6:8NIV)
But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved. (Hebrews 10:39NIV)
"Shall not perish." "Will reap destruction." "Are destroyed."
These expressions very well may refer to Hell and the Lake of Fire. But it is best to let the Bible speak for itself and not add our assumptions and deductions to it.
We know there is a Hell, for the rich man was in it. We know there is a Lake of Fire prepared for Satan and his angels; everyone whose name is not found in the Book of Life will be thrown into it. These facts are not to be altered in any manner whatever.
But it seems to me that in the biblical expressions we have set forth above there is more of a sowing and reaping involved; more cause and effect. I would venture to say that the explanation is found in what takes place in the Day of Resurrection.
If we have sown to the Spirit of God, laying hold on eternal life as Paul exhorted Timothy, then, in the Day of Christ, our fleshly body will be raised and filled with that very Life of God we have cultivated so faithfully during our pilgrimage on the earth.
But if we as a Christian have not sown to the Spirit of God, have not laid hold on eternal life, have not turned away from the appetites and drives of the flesh, and have not cultivated the Spirit of God in our inner nature, then, in the Day of the Lord, our mortal body will be raised from the dead (all shall be raised!) but not filled with the Life of God.
In what state are we then? We are no different from Adam and Eve. We are the dust of the ground. We are perishable. We are not of the Kingdom of God because Paul told us flesh and blood (the race of humans) cannot inherit the Kingdom.
If God at this point does not give us to eat of the Tree of Life, of Jesus Christ, then what will take place? Will all such be thrown into the outer darkness? Into the flames of the Lake of Fire to be with the devil and his angels?
I am certain the wicked will be thrown into the Lake of Fire, because the Bible states this clearly. But how about people who are not that bad but simply have no eternal life to make alive their resurrected body? Perhaps this is the corruption and destruction the New Testament speaks of.
Instead of a glorious entrance into the Kingdom of God, they have been raised to shame and everlasting contempt, as Daniel says. They are not part of the royal priesthood. Their talent may be taken from them and given to another. They may be beaten with lashes. They may be driven from the Lord's Presence. All of this is absolutely scriptural.
It is clear if we as a Christian do not turn from the flesh and live according to the Spirit of God we will die spiritually.
For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, (Romans 8:13NIV)
The reason I am pointing out the cause and effect relationship between our behavior today and the resurrection unto life is that in the current teaching (which hardly resembles the new covenant described in the Book of Hebrews) the idea is that if one "accepts Christ" he escapes Hell and goes to Heaven. There is no cause and effect relationship between how one lives today and what happens to him in the Day of Resurrection.
Therefore I cannot accept the current teaching. It is not scriptural. There is no new-covenant of transformation in it; no image of God; no union with God; no bringing about of God's eternal purposes concerning man.
It is easy to see that the new covenant is so superior to the Law of Moses that comparison is not possible. As we said, all of God's covenants have the same goalto accomplish the original fourfold Divine fiat. While the goal remains the same, two features change. First, the demands on the human being become greater. The demands placed on the worshiper under the Law of Moses were more rigorous and detailed than those placed on Abraham, for example (except for the extraordinary test concerning Isaac).
The demands placed on the worshiper under the new covenant are very much more severe and comprehensive than those included under the Law of Moses. Never before have God's followers been asked to present their body a living sacrifice. Never before have God's people been required to deny themselves, take up their cross, and follow the Lord. The demands under the Law of Moses involved part of one's time and strength. The demands under the new covenant demand the worship of every part of the personality every moment of every day.
Marriage to Jesus Christ is the ultimate demand on the human personality.
By the same token, the grace given to the worshiper under the Law of Moses does not approach the grace given to the believer under the new covenant. A certain amount of Divine favor was shown to Noah; more to Abraham; even more to Moses and the children of Israel. God's Presence went with Israel to a greater extent than was true of previous patriarchs and prophets.
But the grace given under the new covenant surpasses that of previous covenants to the same extent that the demands on the human personality under the new covenant surpass those of previous covenants. We have the blood atonement, the body and blood of Christ by which we live, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, the born-again experience, access to the Holy of Holies in Heaven, and the teachings of Christ and His Apostles. Ultimately we will have the fullness of the Father and the Son dwelling in us through the fullness of the Holy Spiritall in a redeemed body.
But the goal of all covenants has remained exactly the same. The previous covenants were the necessary preliminaries of the new covenant. The new covenant is the highest of all covenants. There never shall be a greater because the new covenant includes total transformation of our personality; complete, untroubled rest in the Father through the Son; eternal fruitfulness; and authority and power over all the works of God's hands. The coming down from Heaven of the holy city, the Bride of the Lamb, is the manifestation of the full development of the new covenant.
We have discussed the first two aspects of the Divine fiatimage and union.
The third aspect is fruitfulness. Paul said we are dead to Moses and married to Jesus Christ that we might bear fruit. The fruit we bear results from the interaction of Christ and His Bride and consists of people in the image of Christ.
As we continually are brought down to the death of the cross, the resurrection Life of Jesus raises us up. Each time this takes place we are changed into His image. Not only are we changed, those whom we influence are affected.
Paul said his numerous trials brought him down to the death of Christ, but the death working in him brought life to others.
For we who are alive are always being given over to death for Jesus' sake, so his life may be revealed in our mortal body. So then, death is at work in us, but life is at work in you. (II Corinthians 4:11,12NIV)
God wants fruit wherever He plants Christ. That fruit is Christ, His Character, His Nature, His moral behavior, His love of righteousness and holiness, His stern obedience to the Father. This is what God desires in people.
When we abide in Christ we bear fruit. When we do not abide in Christ we do not bear fruit and finally will be cut out of the Vine, that is, out of Christ.
God is stern in this regard and will not change. God is very loving toward all of His creatures, but He is determined the image of His beloved Son shall increase.
There is no comparison between the fruit brought forth by the Law of Moses and the fruit brought forth by the new covenant. There were many devout Jews who lived a righteous, holy life and influenced others to do the same. But this fruit was on a natural plane. The fruit borne under the new covenant is supernatural. It comes from God through the Lord Jesus Christ. It contains the power and virtue to transform the personality until a totally new creation is brought forth.
The fruit grown from the Nature of God in Christ is infinitely superior to the fruit grown by the human nature that strives to obey the statutes of Moses. There is not only a difference in amount but in kind. The one comes from the Nature of God. The other proceeds from the adamic personality.
You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruitfruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. (John 15:16NIV)
The fourth aspect of the Divine fiat is dominionrulership over all the works of God's hands.
But there is a place where someone has testified: "What is man that you are mindful of him, the son of man that you care for him? You made him a little lower than the angels; you crowned him with glory and honor (Hebrews 2:6,7NIV)
Fruitfulness cannot be achieved until image and union have been accomplished. When image, union, and fruitfulness have been gained, God then can trust us with authority and power over the works of His hands.
The tragedy in Eden occurred because there was no righteous government present, no fellow humans who could have prevented Adam and Eve from disobeying God. Of course, God could have stopped them. He knew what was taking place. But God had created man to govern His creation, so it was necessary man come to understand the folly of disobeying God and then, through the greatest Man, Jesus Christ, learn to walk in iron righteousness, fiery holiness, and stern obedience to the Father.
Because of this, God permitted the first two people to fall into sin. God always knows precisely what He is doing, where He is going, and what He is going to produce.
It is not until we are in the image of Christ, in union with God, and are bringing forth the image of Christ in those around us, that we are fit to rule God's world.
Dominion results from fruitfulness. The more people there are who are in the image of Christ, the more completely the will of God is performed in the universe.
David ruled under the Law of Moses, making only a few major mistakes. The rule of David was righteous and honorable by human standardsfar more so than what we see today in the governments of the large nations. But the new covenant will bring forth rulers who will make no mistakes, once they are established on the thrones of the universe. They will be totally in accord with God's will and Person, reflecting the Glory of Christ everywhere they go and in all that they do.
Those who are wise will shine like the brightness of the heavens, and those who lead many to righteousness, like the stars for ever and ever. (Daniel 12:3NIV)
For God, who said, "Let light shine out of darkness," made his light shine in our hearts to give us the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ. (II Corinthians 4:6NIV)
We see therefore that the new covenant excels in bringing people into the image of God; bringing them into union with Christ; making them fruitful; and establishing them on the thrones of glory.
Today the Christian salvation is viewed almost entirely as the Divine plan for forgiving people and bringing them to Heaven. The potential contained in the new covenant is not understood or developed.
It is true that in the Book of Acts the primary message was forgiveness. But a careful reading of Acts will reveal that the preaching of forgiveness included repentance, that is, a turning away from the ways of the world. It appears today the stress is on "accepting Christ." Sometimes the need for doing works suitable for repentance is not even mentioned. This is an unscriptural practice.
But once people turn to Christ for salvation they should leave Acts and come into the Epistles, so to speak. There they will not find the same stress on forgiveness. Now the emphasis is on the transformed life, the life of righteousness and holiness. In our time the message is largely limited to forgiveness. Sometimes the preaching is limited to passages that speak of grace and forgiveness. To these have been added a "pre-tribulation rapture" and going to Heaven.
But look at the way Hebrews sets forth the new covenant. It does not resemble what is being preached today.
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people. No longer will a man teach his neighbor, or a man his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more." (Hebrews 8:10-12NIV)
Knowing the Lord is included along with the forgiveness of sins. But the emphasis is on putting the laws of God into the mind and writing them on the heart. The laws are put into our mind so we will understand them, and written on our heart so we will love to do them.
It is not the Law of Moses that is put in our mind and written on our heart, it is the eternal moral law of God, of which the Law of Moses is an abridged, negative, covenantal version. The Law of Moses is based on the eternal moral law: You shall love God with all your heart, soul, strength, and mind, and your neighbor as yourself. Such love includes both the image of God and union with God, the two parts of the fiat that have to do with what we are.
The question is, how is the law put into our mind and written on our heart?
The answer is, by the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Law of the new covenant and puts Christ, the living Word, into our mind and writes Christ on our heart.
Our job is to place our entire adamic personality by faith on the cross with Christ, and then to pray and read our Bible each day so we can keep all the commandments of Christ and His Apostles.
As we do this we are confronted with obstacles each day. We then have a choice. We can deal with the obstacle with our adamic nature, choosing what gives us pleasure and saves our life, or we can look to Jesus Christ and follow Him, by His wisdom and power overcoming the evil with Divine good.
Every time we choose to trust in the Lord rather than go our own way we are fed in the spirit realm with the body and blood of Christ. Adam keeps dying. Christ keeps living.
So then, the word of the LORD to them will become: Do and do, do and do, rule on rule, rule on rule; a little here, a little thereso that they will go and fall backward, be injured and snared and captured. (Isaiah 28:13NIV)
Line upon line, command upon command, here a little and there a little we change from Adam to Christ. This is the essential nature of the new covenant. When we keep following the Holy Spirit we often go forth and then fall backward, finding ourselves injured, snared, captured. This is the Lord's doing and it is wonderful in our eyes.
Sometimes we become frustrated. We would like to just give up and let God do whatever He wants. But it doesn't work that way. We have to keep on going forth; keep on falling backward; keep on being injured; keep on being snared; keep on being captured. There is no room here for discouragement, self-pity, or passivity.
In addition to this transformation of personality we find God has become our God; that we know the Lord; and that our sins have been forgiven.
This is the order of the new covenant:
That the eternal moral law of God is put in our mind and written on our heart, bringing us into Christ's image and into untroubled rest in the Father through Christ.
That God becomes our God, in place of lesser gods and idols.
That we know the Lord.
That our wickedness is forgiven and our sins no longer remembered by the Lord.
It seems much of the potential contained in the new covenant has not always been taught and experienced in time past. Perhaps Christ has kept the best wine until now. Perhaps now it is time to bring forth people who are in the image of Christ; who are dwelling in total union with God, being married to Christ; whose lives are bringing forth the image of Christ in other people; and who are qualified by the Word of God and competent by training to ascend the thrones of the universe when the Lord Jesus returns.
We are to obey the commandments written by the Apostles of Christ. The Spirit of God will help us do this. If we are faithful and diligent in obeying the commandments written in the New Testament, Christ will be formed in us. As Christ is formed in us we become conscious of God's will for us each moment of the day. If we are faithful and diligent in obeying the directions given to us personally, just as we were faithful and diligent in obeying the commandments written in the New Testament, we will fulfill the promise of the new covenant that all, from the least to the greatest, shall know the Lord.
Let us give to God the best we have that we in turn may receive God's best under the new covenant.