THE TRUE NATURE OF THE NEW COVENANT
Copyright © 1991 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the New King James Version®. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.
If we would understand the true nature of the new covenant, the scriptural definition of what it means to be “saved” must be made clear. A salvation based solely on forgiveness and transfer to the spirit Paradise falls far short of the greater purpose of redemption provided by Christ’s atoning death and resurrection. Man in the complete image of God and in untroubled union with God, brought into this state by daily transformation, is the true goal of salvation—the goal that accomplishes Kingdom purposes.
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—
“not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.
“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 in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
“None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them.
“For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.” (Hebrews 8:8-12)
It is the writer’s conviction that the nature of the new covenant has been misunderstood by a large part of the Christian ministry of our day.
The new covenant, which is the Christian “salvation,” is being presented as the Divine means of forgiving the sins of Gentiles (and of a few Jews) so they may be permitted to enter Heaven, there to live forever in bliss.
In connection with this concept the idea is advanced that we are being saved (made eligible for eternal residence in Heaven, according to the current definition of salvation), under a special “dispensation of grace.” A dispensation of grace, according to the present doctrine, is the forgiving of the past, present, and future sins of believing Gentiles so they may be eligible to enter Heaven when they experience physical death.
Another important aspect of the popular belief is that our eternal forgiveness is unconditional. It does not depend on nor is it significantly affected by our conduct or our personal transformation into the image of Christ.
The current Christian doctrine of salvation is decidedly different from the new covenant presented in Hebrews 8:8-12 (above).
It is difficult to understand how the new covenant, which God intended to be superior to the Law of Moses in that it would create a holy priesthood, ever was converted into a means of evading the Kingdom principle of sowing and reaping. The self-love of religious man has invented a salvation that enables human beings to sow sin and rebellion and reap eternal bliss in the spirit realm.
Before we proceed further, let us present a definition of the Christian salvation that is in keeping with the Scriptures, both Old and New Testaments. This definition is different from the “gospel” that is preached today.
To be saved is to be changed into God’s image and brought into restful union with God through Christ.
In the beginning, man was created in God’s image. However, that image has since been greatly distorted. The Divine plan of salvation has as its purpose the restoration of what was lost, and then the transformation of man into a much more complete and perfect representation of God than was true in the beginning. In addition, the sons of God will be brought into union with God through Christ.
We are saved from:
- Living in the world without continual faith and trust in God.
- The practice of sin, of lawlessness.
- Self-love, self-centeredness, self-will.
- All that is of Satan and of our old nature.
- The Divine wrath.
We are saved to:
- A personality in the image of Christ.
- Complete, perfect, restful union with God and other people through the Lord Jesus Christ.
- Eternal fruitfulness and dominion through the Lord Jesus.
- “A new earth, wherein dwells righteousness” (II Peter 3:13).
Under the old covenant the forgiveness of sins through the blood of animals made possible continued fellowship with God. Under the new covenant the forgiveness of sin through the blood of Christ not only ensures our fellowship with God but also serves as a covering that keeps our conscience pure in God’s sight while the transforming work of grace is taking place in our personality.
The forgiveness of our sins is not our ticket to Heaven; rather, the forgiveness of sins, under the new covenant, serves to maintain our eligibility for transformation into God’s image.
We are forgiven so we may be transformed.
Christ is the Word, the Law of God. On Mount Sinai the Law of God was written by the Lord on tables of stone. The people, being sinful human beings, were unable to keep the Law.
Under the new covenant the Law of God is formed in us. It is placed in our mind and written in our heart. It is Christ in us. It is the conversion from the adamic nature to a new creation. This is the new covenant. The forgiveness of our sins enables us to participate in the work of transformation of the new covenant.
The following passage has been misunderstood:
For Christ is the end [completion, purpose] of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes. (Romans 10:4)
The word end, as used above, can mean the termination, the final result, or the purpose of something.
Now the purpose of the commandment is love from a pure heart, from a good conscience, and from sincere faith, (I Timothy 1:5)
Love from a pure heart is not the termination of the Law of Moses but the final result or purpose of the Law of Moses.
Romans 10:4 often is quoted as meaning that Christ is the termination of the Mosaic Law. Christ is not the termination of the Law but the Goal or end result of the Law. The Mosaic Law brings us to Christ when the Law is responded to in faith.
God’s Law never shall be done away. Under the old covenant the Law of God was written on stone. Under the new covenant the eternal moral law of God is written on the heart of the believer.
Not only are the Ten Commandments written on the heart under the new covenant but the source of the Ten Commandments, which is the eternal moral law of God, is interpreted in a manner not possible apart from the Presence of Christ in the heart. The intent of the Mosaic Law is practiced and communicated in the heart of the saint in whom Christ is dwelling.
Apart from transformation into the image of Christ there is no new covenant.
The blood of the Lamb is not a substitute for nor an alternative to our change from the lawless first Adam to the holy and righteous second Adam. It is being taught today that Jesus came to forgive our sins so God will bring us to Paradise whether or not we choose to live a godly life, whether or not we keep the commandments of Christ. This is the contemporary definition of “grace.”
The goal of salvation is not to bring us to Heaven, for our going to Heaven does not accomplish God’s goal, which is to bring His Kingdom into the earth. Sin and rebellion began in Heaven with the angels of God. Neither the Old Testament nor the New Testament speaks of residence in Heaven as being the goal of the new covenant.
The goal of the Christian salvation is that man be made pleasing to God. We are preserved from destruction in the Day of Wrath with the understanding and intent that we will be converted from the image of the fallen Adam into the image of Christ.
The purpose of the new covenant is not to enable us to evade the consequences of sinful behavior and rebellion against God. The purpose of the new covenant is to change us so our behavior brings the blessing of God upon us.
God forgives us so we may enter the new covenant of transformation. The new covenant of transformation results in the Kingdom of God—the doing of God’s will in the earth as it is in Heaven.
The central work of the new covenant is the writing of the Divine law in the hearts and minds of human beings.
Few people would resist entrance into Paradise. This is why those who are anxious to gain the approval of men have changed the new covenant from a covenant of transformation into a plan to gain residence in Paradise. People do not resist Paradise. But they do resist the entering of God into them to change them from what they are in character into what God would have them to be.
There are many who would not reject the offer of a blissful life in the spirit realm but who would reject vigorously any attempt of the Lord to draw them into a life of continual faith and trust in God.
Numerous “believers” of our day will not accept the apostolic teaching that if Christians continue to sin they cannot enter the Kingdom of God. They cling tenaciously to their self-love, self-centeredness, and self-will.
Very few Christian people, it appears, have taken seriously the demand of Jesus that we lay down our life, take up our cross, and follow Him. It seems much—perhaps most—Christian work proceeds from the self-will of God’s people. We know this because the leaders fight with one another over the “work.”
Paul set forth the essence of the new covenant when he spoke of Christ being his life. “I am living no longer; it is Christ who is living in me.” This is what Christianity is. Those who are not pressing into this state of transformation and indwelling are not pressing into the Christian salvation. They are not being “saved.” They have misunderstood the new covenant.
The reason God made a new covenant is that the old covenant was not satisfactory. The old covenant was unsatisfactory, not because the sins of the people were not forgiven through the animal sacrifices but because the people did not do what the Law commanded. As Paul says, “it [the Law] was weak through the flesh” (Romans 8:3). The Law was weak because the people were weak.
God gave a new covenant with the intention of producing “trees of righteousness.” God is seeking a holy nation, a nation of people who practice righteousness, who love mercy, and who walk humbly with God.
We have interpreted the new covenant to mean God has removed all demands for righteousness. It is reasoned that because people cannot keep the law of God, God has removed all demands for righteous and holy conduct. God is not able to change the human personality and has changed His covenant correspondingly. The new covenant is not designed to change people; rather, it removes the requirement for godly behavior. God does not “see” the sins of Christians, it is believed.
This unscriptural travesty of the Divine covenant has destroyed the spiritual life of the Christian churches.
In terms of the prevailing concept, there is little difference in behavior between the Christian and the non-Christian. Both commit fornication, adultery, murder, lying, rage, spite, drunkenness, and every other wicked practice. The difference between the Christian and the non-Christian, according to current thinking, is that the Christian sins with Christ while the non-Christian sins without Christ.
Here is the central misunderstanding in much contemporary theology. It must be obvious to the serious student that sinning with Christ hardly is what God meant by a “better covenant, which was established on better promises” (Hebrews 8:6).
The new covenant is the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the doing of God’s will in the earth as it is done in Heaven. The Kingdom of God is oriented toward the earth, not toward residence in Heaven.
The Kingdom comes from Heaven and is of the Life and Nature of Heaven, but its eternal destination is the earth. There will be a new earth in which righteousness dwells. All the people in it will be righteous. This is the final result of the new covenant.
The new covenant is the writing of God’s laws in our mind and heart. Christ is the Word of God, the Law of God. The Word of God became flesh and then was crucified. Now the Word, the Law, the Covenant of God comes to us in the form of the body and blood of Christ.
It is His body and blood that are the new covenant. They are the Life and Nature of God entering us.
Our responsibility as sons of God is to be led by the Spirit of God. The Spirit forms Christ, the Law, the Word, the Kingdom, the will of God in us. Christ is formed in us and dwells in us. This is the Kingdom of God, the new covenant. It is the transformation of what we are in personality and behavior. There is a new creation in which all things are of God.
Both John the Baptist and Jesus of Nazareth announced the soon coming of the Kingdom of God. Jesus spoke many parables of the Kingdom. The most important of these may be the parable of the sower. The seed is the Word of God. It is planted in us. Some people bring forth thirty, some sixty, and some a hundredfold. This is the nature of the new covenant.
The new covenant is Christ in us. Christ is being formed in us. We are becoming new creations. Old things are passing away. All things are becoming new and all things are of God.
Such transformation requires that we lay down our life in the world, take up our cross, and follow Christ. If we do not take up our cross we cannot enter the new covenant of transformation. We cannot be changed from the lawlessness of Satan to obedience to God. We cannot be made in God’s image or enter the Kingdom of God apart from cross-carrying obedience to Jesus.
Our old nature always refuses to conform to God’s will in Christ. God gives us a personal cross to carry so our old nature will be slain and the new Divine nature will be formed in us. The giving of a new nature to us is the new covenant.
The current concept of salvation seeks to save, to preserve what we are. It plans to do this by using the blood of Jesus for the forgiveness of the personality and behavior of our old nature. It attempts to bring fallen man into Paradise where he will not suffer any loss but gain everlasting joy. This is not the new covenant of the Lord Jesus.
The eternal remission of our sins indeed is included in the new covenant; but the continuing forgiveness of our sins is contingent on our abiding in Christ and He in us.
We can never go our way apart from Christ and still be without the guilt of sin in the sight of God. Either we are under the Law of Moses or else we are walking in the Spirit of God. God permits no creature to live without law.
The new covenant is being presented today as the forgiveness of the sins of our fallen nature with the intention of bringing us in our unchanged state to Heaven. The necessity for abiding in Christ and bringing forth the new righteous creation are not being emphasized as the central purpose of the new covenant.
Paul raises the question:
“But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! (Galatians 2:17)
Current teaching often makes Christ the minister of sin because it allows its adherents to continue in sin and deceives them with the unscriptural hope that they, nevertheless, will make their home in Paradise because they are “saved by grace and not by works.” This is a delusion. It is not the Gospel of Christ. It is “another gospel.”
How does Paul answer the question, “Is therefore Christ the minister of sin”?
“I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me. (Galatians 2:20)
Paul tells the Galatians he would be a transgressor if he went back to his old way of living. He became dead to the Law so he could live unto God, not so he could continue in sin (Galatians 2:18,19).
Paul is through with sin and self-seeking. His fallen nature has been crucified with Christ. His old nature no longer is living, it is the righteous Christ who is living in him and keeping the Law of God.
In the Book of Galatians the Apostle Paul is contrasting the two covenants. The rite of circumcision represents the old covenant. The new covenant is represented by the new creation (Galatians 6:15).
Paul is taking issue with teachers who were stressing “the Jews’ religion.” Paul shows he is not advocating that the believers break the Law of Moses and sin, and he certainly does not maintain that God will not judge the sinning Christian (Galatians 5:19-25)!
Paul states that Christ is dwelling in him and justifying him. Paul’s justification is based on the fact that Paul has died on the cross, being released legally from the Law of Moses, and that he now is filled with the eternal Life of Christ.
God is pleased with Paul because Paul has become part of His beloved Son. The law of God has been written in Paul’s heart in the form of Christ Himself. Paul’s righteousness now comes from Christ, not from the efforts of his adamic nature to keep the Law of Moses.
Paul did not claim he was saved by grace and God was obligated to forgive him no matter how he behaved. Paul showed that his sinful nature had been nailed to the cross and the Life of Christ was being formed in him. This is a far different teaching from the current doctrine that God has forgiven us whether or not our old nature has been crucified with Christ, whether or not the Life of Christ is being formed in us.
In fact, Paul warned against the consequences of sin as fervently as did the other writers of the New Testament.
envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:21)
Paul proclaimed that the Kingdom of God is Christ in us. It is the Word of God being born in us and bringing forth a new man in God’s image. Day after day we grow in the ability to discern what is good and what is evil, and in the strength to always choose the good and resist the evil.
But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord. (II Corinthians 3:18)
The new creation in us does not sin because it is born of God. Each day the Holy Spirit helps us die to our old nature. As we do, Christ grows in us. While this process is taking place, the blood of the new covenant, the blood of Christ, covers our sins in the sight of God. This is the true nature of the new covenant. It is the Christian redemption. It is eternal life.
There is a difference between the blood making a perpetual atonement for the believer in whom Christ is being formed, who is abiding in Christ; and the blood forgiving the believer who is living his life as a nominal Christian while he is waiting to be caught up to Heaven in a “rapture.”
The one is of the Scriptures. The other is a false gospel that has entered Christian thinking.
The Kingdom of God, the new covenant, the Christian salvation, is Christ in us—the hope of glory.
The fruit of the current definition of the new covenant has been spiritually immature believers whose main hope is that soon God will “rapture” them into Paradise so they no longer will be required to fight the good fight of faith.
The “rapture” of the believers into Heaven to avoid suffering, along with the other current misunderstandings, is symptomatic of one central error—the view that the new covenant is an unconditional amnesty that has as its goal the transplanting of mankind to the spiritual Heaven.
Let us consider for a moment the problem with the current definition of the Christian salvation.
The text of the New Testament is one long exhortation and stern warning concerning the consequences of continuing in sin and spiritual indifference, particularly after we accept Christ. The writings of Christ’s Apostles do not support the teaching that the new covenant is a perpetual forgiveness of the believer whether or not he serves God with a sincere, pure heart.
For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)
For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. (Ephesians 5:5)
For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. (II Peter 2:20)
Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. (I John 3:6)
The above passages were written to Christians, to the saints. What sense would they make if the new covenant were an eternal forgiveness of our sins, an amnesty that does not depend on nor is significantly affected by our conduct or our personal transformation into the image of Christ?
If the new covenant is an unconditional forgiveness of the sins of the believer, the bulk of the writings of the Apostles is irrelevant. The Books of Hebrews, I John, and Jude may just as well be discarded because they are exhortations and warnings concerning the sins found in the churches.
Also, the second and third chapters of the Book of Revelation would have little application to the Christian churches if the new covenant is an unconditional forgiveness of the sins of believing Gentiles.
Not only is it true that most of the writings of the Apostles do not reflect the current teaching, it also is a fact that the nature of the new covenant has been misconstrued.
Complete redemption from sin, the kind of redemption Christ brings to fallen man, must include three factors:
- God’s forgiveness of our sinful acts.
- Deliverance from the compelling power of sin.
- The healing of the effects of sin.
The old covenant included only the first part—God’s forgiveness of our sinful acts.
‘And he shall do with the bull as he did with the bull as a sin offering; thus he shall do with it. So the priest shall make atonement for them, and it shall be forgiven them. (Leviticus 4:20)
‘And he shall offer the second as a burnt offering according to the prescribed manner. So the priest shall make atonement on his behalf for his sin which he has committed, and it shall be forgiven him. (Leviticus 5:10)
“So the priest shall make atonement for him before the LORD, and he shall be forgiven for any one of these things that he may have done in which he trespasses.” (Leviticus 6:7)
God was not pleased with the old covenant because it did not produce righteous people. God’s goal in making a new covenant with the house of Israel is that God’s elect, both Jews and Gentiles, may serve Him as one holy Body in true righteousness and holiness.
To grant us that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve Him without fear,
In holiness and righteousness before Him all the days of our life. (Luke 1:74,75)
“In holiness and righteousness.”
Under the new covenant, Christ destroys the power of sin in us. Therefore, to preach the new covenant as though it primarily were a dispensation of grace, in the sense that by receiving Christ our sins are forgiven unconditionally for eternity, is to miss the point entirely.
The Book of First John may be the strongest exhortation in the New Testament concerning sin in the life of the believer. The Book of First John demonstrates beyond reasonable doubt that the new covenant is not primarily a waiver of the sins of believing Gentiles.
He who says, “I know Him,” and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. (I John 2:4)
John, being steeped in the Jewish religion, and writing to believers who either were converted Jews or who at least were acquainted with the main tenets of Judaism, was referring to the commandments governing morality.
The Judaic laws of morality were adhered to and magnified by the Lord Jesus Christ, for they are the fundamental laws of righteousness and holiness. They are written in the conscience of all men. They have to do with upright behavior, compassion, and humble dependence on God. They come from eternity past and will endure throughout eternity future.
The Apostle John defines sin as “the transgression of the law.” This is what sin is (I John 3:4).
The ancient moral commandments (not the ceremonial statutes) concerning adultery, murder, and so forth, are binding on Christians. The commandment concerning the Sabbath is kept by us as we enter the rest of God, as we present our body a living sacrifice. While the Jew was commanded to set apart one day each week for the purpose of ceasing from his works and delighting himself in the Lord, the Christian is required to give himself wholly to Jesus at all times, not practicing his own works or finding his own pleasure (Isaiah 58:13).
We are dead to the Law of Moses so we may be married to Jesus. Many Christians of today are married neither to Moses nor to Christ. They dwell in the gap of lawlessness, not understanding the demands of the new covenant.
Jesus did not set us free from Moses so we could live our life according to our adamic desires. Rather, we have been released from Moses so we may be free to look constantly to the Lord Jesus for every aspect of life.
The Jew under Moses was not required to present his body a living sacrifice. The Christian is commanded to put his life on the altar of God and to live always and only to God—not one day a week but seven days a week.
We understand from this that each of the Ten Commandments is to be kept by each member of the Body of Christ to a far greater extent than was demanded by the Law of Moses. Truly, our righteousness of personality and behavior must exceed that of the Scribes and Pharisees if we hope to enter the Kingdom of God.
There is a new commandment. The new commandment is that we be filled with all the fullness of God through the Lord Jesus Christ. The new commandment is not different from the old commandment; rather, it raises the old commandment into a greater realm of Divine Life and power. Christ is the Law, the Word, made flesh. When Christ is abiding in us we always keep the moral law of God.
This is why John states that if anyone claims to know Christ, and does not keep the commandments of Christ, he is a liar. There is no truth in him. There is no truth in the current teaching that leaves the believers with the impression they can walk in sin and still be found at peace in Christ in the Day of Judgment.
First John 3:3-10 reveals the error of the current false doctrine that teaches that the Christian salvation is not affected significantly by the behavior of those who are participating in it.
And everyone who has this hope [of being like Jesus] in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure. (I John 3:3)
If the Christian salvation, the new covenant, is an unconditional amnesty, we may do as we like with the above verse. If we feel like it we will purify ourselves. If we do not feel like purifying ourselves we will not do so. It is not necessary for us to purify ourselves since we are saved “by grace.” This is the modern abomination. This is how we attempt to contradict the clear commandment of the Word of God
And you know that He was manifested to take away our sins, and in Him there is no sin. (I John 3:5)
There are verses in the New Testament emphasizing the fact that we obtain the forgiveness of our sins through receiving the atonement made by the Lord Jesus.
However, the above verse stresses the taking away of our sins. The new covenant is superior to the old covenant in that the new covenant possesses the authority and power to remove our sins from us. Christ was manifested not only to forgive our sins but also (and especially) to take away our sins.
If Christ were unable to remove our lusts and self-will from us, He must continue forgiving our sins forever. This is to say that God is powerless to redeem us from the hand of the enemy: from Satan, from the spirit of the world, and from our fallen nature.
God indeed is able to redeem us from the hand of the enemy. God has made a covenant with us that includes the breaking of every chain Satan has placed on mankind. Through the new covenant there is victory over the authority and power of sin.
The new covenant is not our removal to a land where we are not tempted to sin or where we cannot sin. The new covenant is our transformation to the extent we will not sin no matter where God places us. Christ does not sin no matter where He is, and we are being changed into His image and filled with His Substance and Life.
The new covenant is not a change of location, it is a change of personality. On many occasions the Lord does not remove us from difficult situations. Rather, He enables us to overcome the problems. The rewards go to the overcomers.
Many victorious saints will be brought forth in the last days. We believe the end-time will be a period of tremendous persecution and suffering for the saints. However, it is not persecution and torture that will be the main problem for the believers; rather, it will be the availability of sin, pleasure, and ease. Sin, pleasure, and ease are the enemies that must be overcome.
The days of temptation already are upon us and only the most diligent Christians are standing in Christ.
Soon, through the spiritual power of Antichrist, it will become impossible to resist temptation apart from the powerful keeping power of Christ. Blessed are those who keep the Word of His patience and thus are eligible to receive his keeping power (Revelation 3:10).
In the last days the love of the majority of believers will grow cold because of the abundance of lawlessness.
“And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many [most] will grow cold. (Matthew 24:12)
First will come the copious blessings of the latter-rain revival. Then will appear the burning sun of tribulation to bring the “wheat” to maturity. The purpose of the tribulation is to separate the Lord’s firstfruits from the babylonish confusion, to bring them to perfection, and also to make other preparations for His glorious advent.
The “coldness” of a believer is judged by his conduct, not by his subscription to doctrine. The concept of someone’s love growing cold is that at one time he had prayed, read the Scriptures, assembled with the saints, gave of his time and substance, and otherwise served the Lord diligently. Now he is not praying, he is not reading the Scriptures, he is not assembling with fervent believers, he is not giving of his time and substance, he is not serving the Lord diligently.
The Lord Jesus, in Matthew 24:12 (above), is not suggesting that it does not matter whether or not we grow cold in our service to Him because we are saved by His righteousness alone.
Lawlessness is abounding in our day and the love of many of the believers is growing cold, as evidenced by their return to living in the ways of the present world.
One of the reasons believers grow cold is that they have been taught they are saved by grace alone, and so the degree of their fervency does not seem to be essentially important to them. But what does the Scripture say?
For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (II Peter 2:21)
Here again we find Christianity consists of a “commandment.” To claim Christians are not obligated to keep God’s commandments of righteous and holy living is to deny the Scriptures.
And the dragon was enraged with the woman, and he went to make war with the rest of her offspring, who keep the commandments of God and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:17)
Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. (Revelation 14:12)
That John is not speaking here of Jewish saints who are attempting to keep both the Law of Moses and the Christian salvation is clear from other statements of the Apostle:
Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments. (I John 2:3)
Blessed are those who do His commandments, that they may have the right to the tree of life, and may enter through the gates into the city. (Revelation 22:14)
“Sin is lawlessness [breaking the law],” John declares (I John 3:4). Christ was manifested in order to deliver us from breaking God’s law.
Christ did not come to waive the commandment of God that we live uprightly and walk humbly with God. Christ came to change us so by nature we always will keep the eternal moral law of God. This is what it means to be changed into the image of Christ, for Christ always observes the commandments of God.
There is no sin in Christ, and there will be none in us when He has completed the work of the new covenant in us.
Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. (I John 3:6)
If we abide in Christ we will not sin for His power is keeping us. When we sin we are to confess that sin and go to the Throne of God for grace so we will not repeat the sin. We maintain our fellowship with God by confessing our sins and gaining the power to resist sin.
The believer in Christ who is walking in sin has not seen Christ and does not know Christ. Such is the declaration of the Word of God and there can be no alteration of the Word. Contemporary Christian teaching is in error on this point.
We have been deceived.
Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. (I John 3:7)
“Practices righteousness” is not referring to imputed (ascribed) righteousness; it is speaking of our practicing righteousness. Whoever teaches that Christianity is an unconditional forgiveness of our sins apart from our transformation into righteous behavior is leading the Lord’s sheep astray.
He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil. (I John 3:8)
Christ was not manifested in order to forgive the works of the devil in us. He was manifested in order to destroy the works of the devil in our personality. Forgiveness is included in the new covenant, but the main purpose is to destroy sin. To stress forgiveness in a covenant whose main emphasis is the writing of the law in the heart is to circumvent the intent of the covenant.
Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God. (I John 3:9)
When we receive Christ, the Life of Christ is conceived in us. The Seed of Christ in us cannot sin because it has come from God. Our outer man indeed can sin, and the Holy Spirit enables us to obey God’s moral laws until the Seed of Christ grows to the extent that we begin practicing righteousness and holiness by nature.
The exhortations of the Old and New Testaments guide our conduct until the Divine Nature begins to exercise its influence from within us. This is what Peter meant:
And so we have the prophetic word [the Scriptures] confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star [Christ] rises in your hearts; (II Peter 1:19)
Of course, we do not continue performing the animal sacrifices of the old covenant now that the Lamb of God has been offered on the cross of Calvary. As far as the covenantal and ceremonial laws, statutes, and regulations, such as circumcision, the Sabbath day, dietary regulations, feast days and so forth, let every believer be persuaded in his heart. All these are a shadow of the reality that is in Christ.
The moral law that governs fornication, adultery, false witness, stealing, covetousness, pride, occult practices, murder, never changes. It never changes because the moral Nature of God does not change. The moral law is eternal—it always has been and always will be in force.
The new covenant is not God’s blessing on our evasion of the moral law. The new covenant provides for our transformation into God’s image so we keep the moral law by nature; for the moral law is of the Personality and Nature of God.
God does not lie. God does not bear false witness. God does not murder. God does not lust. God does not steal. When we are in the image of God we do not do these things. It does not matter whether we are on the earth, under the surface of the earth, in the sea, or in the heavens above.
If we are abiding in Christ we do not act in a manner contrary to the moral Nature of God. If we are of Satan we always will act in a manner contrary to God’s Nature, whether we are on the earth, under the earth, in the sea, or in the heavens above.
God acts like God and Satan acts like Satan. We know we are being saved when we act like God, like Christ.
In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. (I John 3:10)
Those who are of Satan are known by their conduct. Those who are of Christ are known by their conduct. A true Christian acts like a Christian. We know the Holy Spirit is abiding in us when the fruit of the Spirit can be seen in our behavior.
Any attempt to make the Christian Gospel something other than a conversion of our personality from the works of Satan to the works of Christ does not come from the God of Heaven. It is deception and false doctrine.
Our task as Christians is to abide in Christ so the Holy Spirit can write God’s laws in our mind and heart. We are to obey God, to confess our sins, and to resist the devil. By so doing we enter the Kingdom of God; we grow in Christ’s righteousness; we fulfill the new covenant. The end is our transformation into the image of the Glory of the Lord.
To change the new covenant of transformation into an excuse for the sins of Gentiles so they may be received into Heaven, apart from a transformation into Christ’s image, is to misunderstand both the method and the goal of the Christian salvation.
Now, let us look at the two models of salvation we are contrasting.
The currently taught concept of salvation offers an eternal forgiveness not affected significantly by our conduct or our personal spiritual growth. The objective of such forgiveness is that we may be admitted to the spirit Paradise, there to live forever. The goal of admittance to Paradise is that we may enjoy eternal bliss.
The scriptural concept of salvation requires an abiding in Christ that, by repeated “deaths” and “resurrections,” results in a day-to-day conversion into the moral image of Christ.
The scriptural concept of salvation includes eternal forgiveness; but such forgiveness depends on and has as its goal our walking each day in Christ and bearing fruit. The blood of Christ keeps our conscience undefiled so we may make continual progress in our walk with the Lord.
But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another [with God], and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin. (I John 1:7)
“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. (John 15:6)
The objective of the new covenant is a new creation in Christ’s image.
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new.
Now all things are of God, who has reconciled us to Himself through Jesus Christ, and has given us the ministry of reconciliation, (II Corinthians 5:17,18)
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. (Romans 8:29)
The goal of creating us in Christ’s image and bringing us into untroubled union with God through Christ is that we may enter God’s Kingdom purposes concerning us.
It may be obvious to the reader that these two models are different in process and goal. They both cannot be the new covenant. One or the other is an incorrect interpretation.
Let us list some of God’s Kingdom purposes that are to be brought to pass in us:
- To provide a wife for the Lamb (Revelation 19:7,21:9).
- To construct an eternal temple for God (Ephesians 2:22).
- To bring to maturity many sons of God (Hebrews 2:10).
- To change into the family image many brothers of Christ (Romans 8:29).
- To train righteous judges who will bring justice to the nations of the earth (Revelation 20:4).
- To develop able kings who will rule the nations in righteousness (Revelation 2:26,27).
- To prepare holy, compassionate priests who will serve as mediators between Christ and the nations of saved peoples of the earth (Revelation 20:6).
- To equip warriors who will crush Satan and all his works under their feet (Revelation 19:14).
- To provide an eternal spiritual light so the nations of saved peoples of the earth may perceive truth and reality and not walk in spiritual darkness and bondage as they do today (Revelation 21:24).
Now, let us observe the relationship between the process of salvation and the goal of salvation.
If it were true that the goal of salvation is our eligibility to make our eternal home in the spirit Paradise so we may enjoy eternal bliss, a salvation that provides eternal forgiveness would be adequate.
It is difficult to picture the entrance into Paradise of believers who never have grown in Christ, who never have presented their bodies a living sacrifice, who have disobeyed God and have persisted in doing everything the Lord Jesus, Peter, Paul, and John have warned will result in destruction.
They have sown to their flesh consistently. Are they now to reap peace and joy in God’s Presence? Will they reap what they did not sow?
Even if it were scriptural that sinful, rebellious, self-centered believers are to be admitted to Paradise on their physical death, it is difficult to envision how God would work under these conditions. Would God touch the lukewarm believers so they suddenly became followers of Christ? During their lifetime on the earth they called Jesus “Lord” but did not practice what He taught.
If God is to transform them instantly after they die, as is erroneously taught, why doesn’t He do it now so they can serve as true witnesses of the Lord Jesus?
Modern Christian thinking insists the believers’ conduct and spiritual growth have little or no bearing on their salvation because they are saved by grace and not by works (a complete misunderstanding arising from a misapplication of Paul’s arguments against the Judaizers).
To believe God will receive careless believers, saying, “Well done, good and faithful servants,” is truly a grievous misunderstanding of the covenant. God intends the new covenant to be the means of creating a righteous nation, a holy Jerusalem.
An effective program must be designed in order to achieve the desired goal. The program of salvation has been designed to accomplish God’s Kingdom purposes. The nine Kingdom purposes we have listed are all set forth in the Scriptures. None of these purposes is possible of accomplishment apart from our coming to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ and entering union with Christ. Forgiveness alone is not adequate to accomplish any one of the nine.
It is not possible for a sinful, self-centered believer to be a member of the Wife of the Lamb, of the Body of Christ, except as that believer is undergoing the processes of purification (sanctification) and transformation that will make the Bride without spot or wrinkle.
Christ is both Divine and human, and in the image of God. Such a Being cannot enter marriage with untransformed flesh and blood. We have been born of God and are being created on the body and blood of Christ. When we have been brought to perfection we shall be of the Divine Nature, and human, and in the image of God.
None of us is the Word from the beginning. However, we are being created like Him and of Him, of His very body and blood. When He beholds His image in us we then will be ready for the marriage of the Lamb. Forgiveness alone cannot prepare the Wife of the Lamb. Obviously, transformation is required.
It is not possible for a sinful, self-centered believer to be an integral part, a living stone, of the eternal Temple of God. Forgiveness alone is not sufficient. There must be a sovereign work of holiness performed in us. Also, our self-centeredness must be destroyed so God may rest in us in untroubled majesty and peace.
It is not possible for a sinful, self-centered believer to be accepted as God’s son. Forgiveness alone is not sufficient. There is an acceptable period of babyhood and childhood. After being born again we must grow to adulthood. It is the overcomer, the conqueror, who finally becomes God’s son. Each of God’s sons is in the image of the older Brother, the Lord Jesus Christ.
“He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son. (Revelation 21:7)
It is not possible for a sinful, self-centered believer to be a brother of Christ. Forgiveness alone is not sufficient. How can the Lord have fellowship with a person who loves the present world, who surrenders to the lusts of his flesh, and who is bent on pleasing himself? Will Christ call such an individual “brother”?
“For whoever does the will of My Father in heaven is My brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:50)
The careless believer takes little pleasure in Christ’s company now. Why would he, by the fact of physical death, suddenly desire to walk in close association with the Lord as a younger brother?
More often than not, what is not reasonable in the physical realm is not reasonable in the spirit realm. God is a reasonable Person. He created the present world. One of the greatest mistakes made in Christian thinking is that everything changes after we die. It may be true, rather, that relationships and circumstances after death are far more similar to those that exist now than we have imagined.
It is not possible for a sinful, self-centered believer to serve as a righteous judge of the nations of the world, and of angels. We are taught in this life to discern between good and evil and always to choose the good.
The fact that God forgives us through Christ gives us access to God in prayer. Righteous judges are not made solely by being forgiven of their sins and self-will. The judges of the creation must experience the Lord’s ways of judgment.
God’s judges must be “blind” and “deaf,” not judging according to their untransformed likes and dislikes (Isaiah 11:3), or apart from the abiding Presence of Christ who is the only true Judge.
Judges possess fearful authority. It is not God’s way to give such authority over other creatures to someone who himself has never been judged for his own sinfulness and rebellion. The belief that Christians are not judged for their sins arises from a misunderstanding of John 5:24 (compare I Peter 4:17).
It is not possible for a sinful, self-centered believer to rule the nations of the earth. He was not able to govern his flesh in the present world. How, then, can he rule the nations?
Does the fact God has forgiven him make him competent to be a king? Is this sensible? Will God place millions of human beings under the authority and power of an individual who consistently disobeyed God throughout His lifetime?
He was not able to overcome fornication, or wrath, or lying, or self-will, during his pilgrimage on the earth. Will he then be entrusted with nations?
The Scriptures state that it is the conquerors who will rule the nations of the earth with a rod of iron (Revelation 2: 26,27).
It is not possible for a sinful, self-centered believer to serve as a priest of God. How could such a priest stand between God and men? He never has sought holiness. He does not understand the Person, will, way, or eternal purpose of God. How can he serve as a royal priest?
Forgiveness alone does not suffice to prepare a priest of God. Under the old covenant the priest was required to be holy. How much more under the new covenant?
It is not possible for a sinful, self-centered believer to be a warrior in the army of the Lord. He never has learned obedience but always is resisting the Spirit’s discipline. He continually is injuring his fellow soldiers with gossip, criticism, and malicious words and deeds. He usually is defeated at the hands of Satan. He calls Jesus “Lord” but does not do what Jesus says. His faith is weak.
Forgiveness alone is not sufficient to qualify the lukewarm, careless church-attender to march in the ranks of “a great people and a strong” (Joel 2:2). Forgiveness alone does not create Christ’s “mighty men.” Heroes of faith are created only as the Holy Spirit brings us under stern discipline and enables us to overcome all the enemies we encounter during our discipleship.
Christ’s army is made up of conquerors, of victorious saints, not of defeated, nominal Christians.
It is not possible for a sinful, self-centered “believer” to provide a light for mankind. The current overemphasis on imputed (ascribed) righteousness has destroyed the Lord’s lampstands. The nations cannot behold imputed (ascribed) righteousness. They can only see righteous conduct, righteous works—the Personality of Christ in His saints.
It is the new creation, not the forgiven believer, who is the light of the world.
It is obvious, therefore, that a process must be consistent with the goal. The goal of God is reflected in the nine Kingdom purposes set above. Forgiveness is only the first step in the direction of reaching the goal. Forgiveness must be accompanied by a transformation of the personality and conduct of the believer. Apart from such transformation it is impossible for the goal to be attained.
We think the new covenant, the Christian salvation, has been misunderstood. Hopefully, the Lord will bring to His people the truth of the Scriptures. For none of the Kingdom purposes of God can be accomplished until we “come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ” (Ephesians 4:13).
God is carrying out a plan that will bring into being the kind of people and world that is pleasing to Himself.
The Lord Jesus Christ is the firstfruits of the new creation, of the Kingdom of God.
After Christ will come the purified remnant of whom the Scripture speaks (Isaiah 4:3, Zechariah 13:9). The purified remnant, which will include Jews and Gentiles, is a “firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb” (Revelation 14:4).
After the purified remnant has been brought to Christ, Christ and His brothers will return to the nation of Israel and deliver the Jews from all the works of Satan (Micah 5:3, Romans 11:26).
Under the new covenant, every member of true Israel will come to know the Lord for himself (Jeremiah 31:34, Hebrews 8:11).
Christ and His firstfruits will bring every member of true Israel (God’s elect) to the fullness of stature as a “tree of righteousness” (Isaiah 61:3).
As soon as the members of the true Israel of God have become “trees of righteousness” they will rebuild and restore all that has been destroyed by sinners (Isaiah 61:4). As all Israel is being brought to the fullness of the Glory of the Lord, the nations of saved peoples of the earth will know the righteous ways of the Lord and will partake of the eternal Life that is in the Lord Jesus Christ and His Body (Isaiah 2:3, Revelation 22:2).
The final result of the Divine grace that comes to us under the new covenant will be a new earth in which dwells righteousness. There will be nations of the saved on the new earth. They will be governed by the saints.
The saints will have been greatly transformed by this time for they will have been permitted to behold the Face of God (Revelation 22:3,4).
The saints will continue to be transformed throughout eternity because they are dwelling in the Fullness of God and the Fullness of God is dwelling in them. The nations of the saved whom the saints govern will also be transformed because of their exposure to the glorified saints.
The race of saved mankind will continue to grow forever in the image of the Lord Jesus Christ who is the material Expression of the invisible God. This is the true nature of the new covenant.
Those of us who are living on the earth now have the privilege and pleasure of being among the first to enter the Kingdom of God. The Kingdom of God is the bringing into the earth, through Christ, the Person and will of the invisible God.
God intends to become All in all in His creation. He will accomplish this through the Lord Jesus Christ. Many who are last in time will be among the first to experience the full glory of the redemption and Kingdom that are in Christ.
The new covenant is a better covenant established on better promises. Let each of us without delay press into the fullness of Christ who Himself Is the new Covenant that God has made with the house of Israel.
(“The True Nature of the New Covenant”, 3239-1)