WHY HAVE WE CHANGED THE NEW COVENANT?
Copyright © 2006 Trumpet Ministries, Inc. All Rights Reserved
Scripture taken from the HOLY BIBLE, NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION. Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
The New Testament mentions two covenants. There is the old covenant of Moses, and then the new covenant of Jesus Christ. The reason God gave us a new covenant is that the behavior of many people under the old covenant was not in keeping with God’s standards of righteousness, holiness, and obedience.
We have so changed the new covenant that it does not accomplish God’s purpose.
WHY HAVE WE CHANGED THE NEW COVENANT?
For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. (Hebrews 8:7—NIV)
The New Testament mentions two covenants. There is the old covenant of Moses, and then the new covenant of Jesus Christ. God gave us the new covenant because the behavior of many people under the old covenant was not in keeping with God’s standards of righteous, holiness, and obedience.
But we have changed the new covenant until it does not accomplish God’s purpose in giving it.
The “first covenant” (above) refers to the Law of Moses, particularly the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments were a covenant between God and His people. If they would do what God said, then God would bless them and be with them.
But there was something wrong with the first covenant. The new covenant, the Christian covenant, was brought into existence because of what was wrong with the first covenant.
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.” (Hebrews 8:8—NIV)
The problem with the first covenant was not with the covenant itself but with the people. God found fault with the people.
Because God found fault with the people He has made a new covenant.
The new covenant is made only with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. The new covenant, the Christian covenant, is never made with a Gentile as such. In order to enter the new covenant we have to become part of the one Seed of Abraham, Jesus Christ.
There is only one Olive Tree. The root is Abraham. He is the father of all who believe. The Olive Tree is the anointed priesthood, the Israel of God. No individual, Jewish or Gentile, can be part of that tree except through the Lord Jesus Christ. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Gentile. There is only the one new Man—Christ and His Body.
The new covenant is a covenant between God and the Body of Christ.
Because we have added to the new covenant the unscriptural idea that the goal of the covenant is to bring us to Heaven, it is almost impossible for us to understand the covenant and its relationship to the Kingdom of God. The goal of the new covenant is to perfect a people who are qualified to install the Kingdom of God on the earth.
The Kingdom of God consists first of Jesus Christ; then of His Body, the Church, the Israel of God; and then of the saved people whom God will draw from the nations of the earth.
All that need concern us in the present essay is the true nature of the new covenant, the covenant between God and His called-out people, the Christian Church; for we have changed the new covenant into a scheme to admit people into Heaven after they die—and this apart from the moral transformation which is the essence of the new covenant.
There was something wrong with the first covenant, and the new covenant was issued for the purpose of correcting that wrong. The wrong was that God found fault with the people. What was the problem with the people? Whatever it was, God brought in a new covenant to correct this problem.
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. (Hebrews 8:9—NIV)
“They did not remain faithful to my covenant.” The new covenant has been given because the Israelites did not remain faithful to the covenant, particularly the Ten Commandments. God found fault with the people because the people were not faithful in observing the conditions of the old covenant.
They made images and worshiped them. They misused the name of the Lord. They did not honor the Sabbath. They coveted. They stole. They committed adultery.
The new covenant, the Christian covenant, was given because the people of the old covenant did not remain faithful to it. They broke it on a massive scale until God sent them into captivity.
The question is, how does the new covenant remedy the problem God found with the old covenant?
There are at least two answers that may be given:
- The new covenant enables the people to observe God’s moral law.
- The new covenant does away with the moral law and accepts man in his sinful condition.
The Christian teaching of today has adopted the second answer: the new covenant does away with the moral law and accepts man in his sinful condition. Current teaching has added the unscriptural concept that the purpose of the new covenant is to bring man to Heaven.
If wicked spirits had spent a thousand years developing a scheme to destroy God’s intention, they could not have perfected a plan more effective than today’s Christian teaching—that the new covenant relieves man of living righteously and asks only that he believe God has accepted him through Christ and will bring him to Paradise apart from his keeping the laws of God.
This monstrous error, which can be supported by a few verses of the New Testament taken out of the context of the New Testament, is destroying the vestiges of moral conviction of the Christians in the United States of America.
God desires that man be in His moral image, that he practice righteousness, love mercy, and walk humbly with God. This was God’s intention under the old covenant and He punished the people severely when they did not keep His commandments.
God has never changed His goal concerning man and will never change His goal concerning man. Whether we are living under the old covenant or the new, God will punish us when we do not behave righteously, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.
We have made God’s grace given through Jesus Christ an alternative to God’s moral laws. For this reason the sword of Divine judgment hovers over the United States. It certainly will fall unless there is wholesale repentance on the part of God’s people. And I don’t think many of God’s people will truly and thoroughly repent until they understand that God’s grace through Jesus Christ is not an alternative to God’s moral principles.
I agree that a few passages here and there in the Bible can be used to “prove” that if we believe in Christ we will not be judged for our behavior. But the text of the entire New Testament, including the four Gospel accounts, Acts, the Epistles of the Apostles, and the Book of Revelation, reveal beyond doubt that God insists on righteous, holy, and obedient personality and behavior. To not be transformed morally is to invite the outer darkness, the Lake of Fire, Hell, loss of inheritance in the Kingdom of God, and every other calamity.
Please review the entire New Testament with this in mind and see if I have spoken the truth.
No, the purpose of the new covenant is not to make it possible for untransformed people to live forever in the spirit Paradise. The purpose of the new covenant is to make it possible for people to be forgiven and then to be faithful to God’s moral law. The purpose of the new covenant is to remedy the problem God found with the old covenant.
First, let us explain that by being faithful to God’s moral law we do not mean to adhere to the numerous statutes and ordinances of the Law of Moses. The Law of Moses is a temporary, covenantal form of the true Law of God, the eternal moral law which is God’s own Nature. The feast days, the kosher dietary laws, and the other statutes and ordinances were adapted to the conditions under which the Jews were living while the Law of Moses was in force. Even the Ten Commandments themselves are rough-hewn, incomplete expressions of the fullness of God’s moral image.
The eternal moral laws of God are not peculiarly adapted to any race or season. They are those principles found in the undefiled conscience of all people. They are what God is; consequently they never change. They govern all righteousness, all holiness, and all obedience to God
The new covenant has been given to the royal priesthood that each member might be faithful to God’s eternal moral laws, and in doing so become themselves a covenant to the remainder of mankind. When the nations practice what they see in the priesthood and what they hear from the priesthood, God will bless them. When they do not practice what they see in the priesthood and what they hear from the priesthood, God will destroy them.
Can you see from this what the Scriptures mean when they speak of us being God’s covenant, God’s witnesses, the light of the world?
Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us. (I Peter 2:12—NIV)
For the nation or kingdom that will not serve you will perish; it will be utterly ruined. (Isaiah 60:12—NIV)
Can you see how today’s preaching is completely undermining God’s intention? If the members of the royal priesthood, the Christian Church, are not proclaiming vocally and revealing in their personality the moral law of God, there is no moral light for the people of the world to see. There is no covenant with the people. There is no true witness of God, His Person, will, way, and eternal purpose in Christ.
The Christian Gospel is presented today as God’s plan for forgiving people. If this were true, it would not be a superior covenant. The old covenant also enabled people to be forgiven their sins.
He shall burn all the fat on the altar as he burned the fat of the fellowship offering. In this way the priest will make atonement for the man’s sin, and he will be forgiven. (Leviticus 4:26—NIV)
Some have implied the forgiveness under the old covenant was not as thorough as the forgiveness under the new covenant. This is faulty, unscriptural reasoning. When God says “he will be forgiven” (above) this is exactly what He means. The sinner will be forgiven. The death of the innocent animal made an atonement for sin.
God did not give His priesthood a new covenant so they could be forgiven more perfectly, He gave us a new covenant that would do away with sin for eternity: give us victory over the compulsions of sin; do away with the very presence of sin from us; destroy out of us our adamic nature; fill us with the moral Nature of Christ; and finally provide us with a new body that yearns after righteousness, holiness, and stern obedience to the Father.
The new covenant is vastly superior to the old, not because it forgives us and leaves us untransformed morally but because it puts an end to sin in our personality.
The blood of Jesus Christ is cleansing us from all sin while we are engaging in the program of salvation, that is, in the process of becoming a new creation in Christ.
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” (Hebrews 8:12—NIV)
But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin (I John 1:7—NIV)
Forgiveness indeed is provided under the new covenant, but it is a supplement, not the main feature. The main feature is moral transformation, for without moral transformation there is no Kingdom of God.
Forgiveness solves our personal problems, to a limited extent, but it does not solve God’s problem. God’s problem is an angelic and human creation in which sin is rampant. God’s problem is not solved when humans are forgiven, only when they have been set free from the presence of sin. Only then can they judge angels and govern the creation in righteousness and justice.
Now, let us look at the central aspect of the new covenant, the better covenant.
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. (Hebrews 8:10—NIV)
We see at once that the law of God has not been done away. Not at all! If this were the case it would be best we never had been born.
Rather, the law has been lifted from the stone slabs and the parchment scrolls and inscribed in our mind and heart. This is an altogether different concept from the idea that Divine grace has abolished the laws of God. Don’t you agree?
The law of God inscribed in our mind and heart is Christ in us. He is the Law of God made flesh, and we are eating His flesh and drinking His blood, the blood of the new covenant.
Let’s see how God’s law is inscribed in our mind and heart (in our mind so we can understand it and in our heart so we delight to do it).
Each day the Spirit of God, either through the Bible, or preaching, or some other means, points out to the believer a behavior he or she is practicing that is contrary to the moral Nature of God. This could be in the form of profanity, or lust, or meanness, or unforgiveness, or impatience, or pride, or any other behavior or characteristic that we know is not the image of God.
As soon as we become aware we are not living like Jesus in this area of our life we have a decision to make.
If we choose to justify our behavior, saying “I don’t care”; “everyone is doing it”; “I am saved by grace”; “it is just a small thing”; “as long as we are in the world we have to sin”; “no one is perfect”; I am saved by grace and will go to Heaven in any case”; or by using any of the other devices we employ to evade the work of the Spirit, then the program of salvation is thwarted. We remain unchanged morally. Adam keeps his life. Nothing is inscribed in our mind or heart. We do not partake of the body and blood of the new covenant.
But if, when we become aware of a behavior that is contrary to God’s Nature, we confess to God our sin, repent of it, renounce it, denounce it as unworthy of the Kingdom of God, and ask God to forgive us and supply grace so we never again act in this manner, then a part of us dies. In its place is inscribed the moral law of God. God indeed shall forgive us and shall proceed to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. Christ shall give us of His flesh to eat and His blood to drink.
This “line upon line” transformation is the way the Christian is to live in this world. We through the Spirit of God are always to be putting to death the actions of our sinful nature. We always are to be being transformed in this manner. Those who are led by the Spirit to crucify their sinful nature and to walk in newness of life in Jesus Christ are the sons of God.
This is the only true way of eternal life.
Don’t you agree that the new covenant is infinitely superior to the old?
If God were just to forgive us and bring us to Paradise as we are, without transforming our old nature, Paradise soon would become Hell.
After all, sin began with the angels when they were with God in the heavens. Sin began with human beings when they were in the Paradise of God on the earth. Going to Paradise does nothing in the way of changing our sinful nature. Only daily interaction with Jesus Christ through the Holy Spirit can abolish our sinful nature and enable us to remain faithful to the new covenant.
We have changed the terms of the new covenant. We have developed a “ticket” to Heaven based on a few passages removed from the context of the New Testament.
Let us use one of the familiar “salvation” passages so we can see that when it is removed from the remainder of the New Testament it leaves us with a warped understanding of the new covenant.
That if you confess with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For it is with your heart that you believe and are justified, and it is with your mouth that you confess and are saved. (Romans 10:9,10—NIV)
If this passage is removed from the Book of Romans it can be used as a “ticket” to salvation. If we then add to this ticket the concept of going to Heaven when we die, we have the familiar “plan of salvation.”
All we have to do is say “Jesus is Lord,” believe God has raised Him from the dead, and we will go to Heaven when we die.
It often is assumed or even stated that there absolutely is nothing else a convert is to do. If he in any manner makes an effort to do something to add to his ticket or support his ticket he is a legalist, a Pharisee. He is attempting to add to the perfect work of Christ.
Not all Christian churches are this extreme in their view of sovereign grace, but some are. Some go so far as to state one can never lose his or her ticket. Once the proper statement has been made and the belief adopted, there absolutely is no behavior that can jeopardize the believer’s entrance into Heaven.
This point of view is so far from the Kingdom of God it must be viewed as a current form of Gnosticism, a philosophy that stresses certain kinds of knowledge as being the way to Heaven apart from the behavior of the individual.
It is certain the adoption of the lawless-grace doctrine has destroyed the moral strength of the Christian churches in America, and has led to the moral chaos we witness among the leaders of our government. For they are affected by the preaching that takes place in the Christian churches.
But what is the context of Romans, Chapter Ten, verses nine and ten (above)?
Paul is telling Jewish people who were striving to obtain righteousness by adhering to the statutes of the Law of Moses that God’s approval no longer is found by observing the Law. God has given Jesus Christ as the atonement for our sins. We are to confess that He is our Lord and believe God has raised Him from the dead.
The belief of our heart justifies us and the confession of our mouth saves us. Righteousness no longer is found by observing the Law of Moses but by believing in Christ and pronouncing Him Lord.
Since they did not know the righteousness that comes from God and sought to establish their own, they did not submit to God’s righteousness. Christ is the end of the law so there may be righteousness for everyone who believes. (Romans 10:3,4—NIV)
Can you see in the above passage that Paul is speaking about Jews who were observing the Law of Moses?
Coming to this passage (Romans 10:9,10) as a Gentile it appears as though Paul is saying we can forget about living righteously. All we have to do is confess and believe, and then eternal life in Heaven is ours.
This would contradict a great deal of what Paul taught in his epistles, as we shall notice in a moment.
Our famous Romans 10:9,10 actually is speaking to Jews who were seeking righteousness in the Law of Moses. Paul was urging them to lift their eyes from the scroll and see the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world.
Whenever Paul contrasts works and faith he is not contrasting righteous behavior with faith, because righteous behavior is the purpose for the new covenant. Rather Paul is contrasting the works of the Law of Moses with faith in Jesus Christ. The purpose of receiving Christ under the new covenant is not so we can more perfectly keep the Law of Moses, for that code is passing away. The purpose of receiving Christ under the new covenant is so through Him we can become a new creation who loves righteousness, rejoices in holiness, and is sternly obedient to God.
Now let’s turn to the sixth chapter of the same epistle, the Book of Romans. The sixth chapter of Romans is a balance for the emphasis Paul had placed in earlier chapters on the importance of salvation through faith. In Chapters Four and Five of Romans Paul had exhorted the Jews to look up from the Torah, the Law, and receive the righteousness that comes through faith in Christ Jesus.
However, Paul understood that his emphasis on faith could lead the seeker astray. Perhaps the person who is reading this essay has discovered that when he is strongly emphasizing some point of doctrine, people have misinterpreted what he is attempting to convey. It is impossible to tell the whole story in a few sentences. Isn’t that true?
If someone is trying to prove his own point he may be tempted to seize on a particular part of our message that supports his own view, and then discard the remainder of our statements.
This is what we have done with Paul. Paul understood the danger of an unbalanced interpretation of his presentation as he sought to explain the transition from Moses to Christ, as is evident in the following passage:
What then? Shall we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Don’t you know when you offer yourselves to someone to obey him as slaves, you are slaves to the one whom you obey—whether you are slaves to sin, which leads to death, or to obedience, which leads to righteousness? (Romans 6:15,16—NIV)
In the Christian life, sin leads to death. Obedience to Christ and His Apostles leads to righteousness.
It seems clear from the above passage that Paul was very aware his teaching of grace could be interpreted to mean believers were free to sin.
How does Paul refer to this warped interpretation of Divine grace? “By no means!” “God forbid such an interpretation!”
Paul goes on to tell us that when the person who believes in Christ offers himself as a slave to sin he or she will die spiritually. If the individual chooses to obey the teachings of Christ and His Apostles he or she will gain righteousness.
Paul was thankful that the Christians in Rome were obeying the teaching of the Apostles.
But thanks be to God that, though you used to be slaves to sin, you wholeheartedly obeyed the form of teaching to which you were entrusted. You have been set free from sin and have become slaves to righteousness. (Romans 6:17,18—NIV)
In his epistles Paul consistently warns the believers that sinning leads to spiritual death while obeying the laws of righteousness leads to eternal life.
For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 6:23—NIV)
The verse above, so often preached to the unconverted, is actually addressed to believers who have been baptized in water. It is telling us that if we choose to yield ourselves to sin we shall die spiritually. The gift of God is the ability to choose to live righteously through the authority and power of the new covenant. The unsaved do not possess the authority and power to choose to live righteously.
We see therefore that the gift of eternal life is not something just handed to us, it is the gift of an opportunity to choose the behavior that leads to life.
Eternal life always is the result of holy, righteous behavior.
But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves to God, the benefit you reap leads to holiness, and the result is eternal life. (Romans 6:22—NIV)
The result of freedom from the power of sin and slavery to God is holiness, and the result of holiness is eternal life.
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 8:13—NIV)
The context of the above verse tells us that when we choose to live according to our sinful nature we slay our resurrection to eternal life. But if we choose to follow the Holy Spirit in putting to death the actions of our body we shall obtain eternal life.
Let us explain. Paul, in the first five chapters of Romans, warns us of God’s wrath against sin, and also of the fact that the righteousness we are seeking can no longer come from an observance of the Law of Moses but only from faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.
In the sixth chapter of Romans, Paul explains that placing our faith in Christ does not mean we are free to sin. Rather, if, after having been baptized into Christ, we then choose to live according to our sinful nature, we will die spiritually.
In the seventh chapter of the Book of Romans, Paul emphasizes that there is a law of sin dwelling in our flesh that prevents us from finding righteousness by observing the Law of Moses.
And then Paul asks, “How will I ever be delivered from this body of sin I am dragging around?”
In chapter eight of Romans, Paul assures us that if we will choose to live in the Spirit of God rather than in our sinful nature, the righteousness of the Law of Moses will be ascribed to us, just as though we had observed it perfectly. This righteousness comes from Jesus Christ who Himself kept the Law of Moses perfectly.
Then the Apostle Paul mentions the goal of our salvation, the making alive of our sinful body. This is the answer to Paul’s question in Chapter Seven, “Who will deliver me from this body of death?”
And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. (Romans 8:11—NIV)
The promise of God in John 3:16 is that if we believe in the Lord Jesus Christ we will not perish but have everlasting life. This verse includes God’s Life in our inward nature, but is pointed especially toward immortality in the body; for this is what was lost in the Garden of Eden.
Since Christ dwells in us at the present time, the Spirit of the Resurrection is in us. But our body is dead because of sin.
Because of this, the Christian life is one long battle against the sin that dwells in us.
If, through the Spirit of God, we put to death the deeds of our sinful nature, we will attain eternal life in our inner man. Then, when the Lord appears, our body will be raised from the dead and then filled with God’s Life as a suitable covering for our eternally alive inner man.
But if instead of pursuing righteousness and eternal life we continue to live in a sinful manner, we will lose the down payment of eternal life we were given when we first received Christ. Then, when the Lord appears, there will be no living inner nature upon which to put a body of life and righteousness.
This is what Paul means by saying two verses later that if we live according to our sinful nature we will die. In fact, we will slay our own resurrection unto eternal life.
This is what Paul means when he warns those who have believed and been baptized in water, “The wages of sin is death.”
The Christian life does not hand us eternal life. Rather, it hands us the choice to pursue eternal life. The person who does not have Christ does not have this choice.
The sixth chapter of Romans indicates clearly that Romans 10:9,10 taken by itself can lead us to a limited understanding of the new covenant, an understanding that can effectively prevent the moral transformation that is the heart of the new covenant and of the Kingdom of God.
It is clear we have changed the new covenant. Hebrews 8:10 seldom is preached. In its place is presented an inexpensive “ticket” to Heaven. The destructive philosophy of Dispensationalism, an error produced in the nineteenth century, has inserted into Christian thinking an unscriptural “dispensation of grace.” The root of the problem, however, is the unbalanced emphasis on “faith alone” that somehow grew out of the Protestant Reformation.
The enemies of God have had a field day with the Christian churches, effectively steering their efforts away from the need to build the believers into the stature of the fullness of Christ, and inviting them to place an unscriptural emphasis on evangelism (the adding of spiritual babies to the churches already filled with spiritual babies). One hears a great deal about the need for evangelism but not much about the scriptural injunction to make disciples according to the terms of the Great Commission.
The unscriptural doctrine of a “rapture” to remove the believers from the scene of trouble has contributed to the eternal babyhood of the believers.
Satan’s kingdom is never threatened until believers in Jesus Christ begin to practice righteousness, exhibit holy personalities, and obey God sternly. For this reason he will fight with all his ancient wisdom to prevent the Christian leaders from using their gifts to bring the believers to spiritual maturity.
Satan’s principal weapon to the present hour has been the corruption of Christian teaching and preaching, using his wisdom to encourage God’s leaders to develop a people-pleasing lawless-grace based on a handful of verses taken out of context.
In America the evidence of success in the ministry is a large number of people in one’s congregation. Therefore there is a temptation to emphasize again and again that we are saved by grace and at any moment will be caught up to Heaven in a “rapture.” The American believer is pleased also by the idea that he deserves to be rich and healthy, and Christ is his servant who will give him all he desires. Such preaching is almost certain to fill any building.
If you will notice carefully, the novelties that keep springing up in American churches have this in common: they do not demand that the believer turn away from sin, take up his cross, and patiently follow Christ each day. Each novel emphasis offers a life-preserving blessing in which Christ does all the work and acts as our servant.
So far Satan has been remarkably successful in his efforts to protect his rule over the peoples of the earth!
(“Why Have We Changed the New Covenant?”, 3315-1)