Classic Christianity – A Closer Look at The New Covenant P4 (06-01-21)
As you ponder over the reason for the New Covenant, take a look at the history of the Israelites under an Old Covenant. The Old Testament is the recorded history of their failures to keep the law and of God’s faithfulness, His patience, kindness and mercy, in the midst of their failure. So why did they fail? The same reason we fail today. The law is holy, righteous and good. The problem is not with the law, but with us. To know about the real problem, just look at the fall of man in the garden of Eden.
God created Adam in His own image. Adam was created with free will, and he chose to live independent of God, to not trust God but instead to trust the lie of Lucifer, or Satan, in the garden of Eden, that you can be your own god and control your own destiny, to know right from wrong without God. God had warned him that the day he chose to eat of that knowledge of good and evil he shall die. He did and he died. He died spiritually, meaning that the Spirit of God once living in him had to leave because of sin, the choice of Adam to live independently from God. Since that time, all mankind are born in the image of fallen Adam, born dead spiritually, without the Spirit of God living in him. Sin entered mankind through the sin of one man Adam and so all died.
God, in His love for mankind, sought to restore him back to a right relationship with Himself. The law was added so that mankind would recognize his spiritually dead state and seek a Savior in Jesus Christ. Just as sin entered the world through one man, Adam, so also righteousness, or right standing with God, entered the world through one man Jesus Christ, that all who come to Him for life might live.
The law was never added to make mankind perfect because no man was able to keep the law. So to fulfill all righteousness for mankind, God Himself stepped out of heaven, took on human flesh, to obey the law completely by His life, His life of perfect love, showing mankind what pure righteousness is. In order for the just penalty of sin, which is death, to be met, He voluntarily laid down His life, only to take it up again. He did this so that man is out from under that impossible system of ever being made right before God through the law, and can be made right before God by the perfection of God Himself, who having been raised from the dead, offers to mankind as a gift to be received by faith, His resurrected life.
By doing this, Jesus set aside the Old Covenant, with all its laws and regulations set against us, and ushered in a New Covenant of grace. Under this New Covenant, man can boldly approach the throne of grace for help in time of need. There is no condemnation awaiting those who are in Christ Jesus. Jesus Himself took away the sins of the entire world. Now, the same resurrected life in Christ Jesus is alive living in us, who are born again spiritually, so that Jesus always intercedes for us according to the will of God.
So as you look at the Israelites under an Old Covenant you see failure after failure. So many people have been taught in Christendom that the ten commandments are a guide to live by. Many try their best to obey the law. But what people find out who do that is, like the apostle Paul, they thought they could obey the law, but the law only stirs up sin. Paul said that when the law said, “Do not lust”, he found himself lusting all the more. He found that there is something wrong with him, sin living in him, that is stirred up and he died to the law. He came to the end of the law for righteousness, knowing that he cannot pull it off. His conclusion was this, praise be to God through our Lord Jesus Christ.
Many people do not realize the high standard of getting to heaven by obeying the law. Many think that all you can do is the best you can, and presume that God must grade on the curve, for nobody can be perfect. Others think they are better than someone else, thinking, “after all I am not as bad as Adolf Hitler”, as if that is justification enough for God to accept you on that basis. Others think they can obtain perfection, and ignore the fact they already sinned yesterday, and will sin again tomorrow. They just obey the commands they think they can keep, boast on those, and ignore the rest. So they try religion, religion of all kinds, in order to appeal to God to accept them. They offer their own sacrifices, whether with blood of an animal, or asking for forgiveness when they sin, or some man-made system of sacrifice to appease God.
The Israelites were an example of that. Right after Moses spoke to them concerning the law, given to him by God, saying that this is the law you are to keep, they thought they could keep it, and said “We will obey all that God has said.” Yet before Moses even got off the mountain, talking to God, bringing back the ten commandments written on stone, they had already made a god in the image of a golden calf, and said they were offering a festival unto the Lord while offering burnt sacrifices. They made up their own way that seemed right to them, and justified their actions with a man-made religion, as if that is a festival to God, with sacrifices of burnt offerings, that God would approve. So they had already disobeyed the first commandment, to have no other gods before the one true God.
What many people do not realize is that the law requires perfection, for as James says, if you stumble at just one point you are guilty of breaking all of it. Only a perfect human being, who never sins, can ever make it into the kingdom of God on the basis of obeying the law. Only Jesus, who is God, and God is love, can fulfill the law. And Jesus Himself said, “Be perfect as my heavenly Father in heaven is perfect.” Who can be perfect? Not one. As the apostle Paul said, quoting from the Psalms, “There is no one righteous. No not one.”
Jesus’ disciples once asked Jesus, “Who then can be saved?” Jesus’ response was, “With man this is impossible. But everything is possible with God.” Now that is the reason for the New Covenant, for it does not depend on man to do anything to complete it. Someone else does it for man, and that person is Christ Jesus, God Himself in the flesh, and all other men are recipients of the pure mercy, love and grace of God. All men can come to Jesus with open hands of faith to receive what Jesus came to offer us, His spiritual life to be placed in you, the completeness of mankind of what was lost in Adam, the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
I believe a lack of understanding of the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant has paralyzed the Christian world. Outside salvation in Christ Jesus, the most important doctrine to get a hold of is the New Covenant. If we do not get clarification on that, then the bible will not be properly understood and will not be able to be put in proper context or chronology. It is paramount to understand that there was an Old Covenant replaced by a New Covenant.
I taught an overview of the New Covenant and now let us pick up the pieces. So turn to chapter 2, The Reason for the New Covenant in A Closer Look at the New Covenant
Everyone knows about the ten commandments, not necessarily that it was a part of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was God giving of the law. Anybody attending church on a regular basis, or in my day and age when I was growing up, was accustomed to the ten commandments in the school. There is no question about the fact that if we attended church, or we were in school a long time ago, we were taught to memorize the ten commandments and use them as a guide for life. Using these as a guide for life is what we were taught. Here are the ten commandments and this is what you are to do. So like most of us, we tried to live up to these commandments. You gave it your best shot and really worked at it. Some people did. Other people said there is no way I can live up to them so I will forget them. Others said I know they want us to memorize the ten, but I will not memorize any of them in so I can plead ignorance in case I need to.
That reminds me of W. C. Fields, the old codger comedian that was about as crusty as you want to get. He was a professed agnostic. He was on his deathbed in the hospital and one of his friends came to see him. He was there reading his bible. They looked at him,and said, “W. C., what in the world are you doing?” In that crusty tone he replied, “I am looking for loopholes.” How do we approach the ten commandments? Are some people looking for loopholes? Some people say if I do not know what they all say I can plead ignorance. Others say I know what they say and I will give them a shot. Others say I tried and they are just not working.
These commandments were the basis of the Old Covenant that God established with Israel. Israel, too, gave their best shot to live up to those requirements. You do not have to read too much of the Old Testament to realize Israel failed over and over and over again. As a matter of fact, the Old Testament to me is a book of man’s total failure of man and of God’s patience, kindness and mercy in the midst of it.
They never made it in most cases past the first commandment that you will have no other gods before me. We have in God we trust on our money but, in essence it is the money we trust. There is nothing wrong with the commandments. The bible says they are holy, righteous and good.
12 So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.
Why is it then that God had to usher in a New Covenant? Personal experience in trying to live up to the law in the Old Testament record concerning Israel’s attempts to live up to the law provided us with insight for the reason for the New Covenant. So let us take a look. The bible answers that question as to why we need the New Covenant.
7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant
That is the covenant of the law. That is why you had the Levitical priesthood, to represent the people under the law.
no place would have been sought for another.
If there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, there would be no need to seek another.
8 But God found fault with the people and said:
So someone says, “No. He could not find fault with us, as wonderful as we are. God found fault not with Himself, not with His covenant.” But God did find fault with us. Why? We could not keep it. The Jews could not keep it, and the Gentiles cannot keep it either. The Mormons cannot keep it. The Buddhists cannot keep it. The Muslims cannot keep it. Nobody can keep the law. As Paul declared, “No one, absolutely no one, will ever be declared righteous in the sight of God through obedience to the law.
20 Therefore no one will be declared righteous in God’s sight by the works of the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of our sin.
“The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.
According to the writer of Hebrews, what was the reason for implementing that New Covenant? There was something wrong with the old. What was wrong with the old? We could not keep it. So who is to blame? Us.
18 The former regulation [Old Covenant] is set aside because it was weak and useless 19 (for the law made nothing perfect), and a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.
Covenant, testament and will are interchangeable words. The Old Testament is the old will. If you want to find what the old will is about, you have to read the Old Testament. So he is saying that regulation, that old will, that old covenant, that old testament, has been set aside. Why was it set aside? I thought the word of God has practical application for all kinds of things? Yes, it is practical for teaching and correction. But it is weak and useless, it says. Why? It cannot make anything perfect You are never going to obtain what you are looking for under the law, under the Old Covenant, period.
It is a regulation God gave us, but it is a regulation man could not keep. God can say, “Okay, I will just let them struggle through eternity. I will give them this law and they never will keep it. Maybe someone will and I will just wait. Whoever that person is that does, if there is one, will have a lonely existence up there.” “No”, He says. “I love these people. I love whom I have made. I created a man and I created him in My own image. I created Adam in my own image.” Through sin entering into the world, man fell. From that point on, man was born not in the image of God, but born in the image of Adam, dead spiritually.
3 When Adam had lived 130 years, he had a son in his own likeness, in his own image; and he named him Seth.
Adam died, and therefore, we all died. We are all born dead.
12 Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned
So He looks down on His creation, dead spiritually, dead spiritual human beings. And He says, “My heart breaks. I see what sin has done to my creation and I will do something. I will do something to save them.” He said that the former regulation was set aside because it was weak and useless, for the law made nothing perfect, whereby a better hope is introduced. What is that better hope? That is the New Covenant, by which we draw near to God.
This New Covenant, this better hope, is the way we draw near to God. Do you realize, to this very day, a huge portion of the so-called Christian world is trying to draw near to God through the law. Still at it. The Jews could not do it. The Gentiles, in our stupidity, stepped in and said, “They could not do it, but you just watch my smoke, Lord.” So whether we go trying to pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and say, “You watch me.” On that type of thing, a person does not have to be too long in this to realize that he cannot obey all of them. So people latch onto one. “Saturday worship, I can do that one.” So what do we have? Seventh Day Adventist or Jews, who supposedly become Christians, who worship on Saturday. That is as if a day of the week is it. That is despite the fact that Jesus talked to the Samaritan woman at the well.
19 “Sir,” the woman said, “I can see that you are a prophet. 20 Our ancestors worshiped on this mountain, but you Jews claim that the place where we must worship is in Jerusalem.”
21 “Woman,” Jesus replied, “believe me, a time is coming when you will worship the Father neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem. 22 You Samaritans worship what you do not know; we worship what we do know, for salvation is from the Jews. 23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in the Spirit and in truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks. 24 God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth.”
A time is coming where it is not where you worship but how you worship. God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in the Spirit and in truth. He did not say on a specific day, Saturday or Sunday, but people grab a hold of, “Remember the Sabbath and keep it holy”, and become known by that. The rest of the commandments go by the wayside. “Who cares about lust, adultery or stealing and the rest. We will just not talk about that, but I am a Sabbath keeper.” The way people go is to grab a hold of something else and brag about something else. “This is the one I keep, not the ten.” That becomes his or her point of reference. People are so proud of that, “that I keep this one.”, but God saya, “if you are going to walk as I called you to walk, you are going to obey all of them, every time of the day, every day of your life.” To that point, even James said this.
10 For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
If we kept all of the law, but right before we died, we violated at just one point, we violated all of them. If you want to live under the law, that is the standard. So a better hope is introduced. There is no hope under the law. No man will ever be declared righteous before God through obedience to the law. No man will ever be made holy through obedience to the law.
21 Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.
21 I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died for nothing!”
If the law could give life, then Christ died for nothing. The law cannot do anything for you except show you your spiritual death and to show you that you are dead. That is a good thing. But we do not use the law to show us we are dead. We use the law as a point of righteousness. So a better hope is introduced by which we draw near to God.
If you are trying to draw near to God through the law, you cannot do it, never have done it and you are a phoney. Quit trying and quit being a phoney. Quit being a church goer and start being a possessor of life for the law says you cannot do it. You cannot draw near to God under the law. You can only draw near to God through this better hope which has been introduced. That better hope is the grace of God that has been introduced to us by Christ Jesus.
If you do not believe this is true, let us take a look at the history of Israel. After the Israelites crossed the Red Sea to escape Pharaoh’s army, they settled in the desert at Mt. Sinai. It was there that God established the covenant with His people. Exodus 19-20 records the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant.
5 Now if you obey me fully
Lord, couldn’t you put “partially” in there? That would be a little easier. No, it is“fully”.
and keep my covenant, then out of all nations you will be my treasured possession. Although the whole earth is mine, 6 you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words you are to speak to the Israelites.”
7 So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak.
Again, what was the responsibility of the people under the Old Covenant? To keep His commandments fully. What would it mean to the people to obey God fully? To keep them all, to obey them all, just as we had said. Interestingly enough they all went together and responded. They had a response to this. You should always have a response to the initiation of God. God initiates to us something so that we will respond to it. Their response was this.
7 So Moses went back and summoned the elders of the people and set before them all the words the Lord had commanded him to speak. 8 The people all responded together, “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord.”
Can you imagine the Lord scratching His head? They said “We will do everything the Lord has said.” So Moses brought their answer back to the Lord. Do you think they knew their responsibility to the law? I do not think so. Maybe they did.
On another occasion, the people responded differently at that time. In Moses told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, and they responded in one voice, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”
3 When Moses went and told the people all the Lord’s words and laws, they responded with one voice, “Everything the Lord has said we will do.” 4 Moses then wrote down everything the Lord had said.
Then again Moses took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”
7 Then he took the Book of the Covenant and read it to the people. They responded, “We will do everything the Lord has said; we will obey.”
They evidently liked that phrase. “We will do everything.” Not some things, but everything. “We will obey.” “We will do.” We are still do-do Christians. We are still after, we are still trying to respond to what the Lord said that His commandments are. We are still trying to do everything the Lord has commanded. But what is interesting about that is it is impossible. Because in Exodus 32:1-9, we see that when Moses went back to report this to the Lord and he was up there saying, “Lord, here is what the people said when I read your words to them, ‘We will do everything the Lord has said.’” He is up there telling the Lord that. While he was up there telling the Lord that, the people noticed Moses had been gone a long time. He had been up there talking to the Lord far too long. He was long coming down the mountain so they gathered around Aaron saying, “Come, make us gods who will go before us.” They could not get beyond the first commandment, already wanting to make gods who will go before us.
1 When the people saw that Moses was so long in coming down from the mountain, they gathered around Aaron and said, “Come, make us gods who will go before us. As for this fellow Moses who brought us up out of Egypt, we don’t know what has happened to him.”
As for this fellow Moses, this guy, who brought us out of Egypt, so we are out in the desert eating manna every day, where we could have been a good old slave back in Egypt, we do not know what happened to him. Because I do not know what happened to him, he must have disappeared.
2 Aaron answered them, “Take off the gold earrings that your wives, your sons and your daughters are wearing, and bring them to me.” 3 So all the people took off their earrings and brought them to Aaron. 4 He took what they handed him and made it into an idol cast in the shape of a calf, fashioning it with a tool. Then they said, “These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.”
5 When Aaron saw this, he built an altar in front of the calf and announced, “Tomorrow there will be a festival to the Lord.”
To the Lord! He just built a golden calf!
6 So the next day the people rose early and sacrificed burnt offerings
In other words, a religious festival.
and presented fellowship offerings.
All kinds of offerings they presented.
Afterward they sat down to eat and drink and got up to indulge in revelry.
7 Then the Lord said to Moses, “Go down, because your people, whom you brought up out of Egypt, have become corrupt.
The Lord is up there saying, “Here is how the people responded to what you said, ‘We will do everything the Lord said’, and then said, “go back down to your people whom you brought out of Egypt. They have all become corrupt.”
8 They have been quick to turn away from what I commanded them
They hardly got off the mountain.
and have made themselves an idol cast in the shape of a calf. They have bowed down to it and sacrificed to it and have said, ‘These are your gods, Israel, who brought you up out of Egypt.’
9 “I have seen these people,” the Lord said to Moses, “and they are a stiff-necked people.
How easy is it for us to sit there and say, “Oh those vile, red, stiff-necked Jews. These corrupt Jews, these corrupt Israelites. How bad they are!” Really? How many times in our life have we heard John 3:16?
16 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.
And we say, “Where are the cheeseburgers? Where is the ball game? Where is the football game? Where is the television set? Where is the money? Where is the dance tonight? Where is the party going to be? Where are the drugs? Where is the alcohol? Where is the sex available today?” The Lord looks and says, “You are a stiff-necked people.” We are stiff-necked people. We can look at others and say “how bad”, but we fail to see ourselves. As a matter of fact there is physical blindness. To me, physically, that would be the most pitiful state that a person can be in, not being able to see physically. But you know what, brother, until we can see spiritually, we are as blind as a bat. We are blind to our own failures. We are so prone to look at others, and not look at ourselves.
I can remember in my lost days of saying to Amy, “You think I had too much to drink, you should have seen old Charlie. He could hardly walk.” I was literally meaning that. “Do not get on my back. I may be a little tipsy but I am not as tipsy as that slob over there.” “If you think I smoke a lot, you should be around old so and so over there. He smokes all day long.” And I meant that. In other words, we are the best defense attorneys we could ever have. We know how to defend ourselves better than anybody on the face of the earth. We do that but are blind to our own weaknesses. We can spot weaknesses of others very easily. We can do lectures on that. When it comes to seeing our own? No.
The same is true of the Israelites. They were sitting down there saying, “we will obey.” When Moses came down, the Shekinah glory was so great they could not see the face of Moses, who was carrying the ten commandments.
28 Moses was there with the Lord forty days and forty nights without eating bread or drinking water. And he wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant – the Ten Commandments.
29 When Moses came down from Mount Sinai with the two tablets of the covenant law in his hands, he was not aware that his face was radiant because he had spoken with the Lord. 30 When Aaron and all the Israelites saw Moses, his face was radiant, and they were afraid to come near him.
God is saying to the Jews, “You have been under bondage for a lot of years. You have not had the laws except the Egyptian laws. Now you will be out on your own, the formation of a new nation. I will give you laws to live by, just ten. Here is the first one.” They never got by the first one.
We have to understand that we can sit critically of others, but we have to say of ourselves, how many times have people heard the gospel, in this country especially? Every television set, you have to hear something. I realize some of those programs are really bad, but even sometimes, maybe by accident, some gospel may slip through, so people can at least understand. At least if a person hears Billy Graham, (whatever you think or know about him), they know how to receive the life of Christ. There are some good pastors on radio, such as Chuck Swindoll. They are good ministers and they do present the gospel. You do hear how to be saved. There are some ministers on Sunday that proclaim the gospel, but very few. But the issue is that we have heard and in the midst of hearing, how many people actually respond? Very few. The same old deal. Stiff-necked people? Why? “I want to live for pleasure.”
1 And God spoke all these words:
2 “I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.
We had a presidential election where a black man had been elected president of the United States, where in my lifetime, growing up in a little town of Newcastle, Indiana, my dad, who was an attorney, was the first one to get blacks allowed to be in movie theaters. They were not allowed to be here. They were not allowed to eat in the restaurants. They had to sit in the back of the bus. Do you remember those days? We had to hide Marvin Turner, a black who played on my basketball team with me. We had to hide him, sneak him back into the hotel when we went down to Evansville, IN because they would not allow him into the hotel. Just in my lifetime, we have gone from that to the election of a president.
The issue is very similar to it. They went from slavery to a degree. That is bondage, slavery, the bible tells us we are in spiritual slavery, that we are in bondage that we are a slave to. I think my job as a minister, this job of ministry is to free the slaves. I am not talking about physical slaves. I am talking about slavery, bondadge to legalism that will absolutely kill you.
3 “You shall have no other gods before me.
4 “You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. 5 You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God, am a jealous God, punishing the children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation of those who hate me, 6 but showing love to a thousand generations of those who love me and keep my commandments.