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Posts Tagged ‘renewed covenant’

Finally the long-awaited finish to an explanation I started for a friend months ago.  I put off completing this far too long, being overwhelmed with how much I wanted to say.  I finally accepted that to finish was better than to worry about what I might leave out.    It will be posted as its own page under the first two parts which can be found here:

Part One and Part Two

Note:  The name Yehoshua is used in place of Jesus out of deference to the intended reader.

First to recap the information in the first segments….

1 – Yehoshua is the pivotal, unmovable element in our faith – being fully God and fully human, He is the highest revelation of God to man. (Heb. 1:1,2) All the Law and the Prophets pointed to him, but were mere shadows of His reality. The Law given to Moses cannot be an equal or synonymous expression of God Himself, and is not of equal authority. The Torah clearly commands that all are to listen and obey the Prophet who was to come. In Acts, Stephen and the Apostles make it clear that they believed Yehoshua was the fulfillment of this. By refusing to accept the testimony and resurrection of the Son of God, most of Israel had become lawbreakers in the worst sense, by rejecting God Himself. But as promised repeatedly in the prophets, and as Paul affirms in Romans, God will restore their sight in His time, and seems to be doing so now to some extent.

2 – To obey this command “to him you shall listen” (Deut 18:15) requires that we give ample attention and respect to the credibility of the four witnesses of Him in the New Testament, as well as to the teachings of the one He personally called to bring the truth of Him to the Gentiles. If we do not accept this testimony, or doubt its authenticity and reliability, we are left with the problem of an all-powerful God that can incarnate, die, and rise from the dead, but not able to preserve a trustworthy witness to these events. If this witness is not true and valid, then we cannot even firmly establish these events at all, and our faith is a myth and legend.

Listening to Yehoshua also means we are led by Him through the Holy Spirit. The Word of God in written form is the field manual, and the Holy Spirit is the two-way radio. We need them both in order to truly follow and obey Him. (not really a recap, but an introduction on that point).

3 – We believe Torah is better described as God’s unchanging principles based on love for God and man, and not a finite list on tablets of stone. The law as given at Sinai is an expression of His Torah, but we do not believe He intended it for all people for all time in this form. The same principles are included in a better Covenant, founded on better promises.

Nature is an amazing expression of God’s character, wisdom, and power – so much so that man has throughout the ages made it an object of worship. The Hebrew scriptures are also an incredible, complex expression of Him – as beautiful and intricate as any wonder of the natural world. However, they are still a gift of creation, and not God himself. The written scriptures were not given to man in order for us to venerate them or to create a distraction away from God Himself, especially as expressed in the Son. We did not openly state that we placed the Torah at this level, but our actions revealed this was the place it held in our hearts.

To Continue from There…

There are many different camps of theology when it comes to the covenants. I have not studied them all in depth so I will not attempt to compare and contrast them.  There are precise names and definitions and well developed “systems” of theology behind all of them, which for the most part makes my brain hurt. I am not a theologian, but I greatly desire the truth. I have to believe that truth is available to uneducated people like me, or I would lose hope.

That being said, the following discussion would be too oversimplified for most people who prefer complicated explanations. We took great pride in being complicated in the past, thinking it demonstrated how smart we were. Our supposed “wisdom” became a stumbling block to us, so I now value simplicity. The Greek word for simplicity in this following verse also means “singleness” (according to Strongs) I like that too.

But I fear lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve in his craftiness, so your thoughts should be corrupted from the simplicity due to Christ.

2 Corinthians 11:3

What we believed in the past…

Being raised an SDA, we were taught a special brand of replacement theology. Not only had just the Gentile church replaced Israel, but our denomination was now THE remnant of Bible Prophecy. We were the new Israel. I think the Puritans may have had similar ideas when coming to America. Much of our Protestant theology seems to have been inherited from them. The SDA view of the Law is very similar to most Hebrew Roots thinkers. They believe it existed from creation, the eternal Law of God that would never change and the ultimate expression of His character for all people on earth.  One thing they are correct about is the belief that if you are to follow the Ten Commandments as the standard of obedience to God, you cannot replace Sabbath with Sunday. There is no basis for this change whatsoever if you are looking to the Sinai Covenant Law as your guide.

The main difference between the SDA and HRM viewpoint is the SDA side breaks up the law into categories, saying everything commanded outside the 10C were “ceremonial” (or civil) and these were the laws abolished on the cross. This is also the position of most Baptists, and Covenant Theology type churches.  This argument holds no water because the Sabbath is not a moral command.  In addition you will find plentiful commands within the whole body of law which are clearly moral issues.  Even Abraham married his half-sister, something morally forbidden in the Torah.

As we became interested in our Hebrew Roots, we saw it was a completely man-made concoction to say the Law could be split up into pieces, some abolished, some eternal. We saw it stood or fell altogether as one body of legislation. We still believed the Law of God as being the Law from Sinai so we then shifted our belief that the WHOLE thing had to be written on our heart and we should seek to obey every part of it we could. We still had to see some things as fulfilled – or at least – temporarily deferred until a temple was rebuilt and we were all living in Israel again. We became consumed with trying to learn more about doing all we could do at the present time. We took in the teaching that we were also Israel because we believed in Israel’s Messiah. With this, we believed we had a right to the stated material blessings through Torah observance, and the obligation to practice traditions of our elder brother Judah (from modern Judaism). We still believed Yehoshua alone was enough for Christians, and they were saved if they believed on Him, but we considered ourselves more obedient and more blessed.

Some people we knew went so far as to think there was no way to be saved unless you observed the Torah, because if you didn’t, you were worshiping a different God. Now when I say Torah observance, we criticized Christians for their failure to observe rituals and days – not on love or moral purity. Someone could place all their trust in Yehoshua and exhibit the fruit of the Spirit (character traits, not works) and still be considered a lost, pagan apostate if they did not keep the Holy Days, and ate pork. I never personally believed this but I was still proud about being superior.

I don’t remember the first time I heard the term “renewed” Covenant – but we didn’t stop to study it out, or test this term when we heard it. This idea fit what we wanted to believe and mirrored the SDA position I had always held which taught Messiah came to re-state the Sinai Law with His life and give us the ability to really keep it. Everyone was referring to the New Covenant as “renewed” or just simply “The Covenant” as if there was only one, and “New Covenant” became one of the many taboo words. To utter the phrase “New Covenant” was seen as anti-Semitic, anti-Law, anti-God Himself. When we looked at the original languages and scriptural context of New Covenant passages, we could not support the teaching of calling it renewed.

Our Present View of Old and New Covenants

We now believe the specific laws as given at Mt. Sinai were the conditions (terms) of the temporary contract between God and His people. Unlike the covenant made with Abraham where all he did was “believe God” the Sinai covenant had a HUGE obedience contingency. The contract was breached simply by their disobedience if nothing else.  As Hebrews says, “He found fault with them.” (The question is, what was instituted in its place?) The contract had physical rewards or consequences – nothing pertaining to eternal life. As with the custom of covenant agreements during that time – the parties were designated, terms agreed upon, and a sign was given.  In both covenants, man was tested to TRUST God.  Abraham passed the test, and Israel failed, repeatedly.

If you simply renew a covenant, it would make sense that the terms would remain the same. Even if this was actually what God did, it’s difficult to maintain that everyone in every country could be obligated to all the terms in this covenant. If simply accepting Israel’s Messiah brings you into this covenant, as we believed it did, this creates numerous problems. A huge percentage of the laws cannot be kept if not in the Land of Israel, without a temple, and without a government that adheres to this law as their civil structure.

However, if you make a new contract entirely, you could change the terms quite drastically – and God did. The Sinai Covenant and Covenant of Christ both have a different purpose, and are contrasted quite clearly in Hebrews, Romans, and Galatians. Here is an overview of three pivotal covenants.

Abraham

Contracting Parties: God & Abraham

Terms: Abraham believed – God promised land, many descendants and that through his seed, all the nations of the earth would be blessed. (through Messiah)

Sign: Circumcision

Israel

Contracting Parties: God & Israel (with the invitation to people of other nations to enter in through circumcision)

Terms: Israel obeys the Law given through Moses, God blesses with the Promised Land and abundance. Israel rebels, curses upon curses, and then… more curses.

Sign: Sabbath days

Sinai was conditional, Abraham’s Covenant is called the covenant of Promise because it was unconditional. This one is the foreshadow of the one we have in Christ. It simulates it and prophesies it.

New Covenant

Parties: God and “whosoever will” – given to Israel first,  who believe on His Son (the “works” of God are to believe on Him who He has sent. John 6:29)

Terms: Belief (not just a mental assent, but TRUST, a heart thing) – God promises eternal life

Sign: Love for one another(John, I John)

Seal: The Holy Spirit (Eph. 2)

Many Sinai Covenant devotees argue there is no evidence this covenant was ever abrogated. This is simply not true. Even a surface reading of the NT will reveal a clear teaching it was at that time (even while the temple was still standing) – “obsolete” and “passing away”. (Hebrews) The Sinai Law has not been given to all men from the dawn of time, but was given at a specific time, after the Promise to Abraham (Galatians). Paul makes it clear that when you are in Christ, you die with him (die to the old contract) and are raised to new life in Him – married to another (Romans 7). Galatians shows by way of analogy you cannot live under both at the same time, comparing Hagar and Sarah. If you want the fullness of the New Covenant – and the freedom of life in the Spirit, you have no choice but to throw out the bond woman and live in the Promise alone. According to Paul, living under both simultaneously is simply not possible. This is why we must twist Paul or reject him as a teacher completely in order to maintain that Torah observance as given to Israel is the only way to please God.

Very simply, as wild branch Gentiles, never at any time were we under this contract with God. Jews and Gentiles are separate in the flesh, and united only in Christ, not in a Law. (Eph. 2) The Gentiles were never commanded or required to come under Israel’s covenant when coming to Christ. Jewish believers were never required to stop observing the way they were accustomed to, however they were forbidden from requiring it of Gentile believers. (Acts 15, Romans 14, Col. 2, Eph. 2)

Even as a Jewish person trusts Yehoshua as their Messiah, realizing they have no righteousness of their own, die the same death the Gentile dies. We die to sin, self, and works. We are relieved of the condemnation of sin because it died on the cross. Just as Paul says in Romans 7 – death releases you of a contract! We are raised to be New Creation (2 Cor. 5:17) in Christ. The very God of the universe comes to live in us through His Spirit – (still can’t fathom the reality of this!) and becomes our Torah. The whole of New Covenant obedience is hinged on the two great commands – (1) Love God with all your heart, mind, and soul. (2) Love one another as God has loved you through His son (John 13:34, 15:12) – a much taller order than loving your neighbor as yourself. He could not even command this until He had come to demonstrate exactly what that meant. This was truly, a “new” commandment.

Yehoshua did not command his disciples to be identified by their outward observances as under the Sinai Covenant. Never in the NT are the Old Covenant observances reiterated to any segment of the Jewish or Gentile believers. Only issues of love, morality, and upright character are reinforced repeatedly, all such commands being connected to fervent love for God and one another. To be obedient under the New Covenant has a much higher degree of accountability than in the Old.  Those who “drew near” to serve God were repeatedly snuffed out of existence when they sinned, God holding them more accountable than the general population.  In Israel only one man could enter the Most Holy place in God’s presence.  Through the mediation of Christ, we are all a “royal priesthood” and have access to God’s throne, an astounding privilege.  We have not begun to understand what we have been granted, or the measure of grace God has given for us to have this privilege.

Far from being “lawlessness” as so many people claim, life in Christ is in fact being obedient moment by moment to a living God that dwells in us. He may command me through His Spirit to stop and help someone with car trouble, or prompt me to say a word of encouragement to someone. The Torah of the Spirit encompasses all of life. A list of rules can never do this. This life is not about external demands of clean/unclean or days and times, but becoming completely transformed. The Law could define our problem, but only life in the Spirit can solve our problem (Romans 8). The Law still stands today for all to see – it remains as a witness, but we are no longer in a relationship with it. We are no longer under it as school children, but have been promoted to sons and daughters. (Galatians)

Sadly I have to admit, many church-going Christians have never seen this either. Even though they are not keeping the Law according to Moses, they are still trying to come to God on external terms, and in their own efforts. They serve God out of sheer duty and striving, or for some hope of recognition and blessing. They do not enter the rest of complete trust and submission to God. Serving God becomes a means to an end when Yehoshua should be the desired end and blessing in Himself. They cannot even see the depravity of their hearts because they are assuring themselves with the multitude of their churchianity. This is not the life Yehoshua called his followers to live. We aren’t to look to a list written by Moses, or a pastor, or a denomination. Yehoshua alone is our Rabbi and our Lord.

Growing up in the SDA denomination, I never learned what it meant to be “born again” as Yehoshua taught, and as Paul explained. We were instructed as children to never say we were “saved”. They would correct other Christians who would claim they had been “saved” at a certain identifiable moment in their lives when they became new. This was something we were told we needed to do every day. We had to make sure everything was confessed at any given moment. If we let any sin remain unconfessed, we could lose our salvation if our number came up. At least Catholics had purgatory where they could work all that out and still get to heaven. We had to strive for perfection in fear of being lost instead of the “full assurance of faith” that Hebrews speaks of.

When we saw the New Covenant, I also for the first time understood being born again. Even though I had experienced this many years before, I had NO idea what had happened to me and had no way to express it, or testify to what God had done in my life. Now I realize that there was one day I was confronted with my sin and a Savior. I became so convicted by my own actions that were sick beyond belief, and so drawn to His gift of love in spite of myself, that I repented and threw myself at His feet.  I realized I had no other hope in this world.  I knew I had sinned against HIM personally and it was painful.  But at the same time, I sensed His deep love for me and He offered peace and not condemnation. This does not always happen in an intense moment that someone can point to. It can happen quietly too – especially in small children. However, the Word teaches that we become a New Creation. Old things are passed away. The Holy Spirit dwells in us and is a seal of our adoption into God’s family. (Eph. 2) Now I know my holiness does not come from the outside, but from within as He works love into my life – more for Him and for others.

I could go on for many more pages, and I’ll leave the technicalities to the theologians. But so much liberating and transformational truth is lost when the New Covenant and Christ are demoted to a subset within the Sinai system. This goes for HRM, SDA’s and many evangelical Christians who have no idea they are coming to God under the terms given to Moses. The foundation to the New Covenant is the unconditional Promise of Christ – and He is the one who is all and in all. So much in His name has been a sham, especially in the United States. I would urge everyone who wants to truly know God, to seek His Son first in the pages of His Word. It’s the most liberating truth there is, but the most demanding at the same time. To live it, we must reconcile that we die with Him, and be raised with Him. Only in that are we truly free.

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him,

“If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”

They answered him, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone. How is it that you say, ‘You will become free’?” Jesus answered them,

“Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin.

The slave does not remain in the house forever; the son remains forever.

So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed.

John 8:31-36

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