So far we’ve seen that God made covenants with people to establish priesthoods –and each had its laws describing how to convey His message about Jesus.
The Old Covenant’s law defined a set of dramas for the Israelites to predict His coming and His then-future accomplishments. It was over when He sacrificed His life for all mankind –its purpose was completed.
Although the Jews’ method of teaching is via changes in behaviors and the non-Jews’ method is via changes to our inner-beings, both messages are the same: Jesus offers eternal life to the dead –and it’s obtained through faith in Him.
In essence, the Law of the New Covenant (both their message and ours) is . . .
Jesus is the One who is described by the whole Law of Moses, the Prophets and the Psalms.
His story –recorded in the gospels– is proof that He did what was predicted: He joined us in our humanity and was sacrificed to reconcile us to God.
Now, because of what He has done, anyone can approach Him and receive His gracious, merciful and necessary gift of eternal life without any fear of reprisal.
Furthermore, God hasn’t set any expectations for us to live up to –instead He’s developing a trust-faith-love relationship through this life’s experiences.
Without a fundamental understanding of the Old Covenant –at least its purpose and what Jesus did to fulfill it– the New Covenant has no substantial meaning or value.
The focus here is on our role as non-Jewish believers, so many of the Scriptures come from Paul’s letters. But that certainly doesn’t diminish the value of the other letters. We’ll look at their differences –and how to interpret them– a bit later. That’s part of Untangling the Gospel.
Knowing just a few essential Scripture passages can simplify our role. First, they give us a secure foundation for our own relationship with God. Then we can clearly relate His message to others.
Let’s start with this one in Second Corinthians chapter five.
Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.
Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were making an appeal through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:17-21)
A principal theme throughout the Bible is that of starting over –having a new beginning. It’s the entirety of Noah’s story –the old was washed away and everything was new. It’s what the Israelites experienced after the Exodus –the rebellious people that left Egypt died in the desert and only the new generation was led into the Promised Land. It’s what believers will see when the new heaven and new earth are set in place. And of course there’s the famous conversation between Jesus and Nicodemus that stresses new birth (being born-again). “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” (in John chapter three).
Here it is again: “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” That’s what God has made us –we’re new creatures in Christ.
Right there in the middle is the crux of our message: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” There were constant reminders that a sacrifice had to give up its life so that the people could live in peace with God. The stench of evening and morning burnt offerings was always in the air. There were annual sacrifices on the Day of Atonement and on Passover. And there were individual sacrifices for trespasses and even for births.
All of those sacrifices were foreshadows of Jesus giving up His life for us. Now, “There is no longer any offering for sin.” That’s directly from the wording of the New Covenant that God has made with us ( ). There is nothing more that we can do to improve our relationship with God –it’s perfect and we’ve been freed to grow in its richness.
Not only have our trespasses (transgressions, sins, rebellious ways) been reconciled by Jesus’ death –so have everyone else’s –and we’re to tell them about it. “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation.”
The Law uses a system of justice (good vs. evil, innocent vs. guilty, clean vs. unclean, righteous vs. unrighteous) “so that every mouth may be closed and all the world may become accountable to God” (from ). That system is no longer applicable to us. Why?
“He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” Jesus is righteous –obviously. And since we are “in Him” –we are wrapped within His righteousness. Judging based on the Law is over –people are either in Christ or they’re not in Christ. (Judgment Day will merely be Him separating one group from the other –receiving His sheep and rejecting those goats.)
This Romans passage adds even more security for us to rest in. It bluntly says that we all were sinners (rebels through and through) –and we all were God’s enemies. Even so, He justified and reconciled absolutely everyone to Himself through Christ’s death.
But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.
Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him.
For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. (Romans 5:8-10)
Being reconciled isn’t the same as being saved. His death enabled every person to approach God in His kingdom. But salvation takes place when we actually follow Jesus into that kingdom by faith. It’s then that He gives new life.
Lastly, the Romans chapter eight passage that named the New Covenant’s law shouts out its glorious good news.
Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.
For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin,
He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Romans 8:1-4)
Condemnation is no longer a concern . . . The law of sin and death isn’t for us . . . We have been freed from our flesh’s control . . .
Our purpose in this new life is to tell the world that God is not counting men’s sins against them. He wants them to know Jesus –the Savior who gives life to those who believe Him.
God doesn’t remember our sins and lawless acts. He did –it was at the cross. He will never remember them again. Not only is that written in the New Covenant () –it’s actually a quote from the Old Testament about what would happen after the Messiah came ( ).
A short excerpt that we ambassadors can always have ready is noted above –from Second Corinthians chapter five. “God isn’t counting men’s sins against them. He took our sin so that we might become righteous in Him.”
That little passage also says that we’re to let people know that God has reconciled us all to Himself. In response, we’re to reconcile ourselves to Him –that’s to quit trying to improve what He has made perfect.
You’ve probably heard somewhere that the same 613 rules (laws, statutes, etc.) of the Old Testament are repeated in the New Testament so we’re to still follow them. Those laws have two purposes. (I hope you’re not getting tired of reading this because it’s truly essential.)
They describe Jesus as God –the One who gives life; and they tell us that we aren’t God –we desperately needed that life.