So far we have seen that God made covenants to establish priesthoods (teaching ministries with messengers) and that each has its own law describing how to convey His message about Jesus.
The Old Covenant, with its law, predicted His coming and then-future accomplishments. He finished it all when He died on the cross.
Now the law of the New Covenant with the Jews describes compelling people (predominantly other Jews) to change their outward behaviors in order to bring about an increase of faith in Christ.
And the one with us non-Jews describes compelling people to have faith in Him. The Holy Spirit will change their inner beings—and those changes can bring about new outward behaviors.
Although the teaching methods are quite different (and cause turmoil when intertwined), the message for both peoples is the same.
In essence it’s:
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 messengers, so the passages come from Paul’s letters. But that certainly doesn’t diminish the value of the other letters. A bit later we’ll look at their differences to see how they fit in.
Knowing just three essential passages (a total of 12 verses) can resolve our task. First, they give us a secure foundation for our own relationship with God. Then we can clearly relate His message to others.
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 what we want as believers—to have a godly purpose with a lasting effect on our loved ones, without being haunted by guilt and fear over our own bad choices in life.
The passage states the discriminating fact to remember. “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come.” That is what God has made us, whether we act like it or not, we are new creatures in Christ. The Holy Spirit has made us new inwardly and our behaviors are gradually catching up. Our task as messengers (ministers) of reconciliation is to help others become new creatures in Christ too.
Right there in the middle is the crux of the message that God has committed to us: “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them.” It continues with “we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.” That is agreeing that we can do nothing more to be acceptable to God than what Jesus has already done.
(That echos the mainstay of our New Covenant stated in Hebrews 10:15-18: “There is no longer any offering for sin.”)
The Old Covenant’s law was the best justice system on earth. There God defined innocent vs. guilty, clean vs. unclean and righteous vs. unrighteous. We non-Jews even have similar rules for justice written in our hearts from birth. They both convict everyone. But His justice doesn’t apply to us anymore. Why?
The passage answers the question: “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. God’s judging, based on the Law, including the Ten Commandments, and our own guilty consciences, is over. People are either in Christ or they are 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 through faith. Then we can live fearlessly in His loving presence.
Lastly, the Romans chapter eight passage that named the two original laws, also shouts out the extraordinary 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)
“Walking according to. . .” describes our journey with God. We can’t draw closer to Him by behaviors that are guided by the Law; that is what the flesh tries to do—and it’s been condemned. Rather, we grow closer to Him by trusting His Spirit to lead us. (The flesh is another topic that we will examine later.)
You have probably heard somewhere that the same 613 rules (laws, statutes, etc.) of the Old Testament are repeated in the New Testament so we are to still follow them. Those laws have two purposes. (I hope you are not getting tired of reading this because it is truly essential.)
They perfectly describe Jesus, the One who gives life; and they prove that we aren’t Him, we desperately needed that life.
Our task in this new life is to tell the world that God isn’t counting men’s sins against them; Jesus took our sin so that we might become righteous in Him. And having been reconciled by His death, anyone can be saved through His resurrected life.