The New Covenant of Jesus Christ is far more radical than is usually understood and taught by the mainstream Evangelical Church.
Although there are many aspects and many facets of the New Covenant, I would like to share with you today what I believe are the four most important aspects of the New Covenant. Four facets of this beautiful diamond of the New Covenant that are blinding in their revelation. Blinding in the amazing impact they have on the life of us believers, once we understand these four gifts of the New Covenant.
Jesus Is The New Covenant
Let me first say that in one sense, the New Covenant is Jesus Christ Himself. That is, it's not just *from* Jesus Christ. It's not just *about* Jesus Christ. And it's certainly not *apart* from Jesus Christ. The New Covenant IS Jesus Christ in the ultimate sense.
That is, He is our gift. He is our forgiveness, our righteousness, and our Life. Christ is our life, once we are born again and brought under the New Covenant.
The New Covenant is not just a thing, or a set of facts. It's first a Person, and only then does it include what that Person has done and declared to us, His children.
Having said that, let's look at four aspects of the New Covenant, which we will call The Four Gifts of the New Covenant.
1. The first gift of the New Covenant is complete forgiveness.
Now you may be saying, “Of course, Terry. That's obvious. I know that forgiveness is part of the New Covenant.”
But wait. I don't just mean forgiveness. I mean complete forgiveness. I mean forgiveness of all of our sins, past, present and future.
Often, misguided teachers teach some kind of condition that's necessary for forgiveness. You know what I mean.
Some teach that we have to move on into discipleship, to deny ourselves and take up our cross and follow Him, or else we can't be forgiven.
Now discipleship is good. And it's important. And to a certain extent, if we are born again, we will enter into some level of discipleship. God is working in us to will and to do for His good pleasure, Philippians 2:13. And in our heart of hearts we want to follow Him, and deny ourselves.
But discipleship is not a condition for forgiveness. We are forgiven the moment we enter into the New Covenant. The moment we are saved. And as we said, that forgiveness includes forgiveness for all of our sins, past, present and future.
Some teach that we have to confess our sins in order for them to be forgiven. After all, doesn't 1 John 1:9 say, “If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness?”
Well, here's the problem with that incorrect theory. There are always sins, many sins, that we commit and don't confess. We get too busy, or we move on to another sin, or we simply aren't paying attention to a particular sin that we committed. Isn't that true?
When we are deceived by the world, the flesh and the devil, and we walk for a brief time, or even a longer time, in the flesh, we sometimes aren't even aware that we are sinning. It doesn't cross our minds, because we have temporarily hardened our heart and only when we come to our senses do we really realize the awfulness of what we've done. But then it's too late to remember each sin in all of its glory, so to speak.
And so we move on, grateful for our Savior.
Let me ask you this: Are those sins forgiven, which we neglected to confess? If we take the Bible as true, we must say, “Yes, they are forgiven, because all of our sins are forgiven.”
Jesus, on the Cross, said, “Tetelestai (It is finished)”.
While the Church too often teaches some kind of performance or discipleship as a condition for forgiveness, what the Bible teaches is that forgiveness is a free gift from God, through the New Covenant.
2. The second gift of the New Covenant is the Righteousness of God, given to us as a free gift.
Through faith, that is, our believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, God gives us the righteousness of Christ as a gift. That means that He declares us righteous, which means that we are in right standing with Him.
To be in right standing with the Creator of the universe is no small thing. And it took more than a small sacrifice to bring it about.
The Bible says that Jesus became sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God (2 Cor. 5:21). In other words, we are made in right standing before God just as if we had not ever sinned. We are declared righteous by God Himself.
The Church too often teaches that our standing before God is based on our performance. They too often teach that we must *do* something in order to stay in God's good graces.
But the truth is, that the whole point of grace is that it is a free gift. While the Church sometimes teaches that we have to earn our right standing with God, the Bible teaches that our right standing with God (our righteousness), is a free gift for all who will come to Him.
This wonderful doctrine is called Justification, and according to the Bible we believers are “justified” (declared righteous) through faith alone, that is, faith in Jesus Christ.
When this wonderful truth is taught, unfortunately it's often said, “Okay, we're righteous, but only in God's eyes.” Think that one through a moment. Because it borders on insulting God.
After all, whose eyes count? They are implying that we're righteous in God's eyes, but we're not *really* righteous. Which is absurd. When we understand that our being justified means that we're put in right standing with God as though we had never sinned or had a sinful nature, we see that it's God's eyes that really count.
One final note on this: Some want to add good works to our salvation as a condition for salvation, which Paul condemns as "another gospel" that is really not a gospel at all. So they will point us to the book of James where James says that Abraham was "justified" by his works as well as his faith.
This is where language study itself becomes fun.
The word translated “justified” actually can mean two things: 1) "declared righteous", and 2) "shown to be righteous". James is simply saying that when we are born again, we are changed, given a new heart. I'll speak more on that in a moment.
But when we are “justified”, we are "declared righteous" by God completely by faith alone. But because we are given a new heart, we will indeed have some fruit in our lives. James recognizes this, and points out that we are “justified” (that is, "SHOWN to be righteous") by those fruits, those “works”.
This makes perfect sense, doesn't it? God declares us righteous by faith, and we eventually *demonstrate* that righteousness by our lives.
Don't let anyone confuse you by simply quoting James and saying, “See, we are saved by works plus faith”. This is the false doctrine of Galatianism.
3. The third gift of the New Covenant is a new heart.
This is the gift Paul speaks of in 2 Cor. 5:17 where he says that if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. Old things have passed away, behold all things are new.
This is the new heart spoken of by the prophets Jeremiah and Ezekiel, when God promised a New Covenant, where our heart of stone would be changed to a heart of flesh. This new heart loves Jesus Christ and hates sin.
This new heart is our very nature, our very spirit.
When we are born again, our very spirit is changed. The Bible speaks of it as a death, and a new life. Our old man, our old nature, our old spirit was crucified with Christ on the cross, in a mysterious, but very real way. And we were given a new nature, a new spirit.
Often the Church teaches that believers continue with hearts that are “deceitful above all things and desperately wicked”, denying Romans Chapter 6 which clearly says that we are “dead to sin and alive to God through Jesus Christ”.
In conjunction with this, the Church often teaches that we are still sinners by nature, not understanding Romans 7 which clearly teaches that sin is IN our members, but is not us.
For example, in Romans 7:17, Paul writes, “So now, no longer am I the one doing it [that is, the sin], but sin which dwells in me.” Of course when we sin it is "us" as a total person doing the sinning, but Paul is making the wonderful point that it is not "us" in our new nature, our spirit, that's sinful, but that when we walk by our flesh instead of by our spirit, sin which is not us, but dwells in our members, takes over, and we sin. “So now, no longer am 'I' the one doing it, but 'sin' which dwells in me.”
More now in our fourth gift of the New Covenant, where we see what it means to walk in the Spirit.
4. The fourth gift of the New Covenant is Union With Christ.
“...he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.” (1 Corinthians 6:17)
When we are born again, not only do we receive a new spirit, but the Spirit of Christ comes to indwell us. And we become one spirit with Him.
This is an amazing thing. Talk about Emmanuel, God with us! The New Covenant has provided for God IN us. It's hard to articulate the importance and wonder of this truth. “Christ in you, the hope of glory”, the Bible says.
Do we then become God, as the New Agers blasphemously teach? Of course not. But our spirits now dwell with His Spirit in these jars of clay, and the more we realize and walk according to that truth, the more amazing life is.
Now verses of Scripture that didn't mean so much come alive.
When the Bible says to be filled with the Holy Spirit, we understand that we already have the Holy Spirit, but we want Him to have greater and greater control of our whole being, body, soul and spirit.
We want Him to renew our minds through His word, and to tame our tongues, and to live His life in us so that we don't walk by the flesh.
When the Bible says that if we walk by the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh, we now understand that when we walk by the *Holy* Spirit, we also walk by *our own* new spirit.
When the Bible says to be filled with the Word, we understand that the very Spirit of God is in us to understand and apply that Word.
When the Bible says that all things are possible with God, we realize that this is the one and only God who now dwells in us.
When the Bible says that we have been crucified with Christ and it is no longer we who live, but Christ lives in us, we realize that this is literal, even while it's spiritual.
But the Church too often reduces this glorious walk of the New Covenant to merely a “new” Old Covenant of “rules to live by”, a sort of law-based behavior modification.
When they say, “Preach the Word”, they often mean “Preach the law”. But preaching the Word without an understanding of the New Covenant could be done BY unbelievers TO unbelievers. It can be deadening, instead of enlivening.
Or as the Bible puts it, "the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life". That's why we are encouraged as preachers of the New Covenant. In union with Jesus Himself, our lives have new purpose, new power, new ways. He is our life. We can never go wrong in surrendering to Him.
The Old Covenant is obsolete, as Hebrews Chapter 8 tells us.
The New Covenant has given us the Gift of Jesus Christ, and four gifts with Him:
the righteousness of God...
a new heart...
and union with our beloved Lord Jesus Christ.