Tuesday, December 23, 2008
Why The New Covenant Is Unilateral (Notes)
The Bible is what we call the Word of God. The Scripture itself says that it is “god-breathed” or “inspired” by God. Working through ordinary men, God spoke in a miraculous and mysterious way, through the writing of these men, so that we have a record of the actual thoughts, the very heart, of God. In what we call the Holy Bible.
And as we read and study this Bible, this Word of God, one of the most important things we can do is to “rightly divide” the word of truth.
2 Timothy 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth."
Cutting Straight The Word of God
That phrase “rightly dividing” literally means “cutting straight”. We need to cut straight or rightly divide the Word, in the sense that we see the divisions that God Himself has made as He progressively revealed Himself over many hundreds of years.
In one sense, it’s absolutely stunning that so many men over so many hundreds of years could write something that fits together in a way that makes sense. At least it makes sense if we “rightly divide” it. If we don’t rightly divide it, then some things don’t make sense.
God at various times and various places, with various peoples, sometimes had different plans, different commands, different expectations, and different ways of dealing with those people.
The Old Covenant And The New
And one of the most important ways that we need to “rightly divide” the Word is regarding the difference between the Mosaic Covenant, or Old Covenant, and the New Covenant.
Let’s read from the book of Hebrews something about the New Covenant, and then we’ll look at some comparisons with the Old Covenant.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.
For finding fault with them, He says, "Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah;
"Not like the covenant which I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and I did not care for them, says the Lord.
"For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those day, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.
...."For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more."
When He said, "A new covenant" He has made the first obsolete. (Heb. 8:7-13, selections)
I’d like you to notice three things from this passage:
1. The Old Covenant is obsolete.
--doesn’t mean we can’t learn anything from it
--well worth studying
--what we want to know is the heart of our Lord, don’t we?
--there is much about Him that we can learn even from the Old Covenant
--but it is obsolete, even for the Jew (it was never meant for the Gentile)
--vs 13, “becoming obsolete” refers to 70 A.D. destruction of the temple
2. The Old Covenant has been replaced by the New Covenant
"When He said, 'A new covenant' He has made the first obsolete...." (Heb. 8:13)
--although promised to Israel, the Gentiles have been grafted in, as Rom. Chapter 11 tells us, and we Gentiles who believe in Jesus Christ, are now included in this great New Covenant.
We see this in such passages as:
1 Cor. 11:25, "In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'"
2 Cor. 3:6, "...who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."
3. There is a reason why the New Covenant replaced the Old, and why The New Covenant is a BETTER Covenant.
Heb. 8:6, “But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises."
So what is the reason why the New Covenant replaced the Old, and why it’s a better covenant?
Hebrews 8:7,8, "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says: 'Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah."
What does He mean, “finding fault with them”.
Well, it simply means this. The Old Covenant was a bi-lateral covenant. That means it had conditions for both sides. This was expressed many times in the Old Covenant laws, which said over and over this basic message:
“If you follow these laws, you will be blessed. If you don’t follow these laws, you will be cursed.”
Now there are a couple problems with that, to put it mildly.
The Problems With The Old Covenant
1. First, it couldn’t save.
There were over 600 laws under the Old Covenant, and the bible makes it clear that if you broke one single law, one time, it was just as if you’d broken them all, and that would keep you from earning salvation.
And obviously, no one could keep all the law, all the time.
Most couldn’t keep any of the law all the time, and some could hardly keep any of the law any of the time.
So the Law couldn’t save.
2. Secondly, the Law was a great burden.
If you read through Exodus and Leviticus and Deuteronomy, you will literally thank God that you are not under the burden of the 600 laws proscribed there, many with a simple penalty: death.
But even if you made the attempt, of course you would fail over and over, at least regarding the perfection the Law required.
And because you would fail, the sacrificial system itself was a burden. Actual rivers of blood flowed from the slain animals sacrificed to cover sins.
3. And that brings up a third problem. There could be no forgiveness of sins, only the covering of them.
Only the temporary covering of sins, because "it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins." (Heb. 10:4)
And so the sacrifices had to be done over and over and over, with never any real assurance that it was enough. At times God Himself said, your sacrifices make me sick, because your hearts aren’t right.
Then Came Jesus
Ah, but then came Jesus. Then came the Lamb of God who became the final sacrifice, the once for all sacrifice, the One who gave His blood that truly could take away sins.
In came the New Covenant.
The New Covenant is not a bi-lateral Covenant. The bi-lateral Old Covenant failed, in that man was unable to keep his end of the the Covenant. So a better Covenant was put in place. And the one sure defect was left out, namely, dependence on man doing his part.
The Unilateral New Covenant
The New Covenant is UNI-lateral, that is, it was planned, instituted, carried out, fulfilled, and maintained by God. It is not a Covenant between God and man, with each having conditions to make the Covenant "work". It is not of the "letter", but of the "Spirit", and thus cannot fail.
It has His laws placed into the hearts and minds of His people, and He causes them to walk in His ways. It causes man to die to the Law (the very *principle* of Law), so that he is no longer under Law, but under Grace. And this very construct insures that the Law, all Law, is fulfilled, not by the [always shaky] performance of man, but by the [always sure] performance of God.
1 Cor 11:25, "In the same manner He also took the cup after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in My blood. This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.'"
2 Cor 3:6, "...who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life."