Let’s start by examining the meaning of a “COVENANT.”
For a deeper study of covenants in the Bible click here. LAW VS GRACE
Now, let’s dig in to our study of Law vs. Grace.
LAW – The Old Covenant, primarily found in the Old Testament, is about an agreement God made with mankind. Simply put, it said that God demanded absolute perfection for anyone to attain a right and open relationship with Him. He is holy, blameless, pure and perfect and we are not. Unity or oneness with Him could only be accomplished through keeping the Law, the 10 commandments and all the other legalities (613 rules to be exact) that were required. If you could keep these laws, perfectly, you were “in.” The only problem was that nobody could keep the Law, for if you broke even one part of the Law you had broken the covenant (agreement) and, in essence, you had broken the whole law…ugh! Now here’s the kicker…God never intended us to be under the Law and He knew we were incapable of keeping it perfectly. What? So why was it even created or instituted? To really get a good grasp of the subject maybe we should start by looking at some Biblical history.
THE PROBLEM – God loves mankind so much He wants to have deep, enduring, fellowship (friendship and love) with us. That’s what the garden and Adam and Eve was all about…a relationship of love. But they rejected God’s love and provision. Choosing to take matters into their own hands they went against what the Lord had told them (the way of life and protection) and chose to ignore Him and do their own thing. This rebellion, called “sin,” separated them from God’s intimacy and protection and love. God still loved them dearly, even though they continued to ignore Him and live selfish, self-destructive lives. God continued to bless them and reach out to them. Even still, they all, like sheep went astray. They were at enmity with God. Professing to be wise they became fools and rejected God for idols made to look like men and animals. They were lost and without a sense of purpose and worth. This lost and destructive situation persists and has been planted into the hearts of all of us. We all, like sheep have gone astray…there is none righteous, no not one. This condition of perpetual blindness and distance from God is the natural consequence of being separated from our loving creator who knows us and loves us and is our only source of true wisdom and provision. Everything else is a mere imitation, a counterfeit of the real thing…open intimacy with our loving gracious Creator and Lord. Sin, rejection of our creator and His leading in our lives, can only be rectified by repairing the broken relationship. However, that cannot be accomplished any longer. It’s like a girl wanting her virginity back. Once it’s gone, it’s gone forever. In the same way we have committed adultery with the world and have rejected our lover and played the harlot. The relationship is broken and the purity of faithfulness is gone forever. The universal law, written in the very fabric of creation is that sin brings separation and ultimately, death. But there is also another universal law and that is the law of substitution – a life for a life.
HIS PEOPLE – After a long time of watching mankind continue to destroy itself, God took a different approach. He chose a special group of people upon whom to focus His relational efforts and to show all mankind just how much He loves us the incredible blessing of a relationship with Him. He reached out to this group, the Jews (Israelites), not because they were special or obedient or anything. He just picked them as His focus group and, due to His relationship with them, His love and blessing would be poured out to all mankind as others chose to follow in their footsteps. The problem is that the Jews continued to ignore, accuse and otherwise reject God.
THE COVENANT -In the midst of their self-centeredness they basically rejected open, loving, fellowship with the Father and, instead, said, “Listen God, we love you but you scare us, so how about you give us something to do to prove our love for you. Give us some way to show you how awesome we are. We are so awesome that we will do anything you ask. We will show you our love by our incredible ability to jump through your hoops, just don’t ask us to actually have a real and open relationship with you…that is too, you know, touchy feely and too scary.” So, in response to their prideful request, God said, “Ok…if you’re so awesome (in your own minds), prove it! This is what it takes to play on my level…perfection. So, if you want rules, here they are, Shazam! Now get to it.” And thus the agreement was laid out and the Covenant was instituted. In essence, they rejected true love and intimacy for a self-help, personal righteousness program. And immediately they proceeded to turn their backs on the agreement, the Law and the Lord Himself.
Remember the law of substitution I mentioned at the start? Part of the Old Covenant was to make sacrifices as a way of saying, “I’m sorry, Lord. Please forgive me.” The lamb or sacrificial animal would take the punishment for our transgressions (sin) and in so doing would, symbolically, die in our place (our substitute) to establish a ceremonial cleansing so we could stand before the Lord because of the atonement (covering) of the blood. It was only a symbol, an image of what was to come in the future, but it was accepted by God as an attempt at restoration of our relationship with Him. It was not the real thing, just an image. But it showed their hearts toward God. These were just animals not humans. The only way there could be an actual substitute is if the sacrificial substitute was a human, blameless and without sin. You see if the substitute was not blameless how could it pay for my sin when it still needed to pay for its own? So animals were used to symbolize what we wanted to take place, but it was not the real deal. The law was still unmet and unsatisfied. The scales of justice were still not balanced…yet.
So, mankind was still confused and blind, separated from the love and wisdom of the Creator and without hope, meaning or purpose. Mankind was lost. But even in the midst of this darkness God had always provided a guiding light if they wanted it. The Covenant was a way of telling the story and giving hope. But still it was weak in that mankind was unable to keep the law. The Law never saved anyone.
A BETTER WAY – In the midst of this great darkness there was a great light that shone bright. This light was the way, the truth and the life. This light was Jesus. He came to earth to show us how much the father loves us and to show us what a sinless life looked like. But more than that, He came to Earth and lived a perfect life so that He could be that one perfect sacrifice. He was without sin so that he could pay the penalty for our sin. He who knew no sin became sin that we might become the righteousness of God. He showed us that even if we kept the law perfectly we were really missing the big picture. God never intended for us to fix ourselves. He never expected us to be able to keep the law but to stop trying to be good and look to Him to be our ever-present help. He was still all about the relationship not the deeds. He just wanted us to come to Him and enjoy Him and let His love flood over us. So Jesus constantly pointed people to the futility of law keeping. He taught the law but He taught it on steroids. “You heard it was said not to commit adultery, but I say if you even look at a woman with lust in your heart you have committed adultery.” Yikes! “You have heard it said not to commit murder but I say if you have hatred in your hearts toward your brother you have committed murder.” What? Jesus didn’t make things easier. He made it a thousand times harder. How is this a better way? So what are we supposed to do?
A NEW COVENANT – After living a perfect life, Jesus died on the cross. He was that perfect sacrifice. He is that lamb without spot or blemish. He who knew no sin became sin that we might become the righteousness of God. He took the hit for us. He died so we don’t have to. By His stripes we were healed. This is the way back to the Father. So it isn’t about my deeds it is about His. This is the answer to the great mystery…how can we, sinners, be restored to intimacy with a perfect holy God? By receiving the finished work of the cross. You see this was always the plan of the Father. This is what He was saying all along. Forget trying to be good or trying to earn my love or acceptance. You can’t earn what I have given freely. I love you. I always have. I have always been right here reaching out to you, loving you and calling your name. You wanted to do it all by yourself but you found you just could not do it without me. Apart from me you can do nothing. But all things are possible through me for I give you the strength you need to do it. Let me fill you and strengthen you. So, there is a new agreement, the old one is now obsolete. The new covenant is this: “Cease from your striving, be still and know that I am God. Enter into my rest cease from all your works. It is done! It is Finished! I have done what you could never do. Just say thank you and receive it. Done!”
GRACE – Undeserved, unmerited, unearned, favor. His gift to us. Just because. Because He loves us. Because He died for us. Because we needed it. Because He is God and we are not. Because He is Good. Because He is love! Because of Christ, the Old Covenant was made obsolete. He opened the door to a new way, a new agreement. This agreement or covenant is far better and way easier. Simply stated it’s like this: Whoever wants to accept that they need a savior and receive what Christ did on the Cross will be forgiven of all of their sins, past, present and future. Done! He did it.
Do you know you need it and will you take the gift? Done! It is finished. It is yours if you want it. Take the gift of life and enter into a new relationship with The Father – you are a son or daughter of God through Jesus Christ. This is the Good News! The Gospel. Take it! It’s yours, it’s free, it’s now. That was easy!
YOUR JOB – Now go and enjoy your new life; a life connected to your Father in Heaven, filled with joy unspeakable, wisdom, and peace. Now that you have reunited with your Creator the hard work begins. What hard work? I thought you said it is finished, that Jesus did it all. That is absolutely right. He did what you could never do. He died for your sin. He gave you a new life. He gave you a new heart, a heart that loves the Lord, His truth (the Bible), and His people (the Church). He gave you His Holy Spirit, who lives in you 24/7, to guide you and empower you and give you peace and wisdom and comfort. He gave you His name and His relationship with the Father. You are no longer a servant, you are a son, a full heir to the Father’s estate. All that He has is yours.
Wow, if all of that is already mine, then what is this “hard work” you talk about? I’m glad you asked that question. Here it is. Are you ready? Are you sitting down? OK…here it is. Keep sitting down. Relax. Here it is: “Make every effort to enter into His rest.” That’s it. Rest in Him. I thought you said something about hard work. My friend, this is the hardest thing in the world to do. Be still. Quit striving. Cease from your own works. Rest in His love and in His finished work. It is really finished. You have nothing to do. You are complete in Him. In Christ, you have all you need to live this life and to be holy. It is in your relationship with Jesus. Don’t make the mistake of forgetting who you are and thinking that you need to do this or do that or do anything else. You can never get more of God than what you already have, through Christ. You can never get more Holy Spirit than what you already have, through Jesus Christ. You can never be more holy than you are right now, through Jesus Christ. So, here is the new agreement with God, the NEW COVENANT – Your job, right now – your work, is to rest in Christ! Now, relax, rest and go play.
For more see “You are the Hulk“