This morning I was thinking about the New Covenant. Because I’ve been involved for years in the Messianic movement, I wondering what the Christian understanding is of the New Covenant and its terms. So I went on a search.
A covenant is a legally binding contract between two parties. Examples of covenants are husband and wife, business partners, landlord and tenant, God and man. For the most part, I found most Christian sites accept this as truth. I also found a lot I could agree with, but there sure is a lot of misunderstanding out there.
God describes the covenant much like a marriage “You shall be my people and I will be your God” He then lays out the terms of the covenant – how each party is to behave, and what each party’s responsibilities are toward one another. Pretty cut and dry, don’t you think?
Well, I found this on Grace Communion International:
When Jesus announced a new covenant in his own blood, he was announcing something dramatically new! Never before had God made a covenant using human blood. The previous covenants had used animal blood. God did not allow human sacrifices. Jesus was not announcing a renewal of the old covenant, or a slight revision. Instead, it was a completely new covenant, made in a way forbidden by the old covenant! Simply in making the new covenant, Jesus was announcing the fact that the old covenant no longer applied.
Oh my…really?! According to them, God started participating in pagan HUMAN sacrifice to institute a new way of doing things! Guess that means we are now free to sacrifice our kids on the altar of Molech – or Convenience – or whatever god you choose.
Sorry…I lost it. It just amazes me how we humans (myself included) come up with all sorts of crazy nonsense to fit our own way of thinking. But seriously, when you throw out the totality of the Torah, then anything goes.
- Eating pork is okay
- Worshipping on whatever day you want is okay
- Dressing provocatively is okay
- Having sex without marriage is okay
- Aborting babies in the mother’s womb is okay
- Having sex with the same sex is okay
- Marrying someone of the same sex is okay
Oh, and having sex with kids, animals, and anyone or anything you want is also okay.
Listen, God told Adam and Eve that their sin would cause death. Death, losing the gift of eternal life given in the Garden, is the result of sin. In the Torah, God provided a substitute for that death penalty – the blood of an animal (because the life is in the blood). Whenever His people sinned and repented, He forgave them. However, they still owed to the Creator for disobedience. The animal paid that debt. (Now before you go thinking this is a mean Creator, remember He is faithful and just. Justice requires payment.)
After they were cleansed and forgiven, God’s people eventually sinned again, because as my rabbi says, “Sin gets on stuff.” And God knows that. So what did He do? He came and made a better covenant.
Grace Communion went on to say, “Jesus did what we could not do, and he sacrificed himself for us as a gift, as grace.”
Have they not heard of Arlington National Cemetery? It’s filled with people who sacrificed themselves as a gift for us, to ensure our freedom – even people who burn the flag!
The claim that self-sacrifice is the thing Jesus did that no other human has, is invalid. So what is so different about Jesus’s blood and his sacrifice? What sets him apart from the men and women who die defending our country? What sets him apart from the animals who suffered because of our sin?
Jesus was fully God and fully man. God came down and paid the price for all the sin of the entire world – past, present, and future. But is that all He did? Did He only make life convenient for us so we wouldn’t have to take the time and deal with the mess of sacrificing an animal every time we sinned?
Absolutely not! Jesus’s blood did what goats and bulls could not do. He provided us with an internal change of heart. A heart that no longer wants to sin. A heart that is circumcised.
He tells us in Jeremiah how. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.”
Yet according to Grace Communion, God did not renew that covenant, but started an entirely new one. (Which at the risk of sounding blasphemous I must ask, doesn’t that make Him fickle and unreliable?)
When I read Paul’s letters, I don’t hear a different covenant, I hear him say in Romans and Corinthians that Jesus did what the written Torah could not do because of our sinful nature. I hear him say that He made us new creatures, that old, sinful nature is dead and buried.
Grace Communion goes on to say that “To enjoy the new covenant, we admit that we can’t earn our way into God’s presence — we will never be good enough — but we instead rely on his mercy.
In summary, the new covenant is the relationship we have with God, made possible by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ — a relationship based on faith and grace rather than on works of the law.”
And there’s the problem with Christian thinking apart from 1st century Judaic belief. It does not understand that works never earned a relationship with God. A relationship with God always depended on faith in Him, and in His mercy and love.
When we look at the Exodus story, we see a clear picture of what God’s saving grace looks like. God first saved His people from slavery, and then He gave them the covenant that shows what his people look like and how they should live.
Jesus confirmed this covenant when he was asked to give the greatest commandment. His answer, recorded in Matthew 22, quoted Deuteronomy and Leviticus. “You must love the Lord your God with your whole mind, your whole being, and all your strength.” “You must love your neighbor as yourself.”
The relationship between God and his people was always based on faith and grace – never on works. When He cut the covenant with Abraham, God’s expectation of Abraham was faith and faithfulness.
When He cut the covenant with His people at Sinai, God’s expectation of them was faith and obedience.
When He cut the covenant with David, God’s expectation was obedience.
When He announced the covenant at the Last Seder, God’s expectation was faith and obedience. Did not Jesus say, “If you love me, obey me?”
In all the covenants of the Bible – God acted, people accepted, then entered into a relationship. Because of what Jesus did, this better covenant relationship is only ‘better’ because He gave us the internal ability to obey Him – the Living Torah.