In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away (Hebrews 8:13).
At best, what is called or referred to as “Christianity” in today’s culture is, in my opinion, a poor counterfeit of the real meaning of the word. History acknowledges that the first followers of Jesus were called “disciples” before he was crucified, and , they were initially identified as “Children of The Way.” The Bible records that the first reference to them being called Christians was in ancient Antioch: “And it was in Antioch that the disciples were first called Christians,” (Acts 11:26). It is believed that the followers of Jesus Christ who were being heavily persecuted both by Romans and Jews that fled to Antioch (modern day Turkey) were perceived by the residents of Antioch as being so much like Jesus, in His character, that they had to be much more than just “followers” of Jesus; they were Christians, “Christ-like,” more than just followers.
Christianity is not a system or religion of works, trying to earn God’s favor by what you do or don’t do. In fact, Christianity is not religion; It is a redeemed relationship with God through Jesus Christ that is received by faith and not works (Ephesians 2:8,9) and results in a New Covenant relationship of ongoing grace and love freely given by God and freely received by faith and obedience as an eternal “rest” in the finished work of the Cross of Christ Jesus. Christianity is not “doing.” It is “being.” It is allowing the Spirit of Jesus, the Christ (Savior -Redeemer) to live His life through people who have surrendered their lives to Him for that purpose. To better understand what I am saying, let’s go back to the beginning of God’s plan for the creation and purpose of man. I will try to offer a condensed version of what the sixty-six books of the Bible from Genesis to Revelation to say.
“The Book” is about God’s plan for His Son to rule and reign throughout all the created universe; to have Lordship over all the created beings, rulers and authorities, angels, and powers and principalities of the of the universe. He would do that through His “mankind” He would create in His own image and likeness so that He could be seen by all. Jesus modeled what I am explaining in many ways as recorded in the Bible, but specifically when He said, “If you have seen me, you have seen my Father” (John 14:9).
Very simply, the entire Bible is not meant to be a guidebook or manual of how to live to please God and go to heaven, or to avoid His wrath if you fail to comply with His commandments. While it is a practical, ageless, divinely inspired book for all (“Whosoever”), and it will provide guidance for the true seeker of Truth, it is so much more. It records the mind of God as He spoke through the writers of each book (“Let them hear what the Spirit has to say”). Remember, mankind (men and women) are spiritual beings with a living soul contained in a body. We are designed to communicate with God, Spirit to spirit. So, Mankind was innocent, without “sin” (the spirit of independent self) was instructed by God and told to have dominion over everything: all created creatures, fish, birds, animals, creeping things, and the earth. They were to take care of the Divine Garden in which they lived, where God walked (lived) with them daily.
The first couple of the newly created “mankind” were named Adam and Eve. Born by God in a perfect world, given a perfect occupation with all authority over everything inhabiting earth and sky, they succumbed to the temptation of God’s opposition to “Be like God” and lost their state of innocence. God knowing that this would happen already had a plan for redemption whereby His Son would provide the way back into the original garden relationship. Underlying God’s plan was
I am convinced that one of the biggest problems in the institutional Christian Church is there is not a general understanding of the two covenants of the Bible, and that most Christians are stuck in the Old Testament, still living under the Law while using New Testament verbiage.
Many don’t understand that the Old Testament was written for Jews and that its teachings continue through the Gospels of the New Testament until the resurrection of Jesus; and that the New Covenant begins with the book of Acts. Jesus had to die and be resurrected before the New Covenant (New Testament) could be enacted. At Pentecost,t he promised Holy Spirit (John 14:15-18) was given to all who would receive Him. The New Covenant was given for Jews and Gentiles alike.
The New Testament clearly tells us that Jesus Christ’s death burial and resurrection affords the true believer a new, redeemed relationship with God as a “new creation” with the old things having passed away and all things becoming new (2 Corinthians 5:17). In fact, the New Covenant brings total forgiveness of sin and an endless life for those who receive Christ Jesus as their Lord and Savior (Hebrews 8:10-13; 10:12,14).
The New Covenant was given for Jews and Gentiles, and The New Testament records the coming of Jesus into the world to actualize the New Covenant.
The New Covenant is Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27). It is the promise of God through Jeremiah (31:31ff), giving the believer a new heart with His law written on it. The New Covenant is grace. The Old Covenant was Law. There is a tendency in the institutional Church to combine the two: Law and grace–saved by grace but living the Christian life under Law through works.
The whole Bible was written for you but not to you. What is not generally understood or explained to believers of our day is that the Old Covenant was written to and for Jewish people (Hebrews) and not to Gentiles. Those of us who are non-Jewish were never meant to be under . The Old Covenant of God with the Hebrews was meant for them and them alone. Even so, for centuries, non-Jewish believers have placed themselves under the same bondage and curse of the Law (Galatians 3:10; Hebrews 9:15) that the Jews were under and still are if they haven’t received their Messiah Who bore the New Covenant sacrifice in His body and brought the offering of it through His resurrection when the New was made effective.
You must correctly discern the Word to find out what to you. It is most important to discern the difference between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant: Law vs. Grace. This is not to be confused with the Old Testament and the New Testament which are simply a collection of books and/or epistles written before and after significant points in time. What is important is that you relate to God through the covenant that meant for you.
I realize that the message of grace through the New Covenant is difficult to fully accept and live out for many professing Christians today. The Jewish converts to Christianity had a difficult time with it as addressed in the Books of Hebrews and Galatians in the New Testament of the Bible. Just like the believers in the Church of Galatia, many modern-day believers want to integrate Old Testament rituals and laws with New Testament truths. Much of the preaching and teaching in the Church today combines Old Testament traditions with New Testament truths as though the Old Covenant laws and traditions were still applicable to believers of today’s Church, who are not under the Law (of the Old Covenant) for being in right-standing with God (righteousness).
It is not that the Law is bad or no longer relevant; quite the contrary. The Law was given to the Jewish nation because they refused to live under the grace relationship that God offered and gave to Abraham. They decided that they wanted to earn their righteousness rather than live in a relationship with God that required no effort on their part, just faith and obedience. The Law was given to show the Jewish people that they could not keep the Law and they needed a Savior, One Who could offer them God’s love through grace that would give them salvation through faith alone, not works (Ephesians 2:8,9). The Apostle Paul explains the value of Law as being the force for exposing sin and the need of grace. Jesus came as the fulfillment of the Law (Matthew 5:17,18). The Law sets the standard for the world as to the holiness of God and the need to be redeemed by His love and grace. The Old Testament is invaluable to Christians as a “school teacher.” The persons, stories, rituals all point to The Messiah Who would come to deliver His people. The “typology” of the Old Testament previews Who Jesus Christ is, and how God’s people should live.
I believe that the true gospel of grace in its entirety and clarity has not been generally understood or proclaimed in the mainstream of the Christian Church since the days of Constantine, Emperor of Rome (306-312 AD) when he made Christianity the official religion of Rome. Inroads were already being made in the early Church by the Judiazers, who were trying to blend Jewish Law with the Christian gospel, and Gnostics, who taught that people should shun the material world and the Deity of Christ. They were trying to infiltrate the Church in the days of the Apostles as evidenced especially in the various epistles of Paul as he addressed the invading cancer of law and knowledge as the way to salvation. A study of Galatians and Hebrews, in the Bible, will bear this out. There has always been a remnant of true believers, who understood the grace message, and fortunately their writings are still available, and their message is being heard again in these times when the Holy Spirit is preparing His Church for the return of Jesus Christ to claim His Bride.
There are many hindrances to understanding and experiencing New Covenant life of grace and love: the traditions of men, including denominational creeds and traditions, reluctance to surrendering to the grace message, the desire for control, the desire of the flesh to earn God’s favor, and a desire to have a comfortable, controllable religion, all of which lead to defeat and the lack of true Christian reality and power.
To summarize: Christianity is not an institutional religion organized and controlled by the wisdom of humankind: Christianity is a personal spiritual relationship initiated by God and received by faith for “all who receive Him.” Old Testament Israelites under the Old Covenant, believed God lived in buildings (Temple, Tabernacle, Synagogue) where He could be visited, and where He allowed priests to communicate with Him for the people. In the New Testament, under the New Covenant, God lives in union with those who have received Jesus Christ, and He does not live in houses made by human hands (Acts7:48). In fact, Scripture says that our bodies are the vessels where God resides (1 Corinthians 6:19), that the Church, who are true followers of Christ, is the Body of Christ. In His redeemed is where He resides. The Church is not a building; it is a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ. “God is Spirit, and His worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth.”