Category Archives: The Old Covenant

From When To If

If my title has given you hope that this might be a welcome diversion from the many troubles of the day, I am pleased to tell you that this is much more than that. This is about a transition that ultimately is God’s answer to all the troubles of the day, which spiritual detective work uncovers to be the doing of that one little three-letter culprit sin.

Multitudes in our world about us have dismissed the very concept of sin. Christians on the other hand acknowledge sin and are thankful that God in Christ has forgiven them their sins. Yet sin is so much with us that they are sure we can never really be rid of it till we die. I don’t think I could count the number of times I’ve heard Bible believing Christians confidently assuring me (and themselves at the same time, I suspect) that as long as we are in mortal flesh we will always sin. In the minds of so many it’s incredulous, presumptuous, even blasphemous, to maintain otherwise.

But what does our Bible actually say, fellow Bible believer? To insist on this completely misses the fundamental difference between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant, which God did away with because there was something it could not do.

Let’s look first at a verse from the Old Testament, which, with additions over the centuries, was the Bible of the Old Covenant people of God. This verse is part of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple he built when the Old Covenant was still in effect.

When they sin… 

When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to a land far or near… (2 Chr. 6:36 NKJV)

That’s all we need to read for what we are considering. Here is that same fragment from Young’s Literal Translation:

When they sin against Thee–for there is not a man who sinneth not—and Thou hast been angry with them, and hast given them before an enemy, and taken them captive have their captors, unto a land far off or near… (2 Chr. 6:36 YLT)

Do you see what this is saying? “When they sin against You…” Some of our English versions (including the old King James Version) have if here, but a check into the Hebrew original reveals that when is the correct translation. The context itself requires when, because Solomon immediately adds, “for there is no one who does not sin.” In other words, it’s inevitable that the people under that covenant would at some point sin against God. It’s because the Old Covenant had no provision to do away with indwelling sin.

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. (Heb. 10:3)

That stands to reason, doesn’t it. To actually take away sins would require a better sacrifice than the blood of an animal.

Now this from the New Testament, and you will see immediately the significance of the title.

If anyone sins…

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.  (1 Jn. 2:1,2 NKJV)

Again, the same passage from Young’s Literal Translation.

My little children, these things I write to you, that ye may not sin: and if any one may sin, an advocate we have with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one, and he–he is a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world…  (1 Jn. 2:1,2 YLT)

If anyone sins…” So we are not in the days of when anymore. Solomon if he were with us today could not say “there is no one who does not sin” for there is provision in the New Covenant that was not there in the Old. Now it is not when. If. And here the context itself requires if. John has just said that what he has written is “so that you may not sin.” What a marvel, how can this be? What is it that John has written? He has written of God’s provision for the walk free of sin—walking in fellowship with Him in the light in which is the continual cleansing of the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:5). What marvellous light. That’s what Peter calls it. “Marvellous light” (1 Pt. 2:9). It is new-covenant light. Under the New Covenant it is not a matter of when one will sin; those who are in covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ are able to walk free of sin all their days, though yet in mortal flesh.

In addition to the Scriptures in 1 John, many other New Testament passages bear witness to this provision—that because of what Christ accomplished on the cross in putting away sin “by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26), and making that accomplishment ours by baptizing us into Himself, sinning is no longer inevitable.

 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:1-4 NKJV)

For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:10,11 NKJV)

And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Rom. 6:18 NKJV)

I’ve just quoted excerpts here; please read that whole chapter carefully and prayerfully—and believingly—as well as the following one and the chapter between them (Romans 7).

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1-4 NKJV)

Walking according to the Spirit—this is just what John is thinking of with his words about walking in the light. This is God’s new-covenant provision to walk the sin-free walk.

There are many other passages as well. Yet, as I said, I don’t know how many times I have heard Christians who love their Bibles say that as long as we are in mortal flesh we will surely sin, we’ll only be free of sin when we die and go to Heaven. If that is so, the death of Adam is more powerful than the death of Christ. And if that is so, the New Covenant is no better than the Old, and Christ died in vain.

He did not die in vain. The New Covenant is better than the Old.

But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… (Heb. 8:6-8 KJV)

Please read that whole chapter as well. Oh, read, read your Bible, and the Holy Spirit helping you, believe what you are reading. God has done away with the Old Covenant, and brought in a New Covenant with provision—the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus—enabling one to live without sinning. What a wonder. It is not necessary to sin. It is not inevitable.

But it is possible to sin, for we continue to be moral beings with the ability to choose, and we live in a world that is arrayed against the righteous. This means temptation, and therefore the possibility of sinning. But if one does happen to sin, God also has provision for this. We have an Advocate before Him who is Himself the propitiation—very, very briefly, the penalty payer—for our sins; therefore God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). Note this, not only faithful, but faithful and just because of that propitiation—He would actually be (perish the thought) unrighteous not to do so—to forgive and to cleanse so that we may be restored to fellowship with Him and continue our course in His new-covenant light.

Wonderful provision… if it is necessary. How tragic, then, how worthy of great lamentation, that the greatest transition that has ever taken place in the history of man continues to be questioned, even denied, by so many believers. Let it no longer be so with us, beloved. Let us be stirred, awakened, to a fuller faith that is grounded upon the word of God. Let us become more fully believers in Jesus, believers who know that the weakness of mortal flesh is not too strong a hindrance for those in new-covenant relationship with God, those who, abiding in Christ, walk in the Spirit, walk in the light, walk free of sin, “walk even as He walked” (1 Jn. 1:6).

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A note anticipating a question about 1 Jn. 3:9, which in the King James Version is,  “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” This cannot be saying that it is morally impossible for a born again person to sin, for this would put the born again beyond the Son of God Himself, who certainly could have sinned. For we are told that He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). If Jesus was not beyond temptation, He was certainly not beyond being able to sin. Yet He did not sin. Thank you, Jesus. Further to that, the Greek tenses in 1 Jn. 3:9 make clear that this is not stating that it is impossible for a born again person to commit a sin. The sense of the verbs is that sinning is not a continual practice, is not “hard wired” in them, as it was before they were born again. Here is 1 Jn. 3:9 in the English Standard Version: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” And so the born again are by the grace of God put on the same footing as the Son of God. They are free of sin. Yet they may be tempted. And since they may be tempted, they may sin. But if they sin…

The Shemitah Holds My Future?

Apparently the hearts of many Christians are all astir again these days over Jonathan Cahn’s exciting new book, The Mystery of the Shemitah. The blurb on the book’s  cover calls it, “The 3,000-Year-Old Mystery That Holds the Secret of America’s Future, the World’s Future, and Your Future!”

Wow.  I better get a copy.  But fast; its sellers warn that it’s “flying off the shelves.”

Cahn’s previous book The Harbinger was a “runaway bestseller” on the New York Times Christian books list.  Looks like this one is on the way to joining it.

What is the shemitah? It’s the sabbath year as laid out in Leviticus.

When ye come into the land which I give you, then shall the land keep a sabbath unto the LORD.
Six years thou shalt sow thy field, and six years thou shalt prune thy vineyard, and gather the fruit thereof;
But in the seventh year shall be a sabbath of rest unto the land, a sabbath for the LORD: thou shalt neither sow thy field or prune thy vineyard (Lev. 25:2-4).

Failure to keep this and other things set forth in the Law would bring judgment (Lev. 26:34, 1 Chr. 36:21).

And so Cahn propounds that it is failure to observe the shemitah (pronounced shmeeta) that has caused cyclical devastation every seven years in the earth.  I have not read the book but saw it advertised on Charisma News along with an interview Sid Roth (It’s Supernatural) had with Jonathan Cahn.  So I watched the interview.  Cahn proclaimed to a very excited Roth that it is failure to keep the shemitahs that has brought down judgments upon the world in seven-year cycles going a long way back.  He listed several.  It included the world wars.  The Great Depression.  9/11 in 2001.  The last one was the financial crisis of 2008.  Apparently the next shemitah is from September 25, 2014 to September 13, 2015, which could bring down on us… who knows what.

There is only one little problem with this teaching.  It is entirely false.  It is derived from a covenant—the old covenant— that is no longer in effect.  Don’t take my word for it; get it straight from the writers of the New Testament:

 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness (Heb. 7:18 NKJV).

In that He says, “A New Covenant,” He has made the first obsolete (Heb. 8:13 NKJV).

If we dare to believe our New Testament, then, the only covenant now extant with God is the New Covenant.  The covenant God made with the fathers (Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob) is not a covenant independent of Christ; it is fulfilled in Christ and His New covenant (Acts 13:32-34, Gal. 4:16).  And (according to the verses quoted above) the covenant God made with Israel under the shadow of Mount Sinai is obsolete.  It is null and void.  It is no longer in effect.  According to an online site on legal definitions I checked out, “a void contract imposes no legal rights or obligations upon the parties and is not enforceable by a court. It is, in effect, no contract at all.”  And so the Sinai covenant, the old covenant, because it is void, because it has been annulled, cannot be enforced.  That would be tantamount to trying to enforce a business partnership that has been legally disbanded, or a marriage contract that has been nullified, or trying on the basis of an old title deed to lay claim to land that has been sold to someone else.

God has brought in a BETTER covenant now (Heb. 7:22, 8:6)—better not only for Gentiles, but for Jews (with whom, actually, it was first made).  As a result, the old contract is no longer in effect.

But even if the Old Covenant were still in effect there is not the slightest suggestion anywhere in the Bible that the shemitah was in force for any nation other than Israel.  In fact the Old Covenant was a covenant God made with Israel alone.  How then could the shemitah be something that “holds the secret of America’s future, the world’s future, and your future?”

I find it very distressing, even frightening, that so many Christians are being duped by this kind of teaching.

Distressing… because it is evidence of how grievously lacking they are in their understanding of the basic difference between the Old Covenant and the New; there is such a blindness, it seems, as to the astonishing terms of the New Covenant.  And many believe God still holds out the Old Covenant for Jews that don’t believe in Jesus, and they can still come to Yahweh on the basis of that covenant. It is a teaching that does despite to the blood of Christ.

Frightening… because (and I know I am generalizing) this present generation of charismatic/evangelical Christians has strayed far, far from the truth– God’s controversy is with their teachers– and as a result they are abysmally ill prepared for the hour that is at hand. I tell you, there is trouble at the door.  Great trouble.   And it is going to result in the great and frightening collapse of a realm of Christianity that ought to have prepared its people for that hour, but did not.

The Testimony Of Jesus Christ (Pt. 2)

Last time we talked of the Testimony in the days of the Old Covenant.  God’s testimony in the Old Covenant was the Law.

For He established a testimony in Jacob, and appointed a law in Israel… (Ps. 78.5).

Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples (Isa. 8.16).

Under the Old Covenant the law and the testimony were equated, were one—and God bore witness to this with His Presence over the tabernacle.

Now let’s look at certain New Testament scriptures that talk of the Testimony.

Paul, writing to the Corinthians:

And I, brethren, when I came to you, came not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, declaring unto you the testimony of God.
For I determined not to know anything among you save Jesus Christ and Him crucified (1 Cor. 2.1,2).

What an astonishing thing to say.  This man, a Jew steeped in the law and the prophets, comes to Gentiles with “the testimony of God.”  Which is?  The Old Covenant Law, the Torah?  No.  Not any longer.  Jesus Christ, and Him crucified.  The New Covenant testimony of God is all bound up in the Lord Jesus Christ.

The scribes and Pharisees, Jesus told His disciples, sat “in Moses’ seat” (Mt. 23.2).  They felt confident they were the custodians of the testimony—the word of God, the Torah, the Scriptures.  And yes, it’s true: to them God had committed the oracles of God.  But when the True Oracle came into their midstthe living Word of God, this Man born of the Spirit, baptized in the Spirit, walking in the Spirit, and thereby witnessing faithfully of His Father, doing only what He saw His Father doing, speaking only what He heard His Father speaking—this One became the faithful and true Witness—the testimony of God.

He was crucified for that testimony.

In The Revelation we find in a number of places the phrase, “the testimony of Jesus Christ.”  And we find it coupled with “the word of God.”

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass; and he sent and signified it by his angel unto his servant John:
Who bare record of the word of God, and of the testimony of Jesus Christ, and of all things that he saw (Rev. 1.1,2).

I, John, who also am your brother, and companion in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was in the isle that is called Patmos, for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ” (Rev. 1.9).

John is not talking of two different things for which he was banished to Patmos—expounding the word of God, and then going out and testifying, witnessing, about Jesus Christ.  What he is saying is that the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ are one and the same thing.  Someone may say they have the word of God, pointing to the Bible.  And indeed, Jesus the Son of God said the Scriptures were those that testified of Him (Jn. 5.39).  But it is He Himself who is the Word of God.  Merely having the words of Scripture or of doctrine is not the kind of testimony that got John in trouble.  Just as Jesus Christ the Word of God was crucified for the testimony He bore, it was “the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ” that landed John in Patmos.

Now we come to the thing that is of the utmost importance.  How was it possible for John to say he had the testimony of Jesus Christ?  Jesus was in Heaven when John wrote about being in Patmos for the word of God and the testimony of Jesus Christ.  If Jesus was in Heaven, how could He give His testimony here on earth?  And how could John have this testimony?  It was because John had the Witness in himself.

He that believeth on the Son of God hath the witness (the Testimony) in himself (1 Jn. 5.10).

The Witness?  What is this speaking of?

And it is the Spirit that beareth witness, because the Spirit is truth” (1 Jn. 5.6).

This, really, is the greatest of wonders.  What can be more wonderful than to have Jesus Christ the Son of God Himself in us?  John had this!  He had the Spirit of Christ—the Witness—in Himself.  He had been born again, and had been baptized in the Holy Spirit and fire.  The Spirit of God, the Spirit of the living Word, dwelt in him.  No doubt John knew much of the letter of the word by memory—the Old Testament scriptures.  But beyond that, the living word of God was dwelling in John, abiding in him, as he taught in one of his letters.  “…The word of God abideth in you…” (1 Jn. 2.14).  He is speaking of the Testimony—the Witness—the Spirit of Jesus Christ the word of God.

It is the Spirit of God who has the Testimony of Jesus Christ the Word of God.  The Spirit of God here in the earth is the faithful witness of Jesus Christ the Word of God at the right hand of God in the heavens.  John had this Spirit—this Testimony.  And so John’s own testimony, because of the Spirit of Christ that dwelt in Him, was nothing less than the Testimony of Jesus Christ.

What about you and me, then?  Do we have the Spirit of Christ?  We are to bear that same Testimony, then, that same expression of the word of God that manifests the living Christ in and through our lives.

What was the testimony of Jesus Christ the Son of God when He was here?  He did what He saw the Father doing.  He spoke what He heard Him speaking.  He revealed the Father.  He was the faithful and true Witness.  He bore witness of the Father.  He said:

He that hath seen me hath seen the Father (Jn. 14.9).

That was His testimony.  And correspondingly, He said:

But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, He shall testify of Me, and ye also shall bear witness… (Jn. 15.26,27).

What a wonder.  The Comforter, the Holy Spirit, testifies of Jesus Christ.  And because of the Holy Spirit we too are to bear this same precious testimony—which is nothing less than the shining forth of the Lord Jesus Christ Himself—as we too are faithful to do only what the Holy Spirit is doing, and speak only what He is speaking.

…So that—I tremble at this word—you and I by the empowering grace of God are ultimately able to say, “He that has seen me has seen Jesus Christ.”

Do you see why I am held in thrall by this phrase—the testimony of Jesus Christ?

Beloved, this ought to provoke us to a deeper seeking.  This is our greatest need—the testimony of Jesus Christ.  Because oh, how men need to see Him!  Many of us claim to have the baptism of the Holy Spirit.  No doubt we do—in measure.  But to what extent do we have this beautiful pure testimony of Jesus Christ among men?  Can we say yet that, “He that has seen me has seen Jesus?”  You say that’s blasphemy?  But that is the whole purpose of the Holy Spirit.  It’s only blasphemy if the Holy Spirit is not capable of fully and faithfully bearing witness to the Son of God.  Let me ask.  Does the Holy Spirit bear a pure and full and faithful witness to Christ?  It’s blasphemy to say He cannot.

But if the Holy Spirit bears this faithful testimony, so too shall those who are baptized—immersed—in the Holy Spirit.  We who have the Spirit of Christ—He is given to enable us to have the Testimony of Jesus Christ, to shine forth the Testimony of Jesus Christ—nothing less.

Why, then, do we so readily settle for less? Oh, how men need to see Him!

Remember, though.  The Greek word for testimony is marturion—from which we get our English martyr.

There is a price tag on this Testimony.  Jesus was crucified for this Testimony.  John was in exile in Patmos for this Testimony.  We who have this Testimony will also pay that price—even here in our so-called free Christian nations.

The Testimony Of Jesus Christ (Part 1)

I have been held in thrall for a long time by the phrase, “the testimony of Jesus Christ.” (You know the meaning of enthral. It means “to hold in or reduce to slavery, to hold spellbound.” A thrall is a servant slave, a bondman.)

And so—the testimony of Jesus Christ. It’s an absolutely captivating phrase. To live a life of liberty outside the thraldom of this Testimony is a life that has been sadly wasted.

The phrase, or a similar one, appears in the New Testament a number of times. But first we need to find out what “the testimony” was in Old Covenant days.

Stephen while giving the testimony for which he was stoned—it was the testimony of Jesus Christ—said this:

Our fathers had the tabernacle of witness in the wilderness, as He had appointed, speaking unto Moses, that he should make it according to the fashion that he had seen (Acts 7.44).

“The tabernacle of witness.” My interlinear shows the article in the Greek: “the tabernacle of the testimony.”

The tabernacle of the testimony was among our fathers in the wilderness, as commanded He who spoke to Moses, to make it according to the model which he had seen.

And so the tabernacle in the wilderness was called “the tabernacle of the testimony.” Why so? We find our answer in Exodus.

And thou shalt put the mercy seat above upon the ark; and in the ark thou shalt put the testimony that I shall give thee.
And there I will meet with thee, and I will commune with thee from above the mercy seat, from between the two cherubims which are upon the ark of the testimony, of all things which I will give thee in commandment unto the children of Israel (Ex. 25.22).

The tabernacle was called the tabernacle of the testimony because in it was “the testimony” that God commanded was to be placed in the ark—the ten commandments.  This “testimony” was placed in the ark, and therefore the ark itself was called “the ark of the testimony.” And because the ark of the testimony was in the Holy of holies of the tabernacle, the tabernacle itself was called “the tabernacle of the testimony.”

And so the “ten words” in the ark covered by the mercy seat—this was the testimony of God. They summed up the whole of the Torah, the Law. This was God’s testimony revealing who He was, what He was like, the kind of God He was. If Israel would keep this Law, this would be God’s testimony among men. By keeping His commandments, by keeping this Law, they would “bear witness” to God, to the kind of God He was. In this way men would come to see the kind of God He was.  “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me… Remember the Sabbath day to keep it holy… Thou shalt not kill… Thou shalt not commit adultery…” and so on. Keeping these commandments—not just reciting them—would result in a true portrayal of God among men, a true testimony of God.

The tragic thing is that Israel never did come to realize that this “testimony” in the ark was actually a testimony against them, as Moses later told them. For they never could keep this testimony, as much as they gloried in having it.

Take this book of the law, and put it in the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against thee (Dt. 31.26).

That was the Old Covenant testimony—a testimony that forever left Israel a guilty people with no means to relieve that guilt but by the blood of bulls and goats. How dismal if God had left things there. But He didn’t. When we come into the New Covenant we see the testimony of God linked up with a wonderful Name—our Lord Jesus Christ.

More next time. And you will see why I am enthralled.

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