The Covenants: A Follow-up to Andy’s Post on Protective Custody
Andy does a pretty good job of explaining the role of the law in this post. All sin is against the law (1John 3:4 KVJ). Law is the standard for condemnation for the unregenerate, and the standard for love without any condemnation for those born into God’s family. Protestantism keeps its followers under law, and not under love/grace (Romans 6:14).
So, ALL sin is imputed to the law, and then Christ came to end the law (Romans 10:4). And by the way, being under the condemnation of the law is what actually empowers sin (Romans 7:8-11, 1Cor. 15:56). When Christ ended the law, sin’s power to enslave was broken for those who believe in Christ. Formally, sin was able to take the condemnation of the law and create desires within us. The practice of those desires intensifies them.
Simply stated, this reclassifies a born again Christian as “weak,” not a “sinner.” God will take care of weakness when he saves the body (redemption; Romans 7:24, 8:23), but our souls are already saved. This always causes quite the controversy, but according to biblical context, Christians do not sin because we are no longer under the law and where there is no law there is no sin: Romans 3:19,20, 4:15, 5:13, 7:6,8, 10:4, 1Timothy 1:9, and Galatians 2:19. It is better stated that Christians fail to love according to the law which can bring about present consequences, but “sinning” is primarily a word that pertains to condemnation. This is the cardinal point of 1John, chapter 3.
What I would like to do in this post is add covenants to what Andy has stated. What Andy has written can aid in clearing up a lot of confusion about the Old and New Covenants. Galatians, chapter 3 is absolutely key to understanding this. The gospel is really “the Promise” before the law. Shockingly, the Promise was made to Abraham AND Christ well before the law of Moses. This is because salvation is by a promise, not the law. In regard to Christ, God promised Him that He would raise Him from the grave via the Spirit. Christ’s death and resurrection paved the way for the new birth justification apart from the law (Romans, chapter 6).
Paul argues in his letter to the Galatians that if the law has any part in justification, it is a co-life-giver with God, but there is only ONE seed…Christ. And God is “one.” The idea of God being one probably relates to God being the one and only life-giver and not necessarily a paradox concerning the Trinity.
So, why the law? As Andy shared, it is a covenant to which all sin is imputed. This is why the Bible characterizes it as a lesser covenant than the New, the New is a “better” covenant, and also a covenant that is “passing away” but not finished (Hebrews 8:6-13). The Old Covenant still serves a purpose presently; all sin is still imputed to it. Hence, when “faith comes,” all sin imputed to the law is ended/taken away. I believe Paul is using a play on words when he alludes to Christ as “faith” in Galatians, chapter 3.Since the condemnation of law empowers sin and increases it—it does serve an initial purpose of showing people their need for Christ, but when they believe
Since the condemnation of law empowers sin and increases it—it does serve an initial purpose of showing people their need for Christ, but when they believe on Christ, ALL sin imputed to it is canceled. This is why it is incorrect to say that Christ died to pay the penalty for all past, present, and future sin of the believer; there is no sin presently for the believer because the law is ended and the believer is now classified as “weak,” not a “sinner.”
We fail to love because sin, though stripped of its power, can still harass us and cause us to fail in love (“if you love me, keep my commandments”). Granted, the Bible may refer to Christians sinning in a manner of speaking, but this is not sin that condemns—it is sin that fails to love. The new birth reclassifies the definition of sin. In the same way that violation of the law at one point makes one accountable for all of it (James 2:10), love fulfills the whole law (Gal 5:14, Matt 22:40, Rom 8:3,4, Rom 13:10, 1Pet 4:8).
The New Covenant puts an end to the Old Covenant for the believer, but it is amazing how the Old Covenant is a vessel of grace (love). There is only one thing that the unbeliever has to worry about; the law. There are no hidden issues that can come back to bite anyone who believes—everything was imprisoned by the law, and the law is ended. Secondly, the law shows one’s need for Christ as the enemy of God uses it to empower sin. This is God’s mode of operation that brings good out of all things.
What else is the Old Covenant? It is a will. This is very interesting. It not only imprisons all sin, but it documents a heritance of God’s family. This also makes the Old Covenant an amazing grace vehicle. It is a protector and will and is always waiting at the precipice of salvation. It is the batter’s box of salvation. It is a preparation for the new birth. It stands ready to annihilate everything that alienated you from God.
It takes away and gives as a onetime act. It takes away sin, and releases the inheritance…
Hebrews 9:15 – Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. 16 For where a will is involved, the death of the one who made it must be established. 17 For a will takes effect only at death, since it is not in force as long as the one who made it is alive. 18 Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood. 19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, 20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.” 21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship. 22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
The following connects to the Covenants, and also speaks to God pushing all men to the precipice of salvation. Sin is described in the Bible as a master who pays wages; specifically, death wages. Sure, the unsaved can do good works, but they can only receive one wage; death. Unbelievers who do well in making practical decisions and following their consciences yield less of a wage from their present master, but the only wage paid is death.
Christ is presented as the other master who only pays life wages. Sure, Christians can sin (really a failure to love), but this only results in less life wages or what the Bible calls, “reward.” In fact, the Bible states that loving service is a wage owed to the believer by God, and God would be unjust if He didn’t pay it:
“For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do.”
Right, I know this goes over like a lead balloon in Protestant circles, but the Scripture here speaks for itself.
Here is how the Bible frames it: the new birth (the Promise) reverses freewill and enslavement. Before salvation, man is free to do good but enslaved to sin and it is the only wage he can receive. After the Promise, a believer is free to sin but enslaved to righteousness. This is the biblical definition regarding the “freewill” issue and Romans, chapter 6, is a good place to read about it. These correlations of freewill and enslavement result in two different life patterns in varying degrees.
So, since all men are born under the law, and Christ died to end the law, the Bible uses a first-century concept of purchasing slaves to illustrate the point: Christ has purchased all men with His blood. They remain an employee of the sin master by choice, but they have already been purchased by Christ. They are legally free, but choose to serve their present master because they know not that the glorious Master of love has already purchased them. He knocks on the door—if they would only open it, He would feast with them at the Father’s table. He left the glory of heaven to make the payment in hope that He can embrace them as their brother.
“…for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.”
“…who gave himself as a ransom [antilutron: “a redemption price”] for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.”
Much more can be said of Covenants, but enough for this post. This basic construct can be taken and used to plunge the depths of Paul’s (the apostle) writings in regard to the Covenants which can start to hurt your brain bigtime if you want to go that deep. It is incredibly complex and all fits together like a Swiss watch with the rest of the Bible.
Popular Christianity celebrates the simplicity of the gospel, but there is also a deliberate complexity that validates its truth. This also validates the historical-grammatical interpretation of Scripture and its call for individual accountability to the one mediator alone…Christ.
He purchased all of mankind, and stands ready to blot out the written ordinance and give them the glories of God’s kingdom forever.
Next: How the Old Covenant Saved Believers and the Role of the New Covenant