Could mere obedience to law bring about forgiveness of sins and salvation? God’s whole plan of salvation is promised and understood through the Covenants. Many denominations have different beliefs, however, thanks to the Covenants, all believe that the only condition for salvation that He requires is faith. These Covenants were and are still very necessary because they convey God’s promise. An understanding of the Covenants helps build a person’s faith and gives one a much better basis for understanding of the Bible. The need for the Covenants was pointed out by God in Romans 3:23, where He said, “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” In the Old Testament, the believers did not have God’s Spirit in them as a permanent gift. The laws, of the Old Covenant, were broken by Gods people, even though, both Covenants made clear that the way to be declared “not guilty” by Him was not for good work or deeds, but by faith.
Whenever God makes a promise or gives man a commandment or a prohibition, He makes a covenant with man. This type of contract usually comes about through negotiations. Once an agreement is reached, it is usually sealed in some formal way. Thus, it becomes binding to everyone. The Old Covenant was essentially a contract between God and the Israelites (His chosen people). He sent Moses to these people to convey his message, which was “If ye will obey my voice indeed, and keep my covenant, then ye shall be a peculiar treasure unto me above all people; for all the earth is mine: and ye shall be unto me a kingdom of priests and an holy nation” (KJV) Exodus 19:5 – 6. The physical sign of following the Old Covenant was circumcision.
The Mosaic Law was a central part of the Old Covenant. This law was the moral record of how God’s people were supposed to live. The vehicle by which God taught people about their own sinfulness and their need for a savior was the Law in the Old Testament. However, Paul, along with the rest of the apostles, taught that salvation was impossible through obedience to the Law, even under the Old Covenant. Paul stated this in Romans 3:20, “because of the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law comes the knowledge of sin.” He also goes on in Romans 4 to show that not even Abraham, the father of the nation of Israel, was justified before God through faith, not by works. In Timothy, when Paul uses the words “Scriptures” or “sacred writings”, he is referring to the Old Testament, which of course, included the Law.
There were several people who followed the Old Covenant, such as Abraham, Isaac, Joseph, Jacob and Moses. One such person who was good and followed everything God told him to do was Moses. The Bible makes it clear that Moses is founder of the Jewish people and Judaism, the faith, but that Abraham is the founder of the nation. As the leader of the Jews he freed them from slavery in Egypt, as well as protected them from the wrath of God, and negotiated with God on their behalf. Moses is said to be the author of the first five books of the Bible, best known as the “Torah”. He is the greatest of the Hebrew prophets, who had many “face to face” meetings with God. God had Moses come up the mountain, where he received the stone tablets (the 10 Commandments) to take down to His people and thus interpret these laws to them. God trusted and believed in Moses because he always followed His direction and never, was there any doubt of Moses’ faith.
God put both the Old Covenant and the New Covenant into motion and He set the terms. The ultimate goal of both covenants is “they will truly be my people and I will be their God” Jeremiah 31:33. Jesus was more concerned about the condition of a person’s heart rather than their religion. The Jews clearly thought that they could obtain salvation by keeping the law. Jesus taught that external conformity to the Law did not bring about righteousness, however, He lived out the Law perfectly and we are to follow his example. One of the differences in the covenants is our motivation to obey the Law. God gave the law for us to keep and through our failure to do so, we would realize the only way to please Him would be through faith in His son, Jesus Christ. Paul wrote, “therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” Galatians 3:24.
As we know, God wrote the Old Covenant on stone tablets and had Moses bring them to His people, but he wrote the New Covenant “on their hearts” so that the knowledge of Him would be inward and personal. The laws of the Old Covenant were broken because they were conditional; yet the New Covenant wasn’t conditional at all – through faith, all is forgiven. The Old was external and transient and limited, with the structure and character of a legal agreement. The New, which is internal, is written on the open hearts of “all who know Him.” The temple and teachers, as in the Old Covenant, will not be needed, for God will dwell in their hearts and lead and direct them.
The first mention of the New Covenant in the Bible is in Jeremiah 32: 31-34. The New Covenant was marked by a people who knew God, a people who had God’s laws written on their hearts; and people whose sins were forgiven. So under the New Covenant, one enters into a relationship with God through faith in Christ. Baptism in water is the physical sign of the New Covenant. At the last supper Christ said that the New Covenant was instituted by his blood; his death on the cross for our sins. “And in the same way He took the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in My blood’ ” Luke 22:20.
The key to understanding the New Covenant is its message concerning the heart. The New Covenant has the character of a personal relationship. No conditions have to be met, one only needs to believe in Jesus Christ and he will experience the knowledge of God in his heart. John 3:16 tells us that God sent his only son into the world so that anyone who believes in him will not perish but have eternal life. He made this great sacrifice to give us eternal life because he loved us. Jesus spoke of this “gift” in John 4:10 where “He replied, ‘If you only knew what a wonderful gift God has for you, and who I am, you would ask me for some “living” water! Whoever accepts this gift will have life everlasting.’ ”
The “knowledge of good and evil” is a definition for or the same as the Law. Adam moved us from under Grace and Christ came to move us back so that we might again live under Grace. Paul says to consider ourselves dead to sin but alive to God, because He has provided a tree of life for the spirit of man. Thus meaning that when we accept Christ, our old nature of sin is crucified. There is nothing more frustrating than to want to be good and yet only accomplish evil. It is Grace that sets us free and it is the free gift of God by faith and not of works.
Is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Romans 8:1. We need to know how to walk after the Spirit. God’s provision was complete. The Comforter was delivered to us after the resurrection, thus, it only makes sense that the Spirit is with us at all times, once we know how to walk after the Spirit and not after the flesh. Reacting to the old nature produces death, but reacting to God’s nature produces life and peace.
People put hope in so many things, but end up getting disappointed. Our hope in Christ will never be disappointed because God will keep His word. As a down payment he has given us the Holy Spirit, and along with it, he has poured out His love in an unstoppable supply. There are great benefits to being justified by faith in Christ. We have a living hope, a purpose, God’s love and the Holy Spirit lives in us, the blessings are many and best of all we have peace with God.
The written law is my guide and it is on my heart. I feel one needs to walk with the Spirit and know that He will lead us to fulfill the written law. I better understand the beliefs of the Jews and where their beliefs came from. What I don’t understand is how can they possibly not believe in Jesus as the Messiah. I believe that what God really wants, is faith alone, in order to impute righteousness; he does not necessarily want works. Works will be a result of true faith, a result of one’s faith and salvation, not as a condition for salvation.
I think the big difference between the believers of the Old Covenant and the New, is that they could not have the Spirit of God in their hearts and know that His son, Jesus Christ, died so that we could experience complete and total forgiveness of our sins. Forgiveness makes all things new for us, but under the Law it was obedience. They sought to receive God’s approval by obeying his laws and serving Him. I certainly rejoice in the knowledge that God loves me and forgives me even though I “mess up” quite often.