Tag Archives: new deal

Instead of rules and regulations

The first covenant had regulations—lots, as well as the amazing earthly sanctuary, says the author of the Letter to the Hebrews, (chapter 9, verses 1 to 5). The spectacular tent with its out-of-this world design, specially crafted furniture, consecrated unrefrigerated food, the Most Holy Place, incense, the gold covered covenant box, not to mention the hundreds of rules governing the ceremonial work of the priests.

So, what are the regulations of the New Covenant? The setting up of numerous different kind of earthly sanctuaries called “churches”? A worldwide institution “the Church”? Pulpits, pews and altars? Mystical foods? A new order of priesthood? Transcendent sacrifices?  Better smelling incense? A priestcraft elite? Excited audiences and religious entertainment?

None of the above. Definitely. Absolutely not. Full stop.

But as you know, tragically, all too soon, men set up such things which were not even a shadow of the real. These survive today after a long history of slowly evolving forms: Catholicism, Anglicanism, sacramentalism, mysticism, countless other isms, formality, liturgy, clergy driven—old, superseded models but without any of the glory of God, no cherubim, no stone tablets written with the finger of God, no budding rod, and no true sacrifice for our atonement, and without any mandate whatsoever from the Lord of Hosts for the shabby substitutes men instituted. Empty. God has left this kind of house.

Under the Old Covenant, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry.  But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance, as it says in Heb 9:6-7.

But today in so many earthly temples, earthly priests regularly enter their sanctuaries to carry on their ministry and without any Aaronic authority, imagining they re-crucify the Lord of glory on some pathetic copy of an altar. In a mockery of the real, the true, they imagine wine is magically changed to blood by their mumbo-jumbo mantra instead of directing needy souls to see that Jesus has finished his work once for all and ensure the people of receive their inheritance, now.

In the old Jewish order, sins committed in ignorance were atoned—wonderful grace assuring worshippers that it did not depend on them dotting every ‘i’.  But the so-called sacrifice of the mass keeps people in perpetual dependence on a mediatorial priesthood, for they must come continually to maintain the believed benefits of forgiveness.

But what can really cleanse from sin? And what about sin not done in ignorance–deliberate?  What can cleanse my conscience? –nothing in the old covenant arrangement, glorious though it is. A better deal awaited God’s people, now come in the Christ and his offering for us.

So again you may ask, what are the regulations of the New Covenant?

Well there are none. There are patterns to guide us and above all the example of the Lord Jesus, who came not to be served but to serve and to give his life as a ransom for many. The habits, practices and attitudes he demonstrated to his little band of followers are there for us to practice towards one another : love, forgiveness, joy, patience, service, cooperation, togetherness, thanksgiving. Here we are not remotely on the same planet as Law, rules and regulations.

Jesus has gone from us to a place where he is constantly at work for us.

And there is the glorious gift of his Spirit! In his place he sends the Holy Spirit! People in the NT era knew they had received the Spirit from Jesus. They knew because they could abound in the work of the Lord (1 Cor 15:26). They knew because they were members of a functioning body all joined together, each with manifestations of the Holy Spirit to encourage one another. They knew because the Word of God flowed from their hearts and through their lips. They were bold, courageous.

Yes. There is also the eternal Word of God by which we continually hear His voice. What marvellous resources!

Surely we have such abundance in this great design plan that Jesus has inaugurated! What need then do we have of formalised institutions and commercialised religion? Of priestcraft and liturgical magic?

To hang on to such substitutions instead of God’s creative, revealed ways is to dishonour Him. To hear and put into practice His ways is to honour Him, to hallow His name.


A new deal has come

Our writer to the Hebrews said the first agreement was defective (8:7-8) and a better one was always needed. Our author has already shown how much more serious this new deal is and it cannot be ignored.  God’s design for his people’s service unfolded in the New must be followed and not lost or replaced by worldly or pagan ideas and practices.

The choice for us to worship (=serve) God is a choice between two systems, two ways.

There is the system of law following the type of Aaron: Christ is redeemer and because of his wondrous act, his death on the cross, we compel ourselves to love and obedience, though it may not be our delight.  So we have a striving and not the promised rest from trying to be righteous. Others around us looking on get the message we are self-righteous though we may deny it. And they have every right to form that opinion.

By pursuing the way of law at the expense of the Holy Spirit and his revealed Word, we invariably add in our own ideas, mixing right with wrong, light with darkness and dropping the true and real by hanging on to vain traditions and practices of religion. Like sheep we go astray.

But a much better deal has been made for us! We are called into the experience of the Lord Jesus in the power of his endless, imperishable life in which he works in us who draw near. He promises to energise within us, in our own life, breathing his life in us, so that it becomes our new nature to love him, delight to do his will—his own life in us. That is, to worship him in Spirit and in Truth, each of us and together.

Surprise: Meeting together as Christ’s people today (“going to church”) is frequently inferior to that experienced even by Jews in Jesus’ day. For example in the synagogue, there was no pastor or priest ruling over them, running the show, so anyone was able to speak and to question what was said.  No one person jealously guarded who was allowed to share the word of God and for how long.

Nor did they think they were meeting in the ‘house of the Lord’. And each synagogue (means gathering) was independent and they did not have to toe the line of any outside superintendent, C.E.O., denomination board, statement of faith, or any head office.

Hebrews 8:7-8. God found fault with the first covenant in the hands of his ancient people and said (in the words of Jeremiah 31:31-34) ….

I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God, and they will be my people.
No longer will they teach or say to one another, “Know the Lord,”
because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.’

We are supposed to have embraced the new arrangement. But appallingly, today, we see a denial of much of the glorious features of the New. Instead of God’s laws poured by the Holy Spirit into their minds and written on their hearts, many are content to get their spiritual input not from the Lord Himself, but from middlemen with agendas—spiritual directors, priests, pastors. Instead of being the people of God, many see their identity as Baptist or Catholic or Evangelical and so on. Tradition, blind, mindless tradition.

So instead of all God’s people being in unbroken fellowship with the living God—knowing Him in their personal experience—they are dependent on professional Christians as mediators.

In the fantastic deal we have received in Jesus, we have become part of a household, a family. We are each born into a Body—the Body of Christ. Individualism is contrary to the New Deal and to our organic, community life in the Body of Christ. We are many members and one body. God has made covenant in Jesus with a people, not with individuals.

Hebrews 8:13. When the Lord talks about a new agreement, he means that the first one is out of date. And anything that is old and useless will soon disappear. (CEV)

All kinds of spirituality are inadequate and have now been made obsolete by God’s flawless design. What is not planted by the Father will be rooted up, said Jesus. And what is built, if not with God’s specified materials, will be destroyed, even if on a good foundation, said St Paul.

It seems to me, God is calling on us to abandon obsolete, sinking, old-hat stuff that we should have jettisoned ages ago and join Jesus’ movement of love, joy, freedom and power as he promised. What do you think?