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Sunday: The Covenant and the Gospel — 16 Comments

  1. I have seen the Magna Carta housed in the Australian parliament it is one of only 4 copies of the 1257 document still existing. It is a powerful document detailing the rights and responsibilities of monarch and subjects. The fact that it was written in 1257 and has formed the basis of many national constitutions written since then, shows that the original authors had thought deeply about the issues and their consequences.

    In many respects, the Covenant is the Magna Carta of Christianity. It details the relationships and responsibilities between God and man.

  2. As you read Deuteronomy you will notice a theme. There is a way that humans can 'live' (technically, attempt to live) that doesn't actually work even though it might seem like it does 'in-the-moment'. This way is elsewhere described as doing what seems good in your own eyes (Judges 21:25; Genesis 3:6). It is characterised and motivated by self-seeking and self-indulgence. While it is very popular, its core nature is 'fallen' (as per Revelation 14:8) and consequently incapable of producing true (abundant) life that we were created for.

    In contrast with this, there is One way that actually works - that actually does lead to true life (as per John 10:10). And God, through Moses, it patiently and perseveringly trying to educate the Israelites in regard to this way (Deuteronomy 4:32-40). But unfortunately, the Israelites have a history that has conditioned their heart-desires. They too desire self-seeking and self-indulgence. While God ultimately would like to transform their heart-desires, He can only move at a pace of transformation that they can cope with.

    God initially allowed the Israelites to see that He was powerful - more powerful than the gods of Egypt. Now God was needing to also help them see that not only was He more powerful, but that His ways were vastly better - but also very different. But old habits die hard and change is not easy.

    As long as the Israelites align themselves with God's Ways - the only ways that actually work - things move forward. But when the Israelites revert to their old habits, things deteriorate. This is a painfully slow and messy re-development process. But God understands this and is more than willing to compassionately accomodate humanity in order to give humans every possible opportunity.

    God could have given up at any point because the human-restoration project was becoming too hard or the price too high. But that is not who God is. God has committed Himself to do whatever it takes for as long as it takes to enable every single person who authentically wants to embrace the only true way of life to do so. That's what true love does.

    God has awakened you to a new day today and has re-offered His invitation to you afresh: choose me and the only way that leads to life today so that we may walk together today...

    • Hi Brother Phil,
      Great post!! I hope we all are listening to you, or what the Holy Spirit is saying through you, and not walking in the same path as the Israelites, as we too are on a brink of Eternal Life.

      Many of us often wonder: why is God allowing us to go through this worldwide Pandemic?
      I was discussing this question with the Director of Pathfinder’s Club, our sister church, before their Induction service last Sabbath, because I have not seen her in almost a year. She had no answer to this question. But of course, being the opinionated person that I am, I shared my thoughts with her about this Pandemic.

      Before the Pandemic, we all were “running to and fro”, too busy to stop and notice all the true beauty of this world (decayed as it may be), or too busy to see all the opportunities in front of us to share God’s love with others. There were/are so many people hurting, in need the love of God’s love; but we were too busy. So, the entire world shut down for a couple of months, trying to get control of the virus situation. But did it finally cause us “to see”? For some people, they were actually about to see the “least of these”. We were able to see that elderly couple that no one has time to go to visit anymore because we were too busy. We were able to see the little girl, who is an only child, and have no one to play with because she can’t go to school (not a political issue, please), or the teenager who was a leader at his/her school, but now (during the shutdown period) he/she doesn’t know what to do.

      Don’t we see, can’t we hear what God is trying to say? Can’t we see the many opportunities we have been given? I could list out so many opportunities that the elderly couple, the lonely girl, and the teen leader could do. For example, any of these could start a letter written campaign to other people that are lonely as well. Or they can start a campaign to find out the needs of other people in their communities, and develop a way to meet those needs. And don’t get me wrong, many people have worked to care for the needs of others before, during, and after this pandemic. But we all have to ask ourselves: What opportunities am I missing to finish God’s work? Doing God’s work is more than just spreading the gospel; there’s so much more. Just staring a “Smile” with others could brighten up someone’s day, who has been depressed all week. Can we share a smile or a card with someone this week? To show them that there is still “hope”. Can we at least to that?

      So, for me, my opinion only, it’s like God has said, “Oh, so you say that you are “too busy” to finish the work that I commissioned you to do? So, let’s see what you will do when everything has come to a halt, and the “too busy” excuse is no longer there. Now what are you going to do? What excuse will you use now?

      I say all this, to agree with you Brother Phil, we have to give up our “ self-seeking and self-indulgence” ways, and as God’s people, give our ways over to Him, to Jesus Christ. Or we will continue to make the same mistakes over and over again, the same mistakes the Israelites did. Some pastors say that we, God’s people, are holding up, or the reason for the delay, of Jesus second return. I’m not sure that I agree with that completely, but I know that we all could be doing more to finish Jesus’ gospel commission to us, as outlined in Matthew 28:18-20. And that commission involves more than just spreading the Word of God. Go back and read these verses, and this time concentrate on studying the meaning of the words, “Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you”, or Matthew 24:14, that says pretty much the same thing, “And this gospel of the kingdom shall be preached in all the world for a ‘witness’ unto all nations; and then shall the end come”.

      I hope that we (including myself) are listening to what the Holy Spirit is saying to us during this pandemic, and while we are still in the time of peace. But unfortunately, I don’t know if we are listening.

      God’s blessings to us all. (‘I’ll meet you in Heaven, and we’ll sing songs together; I’ll meet at the Savior’s side… Brothers and sisters, I’ll be there’. I love that song)

      • Some great thoughts/opinions Toni. Time will tell whether people did experience a 'wake-up' call, or whether things return to the former status quo.

  3. Archaeological discoveries in the twentieth century brought to light covenants between neighboring powers in the region of Mesopotamia dating from the third millennium BCE, that is, before the time of Abraham. These could be between nations of roughly equal strength, known as parity treaties, or they could be between a strong power and a weaker one, known as suzerainty treaty.

    • Thank you for bringing to our attention another illustration of God "coming down" to our level to communicate with us in terms we can understand.

      For instance, we found that the strange ritual with Abraham found in Gen 15:8-18 was actually the way to ratify a covenant in the culture of the time.

      In the same way of "coming down" to humanity, I understand that God made a suzerainty covenant with His people in terms they could understand. Because we now do things differently, it helps to understand the culture of the time to understand what God was saying in ancient times. Thanks again for bringing this up. 🙂

  4. Perhaps we can best answer this question regarding Abraham's covenant with God and how the gospel is revealed by reviewing the story of Genesis 22 when God commanded Abraham to offer up Isaac as a burnt offering to the Lord. This story reveals both the evidence and quality of Abraham's faith, as we also read in Gen 26:5 where God says that “Abraham obeyed my voice, and kept my charge, my commandments, my statutes, and my laws.”

    God's covenant with sinners is always established by God's law and our obedience to it, which is the evidence of our faith in the "exceeding great and precious promises of God"(2 Pe 1:4).

    In the days of Moses, the two tablets upon which God wrote His law was kept in the “ark of the Covenant”, showing that God's law IS the covenant, and every year the gospel was demonstrated on the Day of Atonement by the blood of the Lord's goat being sprinkled 7 times upon the propitiatory(mercy seat) which was above the Law, showing by what means that sinners could have their sins removed and the righteousness of Christ imputed and imparted to them if they “repent and believe the Gospel”(Mark 1:15).

    • Robert - please allow me to complete your statement by saying that: 'God's Law based on His Love, and our obedience to express His law of Love causing it to be experienced by others, is the evidence of our faith....'. Grace by His Love, the Mercy Seat, is above the placement of the tablets of the Law.

      • There is no other way to "obey" the law, since there can be no "sullen submission" that will ever fulfill the righteousness of the law(John 14:15, Rom 13:10).

        All the law and the prophets are based on the 2 great commandments.

        • Yes, Robert - I understand obedience to be a sign that one follows one’s faith in the Word of God. I also understand that God will bless us with the obedience of a new heart. I see the need for the written law only as a means for communication because not all perceive it with their heart right away. We are sensory beings, learning with/by/through our senses - but the spirit of the law is Love; it is spiritual. And God wants us to promote the spirit of the law, not the letter of the law.
          Should the letter of the law be promoted without its spirit, without promoting God’s love, it will lead to one becoming judgmental and self-righteous. This happened to the Jewish religious system and those in leadership, resulting in the death of Christ Jesus. It showed us once and for all that all our iniquities are based on *pride in/of our Self*.

          Then as it is now, some use the law to judge man’s righteousness by their strict observance of the letter of the written law; but God looks at the heart - who is able to know man’s heart - only God knows.
          It is my conviction that only by humbling ourselves and acknowledging that there is nothing good in man that can save him - not his ‘perfect’ obedience to the letter of the law, either. Only the Love of the Father, demonstrated by His Mercy and Grace, has plucked us out of the fire of condemnation, for us to now open our hearts to fully, unreservedly love God and those who do not yet follow Him.

          • Brigitte, you share some assertions that would require more elaboration. What is the difference between the letter and the Spirit regarding the Law? Did God not both speak and write the law on stone with His finger? Does it need further elaboration to understand it regarding the relation between the law and the Spirit? If so, why did God "forget" to mention it? Or does He?(This is important isn't it?)

            Also, could you define "love" as you are using it in this context? This would allow a more accurate discussion.

            Your previous comment mentions the mercy seat as "above the law", and suggests that the mercy is from Love while the law(beneath) is somehow "below" that, but in what way? Or did I misunderstand you? Please revisit this observation and explain why the law is IN the ark and the propitiatory(now called mercy seat) is above as far as you understand it. This would help in realizing why you point this out as you did. I'm just not certain about your meaning by it.

            (I realize this venue may not allow a proper discussion of this vital topic)

            • Robert - I appreciate your interest to continue to 'peel the onion'. Yes, unfortunately, this limited forum does not allow the proper discussion of this topic, though I trust that we find occasion to continue our learning as time goes on.
              I am attempting to be brief when answering your questions in the sequence you asked them:

              - I see the difference between 'written and spirit' to be in the Law's purpose/intent. It's purpose/intend is to turn the heart and mind toward loving God. Without the Spirit of God moving on the heart and mind of man, the 'letter' by itself cannot do that - 2Cor.3:6.
              I believe that the motivation for observing the 'law' - allowing to be guided by the written law's directives - was always intended to be based on first loving the Lawgiver - Matt.22:34-40.

              - I see God's Love of man reflected in all He does on behalf of mankind, which includes His written Word, the law-based guidance for man to live his life by. Therefore, if the law(s) are also an expression of His Love, then His Love is the Spirit of His Law(s).
              This Truth is evidenced by the acts of those who, being the most zealous to observe the letter of law but were strangers to its spirit, were the same who required our Lord and Savior's death.
              Their relationship with the Lawgiver was based on observing the letter of the Law, but not loving the lawgiver. Therefore, The Son of God was a thorn in their side; they could not recognize His Son because the Father's Love represented in His Son to benefit mankind's love and faith in Him is 'higher' than the requirements of the written law.

              - You stated the tablets of the Law where "kept in the "Ark of the Covenant". To me, the physical Ark depicts/exemplifies the 'Spirit of the Covenant'. It is designed to have the Mercy Seat as its 'cover'. This 'cover of Mercy' is placed physically as well as spiritually above the Law; symbolically providing for our protection through the sprinkling of blood once a year. The combined parts of the Ark of the Covenant represent the Presence of God with man, again depicting the physical as well as the spiritual aspect of His Presence. Without Mercy and Grace, pure justice of the law would consume us; God's Love through Mercy and Grace provides our cover.

              I hold that the intent/purpose of God's Law(s) has always been to promote and guide us toward loving our Creator and so fulfill the law. Ultimately, its demands were fulfilled by Christ Jesus, the only One who could 'satisfy/counteract/meet/balance out' the 'demands' of the law; He did so by living His Father's Love by faith.
              Now, as the recipients of this blessing, we are able to live our true life in the presence of the Father's Love - Rom.8:3-4; Rom.10:4: Luke 24:44-45.

            • Thank you for sharing your thoughts Brigitte.

              From my personal study of this subject, I have come to understand that the Spirit of the law is only missing from the experience of law "keepers" who harbor sin. Sin is the blinding agent which allowed the law "keepers" to condemn and crucify Jesus while making sure their tithe was accurate, their prayers long, etc, even making sure the victims on the crosses were not left there over the sacred Sabbath hours. As Jesus taught, the true worshipers of God will worship in both "Spirit and truth".

              For those who repent and believe, if faithful to examine themselves while seeking the Lord with all their heart, the Spirit of the Law will be manifested and cannot be missing except by the presence of harbored sin. In both the speaking and writing of the law, the Spirit was present since the "law of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul". No conversion is possible without the Spirit(John 3:5,6, Zech 6:4).

              In the parable of the 10 virgins, the wise(obedient) had the oil(Spirit), while the foolish(disobedient)had none when it was needed.

              To my understanding, the mercy seat was an add-on required by sin, as well as the Law as it is expressed that sinners might have a right concept of the eternal foundation of God's character, government, and purposes. Had there been no sinner, there would have been no need for blood, and therefore no propitiatory(mercy seat) required. So mercy is not "above" the law, but rather, it is the highest demonstration(John 15:13) of the law in Spirit and Truth. The law, as written, defines both what Love is, and what Love is not(righteousness and unrighteousness). Only the persistent sinner will fail to manifest this Spirit of the law they strive in vain to "keep"(Mark 7:7).

              The new(fresh) covenant God makes with the repentant sinner is having the law written upon their heart, and God does not do this without the Spirit(Eph 3:16, Titus 3:5).

  5. How does the idea of the covenant law and the gospel, fit into the Three Angels message?

    So what is the idea of the coventant law. The best answer is: "This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel(Also Christians living in the last days of earth's history) after those days, says the LORD: I will put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah 31:33),

    What is the Gospel? My answer is: Have a relationship with Christ, that puts God's law in our hearts, therefore we may partake of His mercies. Lamentations 3:22

    How does this fit in with Revelation 14?
    Revelation 14 promotes the above. Which also includes love the Lord your God with all your heart. Deuteronomy 6:5.

    For I do believe that, The Lord is good to those who wait for Him, and the soul who seeks Him, (and turns to Him).
    Lamentations 3:25. Hebrews 7:25.
    Praise be to God there is hope for us sinners. Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.
    Revelation 14:12.
    Remember saints are sinners who seek and turn to God. Does that leave out the perfectionists? No. A perfectionists is also a sinner that turns to God, and seeks His righteousness. Galatians 3:6. Genesis 15:6.

  6. The Covenant - how else would our Creator interact with man who He created with the capacity to exercise free will? Sometimes I wonder if man still lingers at the 'threshold' of the presence of God; not yet fully convinced of his God's benign nature.
    Upon hearing and believing, has not the believer declared the Creator of heaven and earth to be his/her God; to be the ultimate Authority governing life? Have we not by declaring Him to be our God already entered into covenant of faith with Him - Rom.4:4-5?

    Would anyone enter/accept a covenant and give his word to uphold his side of the responsibility without knowing the benefit or cost associated with it? We are partakers of the blessing passed on in Abraham's seed. I see the blessing to be 'faith', not the number of the faithful or their inheritance - Gal.3:7.
    Faith is the operative word when maintaining the Covenant-relationship with the God of our choice. At his calling, Abram accepted faith to be his assurance, so demonstrating that faith is sufficient for all who walk by it because God blessed him.

    Our only Covenant-responsibility is to maintain this faith. We are told to do so by loving the Creator - the One we have declared to be our God, the One who loved us first -, with all our heart and being and to demonstrate this love by the way we interact with each other. This is for the benefit of those who accepted the Covenant and those outside of the Covenant of Faith.
    Only God's Covenant provides this symbiosis, the mutually beneficial relationship between God and man; ratified by faith and love.

  7. The law, the 10 Commandments, is a supernatural priceless gift to us from God to reveal His will. But the bare law doesn’t heal our brokenness. Trying to follow rules outside of a relationship with Jesus doesn’t mend our hearts or make us better people. Without Jesus dwelling in us, the 10 Commandments reads rather like any other top 10 list on a magazine cover on how to improve yourself. Another impossible standard of perfection to make you feel weary while you’re standing in line buying groceries. Paul says as much in Galatians 3:21-27.

    The gospel change in our heart comes in knowing the love that surpasses knowledge, that kind of love we read about Ephesians 3:17-19. The law points out external lifestyle choices and changes that are the result of God’s Holy Spirit living internally, in our hearts through the redemptive work of Jesus Christ. Alleluia!

    Instead of seeing the “thou shalts” as something to work up the effort to do, we can see them as promises of what WILL happen with God‘s sanctifying power in our life. “You will not kill, you will not steal, you will not lie,” etc. Rather like when the serpent told Eve, “thou shalt not surely die”. It wasn’t a Commandment but rather a statement (albeit a lie) of what would happen.


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