Seventh-Day Adventists/The Old and the New Covenant
Frank wrote at 2013-04-06 02:03:08
4 3 2013 - The Old and the New Covenant
<<< The expert’s response: >>>
The first thing that came to mind when I read your question was if you believe the Old Covenant is now to be practiced in a spiritual way, why do you still observe the old physical Sabbath? Why not observe the Sabbath spiritually in Christ (cf. Matthew 11:28-30)?
<<< Those who observe the Sabbath “spiritually in Christ” do it every Sabbath according to the Commandment. Christ died on the cross because the moral law is immutable and eternal (see Psalms 111:7, 8) which left no other way for Christ to redeem fallen man than by taking the penalty for our sins upon himself. It is the temporary ceremonial law that foreshadowed Jesus’ sacrifice and ministry as our High Priest, that was to last until Christ accomplished His promised atoning sacrifice. And contrary to what the expert would have us believe, the 4th commandment of the Decalogue is just as binding under the ratified Abrahamic (New) Covenant as it was under the Law of Moses (Old Covenant). >>>
The verse you referred to (2 Corinthians 3:6) does not say anything about applying the Old Covenant spiritually. The verse reads, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (NIV). In this verse “the letter” refers to the Old Covenant and its written laws, and “the Spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit of the New Covenant.
<<< Adam and Eve had no written law yet it was their transgression of that law that brought sin into the world. The “letter” was not given as a means of salvation. Under the Old Covenant no one was saved by keeping the law. The “letter” can do nothing but show man that he has transgressed it. Before sin, its principles were written in the heart and mind which are nothing more than the principles of love. Those who truly love God and their neighbor will be in compliance with the Ten Commandments. >>>
In v. 6 Paul begins to compare the Old Covenant with the New. “…for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life”. Immediately Paul lets the Corinthians know that what the Judaizers are preaching kills, but what he is preaching gives life.
<<< “But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the Law of Moses.” (Acts 15:5 KJV) The Judaizers wanted the Galatian believers to be circumcised and keep their traditional law. The Ten Commandments were never in question. >>>
The contrast, Paul contends, is stark. It’s between spiritual life and spiritual death. He also noted this to the Roman church. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death” (Romans 8:2 NASB).
<<< “For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” (Romans 8:3-4 KJV) Those who claim to be Christ’s and walking after the Holy Spirit will not violate the Decalogue a.k.a. “the law”. “And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. (1 John 2:3 KJV) >>>
Therefore, Paul in his great love for the church preaches forcefully and plainly. “But if the ministry of death, in letters engraved on stones, came with glory, so that the sons of Israel could not look intently at the face of Moses because of the glory of his face, fading as it was, how will the ministry of the Spirit fail to be even more with glory?” (2 Corinthians 3:7-8 NASB). Paul leaves no doubt that the Ten Commandments are the ministry of death. The Ten Commandments as the covenant document represents the entire Old Covenant (cf. Exodus 34:28 & Deuteronomy 4:13). The Old Covenant Law was given to increase sin (cf. Romans 5:20) which brings with it spiritual death. The New Covenant is of the Spirit which brings with it life. “It is the Spirit who gives life…” (John 6:63 NASB). So Paul is not saying that the New Covenant is a continuation of the Old Covenant. He is contrasting the differences between the two. For Paul it was not the spirit of the law, but rather the Spirit vs. the Law.
<<< The New Covenant is not a continuation of the Old Covenant as the expert says. The promise of a savior that would redeem Adam and Eve from their sin was given at the same time the “law of sacrifices” was first introduced. The Spirit is given to enable fallen man to overcome his sin nature and live righteously. “There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.”
(Romans 8:1 KJV) The law, given to fallen man in the form of Ten Commandments at Sinai was originally given to guarantee life but when transgressed, brought death. “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” (Romans 7:7 KJV) “For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived, and I died.” (Romans 7:9 KJV) Even though the law brings death to the sinner Paul does not teach that the law is against the Spirit. If it was he would not have written, “Wherefore the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good.” (Romans 7:12 KJV) No, the problem is not with the law, the problem is with our carnal fallen nature. “For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.” (Romans 7:18-19 KJV) The law is good but we are helpless to abide by it because of the weakness of the flesh. >>>
The New Covenant is not a continuation of the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant was added to God’s revelation 430 years after the establishment of the Abrahamic Covenant and was in effect only until Christ (cf. Galatians 3:17-19). There is nothing in a careful reading of Galatians that indicates that the Old Covenant was to continue, in fact quite the opposite is true.
<<< The blessings of the Abrahamic Covenant were contingent upon keeping the law through obedience to the Lord. “And when Abram was ninety years old and nine, the LORD appeared to Abram, and said unto him, I am the Almighty God; walk before me, and be thou perfect. And I will make my covenant between me and thee, and will multiply thee exceedingly.” (Genesis 17:1-2 KJV) >>>
In Galatians 3 Paul states that the Old Covenant was a tutor to lead to Christ and then the tutor is dismissed.
“But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (Galatians 3:23-25 NASB).
<<< Paul is chastising the Galatian church for listening to the Judaizers and practicing the “works of the law” (Galatians 2:16, 3:2, 5, 10) for justification (Galatians 2:16). He makes it clear that justification is through faith in Christ for forgiveness of sins, not by the works of the Law of Moses. “But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.” (Galatians 3:11 KJV) The ceremonial remedies for sin that pointed to Christ’s sacrifice and ministry as High Priest were no longer a requirement for justification. Faith in Christ alone for forgiveness of sins was sufficient. The “works of the law” had been rendered useless; or as the scripture says, “But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.”
(Galatians 3:25 KJV)
In Galatians 4 Paul states that the Old Covenant was to suffer the same faith as Hagar the slave woman. “But what does the Scripture say? ‘Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman’” (Galatians 4:30 ESV). This theme is repeated throughout Paul’s writings, i.e. that the Law covenant of Sinai is now obsolete for God’s people and has been replaced with the New Covenant of grace. “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear” (Hebrews 8:13 NIV). So Paul cannot properly be understood to be saying that the two covenants are actually one continuous covenant just now spiritually applied.
<<< The moral law was not done away with or dismissed or any other such nonsense. It is only through faith in Christ for forgiveness of sins and the power to overcome our fallen nature as we walk after the Spirit that fallen man can be brought into compliance the broken law. >>>
The New Covenant is indeed “new”. Jeremiah predicted a time would come when God would make a new covenant with His people and that it would not be like the Old Covenant.
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them,” declares the Lord. “But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days,” declares the Lord, “I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people” (Jeremiah 31:31-33 NASB).
Some say that the Ten Commandments as given at Sinai are the law written on hearts in the New Covenant. I have addressed this issue before in detail and will not do so again. Suffice to say that such an interpretation does violence to the text as well as the rest of the Bible. I will say this, nine of the Ten Commandments are moral laws which were written on man’s heart from his beginning not just since the New Covenant came into being. Only the Sabbath commandment is not a moral obligation. The Sabbath was the ceremonial sign of the covenant between God and Israel (cf. Exodus 31:16-17). When that covenant ended so did the sign’s usefulness.
<<< The Sabbath of the 4th Commandment cannot be a ceremonial sign. The ceremonial law was instituted as a consequence of sin and was God’s response to the sin problem. The Sabbath was made before sin and was kept by the first pair. The commandment that governed their work time and rest time must have already been established because they were given work to do. “And the LORD God took the man, and put him into the garden of Eden to dress it and to keep it. (Genesis 2:15 KJV) >>>
Also note this fact: God did not say, “I will put my Ten Commandments into your hearts.” He said, “law” (Jeremiah 31:33). It’s God’s Law which for us Christians would be the commandments of Jesus and the Holy Spirit empowered Apostles.
<<< A Covenant is established before the one who made it dies. The Apostles gave no new laws. Any law that they could have possibly articulated was already defined by the Decalogue. “I have seen an end of all perfection: but thy commandment is exceeding broad.” (Psalms 119:96 KJV) >>>
It may also be informative to know that Jeremiah used the word “law” eleven times in his writing and never did it mean the Ten Commandments apart from the rest of the Old Covenant commandments (see 2:8; 6:19; 8:8; 9:12; 16:11; 18:18; 26:4; 31:33; 32:23; 44:10, 23).
<<< The Decalogue is God’s law. It is the law that governed the new race at creation. It is the law that Adam and Eve transgressed when they disobeyed God and ate from the forbidden tree. It is the law that Noah, Abraham and Isaac and Jacob kept. It is the law from which the Law of Moses was derived for the new nation. It is the law whose transgression sent Christ to the cross to redeem fallen man. It is the law that is being written in the hearts and minds of Christians as they are justified and sanctified. It is the principles of this law, established in the heart and mind of man, which will guarantee that sin will never tarnish the fabric of the universe again. The temporary sacrificial law added after sin did nothing to alter the form and purpose and character of the moral law. >>>
A verse which may help with the understanding of 2 Corinthians 3:6 is Romans 7:6. “But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (NASB). Again, here is 2 Corinthians 3:6. “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (NIV). In both verses Paul uses “Spirit” to represent the Holy Spirit given in the New Covenant and “letter” to represent the Old Covenant and its written law. In both verses Paul put the Spirit in opposition to the letter. Both verses teach that Christians are not under the Law Covenant, but under the Holy Spirit-led New Covenant.
<<< “Hide thy face from my sins, and blot out all mine iniquities. Create in me a clean heart, O God; and renew a right spirit within me. Cast me not away from thy presence; and take not thy holy spirit from me.” (Psalms 51:9-11 KJV) God’s people were just as dependent on the Holy Spirit under the Old Covenant for righteousness as they are under the ratified New Covenant. >>>
Both verses teach that the Spirit is superior to the written law. In 2 Corinthians 3 Paul teaches that this superiority is over the Old Covenant Law whether written with ink or on stone. “You show that you are a letter from Christ, the result of our ministry, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. (2 Corinthians 3:3 NIV). Paul particularly pointed out the superiority of the New Covenant over the Ten Commandments.
“Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses' face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory?
<<< SDA’s believe that the glory that illuminated the face of Moses was the glory of Christ as revealed in the ceremonial law. The entire plan of salvation is reflected in the Hebrew sanctuary and its services and Moses understood it better than any man. >>>
For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it” (2 Corinthians 3:7-10 ESV).
<<< The expert has used the ESV so here is the next verse (11). “For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.” The expert teaches that the Decalogue is being brought to an end. The reality is that the “ministry of condemnation” is being brought to an end. Those who are walking after the Holy Spirit are no longer under the condemnation of the law as they have been cleansed from the defilement of sin and are in harmony with its precepts. The Holy Spirit will not lead any one into sin and sin is still defined as transgression of the law. The remedy for sin did not do away with the law. If the law could have been changed or removed, Christ’s sacrifice would have been unnecessary. The fact that He went to the cross after praying the Father, “. . . If it be possible, let this cup pass from me. . . “(Matthew 26:39 KJV) is undeniable proof of the immutability of the Decalogue. >>>
In conclusion, the New Covenant is not a continuation of the Old Covenant applied in a spiritual way. The Old Covenant was a temporary covenant only meant by God to last until He sent His only Son (cf. Galatians 3:17-19). The Holy Spirit was not “given to help people understand the Old Covenant in a new and spiritual way.” The Holy Spirit was given to fulfill God’s promise delivered by the Prophet Jeremiah.
<<< This response is not defending the questioner’s contention that the Old Covenant is continued in the new. It is not. However, the types and shadows of the story of redemption found in the Old Testament are being fulfilled by “spiritual Israel” in these last days. >>>
“Behold, days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt…” (Jeremiah 31:31-32 NASB).
<<< “. . . which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the LORD: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. (Jeremiah 31:32-33 KJV) The New Covenant law is the principles of the Ten Commandments written in the heart and mind and kept by the power of the Holy Spirit. >>>
With God’s gracious gift of the Holy Spirit the Old Covenant ceased to exist as a way of life for God’s people and a new covenant came into being “not like” the Old Covenant. The Abrahamic Covenant of promise came before the Sinai covenant of Law (the Old Covenant). Therefore, the Old Covenant was a temporary addition to the revelation of God.
<<< The law that was added was the ceremonial law. Christ’s death brought to an end the shadow ceremonies that revealed His atoning sacrifice and His ministry as our High Priest. No one under the Old Covenant was saved by keeping the Law of Moses and performing the “works of the law” as Paul would come to call the rituals of the Law of Moses. >>>
The Old Covenant of Law ran along side the Abrahamic Covenant of Promise for a time.
<<< The ceremonial law was established when Adam and Eve transgressed the moral law. That law ended at the cross while the principles of the Ten Commandment law are now established in the heart and mind. “Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law.”
(Romans 3:31 KJV) >>>
The Old Covenant began 430 years after God made the covenant with Abraham and it lasted only until Christ who is the end of the law (cf. Romans 10:4). The Law was only for ancient Israel and so was its sign, the 7th day Sabbath.
<<< Christ is the end of the law for righteousness, not the end of the law. The law for righteousness was the ceremonial law found in the Law of Moses. When Christ accomplished His atoning sacrifice, the law for righteousness came to an end as Christ was its fulfillment. Apart from faith in Christ, the Ten Commandments (the moral law) cannot be kept by fallen man. With the ritual requirements that prohibited the Gentiles from participating in the Old Covenant “remedy” for sin no longer necessary, “. . . there is no difference between the Jew and the Greek: for the same Lord over all is rich unto all that call upon him. For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved.” (Romans 10:12-13 KJV) >>>
God Be With You,
<<< In Christ’s love,