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New Covenant, His Covenant, Covenant of the Lord, Covenant of Circumcision
‘For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah- 9 not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD.”’
While wandering in the wilderness Israel made a covenant, an agreement, with their Creator as to how they would conduct themselves. There was a problem with this "first" covenant. The problem wasn’t really with the terms of the covenant, but the fact that one of the parties to the covenant did not continually respect the covenant of the Lord, His covenant. That party was not the Creator. His ways fundamentally are the commandments that comprise His covenant (Deu 8:6, 4:13, 23, 5:6-21). He is not going to change His fundamental approach to life. So the problem was obviously Israel that did not fulfill their part of the bargain.
The Creator has fixed this problem, but how?
First, let’s understand what the "first" covenant was. Hebrews 9:19-21 contains an account of the confirmation of the "first" covenant (Heb 9:18). Although traditionally connected with the covenant of Exodus 20 made at Sinai, the details of the description do not match the details in Exodus 24 at the confirmation of the Sinai covenant. Hebrews 9 details fit more closely the covenant of the Law. Indeed Hebrews 7-10 contrasts aspects of the Law, which was based on the Levitical priesthood (Heb 7:11, see NASB, NIV), with the priesthood of Messiah. That covenant was confirmed with Deuteronomy in Moab.
Deu 29:14 "I make this covenant and this oath, not with you alone, 15 but with him who stands here with us today before the LORD our God, as well as with him who is not here with us today … 19 "and so it may not happen, when he hears the words of this curse, that he blesses himself in his heart, saying, ‘I shall have peace, even though I follow the dictates of my heart’ ––as though the drunkard could be included with the sober. 20 "The LORD would not spare him; for then the anger of the LORD and His jealousy would burn against that man, and every curse that is written in this book would settle on him, and the LORD would blot out his name from under heaven. 21 "And the LORD would separate him from all the tribes of Israel for adversity, according to all the curses of the covenant that are written in this Book of the Law."
Moses warned Israel in the Law that they needed to guard against excusing themselves and doing just what they wanted to do. They were expected to conduct themselves according to this covenant that was the book of the Law.
Deu 31:24 ‘So it was, when Moses had completed writing the words of this law in a book, when they were finished, 25 that Moses commanded the Levites, who bore the ark of the covenant of the LORD, saying: 26 "Take this Book of the Law, and put it beside the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there as a witness against you."’
There was a covenant made at Sinai (Ex 24:3-8, Deu 29:1). The terms of that covenant were in the Ark of the Covenant of the Lord. The book of the Law, essentially Deuteronomy, was another covenant that was set outside the ark. It is called the “first” in Hebrews because Hebrews is dealing with only two, the New and the Old. The Sinai covenant is not under discussion.
The covenant of the Law was made in an attempt to keep Israel in acceptable compliance with the covenant of Sinai. It was a second covenant under which Israel was to live.
Gal 3:19 "What purpose then does the law serve? It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was appointed through angels by the hand of a mediator… 23 But before faith came, we were kept under guard by the law, kept for the faith which would afterward be revealed."
The Law was an attempt to keep Israel in compliance with His covenant, to set guards around them to keep them in line. This certainly included the function of the tribe of Levi. The Law was added because Israel failed miserably to obey, His covenant, the original covenant made at Sinai. Does that sound familiar? Isn’t obedience the same problem we saw in those that were disregarded "because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the LORD"? (Heb 8:9c) Ancient Israel failed to obey His covenant and their children ultimately failed to obey this other arrangement as well.
The problem with the Old Covenant
The purpose of the covenant was to make everyone reasonably obedient. It didn’t expect perfection. If it made people perfect/complete, it would have been sufficient. The trouble is it really wasn’t expected to do that. The Law was a compromise mediated by Moses to allow Israel to live and inherit the Promised Land (Gal 3:19, Deu 4:1, 5:33, 8:1, 12:1, 16:20, 30:16). Israel came within inches of being destroyed because of the golden calf they made (Ps 106:23, Ex 32:7-10).
Messiah expects His followers to live to His standard (I John 2:6). One of the first moves to correct this problem with the covenant, the Law, was to establish a different priesthood.
Heb 7:12 "For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law. ...18 For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment because of its weakness and unprofitableness, 19 for the law made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope, through which we draw near to God."
The new priesthood brings a firmer hope to give us confidence to draw near to the Father. We draw near to Him by cleaning up our conduct (Jas 4:8). We will see that we can do this because we can see what great efforts our High Priest will make to be gracious to us. He did, after all, risk His life for us. We exercise faith and trust Him to care for us rather than trusting ourselves and stepping on others.
So, there must be a change in the Law, but the Law is a covenant. Even covenants of men don’t change. "Brethren, I speak in the manner of men: Though it is only a man’s covenant, yet if it is confirmed, no one annuls or adds to it." (Gal 3:15) Consider as well. "For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled" (Mat 5:18). If the Law doesn’t change, how can this be resolved?
Heb 7:22 "by so much more Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant." The answer is a new covenant, with different terms.
Heb 8:6 "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises. 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. 8 Because finding fault with them, He says: "Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah--"
Heb 10: 1 "For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices which are continually offered year after year, make perfect those who draw near. "
The real problem with the Old covenant is that it couldn’t eliminate sin from those who offer animal sacrifices. The Creator, in a concession to Moses and ancient Israel, allowed sacrifices to be accepted as atonement for sin (Lev 1:4, 4:20, 26, 31, 35, 5:6, 10, 13, 16, etc.). This didn’t eliminate sin. Those offering soon needed to do it again. The fault was not really in the terms of the covenant, but failure of the people to live to their part of the bargain. In any case, the real problem wasn’t resolved. This point is made yet again in Hebrews 9:9-14 and Hebrews 10.
"For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins". (Heb 10:4)
As it turns out, "take away" here is Greek ‘aphaireo’. It is used throughout the New Testament. In Matthew 26:51 it describes Peter removing the ear of the high priests servant; eliminating it from the body. It is used in Revelation 22:19 which condemns anyone who removes words from that book; eliminating them from the text. Hebrews 10:4 is not talking about forgiving sins, but that it is impossible that animal sacrifice could permanently remove or eliminate them! It is not saying forgiveness didn’t come from the sacrifices of the Law. However, that short term solution is not the one the Creator wants. He wants them eliminated so sacrifice is no longer needed (vs 2).
Solving the Problem
Heb 9:26 "for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
The intention of the sacrifice of Christ is to eliminate sin! God didn’t really want sacrifice (Heb 10:5, 6, 8). What did He want? He wanted obedience (Jer 7:22-23). Unlike the rest of humanity, Jesus/Yeshua Messiah came to do the will of His Father (Heb 10:7, 9). “He takes away the first that He may establish the second. 10 By that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all” (Heb 10:9b-10). “For by one offering he hath perfected for ever them that are sanctified” (vs 14 KJV). “Sanctified” is indeed in the present tense and could even be rendered in the English past tense, because the nature of the Greek present tense often indicates “historical presents”. This is especially true because ‘perfected’ is in the perfect tense and indicates an action completed.
His sacrifice replaced those required by the Law that didn’t really solve the problem. Messiah’s sacrifice is intended to get at the root cause of sin and eliminate it, not ignore it.
I John 3: 8 “He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.”
Jesus sacrifice was intended to remove and eliminate the sin that animal sacrifice could not. The Creator did not desire animal sacrifice in the first place. He desired obedience. So Messiah eliminated the animal sacrifices and established His own. It is by this sacrifice that those who believe are separated from the profane and dedicated to God, which is the meaning of ‘sanctified’. At the same time they should be “perfected for ever”. If His sacrifice doesn’t accomplish the elimination of sin in His followers this New Covenant is little better than the old one.
Hebrews 10:5-15 describes the role of Messiah in cleansing and setting His followers apart permanently. Because the part of the follower is not detailed here doesn’t mean he/she doesn’t play a part. Part of this was referred to earlier.
Jas 4:8 "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double–minded."
I John 1:7 "But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin."
" [Paul]… declared first to those in Damascus and in Jerusalem, and throughout all the region of Judea, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance. (Acts 26:20)
When we understand the selflessness and sacrifice of the one who created us, we should realize He wants the best for us. He knows better than we do how to live our life. We should repent of our insistence on protecting ourselves at the expense of others.
Repentance is a very deep heartfelt commitment to believe the Creator that He will preserve us. He will provide our needs so we don’t think we need to do what we shouldn’t do for ourselves. It requires we determine to bring honor to our Creator first. It also requires us to be content with what He provides. After all, He knows best. We should not reflect darkly on Him because we are intent on preserving or promoting our self. We should be selfless in daily conduct as Messiah was.
"Let nothing be done through selfish ambition or conceit, but in lowliness of mind let each esteem others better than himself. 4 Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others." (Phil 2:3-4)
"But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is Christ therefore a minister of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I build again those things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor." (Gal 2:17-18)
If those seeking to be justified continue in sin, will they still be accepted? Christ would then be accepting of sin and would be its servant. The sinner is the transgressor. Sin repulses the Creator (Isa 59:2). Let’s continue in Hebrews 10.
“But the Holy Spirit also witnesses to us; for after He had said before 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the LORD: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them” (Heb 10:15-16).
The Law of God written on the believers heart, means that believers will conduct themselves in agreement with that law. (Rom 2:14-15, Deu 8:2, Prov 3:1-3) The essence of the heart of a person is visible in how they conduct themselves. If His laws are in their heart doing His laws will be part of their nature, just like it is God’s nature. “And everyone who has this hope in Him purifies himself, just as He is pure.” (I John 3:3)
The face value reading of Hebrews 10:16 and 8:10 lead us to believe that having the Law of God in our heart is something that is done to us. He puts His laws in our heart. This is certainly the case, but we need to ask how He does that? James 4:8, I John 1:7 Acts 26:20 and I John 3:3, quoted above indicate that it is our own efforts that do the initial cleansing. We purify our self as He is pure. Who’s right?
Of course, the simple answer is both. The Creator will write His Laws in the heart of those who truly follow Messiah, but He will write it with their own hand. It is not forced on anyone. He does not diminish our ability to choose right from wrong, but He is working with us to bring us to see that His ways are better than ours, so we seek His way. Those who come to their Creator must believe down to their toes that He is and that He is a gracious rewarder of those that seek Him (Heb 11:6). Their belief will be evident in their conduct, which is reflective of their heart. We can come to this place because of the great patience and example of both the Father and the Son. Without Their care and wisdom in working with us, it is extremely unlikely any of us would have come to grasp what this creation was all about or how the Creator expected us to conduct ourselves in it. All the glory is His, not ours, if through His efforts we are able to see. It is certainly not our keen mind that is responsible.
“Thus says God the LORD, Who created the heavens and stretched them out, Who spread forth the earth and that which comes from it, Who gives breath to the people on it, And spirit to those who walk on it: 6 I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, 7 To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house” (Isa 42:5-7).
Messiah's life embodies the terms of the New Covenant. His example is the standard. Once we truly see what He is about we can determine to conduct ourselves accordingly. The physical things of this world lose their glamour. Walking in His way is of most importance. He has then etched into our mind the circuits and synapses that seek His will first. He will not need to have someone standing guard over us. He will not need to arrange for spies to check up on us, because it will be our nature to consider His will in all circumstances and act accordingly.
Paul’s preaching was intended "to open their eyes, in order to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan to God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins and an inheritance among those who are sanctified by faith in Me" (Acts 26:18). It is necessary that we redirect our lives so that we may receive forgiveness. That redirection is summarized in the term ‘repentance’. It is a recognition and actualization placing our way of concern for self secondary to His way of selflessness and concern for others, even at our expense. That is the only way that will bring lasting peace to this world.
The believer must see the problem in order to redirect his life. He must distinguish between the influence of Satan and the Creator. It is a matter of where we put our trust/faith. There really are only two ways, the way of righteousness and the way of Satan. Either we walk in the ways of the Creator consistently or we don’t really understand Him and we serve our self and Satan.
Consider the Englishman’s Greek New Testament translation of Heb 8:10. This translation is very true to the original Greek text and the Jeremiah source.
“Because this is the covenant which I will covenant with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord, giving my laws into their mind, also upon their hearts I will inscribe them; and I will be to them for God, and they shall be to me for people.” (EGNT)
The first step is to fill the mind with His laws. Again, this doesn’t mean He injects them without our participation. He sets up the circumstances that move us to seek Him. He shows us what His Laws are and we respond by diligently seeking to understand His instruction. The conduct and instruction of Messiah is the basis for understanding the full intent of the Laws of the Creator. Once we begin to understand we can put His ways into practice and make them dominate the way we conduct our lives. At that point His Laws are being written in our heart.
The New Covenant is based on His Laws being written on the heart of a believer. A brief explanation of what His Laws are follows.
Ps 78:10 "They did not keep the covenant of God; They refused to walk in His law"
Hos 8:1 "Set the trumpet to your mouth! He shall come like an eagle against the house of the LORD, Because they have transgressed My covenant And rebelled against My law."
Ex 16:28 ‘And the LORD said to Moses, "How long do you refuse to keep My commandments and My laws?"’
By means of Hebrew parallelism these verses all equate His law(s) with His covenant or commandments, which are the same thing (Deu 4:13). This is not the Law of Moses, but in its basic form including His judgments, it is the law of the covenant of Sinai. That was the law under which the Creator originally intended Israel live. Some of that instruction was specifically for a whole nation that was intending to honor Him, but we can learn what was important to Him in any case. Unfortunately, Israel failed horrendously in short order.
The Promised Land was promised to Abraham as a result of obedience to His laws and His covenant. "And I will make your descendants multiply as the stars of heaven; I will give to your descendants all these lands; and in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed; 5 because Abraham obeyed My voice and kept My charge, My commandments, My statutes, and My laws" (Gen 26:4-5).
The covenant the Creator made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob was the same covenant He made originally with Israel. ‘Remember His covenant forever, The word which He commanded, for a thousand generations, 16 The covenant which He made with Abraham, And His oath to Isaac, 17 And confirmed it to Jacob for a statute, To Israel for an everlasting covenant, 18 Saying, "To you I will give the land of Canaan As the allotment of your inheritance,"’ (1 Chron 16:15-18)
Deu 4:12-13 "And the LORD spoke to you out of the midst of the fire. You heard the sound of the words, but saw no form; you only heard a voice. 13 So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.”
"He will ever be mindful of His covenant" (Ps 111:5b).
"He has commanded His covenant forever" (Ps 111:9b).
His covenant will not grow old or become obsolete. It is not a subset of the Old Covenant. When we understand exactly what His Laws are, we can focus on that instruction. It is more encompassing than anyone would expect. His commandments, His covenant, were made clear in Exodus 20-24, not Deuteronomy. Deuteronomy was the law that was outside the Ark of His covenant. "…It was added because of transgressions, till the Seed should come to whom the promise was made" (Gal 3:19bc).
"For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices. 23 But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’" (Jer 7:22-23)
I Sam 15:22 ‘Then Samuel said: "Has the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, As in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, And to heed than the fat of rams."’
The requirement of regular animal sacrifices and other reminders were added with the Law of Moses, the Law. They are not a part of the Covenant of the Lord. The Law of Moses is not being re-established, but His law is being fully explained and elevated by the instruction and real life example of Messiah. The fundamental terms of His Law did not change. His Covenant still assumes obedience. Based on the instruction of Messiah the terms are the same, but they are to be respected with the mind, the spirit, not just the body. For example, we are not just to avoid adultery, but we are not to let our mind wander in lust.
"You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart." (Mat 5:27-28)
1John 3:15 “Whoever hates his brother is a murderer, and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him.”
Mat 5:21 "You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder, and whoever murders will be in danger of the judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that whoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment. And whoever says to his brother, ‘Raca!’ shall be in danger of the council. But whoever says, ‘You fool!’ shall be in danger of hell fire."
His Law didn’t change, but after the direct instruction and example of Messiah, He expects more of us than He did of ancient Israel. He is also including better promises, a greater reward and therefore also expects the adherents of His covenant to live to a higher standard. It is not only our physical efforts that should be pleasing to our Creator, but how we engage our mind as well.
I Pet 1:13 "Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, "Be holy, for I am holy." 17 And if you call on the Father, who without partiality judges according to each one’s work, conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear; 18 knowing that you were not redeemed with corruptible things, like silver or gold, from your aimless conduct received by tradition from your fathers, 19 but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot."
Although 'His laws' are fundamental to the terms of the New Covenant they are never actually described as the terms of that covenant. His laws as documented for us do not fully represent His intention for this new covenant. The only place that seems to convey His intention is found in Isaiah 42:6, speaking of Messiah. "I, the LORD, have called You in righteousness, And will hold Your hand; I will keep You and give You as a covenant to the people, As a light to the Gentiles, 7 To open blind eyes, To bring out prisoners from the prison, Those who sit in darkness from the prison house" . The life of our Savior, Messiah, embodies the terms of the New Covenant. Believers are to live to His standard.
Notice Hebrews next remarks after promising His Laws will be written on believer’s hearts. When one is released from slavery to sin one isn’t controlled by it. There is no further purpose for sin offerings. Yeshua’s statements also affirm the same.
‘Then He adds, "Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more." 18 Now where there is remission of these, there is no longer an offering for sin’ (Heb 10:17-18).
"For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins." (Mat 26:28)
The New Covenant is made available by the death of Messiah in order to provide for the remission of sins. The wine of the Last Supper pictured Jesus death, which occurred the next day. Often the first meaning that comes to mind for remission is forgiveness. However, this meaning does not cover the entire meaning of the Greek word, "aphesis". The primary meaning is actually, "release from bondage or imprisonment". (See Thayer's Greek lexicon)
If we translate Matthew 26:28 according to this primary meaning of the word attributed to Jesus we would get something like: “which is shed for many for the release from bondage of sin”. Doesn’t this agree with Heb 9:26? "… he has appeared once for all at the end of the age to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself."
The problem, remember, was that the blood of bulls and goats couldn’t eliminate sin. His intention in sacrificing Himself was to do exactly that. Sin would not be eliminated by ignoring it, automatic forgiveness or some sort of self-deception on the part of the Creator. Sin can be eliminated when the believer comprehends and appreciates Yeshua’s sacrifice and so repents of his own ways to walk in His ways. If this were not the case Yeshua would have had no need to instruct his disciples, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; as I have loved you, that you also love one another." They had to take action. He intended that this appreciation for Him and what He offered as reward would overcome the root cause of sin; the desires of the flesh. Participants in the New Covenant would be released from slavery to sin by His sacrifice.
"Do you not know that to whom you present yourselves slaves to obey, you are that one’s slaves whom you obey, whether of sin leading to death, or of obedience leading to righteousness?" (Rom 6:16)
One can be in bondage to sin, i.e. the breaking of His law, or the opposite, servants of Jesus Christ leading to righteousness. The only middle ground is known as double mindedness. "….Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded" (Jas 4:8b). “…For what fellowship has righteousness with lawlessness? And what communion has light with darkness? 15 And what accord has Christ with Belial? Or what part has a believer with an unbeliever? 16 And what agreement has the temple of God with idols?” (II Cor 6:14-16)
Many are convinced they will never overcome sin because they think Paul acknowledged that he continued to sin in Romans 7. One gets this impression from not reading the whole story Paul is telling and not understanding the "law of sin" he describes. In short, the phrase "law of sin" is used only three times in the Bible, all of them included in Romans 7:23-8:2, five verses. They are all indicating the same thing by this phrase, human nature and the inclination to sin. Paul knows he can be delivered from the power of human nature by Jesus Christ (vs.24). He affirms that indeed the spirit of Christ releases him from that law (8:2), that nature and inclination so, "that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit". (vs 4)
"For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit" (Rom 8:5).
Those who truly appreciate the sacrifice of Messiah use their minds to ponder His ways. They are not overly concerned about the physical things of this world. They are concerned about conforming to the creation as the Creator intended it work. He intended a place of peace and mutual concern. Human nature obviously works against that. Humans are primarily concerned about themselves.
With a fundamentally different mindset a believer can "conduct yourselves throughout the time of your stay here in fear" (I Pet 1:17c). Messiah also promised extra help the night He participated in the first memorial to the New Covenant.
"If you love Me, keep My commandments. 16 "And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever" (John 14:15-16)
If we truly love our Savior we keep His commandments. In that case He will send a helper. This is His spirit that releases us from Paul’s "law of sin". This is the same function intended in the New Covenant. His laws are incorporated in a believers mind by the believer, so they can become part of the nature. The spirit of God will not do anything to us that we don’t want done. We create the evidence of our commitment by actively obeying. Messiah adds His spirit to make us able to be consistent. The spirit is a Helper, not a fixer.
‘Then Peter said to them, "Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.’ (Acts 2:38)
"…they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance" (Acts26:20c).
"And we are His witnesses to these things, and so also is the Holy Spirit whom God has given to those who obey Him." (Acts 5:32)
Repentance is the first step. It must be followed by a fitting change of conduct to obedience. Those who evidence that they are committed; Messiah will commit His spirit to them.
For our good He does not distribute His spirit lightly. "For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, 5 and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, 6 if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame." (Heb 6:4-6)
Heb 10:26 "For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins."
Messiah will not tenaciously live in someone who has known the mind of the Creator, but then ignored it and corrupted himself. To minimize this problem, He decides when to give the spirit. We don’t decide when we get it. Professing belief is not a guarantee of anything. Anything we say must be reflected in our conduct (Mat 7:21). It seems apparent that many claim to have His spirit, but they don’t. His spirit associates with those that relate to man and Maker in the same way Messiah did.
Heb 9:15 "And for this reason He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance."
John 10:28 "And I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish; neither shall anyone snatch them out of My hand."
Rom 6:23 "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord."
The end result of obedience and the determination to live at peace in the Creator’s world, is that He is willing to share it with His servants forever. Since they have proven that they will diligently seek to conduct themselves according to His standards, He will not need to have an army of informers checking up on everyone. Neither will they corrupt themselves, since they know what the end result of that will be.
Rev 21:7 "He who overcomes shall inherit all things, and I will be his God and he shall be My son."
He can entrust His children with all things because they will treat everything with respect and willingly share it with everyone else. His children will not be wheeling and dealing, trading and acquiring evidently the way Lucifer was. (Eze 28:16)
Jesus use of ‘remission’ indicates a 'release from bondage'. He indicates there is a releasing from the grasp evidently of human nature that leads us down the crooked paths we typically take. Remission from sin would not only include an initial forgiveness, but also a change in nature, mentality, that allows us to live up to the standard Messiah set.
There is a host of supporting scriptural evidence that our Creator expects us to reject sin and live to His standard. Some of these are reproduced below. Some people rely on Romans 7 and I John 1:8 to support their assumption that normal humans will always sin. In fact, when one carefully considers the context around these scriptures they do not allow that believers will sin, but the opposite.
"who gave Himself for us, that He might redeem us from every lawless deed and purify for Himself His own special people, zealous for good works." (Tit 2:14)
“I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Gal 5:16).
“And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” (Gal 5:24).
“Blessed is the man Who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, Nor stands in the path of sinners, Nor sits in the seat of the scornful; 2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD, And in His law he meditates day and night.” (Ps 1:1)
“Him we preach, warning every man and teaching every man in all wisdom, that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus.” (Col 1:28)
“till we all come to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ” (Eph 4:13)
“Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” (II Cor 7:1)
"that He might present her to Himself a glorious church, not having spot or wrinkle or any such thing, but that she should be holy and without blemish." (Eph 5:27)
“that you may become blameless and harmless, children of God without fault in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world.” (Php 2:15)
"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works." (II Tim 3:16-17)
"Epaphras, who is one of you, a servant of Christ, saluteth you, always labouring fervently for you in prayers, that ye may stand perfect and complete in all the will of God." (Col 4:12)
"But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing." (Jas 1:4)
“Awake to righteousness, and do not sin; for some do not have the knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame.” (1Co 15:34) "16 And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and he that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him. 17 Herein is our love made perfect, that we may have boldness in the day of judgment: because as he is, so are we in this world." (I John 4:16-17)
“For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” (Rom 8:13).
A believer, by using the spirit of God, has the power to kill the normal pulls of the flesh. He will overcome the ‘law of sin’ natural to humans and fulfill the righteous requirements of the Law. His mind will be committed to those things important to the spirit of God.
“For all that is in the world––the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life––is not of the Father but is of the world” (I John 2:16). The spirit filled person will not be enticed by the glamour, glitter or so called luxuries of this world.
“by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust” (II Pet 1:4). The true believer will diligently seek to understand the mentality of his Creator and draw close to Him in his conduct (Heb 11:6, Jas 4:8). Thus, taking advantage of the promise of release from sin and gift of the spirit of Jesus Christ, he will have the nature of Messiah by means of the spirit and will have escaped the ‘law of sin’ and the lust of the flesh that typically rules the human. Not that human things will be totally unappealing, but they will be recognized for the vanity they are and the desire to put the will of God first will prevail.
“Whoever abides in Him does not sin. Whoever sins has neither seen Him nor known Him.” (I John 3:6).
"Jesus answered them, "Most assuredly, I say to you, whoever commits sin is a slave of sin." (John 8:34)
“He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil” (I John 3:8).
“Whoever has been born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot[continue to]1 sin, because he has been born of God. 10 In this the children of God and the children of the devil are manifest: Whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is he who does not love his brother. 11 For this is the message that you heard from the beginning, that we should love one another,” (I John 3:9-11).
“Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom 6:4). Our mindset and conduct should be fundamentally different. Just as Jesus went from a physical body to a spiritual body, the believer will value the improvement of the spirit over the pleasures of the physical.
“knowing this, that our old man was crucified with Him, that the body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves of sin” (Rom 6:6). The baptized believer overcomes the part of him that pulls toward sin, so he no longer serves it. The old mentality, the body of sin, is laid aside. This is not done by human determination, but by submission to the spirit and mind of God; a sincere desire to do things His way even if it doesn’t make sense to us.
"But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (I John 1:7). This verse is contrasting two different mentalities. One walks in darkness (vs 6). The other walks in the light. One, has no fellowship with the Creator. The other has fellowship with Him. The Creator does not sin. A believer walking in the light will not sin either.
If one begins walking with Him as He walked, Jesus blood will cleanse the new believer. The bar is higher than many think.
"For if when we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life" (Rom 5:10). The reality of what Paul says is reflected in John’s statements in I John 1:6-2:1. We are cleaned and reconciled to the Father by Christ's death and atoning sacrifice. We can remain reconciled by the fact that He lives at the right hand of the Father to intervene on our behalf.
“that you put off, concerning your former conduct, the old man which grows corrupt according to the deceitful lusts, 23 and be renewed in the spirit of your mind, 24 and that you put on the new man which was created according to God, in true righteousness and holiness” (Eph 4:22-24). The true believer truly lives according to the way of God.
“and have put on the new man who is renewed in knowledge according to the image of Him who created him” (Col 3:10). The new man reflects the image of Jesus Christ, just like Jesus Christ reflected the image of the Father (Col 1:15-16).
“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, 23 having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, through the word of God which lives and abides forever” (I Pet 1:22-23).
“casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ” (II Cor 10:5).
If we don’t feel there is a fundamental difference in our values after ‘conversion’ as opposed to before, something is missing. The old man has not been set aside. “The Spirit Himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God” (Rom 8:16). If you believe you have the spirit of God because your minister tells you so, beware. It is not a matter of degrees, but night and day. Don’t be fooled by those who think they know. He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, personally, themselves. Simply warming a seat in church is not likely sufficient.
Don’t become frustrated, thinking that you will never be ‘good enough’. No normal human has ever been good enough, so that doesn’t make you any different than anyone else. What is necessary is a sincere desire to live by the instruction and example of our Savior and evidence of that sincerity. You will not likely do the law of God, i.e., have it written in your heart, if you don’t know exactly what it is. To begin, you have to know where to find the Law of God. Study it for examples and principles.
“But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.” (Heb 11:6)
Some have asked, “Why doesn’t He just tell us what to do and we will do it?” Doing is important, but the question is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of the work God is doing on earth. The Law of God is not really about doing certain things, but about thinking. It is about approaching life with a different mentality. Believers are fundamentally changed people, with a new mentality that places the needs of others usually above their own. Our Creator seeks to reform our mentality so we can make righteous decisions on our own. A list of do’s and don’ts will never be sufficient.
Isa 55:8 ‘"For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways," says the LORD. 9 "For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts"'
This world belongs to God. "For the world is mine and all its fullness" (Ps 50:12b cf. Ex 19:5). Any of this world's possessions that we may have, come from God. "You shall remember the Lord your God, for it is He who gives you the power to get wealth" (Deu 8:18ab).
"And I say unto you, make friends for yourselves by unrighteous mammon, that when you fail, they may receive you into everlasting habitations" (Luke 16:9). Support the poor. Share what the Creator has provided for you. In doing so, you support His cause and in effect, buy His friendship!
He has shared His wealth with us. He also gave us our very lives. If we are to represent Him, we are to do good to all men. "As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith" (Gal 6:10).
"And if you have not been faithful in what is another man's, who will give you what is your own?" (Luke 16:12). The whole earth is His. Everything we call our own actually belongs to the Creator. If we don’t share what is a gift to us from Him, how could He expect us to correctly manage the eternal life and function He wishes to give us in His kingdom?
Do we wonder why the early believers seemed to be living in a communal fashion? "Now the multitude of those who believed were of one heart and one soul; neither did anyone say that any of the things he possessed was his own, but they had all things in common" (Acts 4:32). The obvious answer is they recognized the source of and purpose for their possessions. They understood what it meant to be children of their Father.
When we support our fellow man, we are doing the work of God with wealth from God and our life from God. He is the protector of the poor and provides warmth for the just and the unjust. If we walk in His ways, we are His children doing His work. We represent Him. "So you should know in your heart that as a man chastens his son, so the Lord chastens you. Therefore you shall keep the commandments of the Lord your God, to walk in His ways and to fear Him" (Deu 8:5-6). “Therefore be imitators of God as dear children” (Eph 5:1). This is how we represent God: we walk in His ways, follow His law and fulfill His purpose, and live as was intended at creation. We will then be His children and His priests not only in this life, but the next. "And have made us kings and priests to our God; and we shall reign on the earth" (Rev 5:10, 1:6).
This doesn’t mean we quit our jobs or give up supporting ourselves. “..but rather let him labor, working with his hands what is good, that he may have something to give him who has need.” (Eph 4:28b) It means that in our daily lives we show kindness, respect, care and compassion toward our fellow man and great respect toward our Creator. He doesn’t typically dictate our occupation, but that we conduct ourselves according to His standards no matter what occupation we choose.
If we only do what can be legislated, we are not in tune with the intent of the New Covenant, i.e. eliminating sin and making a complete man. We are to go beyond the legal terms and be an example of concern and source of help for everyone whenever possible. We are to be His representatives on this earth (II Cor 5:20). We should conduct ourselves as He would conduct Himself. It’s a tall order, but we have a promise that the mighty Creator of the universe will help us and keep us. If He is for us, who can be against us? He will take care of His part. We need to do ours.