Covenants and testaments are based on promises and agreements between two or more parties.
Our Creator God is a God of infinite, unfailing, unwavering, uncompromising love. It always has been and always will be that He would have His erring sinful proud and unbelieving creatures to know this love, and therefore, to know Him.
KJV Ephesians 3
14 For this cause I bow my knees unto the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ,
15 Of whom the whole family in heaven and earth is named,
16 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man;
17 That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in love,
18 May be able to comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;
19 And to know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge, that ye might be filled with all the fulness of God.
It has always been His heartfelt yearning that God and man should be on the most intimate of terms and that both may know the joy and peace that would come from a loving relationship with one another.
KJV Exodus 25
8 And let them make me a sanctuary; that I may dwell among them.
The entire Government of God, the Kingdom of Heaven, and the laws by which it is governed, is based on this love. And everything God purposes to do, promises, accomplishes, says and does, has as its motivating principle God’s perfect love.
KJV Deuteronomy 7
7 The LORD did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people:
8 But because the LORD loved you, and because he would keep the oath which he had sworn unto your fathers, hath the LORD brought you out with a mighty hand, and redeemed you out of the house of bondmen, from the hand of Pharaoh king of Egypt.
9 Know therefore that the LORD thy God, he is God, the faithful God, which keepeth covenant and mercy with them that love him and keep his commandments to a thousand generations;
See also Isa. 63:7-9; 1 John 4:7-21; 1 John 5:1-4)
That is why, when Adam sinned, God still sought him out. (Gen. 3:9) Love was the motivating factor behind God’s promise (Genesis 3:15; Nahum 1:9) that the damage to the relationship caused by sin (Isa 59:2) would ultimately be undone ; that the power of Satan over our lives (John 8:34; Romans 6:16,20; 2 Peter 2:19) would be reversed and the power of death(Ezek. 18:4,20; Romans 5:12; Romans 6:23) would be overcome . How was God to accomplish all this while at the same time honouring justice, love and mercy? Through Jesus Christ.
The plan of redemtpion was not an afterthought, an emergency crisis plan developed after the fall of Adam. It was a “revelation of the mystery kept secret through times eternal” (Romans 16:25 RV) and the book of Revelation says…KJV Revelation 13
8 And all that dwell upon the earth shall worship him, whose names are not written in the book of life of the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world.
KJV 1 Peter 1
20 Who verily was foreordained before the foundation of the world, but was manifest in these last times for you…
Forseeing the apostasy of Satan and his deception of Adam and Eve causing their fall, God had already prepared to meet the crisis. So great was His love for man that He covenanted to give “His only begotten Son that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.
This covenant was to be shown in types and symbols. They were a “lesson book” for the people of Israel (Gal. 3:24,25) and beginning from the very first sacrifice slain by God Himself to clothe Adam and Eve (Gen 3:21) the people of Israel were to learn (or should have learned) three vital lessons.
1. That sin results in death. (Hebrews 10:1-4) for remission is only possible through the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22)
2. That the constant shedding of innocent blood was to teach man an abhorrence and hatred for sin and thus encourage the people to repent and turn away from it (Isa 1:11-20; Ezek. 18:21-23)
3. The symbols, sacrifices, and services of the sanctuary were a prophetic picture of a coming saviour; they were a depiction of the gospel of grace. (Gen. 22:8; Isa 53:6,7)
And how were these promises, this covenant, to be appropriated by the individual personally? By faith. (Hebrews 11:6) Was Israel at any time justifiied or saved by works of the law? No. Not at all. A big error they did make however was to attempt to do just that. Making a promise that was…a. Impossibleb …b. Not required of them…KJV Exodus 19
8 And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the LORD….
They began to rely on their obedience and in their participation in these services and sacrifices etc rather than in the grace and mercy of God. (Rom. 10:3-8; Heb. 2:4). This is what the apostle Paul’s letter to the Galatians was all about.
What then, does all this mean for us living as we know in the “New Testament” times? What is this New Testament, or covenant? God’s love has not changed, nor His purpose in undoing all the works of Satan. (1 John 3:8) Therefore the new covenant must involve a new method by which He is to be able to fulfil His promises. Why? Because the old covenant was based on faulty promises. Were God’s promises faulty? Surely not, no, but rather the peoples promises. (Heb. 8:6,7) The people had misjudged the part they were to play in the covenant. In Exod. 19:5,6 God promised (again) that He would make of them a mighty nation and a holy people, and their response was in the form of a faulty promise. They answered, “all that the Lord hath spoken we will do”. (Exod. 19:8) Unfortunately they had little idea of what they promised. God said that He would perform and establish His covenant; rather than thanking Him and surrendering themselves in faith and acceptance to His promise, they said they would perform His promise. Just like Abram and Sarai when introducing Hagar into the transaction between God and Abram. In a sense they were introducing a mediator, much as has Rome done which is the spirit of Antichrist. This was not Abraham’s covenant to alter or ammend. This was God’s covenant, and like all covenants or testaments, once blood is spilt that testament can never be changed. History reveals of course the abject failure of Israel’s promise, failure to such an extent that Israel didn’t even recognise the very God of the covenant when He visited…we are all well aware of what they did to their own Messiah.
Therefore God had to make a new covenant with the house of Israel, based on better promises (Heb. 8:9,10) Today, God’s promises remain. He still would bring us power and victory over Satan and sin, but the method by which He would accomplish this has changed. The just however must still live by faith.
The old covenant, the old method by which God was to save His people and establish righteousness and obedience to His commandments was through the Mosaic law. Circumcision, sacrifices and burnt offerings, the annual sabbaths and feast days and the accompanying services of the sanctuary etc (Hebrews 9:1-7), comprised God’s method to teach His people, the nation of Israel, the ways of righteousness. They were His lesson book. Israel was to look upon these as the gospel of mercy and in faith look ahead to their Saviour, their Messiah. The new covenant is still by faith, not in a coming Saviour, but in a risen Saviour, Who writes His holy moral law in our hearts and minds. (2 Cor. 3:3) Thus, through Jesus, Satan is conquered, and his power over us is broken. Justice is satisfied, and God looks upon us as if we had never sinned. God gives us the new birth experience and the power to overcome sin. (1 John 3:9; 2 Peter 1:3,4). He dies in our place, and we, by faith die with Him. (Romans 6:1-7) And the result is what Adam and Eve had before the fall: a loving personal relationship with our Creator. Only today, by God’s grace and mercy, we are closer to Him than Adam and Eve could have ever wished for, for we have His Spirit abiding within. (Coll. 1:27)
Therefore God shows that His love is unconditional. He died while we were yet sinners. But His promises are not unconditional, nor have they ever been. Adam and Eve found that out.
Obedience is a prerequsite to our ultimate salvation. While Christ is “made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification and redemption (1 Cor 1:30) yet the only ones who are perfected or sanctified are those who fully accept His grace. True, He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them” (Heb 7:25) yet those who would be saved must come unto God and “lay hold upon eternal life”. (1 Tim. 6:19) When we accept Him, we are justified; His righteousness is imputed to us and we stand before God just as if we had never sinned. But only those who follow on and experience Him as an indwelling power, and who continually appropriate His grace for victory over their sinful natures, are sanctified or perfected.
Arthur W. Pink says:
Justification and sanctification are never separated; where God imputes the righteousness of Christ, He also imparts a principle of holiness, the latter being the fruit or consequence of the former; both being necessary before we can be admitted into heaven. Because the blood of Christ has met every claim of God upon and against His people, its virtues and purifying effects are applied to them by His Spirit…..for the blood of Christ is not merely, so to speak, the key unlocking the Holy of Holies to Him as our High Priest and Redeemer, it is not merely our ransom by which we are delivered out of bondage, and freed from the curse, and are brought nigh unto God; but it also separates us from death and sin. It is incorruptable, always cleansing and vivifying; through this blood we are separated from the evil world, and we may then overcome; by this blood we keep our garments white. (John 6:53; Rev 7:14)
C S Lewis in his book Screwtape Letters, described the demon’s modus operandi as to how he attacks God’s people with the following;
- “’running about with fire extinguishers whenever there is a flood. Get people to crowd to the side of the boat that is already nearly under. When people are lukewarm and apathetic, get them stirred up about the dangers of enthusiasm and emotion. If they are lazy, talk to them about the hypocrisy of the working community. If they are cruel, warn them against the evils of sentimentality…” In other words, let them hear loudly and repeatedly the warnings they don’t need.
We Christians, and in particular we Adventists are not immune to this kind of tactic…we have literally dozens of authors, preachers, teachers and numerous others both inside and outside of ministry, railing against and warning about legalism and extremism in “keeping God’s commandments”…for example railing against “sinless perfectionism” when the reality is Jesus’s church that He is currently betrothed to is supposed to be like this…KJV Ephesians 5
27 That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish.
Thus obedience to God in all things is essential to our ultimate salvation. The method by which this is accomplished has been changed. Former adherence to rites and services and sacrifices has been done away with, nailed to the cross. Faith in a coming Saviour is fulfilled by His arrival, and we by faith now trust in His Spirit abiding in us to create in us the image of Christ that first resided in Adam before the fall. This work that makes us one with Christ and the Father is a work of a lifetime. It is only by our daily surrender and submission to the Holy Spirit that this is appropriated in our lives. Thus our obedience to God’s laws are not a means to justification, but the fruit of our sanctification.
And for those who would believe that the law of God written upon stone is completely done away with I would remind you that in every agreement I know of there are two copies, one given to each participant in the agreement. Our copy was written upon tables of stone, placed inside the ark, which in turn was placed inside the Holy of Holies where the very presence of God abode in the sanctuary. The holiest place on the planet. And just as the earthly sanctuary was a copy of the heavenly, we would expect also that God had an ark in heaven, and we could also presume that inside that ark was His copy of the covenant, after all, it is called the ark of the covenant, and that presumption would be correct for we read:
Revel. 11:19 And the temple of God was opened in heaven, and there was seen in his temple the ark of his testament: and there were lightnings, and voices, and thunderings, and an earthquake, and great hail.
This vision my friends is a new testament vision. The laws of God as contained in the tables of stone still abide in the throne room of God, the holiest place in heaven. They are still the laws of the kingdom.