One struggle that often confronts new believers has to do with the life that is given us in the new covenant. You’ve often heard me say that when folk try to live in the new covenant by measuring themselves against the former covenant of Law, it can hinder the flow of grace in their life.
The term ‘old covenant’ has a view towards the covenant of Moses, that is, the covenant of Law. That covenant is not the covenant of righteousness that believer’s today are called to live by.
The point is that the new covenant includes a life factor that was not available under any of the former covenants. It is this life-factor that the believer is to learn to live by.
“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ.” (Jn1:17)
And Paul said,
“I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Gal 2:21)
In these two statements we see a major distinction between the two covenants. It is in Christ alone that we come to realize the awesome life that is given us in the new covenant. If we try to add the Law to the covenant of Christ, we make grace of no effect.
We can never gain a righteous standing with God, based on our personal goodness, or the good works that we carry out. If that were the case, it could then be said that we, ‘earned our righteousness.’
No one can earn righteousness. We are given the very righteousness of God Himself through the working of the cross. It is God’s work and not our work that saves us.
This does not mean that God doesn’t give us good works to do. All believers will have their special assignments from the Lord. These are not works that save us. They are works that speak to our relationship with God.
Which brings me to what life in the new covenant is all about. I all begins with …
The Life That Was in Christ
To appreciate life in the new covenant the first place we need to look is at the life of Jesus as it is revealed in the gospels. I’m not simply speaking of the miracles that He did. Those were Messianic miracles that set forth who He really was. I am speaking of the life he exhibited.
“In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men.” (John 1:4)
It was the very outflow of Life in Jesus Christ that astonished the people. It was God’s life in Him that drew the people to him.
What then does this have to do with new covenant life? It has everything to do with it. In one place Jesus said,
“The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I came that they may have life, and have it abundantly.” (John 10:10)
This statement tells us that Jesus came to give us a Life force, that had been outside the experience of man. The life He came to give us was evident in Himself. The life of God that indwelt Jesus, is the life that indwells new covenant believers.
This is why John later wrote,
“The life was manifested, and we have seen and testify and proclaim to you the eternal life, which was with the Father and was manifested to us.” (1Jn1:2)
Once again the life John is speaking of was the spiritual life that was manifested in Jesus Christ. And it is this very life that is given to every true believer.
It is this life factor that distinguishes the new covenant from any and every covenant given prior to the coming of Jesus. Because of the fall of Adam, God’s life was not available to any person on this planet. Being born from above means that God’s life has been placed in our spiritual being.
It means the believer has passed out of the death side of the cross into the resurrection life side of God’s new creation.
It is …
A Covenant of, ‘It is Finished’
And so we have the former covenant [of Moses] which was a covenant of, ‘This you must do,’ to the new covenant of, ‘It is finished’, and a covenant of, ‘This I shall do.’
The Bible tells us that Jesus Christ is both the author and the finisher of our faith.
The covenant of Christ is a covenant of God working His will in our heart, in our will, and in the total of our life. This work is can be done because the very life of God has been placed in the believer.
And yet in all the things that God does, a believer’s personal will is never damaged.
This is why a believer may have down-turns in his or her walk with the Lord, and yet in due course there is a restoration of full fellowship to God. It is because of the life that is in him or her. John said, “Greater is He who is in you that he who is in the world.”
This brings us to…
Learning to Live With a Clean Slate
In the covenant of Moses there was no true spiritual atonement. The most the sacrifice could do was to the sanctifying of the flesh. This simply means that God would accept the worshiper on the only level that the worshiper could be accepted at that time.
According to the Scriptures, the Old Testament sacrifices could serve as reminders of sin and of man’s need of a Savior, but they could not cleanse man’s conscience. The Bible says that these sacrifices could never make the worshiper “perfect in conscience.” (Heb9:9)
But what of the cross? Christ offered himself as an ‘eternal‘ sacrifice for sin, and through His atoning blood, the believer is given a cleansed conscience.
Rather that having a heart that continues to speak of the condemnation of sin, the blood-atoned heart now speaks of grace and peace and righteousness.
At the very beginning the new covenant believer is instantly made aware of a new life principle at work and of his new relationship with God. His conscience has been cleansed.
None of this means that a new covenant believer is incapable of sin. Far from it. What it means is that the new covenant believer’s life remains continually under the influence of the atonement of Christ, and thus the believer always has access to the blood for cleansing.
And when the new covenant believer sins, and he will, there is a grieving that takes place in his inner man. This grieving is a work of the indwelling Spirit of Christ.
No true believer can live in a state of a defiled conscience. It hurts too much. Thus the Holy Spirit compels the believer to return to the blood of God’s lamb for a cleansing, and for a fresh start. This cleansing is available moment by moment, and at any point in time.
A continual walking in the light brings a continual cleansing.
” … but if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.” (1Jn 1:7)
The Blood Will Never Lose its Power
And so, it is one thing to know we are saved by the sacrifice of Christ, it is altogether another to walk with a cleansed conscience. Both John and Paul speak of this.
In one place Paul says,
“We do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day.” (2Co4:16)
The term ‘renewed‘ is anikainoo. Its basic definition is to ‘make new.’ But it carries the idea of spiritual restorations. It can be translated that we are being made new in our spirit and mind, day by day. This is the living flow of the life that has been given us in Christ.
Paul added to this in saying,
“He saved us (Don’t you like that!), not on the basis of deeds which we have done in righteousness, but according to His mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewing by the Holy Spirit.” (Tit3:5)
Once again Paul is speaking of the new life renewal that the Holy Spirit continues to manifest in each believer.
The apostle is careful to point out that we were not and are not saved by anything we can do or have done in our own power.
James even gets in on this when he explains how a person is born from above. He said,
“In this exercise of [God's] will He brought us forth by the word of truth.” (James 1:18)
It is so important to understand this. You don’t work God’s will in your life. God works God’s will in your life. This is why even repentance can be said to be God at work in our hearts.
Thus we hear,
“He is able also to save forever those who draw near to God through Him, since He always lives to make intercession for them.” (Heb7:25)
Even the prophet Jeremiah spoke of this Life. He said that a new covenant was coming that would not be like the covenant given to Moses. Listen to this quote as found in Hebrews:
“They shall not teach everyone his fellow citizen, and everyone his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all will know Me, from the least to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.’ When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.” (Heb8:11-13)
The Finishing Touch
Paul gave the finishing touch on how new covenant life works in a single statement. He said,
“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now life in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”
This is what Paul had in mind when he said, “For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2Co3:6)
In closing the study, I need to point out that Paul never came against the moral precepts of the Law of Moses. Those precepts never change.
What the apostle was teaching is that there is a higher spiritual law at work in the new covenant. It is called ‘the Law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus.’ It is because of this Law of Life’ that God can write in our hearts all that belongs to Him.
Think about it. Feel free to add your thoughts or ask questions.
In the meantime, take time for this song written by Andrae Crouch, as sung by Clay Aiken. The Lord may have something He would like to say to you.
In Christ always,