Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Grace nullified

"You nullify the word of God by your tradition..." (Mark 7:13)

Although Jesus didn't say the above words in the exact context in which I'm going to use them, I do think the words themselves are very fitting in several contexts. I've seen many Christians - and I admit that I've been there myself - neglecting New Covenant truth and continuing on instead with some of the principles of the Old Covenant, only using them in a 'New Covenant kind of way' - which in reality only nullifies the truth of the New Covenant.

The New Covenant is a brand new thing! It's not Old Covenant Part 2. It's not a continuation of the Old Covenant, nor is it used in combination with the Old. It's not based upon the Old Covenant in any way. The Old Covenant is obsolete and is growing old and is ready to vanish away (Heb 8:13). Now, Jesus Himself was an Old Covenant teacher, and I think the whole idea of Jesus teaching the Old Covenant and yet being the "Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises" is something that is hard for modern day Christians to grasp. We see Jesus' Old Covenant teachings throughout Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. So then if He came to bring the New Covenant, why did He teach the Old Covenant? It's because the Old Covenant did have a purpose, and His teachings put a magnifying glass on that purpose. I won't get into all of it here because I've written about it time and time again. One example would be this post. For now, though, I'll just say that the reason for Jesus teaching the Old Covenant was not as a means of teaching Christians how to live.

Now that I've come to understand the differences between the two Covenants and the reasons for each, I've found myself in the midst of some hairy situations with my brothers and sisters in Christ when it comes to talking about life in Christ, because many of them are still walking - at least to an extent - in the ways of the Old, trying to fit them in with the New. But of course you cannot put new wine into old wineskins (see Mark 2:21-22). I guess you could say I've seen the nasty effects - the wineskins bursting and the wine spilling all over the place - and it's a sad situation. I'm sure many of you can relate.

One example: Last year in a small group setting (a group that I had been meeting together with for 4 years), there was a man who had been hurt sorely by church people in his past. I'll just be vague and say that there were a lot of "rules" in place and he questioned a lot of them, and faced rejection from church people. Anyway, there came a time in our small group when he began speaking about how his hurt and bitterness towards these people was affecting his life in big ways, including his family and his work. There's much more to the story, but it seemed to me and to others that he was being open about this and really wanted to heal and get past this.

And so the "answer" came from one member of our group and was further propagated by a few more: "If you don't forgive people of their sins, God won't forgive you." These words, taken from Matthew 6, are of course the words Jesus spoke immediately following "The Lord's Prayer." And so I at least understand why my friends try to apply them to their Christian lives, since they are indeed the words of Jesus. But if you followed the link above to my previous post, you'll see why I don't believe all of Jesus words are Christianity-based words, but rather are pre-cross words, based upon the Old Covenant. In other words, I believe all the words of Jesus are important, but I don't believe all the words of Jesus represent life under the New Covenant. A few times I've referred to Bino's post, Dismantle the confession booths, for a scripture-only view of how in Christ (after the cross, after the resurrection) we have already been forgiven (and how we've already been justified, saved and made righteous and how we are complete in Him).

Well, the man in our group spoke up and said that he has a hard enough time forgiving himself for many of the things he has done, never mind forgiving others. I really felt for him. I had been praying for him for a long time, as had others. I knew he was dealing with a lot of junk.

"But," continued the others, "the Bible says that you have to forgive others. We're COMMANDED to forgive. If you don't forgive others, God won't forgive you."

Of course I couldn't help but speak up, not only in defense of this man but of the very gospel. In short, I tried to help to bring the truth to light by showing how in Christ we're already forgiven by God and how we're unconditionally loved by Him. I said that this man doesn't need to work on following any commands to love and forgive people; he needs to first know the unconditional love of God and he needs to understand how he himself is fully forgiven, before he can even begin to extend this to other people.

Our nice little discussion quickly became more of a heated argument. I saw emotions in my friends that I had never seen before. Afterwards, when I came up to the woman who had originally brought up the whole forgiveness thing to apologize for any discomfort caused by our discussion, she said she didn't want to talk to me. I waited a few days and then sent her an email to sort of extend an "olive branch" to her. She accepted the olive branch but then proceeded to warn me to not go against the Word of God. The word "WORD" was capitalized seven times in this email, emphasizing how my "OPINIONS" need to be backed by the WORD and how we need to "strive to do what the WORD says."

Again, I fully understand where people are coming from. I don't agree with them, but I understand. And that's why I said yesterday that "grace is hard." Pure grace is hard to accept and it's hard to understand when we're not rightly dividing the two covenants. I've been there. "Jesus said it. That settles it." I've been in the place of not understanding that all of Jesus' words are important but not all of Jesus' words have to do with the New Covenant.

Overall I think I've built up good relationships with various people who I see often, but often disagree with. I've been tactful but firm in my beliefs. I do see that there is a difference between the dark, legalistic, religious Pharisees who wanted to kill Jesus and do away with His grace, and the modern day legalistic, religious Christians who simply haven't yet understood the grace of God in its fullness - as revealed by scripture. I want to continue building relationships with these people, and have great loving-kindness and patience towards them. And yet at times I think I also have a personality that is sort of like Paul's that stands up and yells, "You foolish people! Who has bewitched you, that you don't see we are beneficiaries of a NEW and BETTER covenant!"


  1. Joel, joel, joel, you are thrilling my heart, brother! Keeping saying, louder, repeatedly, until the Good News is truly heard! Your link to your previous post "Jesus Always Spoke the Truth, but..." is phenomenal. I have tried to tell this to people for years and they look at me like I have two heads.

    Fantastic stuff!

  2. LOL... I can fully relate to people looking at me like I have two heads! Some people just can't seem to handle the good news.

    Thanks for the comment. It's a thrill to be sharing the good news and also to have found a great group of people, including yourself, to be discussing it freely with, without fear of facing those looks of puzzlement and outrage!

  3. Really great stuff! I've haven't been reading your blog as much lately and I see I've been missing out!

  4. Joel, Great post! Amen and Amen!

  5. Bino, thanks.

    Jul, I noticed the other day that you posted a very similar post and I was meaning to comment but time got the best of me. I also just joined Grace Revolution and I see that Coatesman also posted something similar, and I hope to comment there soon as well.

    I'm really hoping this type of message - of breaking apart the hybrid gospel - will get through to the minds and hearts of the church today.

  6. Joel, I'm still playing catch up and I'm waaay behind but this is a really great post. Lots to think about.

    It's really a shame that everyone is not willing to hear and accept the good news. So many people are still operating under the Old Covenant and like it that way. They don't even realize they're rejecting the life and freedom that Jesus has made available to them.

  7. Aida... I know the whole "catch up" thing. :) I was sick for just 24 hours and when I came back around to the computer I was amazed at how much catching up I had to do! What did we ever do without email and blogs???

    You're right, it's sad that people don't want to hear the good news! Somehow it hasn't gotten through to people that life in Christ is a completely different thing than the Old Covenant was. I guess we just keep on telling the good news and hopefully more and more people will be set free!