Tuesday, January 06, 2009

A change in covenants: From bad news to good news!

I'm going to speak in general here, but under the Old Covenant, prophets would be sent out now and then to point out how the people were failing to follow God's commandments, and to proclaim the judgment that was awaiting them if they didn't repent of their evil deeds and start doing right.

There is no such bad-news prophet 'office' in the New Covenant! We got a taste of the change when the angels appeared to the shepherds with a brand new message, all focused around the Savior of the world, and no longer focused on what had condemned the world (the law).

Luke 2:13-14
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:
"Glory to God in the highest,
And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!"

A stark change from the message of "change your ways or suffer the consequences!"

The law had done its job - death and condemnation. However, "when the fullness of the time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption as sons" (Gal 4:4-5).

No longer is the message, "change your ways so that you won't be punished." That's bad news! The reason it's bad news is because there is none righteous, no not one. There is no one who can ever change their ways in a way that satisfies God! The new message, the message of the gospel (good news) is this: "Having been justified [made righteous] by faith [not by turning from bad behavior to good behavior], we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom 5:1-2).

The Old Covenant gave birth to bondage! There is nothing about the Old Covenant that is good for us. Nothing! Cast out the bondwoman (the Old Covenant) and her son (the bondage that comes from the Old Covenant)! We are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free.

"Stand fast therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage" (Gal 5:1).


  1. Really good read, always pointing North. thanks Joel.

  2. I also like to point east to west, as far as our sins have been removed from us. :)

    Thanks, Leonard.

  3. Joel,
    Great post! Indeed, with the Holy Spirit, Jesus' Spirit, living within each and every Believer, He now reveals to us things that only we could know from Him. I believe that we are all enabled to receive revelation (prophecy), because of His Spirit in us. I think we all do, too. Such is why our hearts resonate with things we hear, see, events that take place, understandings between two or more Believers. Of coourse, we do grow in our ability to listen and discern what the Spirit is telling us. As well, I believe that many Believers have been given a special gift of being able to "tap into" the Spirit's revelations. Thus, the Gifts of Prophecy here in our day. Nonetheless, I believe all Believer's now can access the revelations He impresses into our hearts.

    Anyways, again, great post!

    ~Amy :)

  4. Hey Joel,
    Cheers to that!
    Why does that verse (Gal 5:1) keeping coming to the forefront for me???

    Me thinks maybe Papa wants us (me) to know that I'm FREE. I think that whole slavery thing is WAY overrated. I'll take the freedom for which I've been set free, thank you!!

    Great words here!!

  5. This is something I have never thought about too deeply before. You have inspired me to ponder. What do you think about Revelation (the last book in the bible). Are you specifically saying that as of Christ there is no more 'turn or burn' prohpets, but there are still prophetically gifted (with foresight), such as the person who prophesied what would happen to Paul when he went up to Rome?

    Okay, so actually, this evening I was actually thinking of some prophecies I have heard regarding the Coasts of North America and I was wondering if these prophecies were true or just fear inducing. That I have wondered about. Regardless, it doesn't change how accepted I am and always will be, nor should my focus be fearful but totally secured on Jesus come what may. . . Just curious to hear your viewpoint as you have seen many things in a whole new understanding.


    You just made me think some more.

  6. Alright, I guess I wasn't finished thinking out loud. Once, when I had just recently received the revelation of the UNCONDITIONAL LOVE of God, of the fact that Jesus paid the full price and that I was FREE FREE FREE. I found myself in this relationship that I knew I should not be in. And one night, as I was singing love songs to Jesus, I had a bright neon light image of the words casino pop into my head. The essence of the message of that image that I received was. 'You are gambling' Basically God was telling me that I needed to get out of the relationship that I was in, as that was not the one I should be in. It was not condemning. It was not God saying, I will punish you if you don't do what I say. It was just Him kindly pointing out that I was going in a direction that wasn't advisable and it could have adverse effects.

    I did listen to Him and I did gracefully disentangle myself from that relationship totally condemnation free. And in a most amazing turn of events, not 2 months later I ended up marrying my "soul mate", the one with whom I had come to the revelation of what Jesus had truly done on our behalf (the Grace of God).

    So, God in his passionate love for us must sometimes give us warnings so that we do not cause ourselves unnecessary grief. Just as we hope to do with our own children. It is not a blame thing. It is not an identity issue. It is just His love that will direct us out of dangerous situations.

    That is how I would see a prophet. Like the prophet who married a prostitute, so that he could experience the rejection of his betrothed, just as God did with His beloved Israel. I tend to veer more in that direction I think. . .

  7. Amazing. I have been wondering what the prophets represented when Jesus would refer to the Law AND the Prophets. Thanks, Joel!!

  8. BTW, this has nothing to do with this post, but what do you (or anyone reading this for that matter) make of the verse in Romans chapter 8:

    "If children, then heirs--heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, PROVIDED (or if) we suffer with Him in order that we may also be glorified with Him."

    The if or provided we suffer with Christ confuses me. It sounds like Paul is saying we will only be glorified with Christ if we suffer...Does that mean persecution? Or just suffering through the pains of life with Christ in general?

  9. Thanks, Joel :) Matthew, I fink Paul just has in mind that if someone is in the world but not off the system,in some form or other he's gonna feel some heat on account of it...the world,the flesh and the devil...it's not a meritorious condition to ultimate glorification,but,like Christ endured the things that he suffered before he entered into his inheritance through death (as our 'fore-runner'), we follow the same pattern before we receive the full 'redemption of our bodies'. What think you?

  10. By 'off the system',I meant 'of the system'...and by that, I meant the world as considered as corporately dead to God...wasn't meaning to imply some brand of anarchism or other-worldliness!..Joel,do you agree that while God doesn't send the law by prophets to conviction of sin,the Spirit is active in convicting the world of sin through unbelief,as the gospel is faithfully preached? I think this is crucial to gospel repentance and faith,as exampled in Acts. Then, when someone believes(agrees that Christ's death and resurrection procures justification,and appreciates it concerning themselves in a trusting way, thus receiving it's merits) the same message is a savour of life,and the Spirit convinces - not of sin - but Christ's perfect imputed righteousness which is now their's.

  11. ...And then,Christ made unto us wisdom,the Spirit guides,according to the truth laid out in Scripture, in the context of his role as Comforter/ Advocate from the Father to us,concerning our righteousness in Christ and adoption as sons? Within the context of both our personal selves(whom he indwells), and the corporate body of the church with the various giftings of its members,whom he also indwells as a corporate body(as contrasting with the devil dwelling in 'the world')?

  12. ...sorry! i forgot my 'conviction of sin for the world and convincing of righteousness for the church by the gospel' verses...Jn16v8-11 I think.

  13. Hey all,

    I spent a bit of time writing a comment here, and when I went to post it, it completely disappeared! Lost forever somewhere in the inter-galactic bit bucket!

    Well, instead of trying to rewrite it all, I'll just say that my main point here is that there has been a change in covenants. The Law and the Prophets had their part in the whole story, and now we are in the age of grace and the gospel and the New Covenant, and our "part" is not to go around pointing out people's sins and calling down God's judgment, but rather our message is "that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not imputing their trespasses to them" (2 Cor 5:18).

    There was a time and a place for the old, but now we're in the new! Sorry so brief, but as I said I lost what I'd written and I don't have time to rewrite it all! From now on I'm sticking with my usual practice of copying my whole comment before I post it, just in case it doesn't get posted right!

  14. Great post, Joel! One thing the 'Lewis family' asked about the present day prophets, I like to point to one verse in Hebrews:

    "In the past God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things" Heb 1:1-2

    I think what it says is the ultimate revelation of God is done through Christ and there is no need for OT-like prophets anymore. It's okay if you don't agree.

  15. I recently ordered a CD set by Joseph Prince on Galatians, called 'the covenant of grace and the kindness of God'...it's coming from Aussie tho so it's not here yet! What you've said,Joel, reminds me of the summary of it which is why I wanted to hear it. Thanks.

  16. "For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy." Rev. 19:10.

    All prophecy should point to Christ and the cross.

    Sorry, Joel. I'm late to the party. :)

  17. Bino, what you say reminds me that Jesus said that he did not come to condemn the world,but that the world through him might be saved. So whereas the law and the prophets,ending with John the B, called men to turn from their sin in anticipation of the Messiah, the Messiah himself brings a much better repentance in a much better covenant that declares what is right with man as new creations in him, given the gift of his righteousness. As Joseph Prince has said,the gospel is not a revelation of the sins of man,but of the righteousness of God given to sinful man. (So to give him life as a new creation)...so this is how the greatest Prophet speaks-not as a prophet of the law,but of life and righteousness apart from the law. And new covenant saints, in some sense,are all prophets as though God speaks through us, 'be reconciled to God in and through this grace in my Son'...but I repeat :)

  18. Bino,

    In the past few weeks and months, I've been spending a lot of time in Hebrews, mainly in chapters 6 through 10, but also going back as far as 3, 4 and 5, which provides a greater context and foundation for what else is said. But you've gone right back to the beginning, Chapter 1, vss. 1-2, providing the best foundation for the rest of the book! Great job, thanks!


    The CD set sounds interesting. I love Joseph Prince's grace teachings. I shy away from some of his prosperity type stuff, but overall it's really good stuff!

    I like your comment above, "As Joseph Prince has said,the gospel is not a revelation of the sins of man,but of the righteousness of God given to sinful man."

    That's so right on with my point here! The law and the prophets had their day, but the new age (not "new age" LOL) is the age of grace - the revelation of the righteousness of God. That comes right from Romans 1:16-17.


    No problem being 'late to the party.' I've been running very behind on all my blog reading. At this point, it's worse than when I'm out of town! 150 unread posts... time for the nuclear button again!

  19. Joel,

    Thanks for articulating (in yet another way) the good news of real, authentic Christianity.
    May we all seek with all our might....to enter into His rest, where He does "God works" through us; we co-laboring with Christ in total rest.

    Its what I love about the message of Christianity-----the way to victory is complete foolishness to the rational mind; we must release ourselves to the God who can do all things through us.


  20. Yer,Joel, I'm not sure quite what I think about some of the health and prosperity stuff. I think Prince's take is different from some? But still not sure. I probably wouldn't have touched Prince with a barge-pole a couple of years ago on account of it,with my cessationist reformed, anti-charismatic thinking...and it was a quote on the core of the gospel that Matthew posted that got me to read his book...But I wonder thus... First, God won't give us materially what's not good for us. He's primarily concerned about 'an eternal weight of glory'.. .Not all things are yet under his feet, so we cannot expect to be immune from ill-health, etc, while here...second, if God 'suffers' suffering to come into our lives as believers, as he's sovereign, we can be sure he's overruling it for a higher purpose, and our good. And our hearts are highest on his agenda... However, the cross did purchase our total redemption. And while we don't get the consummation of that yet, I'm not sure I can say anymore that there's not more material overflow into the here and now than at least I have tended to think. For one, new creations or old, we are still humans! And we are now restored to function from God's provision as humans. Too, God is Father,and he tells us not to worry about material lack,for he will provide our needs,freely giving us all things along with the greatest Gift of Christ(Rom8v31),out of his glorious riches in Christ. Telling us he's the kind of Father that so much more gives good things to those who ask, over the earthly father (who being evil) doesn't give his child a stone, when he asks for bread etc... Further, Israel etc was promised material blessings etc under the Old Covenant, and while we are not under that covenant, it has been fulfilled in Christ. We don't get the cursings, and we don't get the blessings on the basis of our performance, but don't we get them in some form because we are qualified by our righteousness in Christ? The new covenant doesn't abridge the benefits that were available in the Old,but increases them... Further, none of life is other than spiritual when we are new creations. Again, we're humans. So it's not like we should be dualistic or other-worldly in our thinking... And I realize that some, especially the Apostles for whom it was given to suffer in a particular way of persecution, according to their gifts and office, while they had their need supplied, were in much hardship...Yet still Paul wishes the 'elect lady' in 3Jn health and prosperity,in the same way her soul was prospering...just thinking aloud a few thoughts...sorry for my commenting off subject,and without paragraphs.

  21. That should be 'John',not 'Paul'!

  22. Gracethatworks,

    "May we all seek with all our might....to enter into His rest, where He does "God works" through us; we co-laboring with Christ in total rest."

    Great words! Indeed, our victory isn't won rationally. It's completely of God as we rest in Him!


    Here are my thoughts on what you said. I look around and I don't see God's people, even those who have more fully appropriated His grace (understood it, reckoned it, walked in it, etc), all having the same amount of material 'blessing' as each other. The New Covenant is an all new covenant. Neither the blessings nor curses of the Old Covenant are what we receive. It's not that they've not been abridged, and it's not that the Old Covenant blessings have increased. They've been done away with in exchange for a whole new life that is not of this world. Our citizenship is in heaven. We are in this world, but not of it. We are spirits in the material world, as the video says that I posted the other day. :)

    Our bodies are corruptible, and will one day put on incorruption. We brought nothing into this world and we'll take nothing with us. Our treasure is in heaven. Etc, etc. I don't think it's 'bad' at all to wish material/physical blessings on others or on ourselves, but it's my thought that to live in the fullness of the blessings of God doesn't mean that we are all "blessed" in that way while in our earthsuits.

    Like I said, I like a ton of what Prince says. It's just that when he gets into certain areas of worldly blessings, it's been my opinion that he's taken verses out of their context and made them mean what they don't really mean. I'm not putting him down, because I don't claim to have the final authority on scripture by any means. :) Perhaps it's just that I've seen the prosperity message really hurt people. They long and they long and they long for these so-called "biblical truths" to become reality to them, and they suffer mentally when it doesn't happen.

    Anwyay, I'm far more content and happy to preach the "good news" of the gospel of grace, and to speak of the present reality of our union with God and the life and righteousness that is ours all due to the gift of God! I 'preach' that His grace is sufficient, no matter what our worldly circumstances. :)

  23. Phil, you said, "That should be 'John',not 'Paul'!"

    What about George and Ringo??? ;)

  24. There's something so comforting about the simple good news...now that I actually believe it that is! At first it was so offensive and upsetting haha, but God is faithful isn't he? He got me through, and right now he's busy getting so many others through and he's lifting the veil from the faces of our brothers and sisters, and freedom is truly beginning to ring from sea to shining sea! I'm excited about what He's got up his sleeve for all of us this year!

  25. Jul,

    YES! It seems more and more people are beginning to taste the freedom for which Christ has set them free, and embrace it and live in it, rather than being offended by it! Of course, there are plenty who are still offended by it, and there always will be, but thank God for the work of grace that He is doing in the hearts and minds of people all over the world!

  26. Hi Joel. I wasn't arguing for it,just laying out some musings. Of course I agree that the new covenant is all new,but the question is,I think, 'how do all the covenants relate as God's worked out the story of redemption?'Yes,the nature of the Old and New is contrasted,but I see the Abrahamic Covenant ultimately as the promise of the new,with the Old playing the temporary function of pointing OT believers forwards to the fulfilment of the Abrahamic,and calling unbelievers to repentance - back to the faith of Abraham...it showed that they couldn't inherit the blessings on the basis of their works,as they were sinners...but its blessings are still applicable to us when read through a new covenant lens. What that looks like is the question. I think that Christ didn't just abrogate the Old, but fulfilled it. Ultimately,there is a new heaven and earth,and we inherit both. And God says 'all things are yours'even now...I don't think I like the earth-suit image,cos to me, it sounds a bit like the Platonic Dualist imagery of 'good soul trapped in bad body'. We are spiritually- minded, and citizens of a heavenly Jerusalem now,because we're heirs of spiritual promise-fulfilment, but we're spiritual because our spirits are redeemed to free our humanity to function after the way it was intended. There is incorruptible seed, that is growing up to transform the rest of us...that will not be consummate until the hereafter,but I think it might be telling that Paul doesn't say we will be 'unclothed'from our earthsuits,but 'clothed upon',2Cor5v4. Mortality 'swallowed up' in life. I think, just as Christ is forever God and man, we are going to be fully glorified man in eternity. What that looks like yet, we can't see. But I think it's mortality swallowed up in life for immortality, rather than our spirits unclothed from our mortality and then putting on a different immortality...if I make sense :) I haven't heard any prosperity teaching of the usual greedy,carnally-minded sort here. And I would no doubt loathe it. But I just wonder with these things I've said. Joseph always lays the central thing of no condemnation,forgiveness of sins,righteousness. He has a strong sense of grace leads to holiness of life. And then, his concept of the grace in which we stand touches our whole redeemed humanity...without that prosperity being one size fits all,disallowing suffering,or being automatic without guarding our hearts with the peace of God...
    Which he says refers to circumstances as well as peace of heart and mind. Casting all our care on him, because he cares for us, not just as spirits,but bodies too...I'm not saying he's right, but just considering that I may have been wrong,and thinking what is a biblical way to look at God's caring for us out of his provisions in all things, through a new covenant lens...:)

  27. Just to say,too,I haven't seen the video you mentioned, 'cos I don't have access to the internet at home, and my mobile phone(which I'm using) is limited some.

  28. Hi Phil,

    Yeah, I wasn't arguing any points either, just discussing my thoughts with you.

    The question that comes to my mind is, just what is the blessing of Abraham? Does it have anything to do with material blessings while we're here in these bodies? I've tended to think of the promise that God made to Abraham, as a promise of one seed (Jesus) through whom a whole new people will come, a people who are justified spiritually before God. Rom 4:5-9, for example. The 'blessedness' is justification - God imputing righteousness apart from works.

    Also, Paul's words in Galatians 3 about the blessing of Abraham is all about not being under the curse, but being justified by faith.

    The scripture you brought up, 2 Cor 5:4, didn't make sense to me in the way you spoke of it. (If I understand you right, that is). It appears to me that you're saying that the meaning of our mortality being swallowed up by immortality, is that the mortal beings that we are will still remain, being further clothed by immortality. That doesn't make sense, in that our mortality will still be there then, inside of our immortality. (?) Again, not arguing, just not thinking it makes sense. My thoughts go further away from this with verse 1 of the same chapter. "For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens."

    I believe that who we are - spirits who live temporarily in an earthly body - will leave these corruptible, decaying, dying bodies, and will inhabit a new body, a new building from God.

    I will say, though, that while we're here in these bodies, God is always good to us. It's not as if God ever curses us. He's always good. As I said, we each have different amounts of material 'blessings' while in these bodies, but it's the same God. And... I believe the same God has equally blessed all of us spiritually... giving Life to all who call on His name.

  29. Hi again,Joel. Got brain-ache, so gotta be short...well, the covenant with Abraham was set in the context of his own justification,for sure. And it ultimately promised the ministry of the Spirit and a veil-less relationship with the transcendent God in us. Sins taken away in the new covenant. I guess the question is, though, if Christ's death reverses all the death consequences of Adam's sin, then how do the material aspects manifest today, now we have eternal redemption? For sure, we're waiting for what's mortal - still subject to brokenness of the world,flesh,devil - to be entirely put away/under his feet...but does that mean that there is no overspill of those other aspects of redemption into the here-and-now, because of the cross? I think what I was getting at with 2Cor5 was the thought that the thrust is 'to live is Christ, to die is even better'. There's a groaning because we don't yet see all things put under his feet, and we are not immune from the world,remaining flesh,and the devil. We are looking for new bodies etc, but it's not that we're looking to put off our God-given humanity for something immaterial, but the brokenness of it. By the redemption of it that is already won in the eternal being manifested in the present, until one day it's consummate...I don't think the groaning is supposed to take the form of 'aww, humanity...I can't wait til I'm liberated from the material and disembodied.' I think Paul's saying, yes we groan to be delivered from remaining brokenness, but our deliverence is in our humanity being practically restored to the image of what it already is in the eternal, when it was finished on the cross. That all that's already finished,gives a sure hope...ultimately,we will live as glorified humans,without a spot of brokenness or sin, after some parallel fashion to how Adam did before the Fall. Yet more intimately, and without any chance of anything other than 'very good' ever being part of the equation...and I think the Abrahamic covenant really just sets in motion the outworking of this entire redemption of the cosmos,beginning with man in our Second Adam. It's finished in the eternal, and believers have access to that in the here and now...just rambling

  30. Phil,

    Don't let your brain ache over a conversation with me. It just ain't worth it... ;)

    I think I get what you're saying, and I suppose I'd have some things to add to what you said to support parts of it, and a few things that would disagree with parts of it. My underlying thought would simply be to say that our spirits have been redeemed, but our bodies haven't yet been redeemed. I can't WAIT to get out of this body! :) But till I do, I live my life as a dead man (spiritually) who has been raised to new life (spiritually), and my life (spiritually) has been joined together with Christ, and that remains true as true can be no matter what happens to this body.

  31. Yeah, surely your right that our spirits are fully redeemed in the sense of complete in the here-and-now, but our bodies are not...I was thinking of that Beatles thing like you when I mentioned John and Paul together ;)