Monday, April 14, 2008

Big Difference 5 - We have been forgiven

It's been almost a month since my last "Big Difference" post so I guess it's about time for a new one! This one was sparked by thoughts from Steve McVey's video from today (see below), as well as yesterday's blog post from Darin Hufford entitled "Going for the Worship." Both men mentioned how things changed at the cross. As Hufford puts it, "God hasn't changed from the Old to New Testament, however THINGS have."

In case anyone is new here and is not aware of where I'm coming from, I'll just state that I think it's of utmost importance that we Christians understand what the Old and New covenants are and how they are not the same and how there are huge differences between them! Also, that we are not living in a mixture of the two covenants, but we are under the New Covenant alone. The Old Covenant was a precursor to the New Covenant, and with the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus, everything changed dramatically! We entered into the era of the New Covenant.

It's also important to note that just because Matthew, Mark, Luke and John are accounts of the life of Jesus and are placed in the section of the Bible that we call "The New Testament," that doesn't mean that it's all New Covenant teaching! Again, it wasn't until the cross that things changed. Let me make a hopefully obvious point: Jesus' life as a man on the earth was all lived before the cross! The New Covenant came into effect at Jesus' death (i.e. the cross).

Jesus came into the world, "born of a woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law" (Gal 4:4). And we know that "the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor" (Gal 3:24-25). For the past few weeks, I've been working on a series of posts that will delve much deeper into all this. But for now let me just say that in many, many cases, Jesus was speaking words that were aimed at those who were under the Old Covenant/law.

Jesus, before the cross (still under the Old Covenant) masterfully used the law as a tutor (as it was meant to be used), digging deep into the real meaning of the law (not simply going around citing the Ten Commandments), penetrating the hearts of those who perhaps only had a surface view of the law. I should also add that Jesus also spoke a lot of New Covenant talk, and it's of utmost importance that we learn to distinguish the difference. Much has been revealed to us in the New Testament epistles about the reality of the New Covenant in which we live. If you ever read something in the epistles that seems to contradict anything that Jesus said, please note that none of it is wrong or contradictory! The words simply represent two distinct covenants. As you read and learn, please remember which one you are under!

One of the things Jesus said (before the cross, speaking to those under the Old Covenant) is the conditional promise of God, "if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses" (Matt 6:14-15).

IF these words are meant as a condition that Christians, under the New Testament, are to heed, then I'd like to suggest that there are a lot of people in the church who are not forgiven! Do you know what that implies??? Have you ever thought through the ramifications of teaching this Old Covenant teaching in the church?! I've heard it taught time and time again. What's sorely missing if we look only at the face value of Jesus' words, is the truth of the New Covenant teaching that with the death, burial and resurrection of Christ we have been forgiven of all sins! In fact, our sins have been taken away.

IF this forgiveness condition is still in effect, then did the cross really change much of anything?! Were sins really forgiven? Was sin really taken away?

There are so many New Testament verses that testify to the fact that in Christ we've been forgiven, not based upon the condition that we forgive others, but based upon what Jesus accomplished on our behalf. I refer you to this excellent, scripture only post from Bino last year. Here are just a couple of examples:
"And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross" (Col 2:13-14).

(Again, where did things change? The cross.)

"I write to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake" (1 John 2:12). (I might add that these words from John, as well as other words from him and other NT writers, are part of the reason I hold a different view than many of John's previous words in chapter 1, vs. 9 about confession and forgiveness... but I'll save that for another day!)

In the end, please hear me correctly and please don't get me wrong. I take all of the Bible seriously. I take all of Jesus' words seriously! But again I think we must learn to discern which of His words apply to New Covenant Christians and which of His words apply to those who were still under the tutor of the law. There's a big difference!

Here's Steve's video from today.
"Lie #92 If You Don't Forgive Others, God Won't Forgive You."

*For an explanation of this Big Difference series, see the original post.*


  1. I think it helps to remember that the scriptures were not written to us but they were written for us. Although, we can learn much from what was written, we have to correctly discern who was being spoken to. Knowing that will free us from a lot of confusion.

    A very good and clear explanation, Joel.


  2. "Who is being spoken to."

    That is the key to so much of our scripture reading, along with "what was the purpose of what was being said."

    I discard the assembly instructions once I've built the product. After that, I just need to enjoy the product.