Monday, June 8, 2009

A Covenant of Identity

Yesterday, as we kicked off our study of the 10 Commandments, we faced the difficult question for Christians studying the Law: "Why do I care?" Some positions, critically referred to as "cheap grace" or "free grace," leave little reason to study such statutes in view of the unconditional love of Christ. While still others, even the most staunch of reformers, can't quite affirm that a failure to adhere would equate in damnation or loss of salvation. So, what are we to get from the Old Testament, the old covenant, and the Law that will benefit us as Christians?

The underlying issue with both positions which I (admittedly caricatured slightly) introduced above is that they both fail to see the covenants as anything more than justifying measures. The former covenant justified by repeated sacrifice. The latter did so by Christ's death. Nonetheless, emphasis in the debate falls firmly on the matter of our justification. But was that the premise of the old covenant? Is it the premise of the new?

In Exodus 19:5-6, God introduces the covenant to Moses saying, "If you obey me fully and keep my covenant, then..." What? You'll be saved from Hell? You'll enter Heaven? No. God's covenant was to make Israel His "treasured possession... a kingdom of priests and a holy nation." His covenant was to turn a people who were nothing but helpless slaves into a nation with their own land and borders. His purpose was for them to be His priests on earth, holy for His service.

Did that all change when Christ instituted the new covenant on the cross? Did He die for anything different? No. Christ died, fulfilling the justification requirements to make us righteous, holy, and blameless--ready for service unto God. He redeemed us from bondage to sin, wherein we were helpless slaves, and turned us into something not dissimilar to the recipients of the first covenant: "a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light" (1 Peter 2:9).

God's holy standard--that which would make His treasured people stand apart from the world--has not changed. In the 10 commandments we find the standard of how a holy people behave. The convicting thought, then, is that we as the Church are indeed God's holy people. So, hey you holy people: be holy!

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  • Interesting post :)

    I've finally completed the piece I've been writing on Judaism and Christianity and the respective covenants! A Christian friend is looking it over just to make sure for me that I haven't misrepresented Christian beliefs and ideology in any way, then I can finally post it!!

    If you have the time, come and check it out, it should be on my blog by Monday :)


    Re your post: you are of course totally right in that the Jewish covenant with G-d is not in order to avoid 'hell'; there is no 'hell' in Judaism and we don't believe in eternal punishment.

    Rather, the belief is that by performing the mitzvot, or commandments, and following Torah, we draw closer to G-d. There is also a concept called 'tikkun olam' - literally translated, 'repairing the world'.

    I have one query,if I may...?

    You refer to the love of Jesus as being 'unconditional'. Does that mean you don't believe that those who don't worship him will go to 'hell'?

    If it's 'unconditional' love, does that not imply that the love exists whether or not Jesus is worshipped?

    I'm a bit confused on one issue: is the notion of 'hell' a core Christian belief? I was under the impression that it was, but I've also spoken to some Christians who say they believe all moral people reach 'heaven' - which interestingly, is the Jewish belief.

    I appreciate any comments you might offer on this topic :)

    All best wishes,

    Tabatha/Jew With A View

    By Anonymous Tabatha/Jew With A View, At June 25, 2009 at 7:13 PM  

  • The unconditional love of Jesus is an adage, not scripture. It's a human's way of describing the amazing love of God which forgives sin, but to use it as a foundation for other theological claims (as many do) is dangerous.

    The fact is, as you pointed out, God does not love all peoples unconditionally. When Israel entered Canaan, the Jebusites, Perusites, Hittites, etc... were to be destroyed. Doesn't seem like God loved them as He did Israel, does it? No, He chose Israel to set his affection on because He loved their forefathers and chose their descendents after them.

    However, I would state this: God unconditionally loves those whom He loves.

    This whole discussion stems out of a Christian doctrine known as "Sovereignty" or the "Calvinist" debate that is largely unsettled among the Christian community today, so if you ask other Christians the same question you may get vastly different answers.

    By Anonymous Nick Carter, At June 28, 2009 at 5:09 PM  

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