Removing the Veil
"You yourselves are our letter of recommendation, written on your hearts, to be known and read by all men; and you show that you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God, not on tablets of stone but on tablets of human hearts. Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life."
"Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses' face because of its brightness, fading as this was, will not the dispensation of the Spirit be attended with greater splendor? For if there was splendor in the dispensation of condemnation, the dispensation of righteousness must far exceed it in splendor. Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all, because of the splendor that surpasses it. For if what faded away came with splendor, what is permanent must have much more splendor."
"Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not see the end of the fading splendor. But their minds were hardened; for to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their minds; but when a man turns to the Lord the veil is removed."
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:2-18 RSV
In the third chapter of II Corinthians, Paul speaks of an old covenant that created a veil over the minds of the Israelites, and a veil that remains even today over the hearts of those who hear its words, and contrasts it with a new covenant. It is important that we understand the "old covenant" and the "new covenant". What are these covenants? What is their relationship; has the new succeeded the old or are they both still in effect?
The Old Covenant
The following texts provide a clear explanation as to what the old covenant was, where it was given, and to whom it was given. It should also be noted that the words "testament" or "testimony" are used interchangeably with the word "covenant".
"And he gave to Moses, when he had made an end of speaking with him upon Mount Sinai, the two tables of the testimony, tables of stone, written with the finger of God." Exodus 31:18 RSV
"And he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And he wrote upon the tables the words of the covenant, the ten commandments." Exodus 34:28 RSV
"And he declared to you his covenant, which he commanded you to perform, that is, the ten commandments; and he wrote them upon two tables of stone." Deuteronomy 4:13 RSV
"The Lord our God made a covenant with us in Horeb. Not with our fathers did the LORD make this covenant, but with us, who are all of us here alive this day." Deuteronomy 5:2,3 RSV
"When I went up the mountain to receive the tables of stone, the tables of the covenant which the LORD made with you, I remained on the mountain forty days and forty nights " Deuteronomy 9:9 RSV
" And at the end of forty days and forty nights the LORD gave me the two tables of stone, the tables of the covenant." Deuteronomy 9:11 RSV
"So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain was burning with fire; and the two tables of the covenant were in my two hands." Deuteronomy 9:15 RSV
" There was nothing in the ark except the two tables of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, where the LORD made a covenant with the people of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt." I Kings 8:9 RSV
"And there I have provided a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD which he made with our fathers, when he brought them out of the land of Egypt." I Kings 8:21 RSV
"Behind the second curtain stood a tent called the Holy of Holies, having the golden altar of incense and the ark of the covenant covered on all sides with gold, which contained a golden urn holding the manna, and Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; " Hebrews 9:3-4 RSV
In the above texts, the ten commandments are specifically stated to be the covenant God made with the sons of Israel on Mount Sinai. We find that the Siniatic covenant was further interpreted and expanded in the other writings of Moses, most notably in Exodus, Leviticus, and Deuteronomy (which means second law). There we find not only a repeating of the ten commandments, but some 613 laws and commands that further expand and interpret the ten commandments and include additional laws, specific instruction on sacrificial offerings, and penalties for disobedience.
"These are the words of the covenant which the LORD commanded Moses to make with the people of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which he had made with them at Horeb." Deuteronomy 29:1 RSV
"When Moses had finished writing the words of this law in a book, to the very end, Moses commanded the Levites who carried the ark of the covenant of the LORD, Take this book of the law, and put it by the side of the ark of the covenant of the LORD your God, that it may be there for a witness against you. " Deuteronomy 31:24-26 RSV
The Unity of the Law
The following list offers a few examples of how the summarized ten commandment law was further expanded, interpreted, and explained in the book of the law:
1. No Other Gods
2. Do Not Worship Idols
3. Do Not Profane God's Name
4. Remember The Sabbath
5. Honor Father and Mother
6. Do Not Kill
7. Do Not Commit Adultery
8. Do Not Steal
9. Do Not Bear False Witness
10. Do Not Covet
The ten commandments, or "words of the covenant", were placed within the ark of the covenant, and the expanded version, also called the "words of the covenant" (Deuteronomy 19:1,9), "book of the covenant" (Exodus 24:7), or "book of the law" (Deuteronomy 31:26) was placed alongside the ark of the covenant.
It should be noted that many Christians today attempt to differentiate the ten commandment law (words of the covenant) from the other laws of Moses (book of the covenant). They claim the former to be a moral law while the latter is ceremonial in nature. There is no scriptural basis to support this view. In fact, there are moral, civil and ceremonial aspects throughout the ten commandments and the book of the law. When Jesus was asked "which is the greatest commandment in the law", He quoted two commandments, not within the ten commandment law, but within the book of the law (Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18). From this and other passages in the gospels, it is obvious that when Jesus made reference to the law, it was always in the context of the entire Mosaic or Sinaitic law.
In the scriptures examined so far, the "old covenant" has been specifically identified as the ten commandment law. There also existed an expanded version "book of the covenant" that included further interpretation of the summarized covenant. There is a third aspect to the old covenant and it is the special sign of the covenant, even itself called a covenant. It is the sabbath.
"And the LORD said to Moses, "Say to the people of Israel, 'You shall keep my sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the LORD, sanctify you. ". Exodus 31:12:13 RSV
"Therefore the people of Israel shall keep the sabbath, observing the sabbath throughout their generations, as a perpetual covenant. It is a sign for ever between me and the people of Israel that in six days the LORD made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day he rested, and was refreshed." Exodus 31:16:17 RSV
"So I led them out of the land of Egypt and brought them into the wilderness. I gave them my statutes and showed them my ordinances, by whose observance man shall live. Moreover I gave them my sabbaths, as a sign between me and them, that they might know that I the LORD sanctify them." Ezekiel 20:10-12) RSV
This covenant with the sons of Israel is referred to throughout the Bible. Blessings are repeatedly offered to Israel for obedience to the requirements of the covenant, along with curses for disobedience. The sabbath was an important outward sign for Israel in remembrance of both the creation and of their deliverance from Egypt. It was a sign of the chosen status given the nation of Israel and in turn Israel's commitment to the covenant. Just prior to giving the Sinaitic covenant, God said:
"You have seen what I did to the Egyptians, and how I bore you on eagles' wings and brought you to myself. Now therefore, if you will obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my own possession among all peoples; for all the earth is mine." Exodus19:4-5 RSV
After the covenant was given on Mount Sinai, the children of Israel gave their commitment.
"Then he took the book of the covenant, and read it in the hearing of the people; and they said, "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient." Exodus 24:7 RSV
It is important to note the nature of a covenant. Typical to traditional Near East treaties, a covenant consisted of three parts: 1) promises from the ruler to the ruled party, 2) the requirements of the ruled party to the ruler, and 3) the sign of the covenant, typically placed in the center of the document. The Siniatic covenant that God made with Israel is very typical in utilizing the format of Near East covenants and treaties. God gives his promises, the people pledge obedience to the covenant requirements, and God places his sign of the covenant, the sabbath, in the middle of the document.
Other Old Testament Covenants
In addition to the Sinaitic or Mosaic covenant, God made other covenants. Most notable are those with Noah and Abraham. The Noahic covenant was expressed by God for all mankind and stated that He would never send another flood. The covenant sign was the rainbow.
"Behold, I establish my covenant with you and your descendants after you, and with every living creature that is with you, the birds, the cattle, and every beast of the earth with you, as many as came out of the ark. I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth." And God said, "This is the sign of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for all future generations: I set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be a sign of the covenant between me and the earth." Genesis 9:9-13 RSV
God also established a covenant with Abraham. This covenant was made with Abraham and his descendents, and included the sign of circumcision (which was carried over as an important entry sign of the Siniaitic covenant previously discussed). More importantly, through the Abrahamic covenant, also called the faith covenant, God sought to draw all people of the earth into a covenant relationship.
"And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you, and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who curses you I will curse; and by you all the families of the earth shall bless themselves." Genesis 12:2-3 RSV
"And I will establish my covenant between me and you and your descendants after you throughout their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be God to you and to your descendants after you." Genesis 17:7 RSV
"I will indeed bless you, and I will multiply your descendants as the stars of heaven and as the sand which is on the seashore. And your descendants shall possess the gate of their enemies, and by your descendants shall all the nations of the earth bless themselves, because you have obeyed my voice." Genesis 22:17,18 RSV
Paul refers to this everlasting covenant of faith that God made with Abraham, his descendents, and the Gentiles who by faith accepted Jesus Christ. Paul specifically noted that this everlasting covenant of faith was not annulled by the old law covenant.
"Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, "And to offsprings," referring to many; but, referring to one, And to your offspring, which is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void." Galatians 3:16-17 RSV
The New Covenant
Throughout the Old Testament, we are given examples of Israel's failure to uphold their end of the covenant, even though they had declared "All that the LORD has spoken we will do, and we will be obedient."
As man's incapability to obey the terms of the old covenant became apparent, all the ceremonial aspects associated with the covenant became not only meaningless, but also reprehensible to the Lord.
"Bring no more vain offerings; incense is an abomination to me. New moon and sabbath and the calling of assemblies--I cannot endure iniquity and solemn assembly. Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hates; they have become a burden to me, I am weary of bearing them." Isaiah 1:13-14 RSV
"And I will put an end to all her mirth, her feasts, her new moons, her sabbaths, and all her appointed feasts." Hosea 2:11
The Old Testament prophets began to prophesy of a new covenant, built on better promises, that was to come. Jesus Christ is described not only to be the mediator of this new covenant but also to be the new covenant. The new covenant is then contrasted with the old.
"I am the LORD, I have called you in righteousness, I have taken you by the hand and kept you; I have given you as a covenant to the people, a light to the nations, to open the eyes that are blind, to bring out the prisoners from the dungeon, from the prison those who sit in darkness." Isaiah 42:6-7 RSV
"Thus says the LORD: 'In a time of favor I have answered you, in a day of salvation I have helped you; I have kept you and given you as a covenant to the people, to establish the land, to apportion the desolate heritages;' " Isaiah 49:8 RSV
" Behold, the days are coming, says the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant which they broke, though I was their husband, says the LORD. But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it upon their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each man teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, says the LORD; for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more." Jeremiah 31:31-34 RSV
John the Baptist was even referred to by Malachi as a messenger who would prepare the way for the new covenant, the One in whom there would be delight.
" Behold, I send my messenger to prepare the way before me, and the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; the messenger of the covenant in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts." Malachi 3:1 RSV
The promise of a new covenant, prophesied of in the Old Testament, is fulfilled in the New Testament through Jesus Christ and His sacrifice.
"for this is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins." Matthew 26:28
"And likewise the cup after supper, saying, "This cup which is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood" Luke 22:20 RSV
"In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.' " I Corinthians 11:25 RSV
"Such is the confidence that we have through Christ toward God. Not that we are competent of ourselves to claim anything as coming from us; our competence is from God, who has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life". 2 Corinthians 3:4-6 RSV
"This makes Jesus the surety of a better covenant. The former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues for ever." Hebrews 7:22-24 RSV
"But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry which is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion for a second. For he finds fault with them when he says: "The days will come, says the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah; not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; for they did not continue in my covenant, and so I paid no heed to them, says the Lord. This is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put my laws into their minds, and write them on their hearts, and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall not teach every one his fellow or every one his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for all shall know me, from the least of them to the greatest. For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more." Hebrews 8:6-12 RSV
"Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred which redeems them from the transgressions under the first covenant." Hebrews 9:15 RSV
"How much worse punishment do you think will be deserved by the man who has spurned the Son of God, and profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and outraged the Spirit of grace?" Hebrews 10:29 RSV
"and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks more graciously than the blood of Abel." Hebrews 12:24 RSV
"Now may the God of peace who brought again from the dead our Lord Jesus, the great shepherd of the sheep, by the blood of the eternal covenant, equip you with everything good that you may do his will, working in you that which is pleasing in his sight, through Jesus Christ; to whom be glory for ever and ever. Amen." Hebrews 13:20-21 RSV
The new covenant was an eternal covenant of promise made between God the Father and God the Son before the foundations of the world. It has always been a covenant of faith for those willing to accept the righteousness of Christ, by faith, in place of self-righteousness obtained by works. We can lay hold to the promise of the new covenant, eternal inheritance, simply by accepting Christ's fulfillment of the old covenant. It is through His sacrifice that we are sanctified and made heirs of His kingdom.
"Indeed I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them as refuse, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own, based on law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith;" Phillipians 3:8-9
The Fulfillment of the Old Covenant
"Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfil them. For truly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the law until all is accomplished." Matthew 5:17:18 RSV
The "law and the prophets" was a common Jewish term for the entire Old Testament writings; the law being the entire Mosaic law and the prophets being the rest of the scripture. Many Christians have used the above text to "prove" that the ten commandment law is everlasting (till heaven and earth pass). What they fail to recognize is that Jesus is speaking of the entire Mosaic law, all 613 commandments not just the ten commandments. Few Christians today would be willing to suggest that not a jot or tittle would ever pass from the entire Mosaic law and that it is everlasting in it's entirety.
The key words here are "until all is accomplished." By saying that nothing would pass from the law until all is accomplished (or fulfilled), the converse message is that when all is accomplished there would be change to the law.
By His life of complete obedience to the Mosaic law and sacrificial death on the cross, Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the old covenant and established His new covenant with those who accept his atonement in their place. It is important to understand that man can choose to accept the new covenant, or he can continue to live under the requirements of the old covenant (which does still exist with all jots and tittles intact). However, he cannot do both.
Fulfillment, according to Webster's New World Dictionary, means to carry out, cause to happen, to obey, to fill the requirements of, satisfy or answer, to bring to an end, complete.
Jesus, as he stated, did not come to destroy the law or prophets but to fulfil them. The law remains as a reminder that man is incapable of attaining salvation through the works of the law and that our true salvation can be found only in Christ, as testified to by the prophets. The completed atonement of Christ on the cross brought an end to the requirements of the sacrificial system, the Levitical priesthood, and of the Mosaic law.
"After this Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said (to fulfil the scripture), 'I thirst.' " John 19:28 RSV
"For Christ is the end of the law, that every one who has faith may be justified." Romans 10:4 RSV
"Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses' face because of its brightness, fading as this was, will not the dispensation of the Spirit be attended with greater splendor? For if there was splendor in the dispensation of condemnation, the dispensation of righteousness must far exceed it in splendor. Indeed, in this case, what once had splendor has come to have no splendor at all, because of the splendor that surpasses it. For if what faded away came with splendor, what is permanent must have much more splendor." 2 Corinthians 3:7-11RSV
"by abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace," Ephesians 2:15 RSV
"having canceled the bond which stood against us with its legal demands; this he set aside, nailing it to the cross. He disarmed the principalities and powers and made a public example of them, triumphing over them in him. Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath." Colossians 2:14-16 RSV
"Now if perfection had been attainable through the Levitical priesthood (for under it the people received the law), what further need would there have been for another priest to arise after the order of Melchizedek, rather than one named after the order of Aaron? For when there is a change in the priesthood, there is necessarily a change in the law as well." Hebrews 7:11-12 RSV
"In speaking of a new covenant he treats the first as obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away." Hebrews 8:13 RSV
"then he added, "Lo, I have come to do thy will." He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.
"And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all." Hebrews 10-9-10 RSV
The Old Covenant and the New Covenant Christian
An important question for new covenant Christians concerns the relationship between the old and new covenants. While there are many important moral laws and principles throughout the Mosaic law (not just the ten commandments), many of which are re-stated in the New Testament and are applicable to the new covenant Christian, the scriptures are clear that the old covenant ended at the cross.
"Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained by angels through an intermediary." Galatians 3:19 RSV
"Now before faith came, we were confined under the law, kept under restraint until faith should be revealed. So that the law was our custodian until Christ came, that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a custodian;" Galatians 3:23-25 RSV
"What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, righteousness through faith; but that Israel who pursued the righteousness which is based on law did not succeed in fulfilling that law. Because they did not pursue it through faith, but as if it were based on works. They have stumbled over the stumbling stone, as it is written, 'Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone that will make men stumble, a rock that will make them fall; and he who believes in him will not be put to shame.' " Romans 9:30-33 RSV
Similar to the II Corinthians description of a "veil" over our minds and hearts in association with the law, in Romans the law is described as a "stumbling block". Man's pursuit of righteousness based on law (and of works) has always been one of failure.
It is important to understand that there has always been an everlasting covenant. It is the covenant of faith, of which the new covenant is a continuation, for it has always counted for righteousness. It was not limited to Israel; it was initially made with Abraham and then extended to all nations. Through faith, we become the sons and daughters of Abraham and are justified by our faith, just as was Abraham.
"Thus Abraham 'believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousness. So you see that it is men of faith who are the sons of Abraham. And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, 'In you shall all the nations be blessed.' So then, those who are men of faith are blessed with Abraham who had faith. For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, 'Cursed be every one who does not abide by all things written in the book of the law, and do them.' Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law; for 'He who through faith is righteous shall live'; but the law does not rest on faith, for 'He who does them shall live by them.' Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us--for it is written, 'Cursed be every one who hangs on a tree' -- that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come upon the Gentiles, that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith." Galatians 3:6-14 RSV
"The promise to Abraham and his descendants, that they should inherit the world, did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. If it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants--not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of us all," Romans 4:13-16 RSV
In contrast to the covenant of faith God made with Abraham, the old covenant or law covenant given to Israel was not based on faith. It was based on the righteousness of observing the law.
"And the LORD commanded us to do all these statutes, to fear the LORD our God, for our good always, that he might preserve us alive, as at this day. And before the LORD our God, as he has it will be righteousness for us, if we are careful to do all this commandment before the LORD our God, as he has commanded us." Deuteronomy 6:24-25 RSV
"Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on the law shall live by it." Romans 10:5 RSV
Unlike the covenant of faith, or promise, that God made with Abraham for all nations, the old covenant law had a distinct beginning (430 years after the promise to Abraham) and end (till the offspring of promise should come). It is important to note that "offspring" is singular (referring to the Messiah) and not plural thus clearly denoting when there would be an end to the law.
"This is what I mean: the law, which came four hundred and thirty years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. For if the inheritance is by the law, it is no longer by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise. Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made; and it was ordained by angels through an intermediary." Galatians 3:17-19 RSV
Many Christians today still want to carry over at least portions of the old covenant into the new. Those who desire to carry over the old covenant law into the new are cautioned.
"Tell me, you who desire to be under law, do you not hear the law? For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by a slave and one by a free woman. But the son of the slave was born according to the flesh, the son of the free woman through promise. Now this is an allegory: these women are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children for slavery; she is Hagar. Now Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia; she corresponds to the present Jerusalem, for she is in slavery with her children. But the Jerusalem above is free, and she is our mother." Galatians 4:21-26 RSV
"But what does the scripture say? 'Cast out the slave and her son; for the son of the slave shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.' So, brethren, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman." Galatians 4:30-31 RSV
By choosing to accept the complete atonement of Jesus, our new covenant, we are given clear instruction about what to do with the old covenant. We are told to get rid of it! To not do so is paramount to spiritual adultery. By hanging onto works of the law, we remain "married" to the old covenant while attempting to enter a new relationship with the new covenant.
"Do you not know, brethren--for I am speaking to those who know the law--that the law is binding on a person only during his life? Thus a married woman is bound by law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress. Likewise, my brethren, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit." Romans 7:1-6 RSV
"You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we wait for the hope of righteousness. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but faith working through love. You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth? This persuasion is not from him who calls you." Galatians 5:4-8 RSV
"But if I build up again those things which I tore down, then I prove myself a transgressor. For I through the law died to the law, that I might live to God." Galatians 2:18,19 RSV
"Now it is evident that no man is justified before God by the law; for 'He who through faith is righteous shall live'; but the law does not rest on faith, for "He who does them shall live by them." Galatians 3:11,12 RSV
"For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace." Romans 6:14 RSV
Paul was especially concerned about certain ceremonial aspects of the Mosaic law, including sabbaths, that were being insisted upon by legalistic Christian Jews of the day and cautioned the new Gentile converts.
"One man esteems one day as better than another, while another man esteems all days alike. Let every one be fully convinced in his own mind." Romans 14:5 RSV
"Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a sabbath. These are only a shadow of what is to come; but the substance belongs to Christ." Colossians 2:16-17 RSV
In contrast to the yoke of the old covenant, which was based on works, the yoke of the new covenant is easy and results in rest for the soul.
"Now therefore why do you make trial of God by putting a yoke upon the neck of the disciples which neither our fathers nor we have been able to bear?" Acts 15:10 RSV
"Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Matthew 11:28-30 RSV
"For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. Galatians 5:1 RSV
Jesus told a parable contrasting the "new" with the "old" and cautioned against mixing the two. His last statement holds special significance, i.e., clinging to the "old" eliminates our desire for the "new". The analogy is that if we trust in ourselves to keep the old covenant law, we have no need or desire for a Savior. The significance of a "veil" is once again expressed.
"He told them a parable also: 'No one tears a piece from a new garment and puts it upon an old garment; if he does, he will tear the new, and the piece from the new will not match the old. And no one puts new wine into old wineskins; if he does, the new wine will burst the skins and it will be spilled, and the skins will be destroyed. But new wine must be put into fresh wineskins. And no one after drinking old wine desires new; for he says, 'The old is good.' " Luke 5:36-39 RSV
On the Mount of Transfiguration, a very significant event occurred. It was not merely a demonstration that Jesus was superior in being to Elijah and Moses, nor was it just a confirmation from God the Father that Jesus was His Son. A message of much more significance was being delivered to the disciples.
"And there appeared to them Elijah with Moses; and they were talking to Jesus. And Peter said to Jesus, 'Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Elijah' For he did not know what to say, for they were exceedingly afraid. And a cloud overshadowed them, and a voice came out of the cloud, 'This is my beloved Son; listen to him.' And suddenly looking around they no longer saw any one with them but Jesus only." Mark 9:4-8 RSV
The appearance of Moses (representing the law) and Elijah (representing the prophets) signified the beginning of an important transformation. The law and the prophets were the ultimate authority of Jewish life. Peter immediately wanted to recognize Jesus as being just as important as the other two and suggested three booths, or temples, be built on the Mount as an honor to all three. What happened? God did not permit this to happen; the "law" and "prophets" disappeared, leaving Jesus (the new covenant) only. The disciples were admonished to listen to Him as the law and the prophets faded away. Their purpose had been fulfilled and a new era was being ushered in.
"In many and various ways God spoke of old to our fathers by the prophets; but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things, through whom also he created the world. He reflects the glory of God and bears the very stamp of his nature, upholding the universe by his word of power. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." Hebrews 1:1-3
We now begin to see the significance of the "veil" brought about by the old covenant; the veil of separation that must be removed in order to fully see Jesus.
The New Commandments
There are numerous references to keeping the commandments in the New Testament. If the Mosaic law is now obsolete, what are these commandments? Jesus gave us a very clear answer.
"And this is his commandment, that we should believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. All who keep his commandments abide in him, and he in them. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit which he has given us," 1 John 3:23-24 RSV
"A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another; even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another." John 13:34-35 RSV
"This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." John 15:12-13RSV
"This I command you, to love one another." John 15:17RSV
"And this commandment we have from him, that he who loves God should love his brother also." 1 John 4:21 RSV
"Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." Galations 6:2 RSV
"If you love me, you will keep my commandments." John 14:15 RSV
"He who has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him." John 14:21 RSV
"If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love." John 15:10 RSV
"Owe no one anything, except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. The commandments, 'You shall not commit adultery, You shall not kill, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,' and any other commandment, are summed up in this sentence, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law." Romans 13:8-10
There may be a certain uneasiness with letting go of the old covenant with its specific commands. Without the law, does this now mean lawlessness; that we are free to do as we please, to murder, lie, steal, and commit adultery? So far, we have only been told to "love one another as I have loved you" and it may seem vague, especially to those accustomed to rigid rules. Nonetheless, it we truly love one another, how can we commit any of the above offenses? It is why Jesus considered all the law and prophets to hang on the principle of love to God and to fellow man. The new covenant has been written in our hearts and is a covenant based on moral principals that encompass much more than a set of rules carved into stone.
While on earth, Jesus was asked what He considered to be the greatest commandment in the law (referring to the entire Mosaic law). Interestingly, His response was taken from the "book of the law" rather than the ten commandment law.
"And he said to him, 'You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. On these two commandments depend all the law and the prophets' ". Matthew 22:37-40 RSV
The new commandment given by Jesus in John 13 seems very similar to the two Mosaic commandments quoted by Jesus as being the greatest of the Mosaic law. A closer look reveals that the new commandment given by Jesus has a much higher standard. The Mosaic command from Leviticus required "love your neighbor as yourself." There was room for hating your enemy.
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.' But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust." Matthew 5:43-45 RSV
The new commandment is based, not on a mere demand to love, but now on a love for one another that was first demonstrated by Jesus' love for us. The old says love your neighbor; the new says to love one another. The old says love your neighbor as yourself; the new says to love one another as Jesus loved us.
The commandments of Christ are based upon motives and principles and our "keeping" of these commandments is not our own, but from the Sprit dwelling within. It is not merely taking the old covenant, the ten commandment law, and writing the same words upon our hearts that were previously on stone. The laws that have been written on our hearts are moral principles based upon love for God and our fellow man. By relying on the Holy Spirit dwelling within us, we need not fear lawlessness for our actions will be motivated by these moral principles.
Similar to the law of love, many other commandments from the Mosaic law are re-stated in the New Testament and are always based on a higher standard of principle and morals. The Mosaic law is very specific with it's list of thou shall and thou shall nots, and provides a convenient list for checking off our behaviors. However, checklists can never define all possibilities and do not require the right motives.
To illustrate, contrast the "re-stated" principle based commandments of Christ, inclusive of the ten commandment law and other commandments from the book of the law (see Exodus 20:8-11, Deuteronomy 2:6-21, Deuteronomy 19:18-21, Leviticus 19:12).
"You have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not kill; and whoever kills shall be liable to judgment.' But I say to you that every one who is angry with his brother shall be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother shall be liable to the council, and whoever says, 'You fool!' shall be liable to the hell of fire." Matthew 5:21-22 RSV
"You have heard that it was said, 'You shall not commit adultery.' But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart." Matthew 5:27-28 RSV
"It was also said, 'Whoever divorces his wife, let him give her a certificate of divorce.' But I say to you that every one who divorces his wife, except on the ground of unchastity, makes her an adulteress; and whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery." Matthew 5: 31-32 RSV
"Again you have heard that it was said to the men of old, 'You shall not swear falsely, but shall perform to the Lord what you have sworn.' But I say to you, Do not swear at all, either by heaven, for it is the throne of God, or by the earth, for it is his footstool, or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the great King." Matthew 5:33-35 RSV
"You have heard that it was said, 'An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth.' But I say to you, Do not resist one who is evil. But if any one strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also; and if any one would sue you and take your coat, let him have your cloak as well; and if any one forces you to go one mile, go with him two miles. Give to him who begs from you, and do not refuse him who would borrow from you." Matthew 5:38-42 RSV
Then there is the ultimate new covenant commandment; one that seems absolutely impossible to keep.
"You, therefore, must be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect." Matt 5:48 RSV
The secret of "keeping" this commandment, just as with all the rest, is in accepting the gift of the new covenant and allowing His perfect life to be a substitute for our own. Just as Israel was incapable of keeping the old covenant law, so too are we incapable of keeping the new commandments of Jesus through our own flesh. That is why we have the promise that through His sacrifice we are made perfect. The seemingly impossible is now made possible!
"For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are sanctified. Hebrews 10:14 RSV
This is the good news gospel of salvation! We are perfected FOR ALL TIME through His sacrificial offering.
Freedom in Christ - Removing the Veil
"Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom." 2 Corinthians 3:17 RSV
The New Testament frequently speaks of freedom in Christ. For those still concerned that freedom in Christ is paramount to lawlessness, Paul admonishes us to allow the Spirit to lead us in avoiding the gratification of the flesh. Paul recognized the desires of the flesh as being contrary to his Spirit led desires. He then lists the works of the flesh. Notice that avoiding the desires of the flesh is based on moral principles (written on our hearts) and not the keeping of the old covenant law and that it is Spirit led.
"For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love be servants of one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.' But if you bite and devour one another take heed that you are not consumed by one another. But I say, walk by the Spirit, and do not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh; for these are opposed to each other, to prevent you from doing what you would. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law." Galatians 5:13-18 RSV
"Now the works of the flesh are plain: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and the like. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." Galatians 5:19-21 RSV
In contrast to the works of the flesh, the fruit of the Spirit is then listed. Note that the works of the flesh are based on personal desires and passions. The works of the Spirit are based on moral principles (there is no mention of keeping the law) and are Spirit led.
"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another." Galatians 5:22-26 RSV
The Spirit led life is a life of true joy and freedom. No longer are we focused on keeping a list of rules and regulations or on our behavior. Suddenly the realization comes that a list of rules written with ink or in stone, even if kept, can provide neither the right motives for behavior nor draw us into a relationship with Jesus; love is the only way!
"There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set me free from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit." Romans 8:1-5 RSV
Knowing that our salvation is secured, we are able to focus on Jesus as the source of our very existence and to be changed into His likeness. It is with unveiled face that we behold and become changed. Thus the important truth that the veil must be removed!
"And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being changed into his likeness from one degree of glory to another; for this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit." 2 Corinthians 3:18 RSV
The author would like to acknowledge the following sources in creating a desire to explore this topic and as further references for the interested reader.
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