The New Replaces The Old
The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and of death.
A great burden to the merchants in China used to be the “likin” tax, a law which none could escape, originating in the Ch’in Dynasty and operating right down to our own day. It was an inland tax on the transit of goods, applied throughput the empire, and having numerous barriers for collection and officers enjoying very large powers. But a few years ago a second law came into operation which set aside the “likin” law. Can you imagine the feelings of relief in those who had suffered under the old law? Now Thee was no need to worry: the new law had delivered from the old law. No longer was there need to think beforehand what one would say if one met a “likin” officer!
God delivers us from one law by introducing another. The one bound us inescapably to sin and death: the other liberates us into blessed union with the Spirit of life.
Paul introduces us to the concept that there is a vast difference between the expectations(laws) of the Old Testament and the expectations(laws) of the New Testament. Many Christians have trouble with understanding this concept. The perceptions range from total liberty with no rules- everything goes for its all covered by grace to the opposite extremes of legalism- food, dress, activities regulated by Old Testament law.
The Old Testament prophet Jeremiah described the new law of God. It wasn’t that He was removing the law and replacing it with another law as though the Ten Commandments, for example would no longer be valid. Instead, God would now put His laws into the hearts of men rather than inscribing them on tablets of stone.
“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 on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they will be My people.”
The New Testament opens with Jesus giving the Sermon on the Mount. In it He describes this “new” way. He tells us that every sin begins in our hearts, attitudes, and motives. For example, He said that long before someone dies by murder, the perpetrator has harbored anger in his heart. Long before the physical act of adultery, the person has entertained lustful desires. He goes on to say that even while we are outwardly presenting righteous living, inwardly our hearts are corrupt. To the religious He describes such a state of being as:
“Woe to you, [self-righteous] scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside, but inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything unclean. So you, also, outwardly seem to be just upright to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
Lest we swing the pendulum too far we must include in this conversation the fact that the Old Testament hasn’t been eradicated. The instructions and laws of the Old Testament still stand. Christ came to fulfill- complete the Old Testament, not to replace it. His sacrificial death on the cross became forever the only necessary sacrifice for our sins. We no longer bring annually a sheep or a dove to the high priest to be offered as covering for our sins. We are no longer outside the veil that separated God from humanity. We no longer have to have another human bring our needs before God or to speak for God to us. All of this was done away with since Christ is both our High Priest and Mediator. We have access to the very presence of God through the blood of Christ.
“Therefore, believers, since we have confidence and full freedom to enter the Holy Place [the place where God dwells] by [means of] the blood of Jesus, by this new and living way which He initiated and opened for us through the veil [as in the Holy of Holies], that is, through His flesh, and since we have a great and wonderful Priest [Who rules] over the house of God, let us approach [God] with a true and sincere heart in unqualified assurance of faith, having had our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.”
Hebrews 10: 19-22
Unfortunately many Christians still attempt to earn, merit, and try to attain on their own a level of righteousness that pleases God. We set in place multitudes of rules and expectations of how one should live as a Christian. However, like the Pharisees, we often hold others to a higher level of accountability while we seek out ways to circumvent the rules. Why is this the case? Simply because we are outwardly appearing to conform but our hearts remain unchanged.
If we read through the Old Testament we discover that again and again the people of God went through a season where they followed God and kept the law. This was followed by a season where they turned away from God and sought their own sinful way again. Often after a season of suffering they would turn back to God for a season and once relief came, they drifted back into their old habits. Over and over this cycle repeated itself until finally they went so deep into rebellion against God they destroyed themselves.
It was in the season of their abandoning the ways of God that He spoke through Jeremiah the promise of the New Testament- the New Covenant. Now the laws of God would be written upon the hearts of humans rather than upon stone. The New Testament turns upon believers having a heart change, a renewed mind, and a dying to the old self. This new person- the one made new by Christ is no longer held captive by the past, sin, or the devil. They have been liberated by the Holy Spirit through the power of the blood of Jesus and in His name. They are no longer children of darkness but children who walk in the light of God, reflecting Christ in their words and deeds.
To break the cycle of the old, we must accept that we have been made new:
“Therefore if anyone is in Christ [that is, grafted in, joined to Him by faith in Him as Savior], he is a new creature [reborn and renewed by the Holy Spirit]; the old things [the previous moral and spiritual condition] have passed away. Behold, new things have come [because spiritual awakening brings a new life].”
2 Corinthians 5:17
Our response to this new way of living is described in Romans 12:
“Therefore I urge you, brothers and sisters, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies [dedicating all of yourselves, set apart] as a living sacrifice, holy and well-pleasing to God, which is your rational (logical, intelligent) act of worship. And do not be conformed to this world [any longer with its superficial values and customs], but be transformed and progressively changed [as you mature spiritually] by the renewing of your mind [focusing on godly values and ethical attitudes], so that you may prove [for yourselves] what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect [in His plan and purpose for you].”
Romans 12: 1-2
Notice the verbiage: “I urge you….by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice…”
Paul is saying here that it’s our choice. No one will or can force us into this. Although God has the power to force us to, He won’t. We don’t become true followers of Christ because of some outside force. Instead we become dedicated, committed Christ-followers because He has captured our heart. Unlike the Israelites, there is no national law that forces us to live godly-at least where it’s visible. We aren’t compelled to be circumcised in the flesh but called to give up our will by willing obedience.
In summation, the only difference between the old and the new is a matter of the heart. The new begins its work in our hearts and makes its way to the flesh- the outside. The old began with the external working toward the heart.
If you are finding yourself constantly on the roller coaster of following Christ and drifting away and repeating the cycle, move today into the realm of the new by fully giving your heart to Christ. It may take some time for the rest of you to come into compliance for often the sin nature is stubborn. But if your heart belongs fully to Christ, He through the power of the Holy Spirit will give you strength to “crucify the flesh” and “put to death” the sinful desires. To be sure this will be a lifelong process but if Christ possesses your heart, you will overcome.
Dr. John Thompson