If ever there were just a few verses that summed up the essence of the new covenant and how both it works and what we are to believe and accept in Jesus Christ, these are those few verses.
The new covenant is deliberately simple to grasp and take hold of. It had to be that way so that all of mankind could have access to it and receive the gifts of God. It does not require great wisdom or great knowledge to receive the truth of the new covenant, or at least the essence of the truth that begins a walk with Christ Jesus.
All it needs is faith. But not blind faith. This faith is quite specific and quite a deliberate belief in a set of things that The Lord has established in the new covenant, and we see the essence of what we must believe in these few lines of scripture.
Righteousness By Faith
The scriptures in this section are as follows.
22 That is why his faith was “counted to him as righteousness.” 23 But the words “it was counted to him” were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.
First up we see that in speaking of Abraham, The Lord “counted his faith to him as righteousness.” This is the free gift of God to all mankind who believe in Jesus Christ, and especially the points that follow in verses 23-25.
Abraham believed God when The Lord told him what he would do and so on the basis of his faith, God reckoned or counted Abraham to be righteous.
There is no other way by which a man can achieve or receive righteousness other than to be given it by God.
Man is sinful and cannot be freed from sin unless he is pardoned, forgiven and released from it by God. As it stands the only way a man can be set free from his own sins is to die for death is the “reward” or the wages of sin. When we sin we earn the right to die to pay for the sins that we do.
The purpose of Jesus death
But just because there is no way a man can find righteousness on his own, it does not mean he cannot be given the gift of righteousness. Likewise as a man cannot release himself from sin except by dying, so too God established a means for a man to “die” without actually going through death.
In the law of Moses there were sacrifices of animals made to atone for men's sins. So in effect those animals died to provide a means for people to be forgiven their sins.
But that process did not remove the guilt of sin from those people because an animal death was only a base substitute. It allowed a man to be forgiven, but not released. Sins were forgiven but not forgotten by God for the person still continued to sin and would still need to die in order to wipe the sin debt clean.
But the process of the sacrifice for sin was established in the law, and if a perfect sacrifice could be made than sin might be removed. But what would be a perfect sacrifice?
The only sacrifice that wipes out a man's own sins is his death, so the perfect sacrifice had to be the death of that man. But to die defeats the purpose of what The Lord was trying to do. So using the principles in the law of a substitute sacrifice we see Jesus appear and die as the substitute for mankind.
What is more, Jesus did not sin and so His sacrifice was perfect for he suffered the penalty of sin without actually earning the right to die. That is why death could not hold him. He did not earn the right to die because he did not sin and thus his sacrifice enables mankind to receive release from sin by substitution. His death instead of ours releases us from sin.
We enter His death when we go down into the waters of baptism for we are baptised into the death of Jesus Christ as we see in Romans 6:3-4.
3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
What we are required then to believe is that as we go into the waters of baptism we take on Jesus' death as our own and thus we must believe we are no longer alive as citizens of this world but are dead to the world as it says in Romans 6:11 (my emphasis).
So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
But there is more to this faith than just believing we are now dead to the world. We also need to accept and believe we are alive to God in Christ Jesus. And that is where the resurrection of Jesus Christ is important to our faith.
The purpose of Jesus resurrection
Jesus died to release us from our sins and we receive His release through entering His death in baptism.
But when He arose from the dead Jesus was no longer a man of the flesh but had a new life in the spirit. He appeared to the disciples for forty or so days after His resurrection before moving into the spiritual realm to sit at the right hand of God. After He had died He ceased to be a citizen of the world and instead became a citizen of the kingdom of God.
In the same way through the resurrection of Jesus we too enter the kingdom of God. We are no longer citizens of this world but are citizens of Gods kingdom, which we enter also through baptism.
Just as Jesus was raised from the dead as a new creation in the spirit, so too when we are raised up from the waters of baptism we become new creations in the spirit.
All of this depends upon faith. We must believe that we have died and been buried with Christ in our baptism, and also we must believe and have faith that we have been raised with Christ as new creations. As the verse in Romans 6:11 above says, we must “…consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.”
Also as it shows in verse 25 of this passage under review, Jesus was delivered up and died for our trespasses and sins to give us release, but He was raised from the dead for our justification. That is, he was raised to give us righteousness, because justification means to be made righteous.
So now we must accept these teachings by faith. This IS the faith of the new covenant. This IS the essence of the new covenant. This IS what we are called to believe. We are no longer sinners in this world but we are new creations, made righteous by God through the sacrifice of Jesus Christ and seated with Him in the kingdom of God.
Our bodies will still grow old and die, but that is unimportant because the flesh is of no avail. It is the spirit of man that God is interested in and as Paul writes in Romans 8:10,
But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness.
Faith is the key to receiving all the gifts of God and it is the key to understanding the essence of the new covenant. Beyond these introductory teachings we then begin the walk with God and that is where the next phase of our walk in Christ begins. We need to receive the Holy Spirit as Christ did and as the early disciples did and learn how to walk in the spirit to overcome the passions and desires of the flesh that cause us to disobey and walk contrary to what God seeks of us. But that is a subject for another time and will be covered when we get deeper into Romans.
(Photo sourced from freeimages.com taken by Romana Ferrer)
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