The foundations upon which the new covenant rests are twofold.
First there is the principle of faith. To receive the gifts of God and to enter the kingdom of God requires faith. You cannot receive or achieve anything from God on the basis of works alone, but only through faith for that is the way God has set it up. And faith is the foundation that we must apply. Faith is the bit we have to do. But even faith would not be helpful if it were not for the primary principle that God established.
The principle of grace. If God did not show us His grace that allows all of His good gifts and promises to flow to mankind, especially the Gentile races of the world, then we would all be lost. God opened the door for us through His grace and then everything else followed. It is only by grace that Jesus came and died for our sins and established the pathway to righteousness.
Well can we sing Amazing Grace for it is amazing that God chose us to be found when we were lost and that He chose to show such grace to a people who did not seek Him or know Him.
Paul writes here that there is a remnant chosen, not on the basis of works nor on the basis of bodily descent, that is the Israelites, but chosen on the basis of grace.
What does this mean? Fundamentally what this says is that God saw fit to show His kindness and favour to select people for His purposes.
Earlier in history God chose Israel to be His favored people. He showed grace to Israel and blessed them as He had promised to Abraham. They were the only recipients of the grace of God at that time and the rest of the nations were rejected. Israel were given the covenants of promise and the law, which they were instructed to keep and uphold.
But Israel failed to keep God’s laws and His covenant. The covenant of the law also was not based upon grace but on works. Those who had the law had to work at keeping the law for that was how it worked. And Israel failed and fell away from the path given them by God and they lost His favour for a while.
The New Covenant
Thus it was that God established the second great covenant, which he brought into effect at the death of Jesus. But this covenant is not like the covenant of the law, as we see in Hebrews 8.
8 For he finds fault with them when he says: “Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will establish a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, 9 not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt. For they did not continue in my covenant, and so I showed no concern for them, declares the Lord. 10 For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares 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. 11 And they shall not teach, each one his neighbor and each one his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest. 12 For I will be merciful toward their iniquities, and I will remember their sins no more.” 13 In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. (Hebrews 8:8-13)
Verse 9 here shows us that this new covenants is NOT like the old covenant for it does not require the “doing” of the law to keep what is right, but to have the principles of the law; justice, mercy, compassion and love, imprinted on the hearts and minds of the people.
Through the process of grace God gave people a chance to learn what is good and right and true and to live in a way that is pleasing to Him. He wants us to do right because it is right. He wants man to live right not because there is a law and a fearful prospect of judgment hanging over our heads if we get it wrong, but instead He wants us to do the right thing by nature.
This is what is meant by writing the law on the hearts and minds of people. He was intending to change the nature of man so that our desire would be to do what is right rather than to sin. He wants man to be like God in this way for just as it is not in the nature of God to sin, so too He seeks man to naturally desire what is right and not fall to sin.
And this is where grace becomes so important for us and why there is only a remnant chosen by grace.
Not all can accept the ways of the new covenant because it is based upon faith. Many who lived by the law and loved the law would not be able to step away from the law and would not see the power, wonder and blessings that exist only through faith in the grace of God.
This is what Jesus spoke about in the parable where He said you can’t put new wine into old wine skins lest both be destroyed.
This who loved the old covenant law would typically not be able to accept the new covenant grace. There were exceptions of course, like Paul himself who was deeply and heavily committed to and loved the law, being brought up as a Pharisee. And Paul suffered greatly as his old wine skin was filled with the new wine.
One other point about this new covenant that is evident in this section from Hebrews 8:13 above is that for those who accept the new covenant, the old covenant becomes obsolete and is ready to vanish away.
This is why it is so hard and was so hard for many people. They have difficulty accepting that they have been set free from the law, released from the captivity of the law and the condemnation it brings, by the grace of God and faith in Jesus Christ. It is difficult today even among Christians to accept that the law no longer has a hold over them and that they have truly been released from the bondage of the law, released for the condemnation of sin and able to truly be free to stand before the throne of God on the basis of faith and His grace.
We do not reject the righteousness that is defined in the law for when God writes His righteousness on our hearts and minds, the basic tenets of the law will be kept. But not because of what the law says, but because they are the right things to do.
Put it his way. We keep the law but are not under the law. And that means ALL of the law, including the Ten Commandments. We have been set free from the Ten Commandments as well as the 600 plus other laws of the old covenant, but we will still uphold what the Ten Commandments teach. We will still not kill, not steal, not covet, not worship idols, not take the name of the Lord in vain, not commit adultery, not bear false witness, honor our parents and love the Lord God with all our hearts, mind and soul and so on.
But we do not do these things because they are cast in stone tablets as law, but because they are the right things to do.
The grace of God allows us to come to Him so that He can work with us and in us to transform our nature so that we do all of these things by our nature. And we do this because the new nature He is making in us is the nature of Jesus Christ, which is the nature of God the Father, which is a nature based upon love.
He first loved us so that we may come to the place where we love Him in the same way. And so there is a remnant who can and will accept these lessons of love from God and who worship in faith on the foundation of grace and who will be transformed and receive the promises of God.
Does this mean that any who are not able to receive the new covenant and who love the old covenant cannot be saved? Absolutely not! For God loves ALL people who wish to do what is right and choose to do what is right rather than follow the ways of the world. And He will bring them into His kingdom in due course also and do the work of transformation on them that MUST take place for all who are to come into His kingdom.
For the rest of the world who are not chosen by grace and who do not seek to do right even under the law but who choose to follow the path of sin there is the fearful prospect of judgment. It is my hope and prayer that they may choose differently and seek the ways of God before it is too late and hopefully they too will find the path and be chosen by grace also.
You might also like:
Cleansing The Leper
Grace And Truth Came Through Jesus Christ
The Woman Caught In Adultery Part 2
Stephen Murdered Martyred
A Merciful God
Enlightened By The Holy Spirit
What Is Sin
Righteousness Of God
Restored By Grace
Free Gift From God
Access To Grace
The Reign Of Grace
How Freedom From Law Works
Sold Under Sin
Fasting In The New Covenant
Old And New Wineskins
A Chosen Instrument