How to Inherit Eternal Life

(Luke 10:25-28)

As Jesus was teaching there were always people opposing what he said. Always there was a Pharisee, scribe or some other person from the religious establishment trying to take him to task over some matter of the Kingdom of God and Jesus’ teachings.

Here we see another example from a man who was a lawyer. He stood up amongst the people and tried to put Jesus to the test by asking him this question. “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” (Verse 25) Jesus then went on and told him how to inherit eternal life.

Lawyers

First let us look at the lawyers in the Bible. In some ways they were no different to today. Lawyers today interpret the law, and that is what they did in Jesus’ day.

But if you ask a lawyer today for an answer generally you will not get one. Lawyers don’t give answers, they give opinions. The way the legal system works is that the lawyers will interpret the law and give you an opinion on what the law means under different circumstances, but if you want answers, you go to the judge to argue a case.

It was no different in Jesus day and Jesus did not like the way lawyers operated. In speaking to the lawyers on one occasion he said this, “One of the lawyers answered him, “Teacher, in saying this you reproach us also.” And he said, “Woe to you lawyers also! for you load men with burdens hard to bear, and you yourselves do not touch the burdens with one of your fingers.” (Luke 11:45-46)

Given that lawyers do not give answers but only give opinions, it is easy to see why Jesus condemned them for this practice. The lawyers became rich by burdening people with many burdens, but do not do anything to lift those burdens. People come to lawyers for answers but only get opinions that sometimes make them even more confused, stressed and worried. But Jesus gave the people answers to relieve their stress and give them peace.

Life in the Law

So when this lawyer stood and asked Jesus how to inherit eternal life, Jesus gave him a lesson in the law. He forced the lawyer, who understood the law of God, to find the answer in the law. Jesus said to the man, “What is written in the law?” (Verse 26) The lawyer answered saying, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbour as yourself.” (Verse 27)

These are the two great Commandments that Jesus spoke of in other places. The basis of the law is love; first to love God and then to love your neighbour.

The lawyer knew these two laws for he was able to recite them to Jesus when asked. He understood the two laws too for he knew that by keeping these two laws on which the whole of the law rested, that this was how to inherit eternal life. Thus Jesus answered the lawyer, “You have answered right; do this, and you will live.” (Verse 28)

A Better Way

What we learn from this is that you can inherit eternal life by keeping the Old Covenant laws of Moses. There is eternal life to be had through keeping the law.

But the law was highly restrictive for it showed sin for what it is and constantly stood condemning man. That is why Jesus came to provide a better way for man to have life.

The writer of Hebrews showed the New Covenant was better than the old law when he wrote, “On the one hand, a former commandment is set aside because of its weakness and uselessness (for the law made nothing perfect); on the other hand, a better hope is introduced, through which we draw near to God.” (Hebrews 7:18-19)

The better hope is to come to God and the promise of eternal life through Jesus Christ. Through Jesus we do not just receive forgiveness of our sin, but the removal of sin so that we can become perfect, as he is perfect. As he said to another man who was asking about how to inherit eternal life, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” (Matthew 19:21)

The better way through Jesus is to “follow him.” But to do this, as he showed this man, you must be prepared to forsake all of the things of this world. You ust be prepared to give up all of the things in this world that could take your full and undivided attention away from following Christ.

When we do this we come into the place where we can be transformed into the image of Christ by the Holy Spirit. And when we are in the image of Christ we will be perfect like he is perfect. There is no other way to achieve perfection except through Jesus Christ. The law will not make a person perfect for it always stands ready to condemn. But Jesus does not condemn us even when we fall. Instead he offers compassion, comfort and the grace of God knowing that we will fail, but also we will learn and grow as we continue to walk with him.

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Jesus Transfiguration

(Luke 9:28-36)

Jesus’ transfiguration is an unusual episode in the life and times of Jesus. It was during the transfiguration that Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus on the mountain and spoke with him of his departure from this world. And there is an even more interesting aspect of this event that leads right to the heart of the New Covenant and our walk with Christ.

transfiguration of jesus

What Jesus, Moses and Elijah represent

There is a spiritual message in the transfiguration of Jesus and to gain the full insight it is necessary to understand what Jesus, Moses and Elijah represent.

In the Bible you often see references to the law and the prophets. The law was given by God to the children of Israel through Moses. Elijah was one of the greatest of all the prophets as he did not die but was taken directly into Paradise.

These two great men then can be considered to be representing the law and the prophets.

Then we see Jesus who is bringing into being the New Covenant. The book of Hebrews speaks of him being the pioneer and perfecter of our faith (Hebrews 12:2) and he is also spoken of as the first-born of all creation (Colossians 1:15).

Now we see in the transfiguration these three discussing Jesus departure. They are in communication and the have a relationship with each other, just as the law and the prophets communicate and relate to the New Covenant. The law and prophets testify to the coming of Jesus Christ and to the coming of the New Covenant through which man can be saved from sin.

New Covenant versus Old Covenant

But there is a difference between the two covenants. The Old Covenant of law brings the knowledge of sin for sin is lawlessness and the breaking of the law. (1 John 3:4) The law is not sin, but the law brings the knowledge of sin and it condemns man to bondage under the law and through sin the bondage to death.

But the New Covenant is not about bondage but is about freedom through Jesus Christ. As Jesus said, “…the truth will make you free.” (John 8:32) Paul also wrote, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand fast therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” (Galatians 5:1) When he spoke of slavery he is referring to the law and the bondage under the law. He further goes on to say that if you are bound under the law and enslaved to the law then, “…You are severed from Christ, you who would be justified by the law; you have fallen away from grace.” (Galatians 5:4)

So we see there is a tension between the two covenants and in some ways they are like oil and water; they do not mix. The Old Covenant foretells the coming of the New Covenant and testifies to it, but you cannot live under both covenants at the same time. How can you live in bondage to the law when Jesus has set you free from the law? To do so is like living in adultery, which is how Paul described it in Romans 7:1-4.

1 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?
2 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.
3 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.
4 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.

Both of the women may have been good women, as both the Covenants are good covenants, but to live with two women is adultery, and to live under the two covenants at the same time is spiritual adultery. That is, the New Covenant becomes adulterated by the Old Covenant for they are different and through Christ we move out of the Old Covenant and into the New Covenant. This is achieved through being baptised into his death and having faith in God that you are released from sin and the law by taking on the death of Jesus as your own. Just as the woman in the example was set free from the laws of marriage through the death of her husband and can marry another, we too are set free from the laws of Moses through the death of Jesus so that we can enter into the New Covenant.

This is my Beloved Son, Listen to Him

And we see that God the Father places emphasis on this change from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant also.

When Peter says that he and the other disciples could build booths for each of Jesu, Moses and Elijah, in effect Peter has made all three equal. But God the Father speaks to Peter from heaven and sets him straight saying, “This is my Son, my Chosen; listen to him!” (Verse 35) God did not place equal emphasis on all three. Instead he said listen to Jesus.

And when the disciples had arisen after hearing the voice of God, Moses and Elijah had disappeared leaving only Jesus, showing that it is Jesus who is the focus of our worship. Listen to Him.

This is a good lesson for all of us and one we should take to heart. Our focus is Jesus and we need to listen to him. Certainly there is wisdom in the Old Covenant, but our salvation comes only through Jesus Christ and it is in him that all the promises of God are fulfilled.

(Clipart sourced from oChristian.com http://clipart.ochristian.com/)

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New Wine and Old Wineskins

(Luke 5:33-39)

This section begins with a discussion about fasting, which I have covered previously elsewhere. The second part of the scripture then looks at the parable of putting new wine into old wineskins and the potential damage that can cause.

We often here about people who are set in their ways. There are sayings like, “You can’t teach an old dog new tricks,” and so on. This is what Jesus was alluding to in this section of scripture.

When he speaks of old and new wine he is referring to the teachings of the Old and New Covenants. There were methods and processes for worship under the Old Covenant, but many of these were changed under the New Covenant. The worship at the temple is a classic case. When Jesus met the woman at the well she said to him, “Our fathers worshiped on this mountain; and you say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.” (John 4:20) But Jesus responded saying, “Jesus said to her, “Woman, believe me, the hour is coming when neither on this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.” (John 45:21) Here is a clear indication that the place and mode of worship would change, and this would be difficult for the Jews to accept as their religion and forms of worship were built around the temple. Consider today that they still worship at the “wailing wall” which was the foundation of the original temple.

However Jesus shows the woman and us too, that this was going to change. The method of worship would also change from a worship based on law to one based on faith. Again, a very difficult change for some people, and part of the reason why Jesus was so strongly opposed by the scribes and Pharisees in his day. In effect the method of worship under the New Covenant was going to undermine the power base of the scribes and Pharisees for every man now has access to God directly with the intermediary of priest or clergy.

This is the new wine that was being introduced to the world in the gospel of Jesus Christ. To try to change the ways of the “old wineskins” that is, those who had the old forms of worship instilled in them, was going to be difficult. Like when new wine is put into old wineskins, it ferments and expands and because the skins are old they have little or no elasticity and burst. So too those people instilled in the old teachings will struggle and may “burst” when exposed to the new teachings. That is why Jesus came and first introduced the teachings to “common” people rather than the priests and religious people. He knew that the “common” people (e.g. fishermen, tax collectors and so on), would not have the same difficulties as the religious people of the day. These “new wineskins” could and would accept the new teachings because they were not indoctrinated in the old ways, at least not to the same extent as the scribes and Pharisees.

Could an old wineskin take the new wine? Absolutely. Anything is possible with the Lord and we saw this exact scenario with the Apostle Paul. Paul was a Pharisee and was well versed in the law and rituals of the Pharisees, but when the Lord appeared to him on the road to Damascus, he turned from the old and embraced the new. But it was not without difficulties which he describes quite well in Romans 7. So it is possible for this to occur, but in most cases the Lord is showing that some will be lost if this were attempted.

Does it matter if someone does not accept the new teachings? Yes and no. The old covenant certainly has in it the promise of life to those who keep it, and they will live a good standard of life. But the Old Covenant cannot perfect a person which is possible under the New Covenant. So the “Old is good” as Jesus said, but the New Covenant is better for it is based on better promises.

Death Of Jesus

(Mark 15:33-39)

The death of Jesus from a human perspective is one of the saddest and most unjust events of all time. He suffered and died the death of a criminal when in truth he had done no wrong.

However there is another aspect to the death of Jesus which for mankind is the greatest blessing of all time. In his death we have been given the chance and the opportunity to receive eternal life and to stand righteous before God.

The death of Jesus was also the momentous of all occasions to occur on the earth. Nothing in all of human history can compare to it. At the death of Jesus we see the end of one era and the beginning of the next.

Jesus said that “The law and the prophets were until John; since then the good news of the kingdom of God is preached.” (Luke 16:16) In this statement Jesus draws a line in the sand. He said that the law and the prophets ended with John the Baptist, and after him came something new, the good news of the gospel of the kingdom of God which Jesus himself preached.

But there is also a transition period here too. In the period between the ministry of John and the death of Jesus, first John and then the Lord were preparing and preaching this new message. Then at the end of Jesus’ ministry he is put to death and this single event is the beginning of the New Covenant age. The symbolism of the curtain of the temple being torn in two from top to bottom (Verse 38) indicates the close of the Old Covenant age and that after the death of Jesus the way has been opened for all of mankind to come and stand before God, not just the priests.

Under the Old Covenant, once the law and the commandments had been given, Moses took the blood of goats and bulls to establish the covenant. That is, through that initial sacrifice he brought the covenant into being. This is discussed in Hebrews 9:19-20 saying, “For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people, saying, “This is the blood of the covenant which God commanded you.”

Likewise when Jesus died and his blood was shed, he brought into existence the New Covenant, for he offered his own blood to the Father and thus the covenant began. Blood was the means by which covenants were established. In a similar way we see that it was a blood covenant that caused the angel of death to “pass over” the houses of the children of Israel when the first-born in Egypt were killed to convince Pharaoh to let the people go.

In the same way Jesus died at the Passover feast as the perfect “Lamb of God,” and through his blood sacrifice God now passes over our sins so that we can stand before him righteous through Jesus Christ. The children of Israel took on the blood covenant of the lamb’s sacrifice in Egypt by painting it over the frames and lintels of their doorways. Today we take on the blood covenant of Christ by being baptised into his death, which is our doorway to God through righteousness by faith. As the Egyptians did not receive release because they did not take on the blood covenant of the lamb, likewise today those who do not take on the blood covenant of Jesus Christ (the Lamb of God) through righteousness by faith and baptism into his death do not receive sanctification. It is through baptism into the death of Christ Jesus and accepting his death as ours through faith that we can receive righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ.

That is why the death of Jesus was such a significant event. That is why Jesus came in the first place; to preach the good news of the Kingdom of God and to become the perfect sacrifice for our sin so that we can be reconciled to God, not through anything we do, but through Jesus’ act of obedience on our behalf.

The Hope of Eternity is in Christ

(Mark 13:1-2)

There is nothing in this world that will last forever. This world has been doomed to decay and will pass away. Jesus showed in this scripture that even those bricks and mortar structures that seem so permanent will not last. Paul wrote also, “…for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of him who subjected it in hope; because the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the glorious liberty of the children of God.” (Romans 8:20-21)

rubble ruins

As the disciples walked with Jesus in the temple, they pointed out all of the marvellous buildings and the wonderful stones from which they were made. But Jesus said to them, “Do you see these great buildings? There will not be left here one stone upon another, that will not be thrown down.” (Verse 2)

Jesus knew full well what was to come and occur in the future, and that was exactly what happened many years later. The temple was destroyed and all the buildings and stones cast away leaving only what we now know as the “Wailing Wall” in Jerusalem.

But in Jesus’ statement there was another message too. He indicates that what was there at the temple site was temporary and would not last forever. So too what the temple stood for, which was the worship under the law, was not going to last either. Paul showed in Galatians 3:23-27 that we were confined under the law until righteousness by faith was revealed in Jesus. Once faith came, we were no longer confined under the law but now worship God according to the New Covenant, based upon faith in Christ Jesus.

It was shown also that the Old Covenant confinement under the law ended with the death of Jesus as the curtain of the temple was torn from top to bottom indicating the way was open for all mankind to enter the presence of God, not just the priests.

So all of the traditions and institutions of this world are temporary too, along with the buildings, bricks and mortar. The disciples were impressed by the buildings, but Jesus showed them that these were to pass away. However His word was permanent and would last forever. The word of God and the words of Jesus are eternal and they are the teachings of eternal life.

So do not be impressed by the wondrous buildings and churches today. Cathedrals, church buildings and all that go with them are nothing compared to the truth of the New Covenant. Focus your attention and priority rather on what is said in them and find the truth that is in Jesus. For it is in the permanent structure of the spiritual church that we are built into in Christ that is forever. Bricks and mortar crumble and return to dust.

(Photo sourced from stock.xchng stock.xchng taken by Michal Zacharzewski, SXC)

The Transfiguration

Where does the Christian stand in relation to the two covenants? As Christians are we meant to be under both the Old and the New Covenant? The transfiguration scripture provides us with part of the answer to these two questions.

transfigurationMany years ago while still at school I asked a religious education teacher what the difference was between the Old and the New Covenant. This man was a minister from one of the local congregations and so I thought he should have been able to answer this question. He responded saying that the New Covenant was basically just an extension of the Old Covenant.

This is typical of the line of thinking amongst many churches and Christians still today. They tend to believe that while we recognise Jesus and the New Covenant we are still fully under the laws of the Old Covenant. The one proviso is that we no longer have to offer the sin sacrifices since Jesus has died for our sins. I may not have this completely accurate but many churches teach this or variations of this line of teaching.

When I became an adult and studied this matter I found the minister was wrong. The Bible tells us that the two covenants are quite different. It tells us also that not only should we not be under both covenants at the the same time, but to do so is akin to practising a kind of spiritual adultery.

Time for some scriptures to show these distinctions.

In Hebrews 8:8-9 it is written, “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.” (My emphasis) Note the word “not” in this scripture. We are being told that the New Covenant is NOT like the Old Covenant. It is quite different.

The writer in Hebrews 8:13 continues saying, “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.” With the introduction of the New Covenant, the Old Covenant has become obsolete. The Old Covenant is ready to vanish away for the New Covenant vastly surpasses it in both power and effect.

We see also in Hebrews 10:9 that in Jesus, “…He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.” The first (Old) covenant has been abolished with the introduction of the New Covenant, which was ratified or brought into existence at the death of Jesus.

Now someone will quote to me Matthew 5:17-18 which says, “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.” And you are correct, the law and prophets have not been abolished, but through Jesus a person can step out of the Old Covenant and into the New Covenant. For those who have not entered the New Covenant through Jesus, who by the way said, “I am the door; if any one enters by me, he will be saved,” (John 10:9) for those who have not entered the law and prophets are in full force and effect. It is only through Jesus that we can enter the New Covenant and thus be released from the bondage to law, sin and death that exists under the Old Covenant. He further shows this where Paul wrote in Ephesians 2:15 that in Jesus God was, “…abolishing in his flesh the law of commandments and ordinances.”

Now Paul also wrote in Romans chapters 6 and 7 Paul shows that as a woman is set free from the law of marriage att he death of her husband, we too likewise are set free from the laws of the Old Covenant through the death of Jesus Christ. When we enter into the death of Jesus by baptism, symbolically we die with Christ and are resurrected as new creations, no longer under the power of sin, no longer under the Law of Moses, but recreated as new creations to serve God through Christ Jesus.

So going back to the beginning, what has the transfiguration got to do with all of this? Well when Jesus went up the mountain with Peter, James and John, he was transfigured and Moses and Elijah appeared speaking with him. The three disciples were naturally terrified by this and Peter, not knowing what to say, said, “Master, it is well that we are here; let us make three booths, one for you and one for Moses and one for Eli’jah.” (Mark 9:5)

What Peter was doing was to treat all three of them, that is, Jesus, Moses and Elijah, as equals. He was treating them as if they were the same, a bit like the minister I mentioned earlier who believed that the New Covenant was just an extension of the Old Covenant.

But God the Father stepped in to show Peter his error. God spoke from heaven saying, “This is my beloved Son; listen to him.” (Mark 9:7) And as they looked around they saw that only Jesus alone was with them.

Moses represents the law in this event and Elijah represents the prophets. Jesus as the Son of God is the founder and maker of the New Covenant. When the Father spoke to the disciples he did not say “Listen to all three of them,” but he told them to listen to Jesus. In this I believe God is saying that our salvation does not come through a combination of the law, prophets and the New Covenant, but through Jesus only. It is Jesus who gives us life. The law offers only condemantion for it shows sin to be sin, but in Jesus we have freedom from sin.

The transfiguration is a powerful message on getting our priorities right. There is value in studying the law and the prophets for there is great wisdom in those words. After all, they too are the words of God. But we have life only through Jesus Christ. We receive salvation from sin and the hope of eternal life only through Jesus. Thus as God the Father tells us himself, in speaking of Jesus we must, “Listen to him,” and not get entangled in the works of law that will prevent us reaching maturity in Christ. We must serve the Lord under the New Covenant for to try and mix the Old and the New is like mixing oil and water…the do not go together. The Old Covenant brings bondage but the New Covenant offers freedom.

(Picture of the Transfiguration sourced from: http://clipart.ochristian.com/)

Old and New Wineskins

(Mark 2:18-22)

In this section of scripture the people approach Jesus over fasting. The disciples of John the Baptist and the Pharisees promoted fasting, but Jesus disciples were not fasting. I have already covered the issue of fasting in an earlier post, which you can read here. So in this post I will focus on the following teaching, which was to do with old and new wineskins.

Jesus taught the people that you cannot put new wine into old wineskins as the skins will burst and the wine and skins will be lost. When wine is first made and stored it goes through a fermentation process. Gases are produced which expand and thus the containers must either be able to withstand this pressure or be flexible enough to expand with the gases produced. Old wineskins have already been through this expansion process when they were first filled and so they are no longer as flexible as new skins. Thus new wine is not put into old wineskins so that neither the skins nor the wine will be lost. The new wine needs to also remain in the skins for a period of time to go through the fermentation and maturing process to age it so it develops its flavour. New wine often does not taste as good as old wine for it has not developed (although I take this on advice from others as I do not drink wine or other alcoholic drinks).

Now Jesus uses this analogy of old and new wineskins to speak about the receiving of the old and new covenants. The people are the wineskins and the covenants are the old and new wine. He shows that it is very difficult to teach a person who is steeped in the old covenant the matters pertaining to the new covenant. In fact the two should not be mixed as they do not exist together and a person trying to live under both covenants at the same time will struggle.
The Old Covenant is based upon bondage under law and condemnation for sin. It also required the keeping of many days, feasts and fasting. But the New Covenant is about freedom from law and release from sin and does not require the keeping of feasts, days and fasts as required under the law, which Paul showed saying, “You observe days, and months, and seasons, and years!” (Galatians 4:10) When the New Covenant came, the Old Covenant is ready to be obsolete as the writer of Hebrews says, “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) And also, “…then he added, “Lo, I have come to do thy will.” He abolishes the first in order to establish the second.” (Hebrews 10:9)

Paul also shows us that to try to live under both covenants is like living in adultery. He said in Romans 7:1-3 that a married woman cannot live with another man while her first husband is alive or she will be committing adultery. But if the husband dies she can remarry anyone she chooses. Then in the next verse he shows us that this is the same for Christians moving from the old to the New Covenant. He says, “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.” (Romans 7:4) So we too are set free from the law through the death of Christ so that we can leave the Old Covenant behind and come and belong to the new risen Christ not under the law of the Old Covenant, but under the teachings of Jesus in obedience to the Father under the New Covenant.

For those brought up under the Old Covenant it is very hard to make this change. Paul himself who had the teachings of the Old Covenant deeply ingrained into him as he was a Pharisee showed he had great difficulty in his walk to God in Jesus Christ. He had to account all things of his former life and the teachings he had been taught as garbage because of the surpassing worth of knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour. (Philippians 3:8)

But as we see in Paul’s case, it is possible that a person brought up in the Old Covenant ways can make the change to the New Covenant. Even though old wineskins may burst when filled with new wine, nothing is impossible for the Lord. He can shore up the old wineskins and make them flexible and receptive to the new teachings of the New Covenant, but even so it will be difficult for a person who is steeped in the old teachings.

The Great Commission Part 3

(Matthew 28:16-20)

The third element of the Great Commission given by Jesus to his disciples was, “…teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Verse 20) He told the disciples to teach the people what he had taught them. These are the teachings of the New Covenant, which he instructed the disciples to teach to those who came to them.

He did not instruct them to teach the law and prophets or the Ten Commandments or anything that pertained to the Law of Moses. As we saw in the last post, baptism is meant to set us free from law so why would that form part of the New Covenant? There are many sections in the New Testament where Jesus and the apostles taught or had disputes about the teaching of the law to the new disciples. The law is not part of the New Covenant and in fact it can have a damaging effect on those who are under the New Covenant.

Now don’t get me wrong. I am not preaching to oppose the law nor do I oppose the law. There is great wisdom contained in the law for it was the words of God given to Israel to show them right from wrong. We can learn much from the law about how to live a life that is in harmony with God and those about us. But within the law comes the knowledge of sin and the law cannot set a person free from sin. That is only possible by faith in the grace of God and through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Jesus came to take away the sins of the world and this cannot be achieved under the law since it is the law that condemns man as a sinner. If sin is to be removed, then the law must go too.

The commandment that Jesus gave to his disciples under the Great Commission was to teach the people to observe all the “HE” had commanded them. There is a conflict between the teachings of Jesus under the New Covenant and the Mosaic Law under the Old Covenant. The Old Covenant law was about bondage and sin, but the New Covenant is about freedom, release from sin and life. These two cannot exist together. You cannot be in bondage and freedom at the same time. As oil and water do not mix, neither can freedom and bondage.

Paul wrote in Romans 7:1-6 that to try to live under both covenants at the same time was like living in adultery. It cannot and should not be done. Again I have discussed this in much more detail in my free eBook, “The Foundations of Christianity” which you can download and review if you choose and I refer you there for a more detailed study of these matters.

Is it then any wonder that so many Christians are confused and suffering needlessly? If they are trying to live under the two covenants at the same time, and thus trying to live a life of freedom while under the bondage of the law, they have no chance of progressing in Christ. They will live as good a life as they can and will be accepted for what they have rather than what they do not have, but they will suffer needlessly under condemnation because it is only when the law is removed that the Holy Spirit can begin the work of transformation into the image of Jesus Christ.

And all of this occurs because the teachers and the churches (not all mind you) have not heeded the words of the Great Commission to teach the people, “…to observe all that I have commanded you.” (Verse 20) They are being taught things that were NOT commanded by Jesus. Thus we see the confusion in the church. If it were only the teachings of the Old Covenant that were clouding the minds of Christians it would be hard enough, but they also bring in many other teachings and lies that have no basis in scripture whatsoever. So it is important for all of us as individuals to seek out the truth for ourselves. In the final judgement we will all have to stand before God and give account and there will be no one to act as intercessory on our behalf. It is our responsibility to find the truth.

And at the end of this final section of Matthew 28 Jesus gives us a great promise. He says to all of his disciples, then and now, “I am with you always to the close of the age.” (Verse 20) Jesus has never left us. He is always here if we will seek him out. He said for us to seek and we would find him. This was not “maybe” you will find him, but a definite, “you WILL find me.” (Matthew 7:7) It is up to us to seek the Lord for he is there to be found when we search for him diligently. Jesus will come to us to teach, guide, strengthen, protect and comfort us. In due course as we listen to his commandments and follow his ways he will transform us into his image through the Holy Spirit and will give us eternal life if we will walk in his ways.

Jesus is with us now and forever until the close of the age. His return is drawing near, so we must also be diligent and prepare for his return. Give him praise and thanks for the opportunity to know and be known by him.

This now ends my commentary on the Gospel of Matthew and I shall move on to the Gospel of Mark in the next post.

Parable of the Marriage Feast – The Great Invitation

(Matthew 22:1-10)

The parable of the marriage feast is interesting for several reasons. It was given to the chief priests and Pharisees and showed how they and those who acted similarly to them were unworthy of the kingdom of heaven. It also shows how the great invitation to all mankind was given so that every person may have the opportunity of coming to God and entering the kingdom of heaven.

First we see the king in the parable of the marriage feast send out servants to call in all of those who were invited. The ones who were invited in this sense were those who were supposed to be the followers of God. This included the chief priests and Pharisees and those who followed their teachings. They were the office bearers and those in control of God’s house and the teachers of the Old Covenant and so should have been in a position to know and understand his ways.

However we see from this parable and other teachings that these people had gone away from a pure devotion to God’s ways and turned aside into other things. They were holding the form of religion but denying the power of it. Thus we see Jesus say of these people who were invited that they made light of the invitation, they refused to come to the marriage feast, they went off on other business and worst of all they beat, killed or treated shamefully the servants sent to call them to the marriage feast. These servants were the prophets, teachers and apostles of Jesus and God who were treated badly by the supposed people of God.

So they were all found to be unworthy. They made excuses why they could or would not attend the marriage feast, or they turned on the king by attacking his servants. Thus the king sent and destroyed those murderers and their city. God broke down the power base of the temple by bringing into effect the New Covenant through Jesus Christ. The New Covenant has now replaced the Old Covenant.

Now we see the great invitation go out to all of mankind. The king in the parable tells his servants not to go to those who were invited and found unworthy, but to go to the world, to the streets and thoroughfares and invite all of mankind. In Jesus Christ under the New Covenant we see the way is open for all mankind to come before God. There are now no intermediaries between man and God. There is no clergy and laity in God’s kingdom, no group who are to have authority over other and stand between man and God. All are equal in God’s sight and come to him through Jesus Christ only. Jesus is the only intermediary between man and God and the only one through whom we may be saved.

The servants of Jesus Christ have delivered the great invitation. The preachers, teachers, apostles and so on of the Lord are the servants going out to the thoroughfares and streets of the world to invite all mankind to the marriage feast. That is, they are all offered the opportunity to come to God through Jesus Christ and enter into his kingdom.

We have still yet to see the full effect of the great invitation. The time is soon, but has not yet fully arrived. Jesus says, “And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached throughout the whole world, as a testimony to all nations; and then the end will come.” (Matthew 24:14) This is to occur just prior to the time of the end. When he says, “this gospel,” he is talking about the true gospel of Jesus Christ. Not the many things that is preached as truths but have no basis in Christianity or backup in the Bible. There are many things taught in the name of Christianity that are false and sometimes even opposed to the New Covenant. When the time comes I believe we will see the truth of the gospel preached. It will come attended with the signs and wonders as testimony to the truth of the words spoken.

There will also be pretended signs and wonders from Satan to lead astray the people. So it is important now to ground yourself in the knowledge of the truth. You must find out for yourself the truth of the New Covenant and to follow the ways of Jesus Christ. Thus when the truth is preached and the great invitation goes out, you will be ready to hear it and accept God’s invitation to the marriage feast.

I do not pretend for one moment to know all of the truth of the New Covenant or the ways of God. But as Paul said, “Not that I have already obtained this or am already perfect; but I press on to make it my own, because Christ Jesus has made me his own.” (Philippians 3:12) Likewise we must all press on to make it our own. We must listen to the words of God and learn from the Bible. Listen to the teachers and preachers and compare what they say with what the Bible says. Find the tests in the Bible by which you can compare these teachings and apply the tests to understand if what is said is truth or error. As an example, the New Covenant calls us to freedom in Christ Jesus. Thus any teaching that brings you into bondage is not of Christ. Always look to the Lord for guidance and leadership and you will find the truth and gain entry into the marriage feast and the kingdom of heaven when the great invitation is sent out.

Transfiguration of Jesus

(Matthew 17:1-8)

There is an important symbolism in this section of scripture about the transfiguration of Jesus. Jesus’ transfiguration on the mountain, witnessed by the three disciples, Peter, James and John, is an important revelation of the New Covenant. There is an explanation of the New Covenant versus the Old Covenant contained in this event.

We see during the transfiguration of Jesus that his appearance was transformed. His face shone like the sun and his garments became white as light. (Verse 2) We see also that Moses and Elijah appeared with Jesus and were talking to him. Needless to say the disciples were greatly astonished and did not know what to do. In his amazement, Peter offered to make three booths, one for Jesus, one for Moses and one for Elijah.

Now this is an interesting insight into the mind of Peter and the disciples. All of their lives they would have been taught about Moses and the prophets. The deeds of Moses and the prophets were part of their history, and were almost the stuff of legend. Through their works they received release from bondage in Egypt as well as the law that the Israelites cherished deeply. Seeing Moses and Elijah would have been even more profound for a Jew than it would for the average person today because of their learning and heritage.

Part of the symbolism of this event is in what each person represents. Moses was the giver of the law and represents the Old Covenant. Elijah was probably the greatest of the old prophets, and he was the only one of the prophets who never died but was taken by God. Elijah represents the prophets of old. And finally Jesus represents the New Covenant and the new way that was being introduced.

In Peter’s offer to make three booths for Moses, Elijah and Jesus he treats them as equals. But the intervention of God the Father at the transfiguration of Jesus sets a different path. The Father’s words are crucial to understanding the transfiguration of Jesus for he gives a powerful message in a few words.

A bright cloud overshadowed Peter and the disciples as he was speaking and the voice of the Father came from the cloud. He said, “This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to him.” (Verse 5) There are three messages in this statement for the disciples and for us.

First, God the Father identifies who Jesus is. He is the Son of God. If ever there was any doubt that Jesus is the Son of God and the Christ or the Messiah, it is done away with by the testimony of the Father himself.

Second, we see that the Father is well pleased with what the Son is doing. It is a pleasure to the Father for the Son is obedient to the word of the Father and the work he has been given to do. In another version of the transfiguration of Jesus we see that Moses and Elijah are talking with Jesus about his impending death and resurrection in Jerusalem. (Luke 9:28-36) It is this that the Father is well pleased about in this instance for it is by Jesus death and resurrection that the New Covenant would be established and sin dealt with.

Finally, we see the Father give instruction to the disciples directly. He tells them to, “Listen to him,” speaking of Jesus. He does not say to listen to all three of them, but to listen to Jesus only. This point is emphasised even more when we see the disciples fall to the ground in awe, but when they arose they see Jesus alone. Moses and Elijah were gone and they were left only in the presence of Jesus.

The allegory in this teaching is that with the advent of the New Covenant, the Old Covenant, which is the law and prophets, as represented here by Moses and Elijah, is done away with. The Old Covenant has been made obsolete and is superseded by the New Covenant. As the writer of Hebrews puts it, “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) This does not mean there is no value in the Old Covenant. There is great wisdom in the Old Covenant. But for Christians, we are to listen to Jesus, as instructed by the Father himself in this section on the transfiguration of Jesus.

To mix the two covenants is like mixing oil and water. The Old Covenant identifies sin and puts man under laws to attempt to control sin. But the New Covenant offers freedom from sin, freedom from law and the ability to transform the nature of man to be like the nature of God, so that we do not sin. We do not sin not because the law says not to, but because we are transformed into the nature of Jesus Christ and of God who cannot sin. The Old Covenant was incapable of doing this transformation for it dealt only with the flesh of man, not the spirit of man. It is only when we “listen to Him”, that is, when we take in the words of Christ that we can achieve the freedom on offer in the New Covenant. That is why the teaching of the transfiguration of Jesus is so important and fundamental to Christianity today.