To be a Christian, in the true sense of the word, is to be a dedicated follower of Jesus Christ. It amazes me to see how many Christians today espouse beliefs that were not taught or promoted by Jesus. It's even more surprising to hear so many preachers and teachers of the Gospel of Jesus Christ presenting messages that Jesus would never have presented.
I believe one of the reasons for this is a lack of understanding between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant. While Christianity was birthed by Jesus out of Judaism, there are many distinct differences between the teachings of Jesus and the laws received by Moses.
It's easy for Christians and Christian leaders to mistakenly apply Old Covenant teachings to our New Covenant relationship with God. When Jesus was with his disciples at the last supper he handed them the cup and said, "This is my blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins."(1) The writer to the Hebrews calls Jesus the mediator of "the new covenant" and describes it as a "better covenant."(2) The Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians, "(Christ) made us sufficient as ministers of a new covenant; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life."(3)
When people open the Bible it's easy to read from the Old Testament and, without realizing it, think that the law and the way God operated under the Old Covenant also applies to Christians today. The thinking goes something like this, "Since the Old Covenant is part of the Bible and the Bible is the inspired Word of God, then all the things in the Bible must also apply to us today." As a result, there is a mixture of old and new which brings tremendous confusion. The letter to the Romans states clearly that, "Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one who believes."(4)
Christians need to realize they are not under the curse of the law. The Apostle Paul made that clear when he wrote to the Galatians saying. "Christ redeemed us from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us..."(5)
Christians must be careful not to mix the Law and faith in Jesus Christ. Again writing to the Galatians the Apostle Paul said, "Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified." Then Paul added, "For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God. I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ lives in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me. I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness came by the law, then Christ is dead in vain."(6)
There is a huge difference between Old Covenant thinking and New Covenant thinking. Under the Old when someone sinned, often the punishment was immediate death. There were also times God ordered the Jewish people to completely destroy their enemy, including women, children and animals. But Jesus presented a completely different teaching. He didn't teach us to destroy our enemy or to execute a sinful person. He said we should love our enemy, forgive and pray for those who hurt us and are against us.(7)
Even the disciples of Jesus struggled with a law mentality. A perfect example of this is the response by the disciples James and John when some people opposed Jesus. Those disciples said to Jesus, "Lord, do You desire that we command fire to come down from Heaven and consume them, even as Elijah did? But He (Jesus) turned and rebuked them and said, You do not know of what spirit you are. For the Son of Man has not come to destroy men's lives, but to save. And they went to another village."(8) Those disciples acted in a way that was normal under the Old Covenant just like many Christians do today.
The Law and Old Covenant are important and there is much to be gained by knowing and understanding it. Paul said, "the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith."(9) At the same time, it needs to be clear in our belief system that we are not under the Law but under grace.
The Galatians had come into relationship with God by grace through faith and then through the influence of false teachers they began trying to gain God's favor and acceptance through following strict spiritual rule-keeping (the Law).(10) When the Apostle Paul wrote to them about this he used very strong language saying, "You crazy Galatians! Did someone put a hex on you? Have you taken leave of your senses? Something crazy has happened, for it's obvious that you no longer have the crucified Jesus in clear focus in your lives."(11)
I value Moses and the law but I am not a minister of the 'Gospel of Moses' rather the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. We all need to remember to keep our focus on Jesus, whether we are leaders in the church or not. Let's all be pure Christians and ministers of the GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST and Him alone.
(1) Matt. 26:28 (2) Hebrews 8:6-8 (3) II Corin.3:6
(4) Romans 10:4 (5) Gal. 3:13 (6) Gal. 2:16, 19-21
(7) Matt. 5:44 (8) Luke 9:54-56 (9) Gal. 3:24
(10) Gal. 2:21 from 'The Message'
(11) Gal. 3:1 from 'The Message'