A. Some people wondered about some of the things I said the last two weeks about the old covenant. The fact is that there are some Reformed disagreements over the nature of the covenants.
1. There are some very difficult issues.
2. These uncertainties and disagreements even existed among the theologians who put together the Westminster Confession of Faith, because they very carefully included only what both sides agree on. I agree with everything it says. But there are many questions it doesn’t answer.
3. I know some of you would like me to explain the disagreements and tell you where I stand and why. But if I do that, I will lose the rest of you. So I won’t. But I am trying to preach in such a way that the disagreements don’t matter. I’m trying to preach in a way that both sides would agree with.
A. We talked about how Paul suddenly breaks into a discussion of the superiority of the new covenant and the inferiority of the old because his opponents he is responding to are Judaizers who proclaiming Jesus as a champion of the old covenant and a champion of Judaism.
B. Here are the contrasts Paul brings out in this passage:
a. old covenant new covenant
of the letter (the letter kills) of the Spirit (the Spirit gives life)
the ministry of death the ministry of the Spirit
in letters engraved on stones written with God’s Spirit on human hearts
came with some glory much more glory
fading glory permanent glory
the ministry of condemnation the ministry of righteousness
that which fades away that which remains
C. The Jesus these men were preaching was not the real Jesus, the One Paul preaches (see 11:4). The real Jesus has so much more glory than Moses that in comparison the old covenant has no glory at all.
D. Paul understood well the old covenant mentality, He lived in it till Christ confronted him on the road to Damascus. Once he saw and came to know the glorious Christ, he knew that to confine this glorious Jesus to the old covenant context was out of the question.
E. But now, his opponents have tried to add Christ to the old covenant context, but He won’t fit.
F. Jesus confronted this spirit in the Pharisees. Then Paul confronted it in the Judaizers.
G. Christianity doesn't mean grafting Jesus into old covenant Judaism. It's a new covenant. The old covenant is over. The new wine demands new wineskins. (Luke 5:37-39; Mark 2:21-22) And the new wineskins are new not just for the sake of being new but because the old wineskins are inadequate to hold new wine. Jesus came and turned the water of the old into the wine of the new.
III. (Old covenant Christianity)
A. It's amazing how much of the NT is about the danger of clinging to the old covenant.
1. This is what the book of Hebrews is all about!
B. Is all this really irrelevant to us since there are none who argue for a return to the Mosaic covenant today?
1. I think God inspired and preserved all these parts of the NT partly because He knew that down through history there would be a perpetual struggle in the church with old covenant Christianity.
C. There are a number of forms of old covenant Christianity which render the gospel lifeless.
1. Works Christianity: It’s your works which save you, even though you do them with God’s help.
2. Dead Christianity (the doctrine is just doctrine, Christ is not known personally)
3. Christianity as a cultural religion like any religion
D. But we’re all vulnerable to various old covenant Christianity traps, ways we might be tempted to try to fit Jesus into an old covenant attitude. For instance,
1. if we focus on the commands of God and give little attention to our magnificent Savior,
2. if we focus on obedience and forget about the Holy Spirit who empowers us to obey,
3. if we dwell on the outward and ignore the inward,
4. if we emphasize the form and neglect the content,
5. if we forget that the greatest responsibility and privilege of life is to know Jesus,
E. Old covenant churching
1. Lots of talks about the rules, the commandments, the duties, etc. but very little talk about the HS, Christ’s grace and forgiveness at the cross, etc.
2. then we also are preaching a different Jesus.
3. Sinclair Ferguson, The Whole Christ: on the Marrow controversy: the doctrine is correct but it is preached and talked about and lived out with a smell of the old covenant
4. All kinds of legalism and moralism
F. Heb.12 warns against old covenant worship: 18 For you have not come to what may be touched, a blazing fire and darkness and gloom and a tempest 19 and the sound of a trumpet and a voice whose words made the hearers beg that no further messages be spoken to them. 20 For they could not endure the order that was given, “If even a beast touches the mountain, it shall be stoned.” 21 Indeed, so terrifying was the sight that Moses said, “I tremble with fear.” 22 But you have come to Mount Zion and to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem, and to innumerable angels in festal gathering, 23 and to the assembly of the firstborn who are enrolled in heaven, and to God, the judge of all, and to the spirits of the righteous made perfect, 24 and to Jesus, the mediator of a new covenant, and to the sprinkled blood that speaks a better word than the blood of Abel.
1. In light of this, how can we look down on displays of emotion in worship?
G. Old covenant parenting
1. Age of Opportunity by Paul David Tripp
H. I need to tell you why this old covenant Christianity stuff is so important to me. In 1997 the Lord began to show me that in many ways I was an old covenant Christian & husband & father & pastor. And over the last 21 years, He has continued to help me wrestle with it. I’m still a work in progress, and I pray that as time goes on, my ministry would be more and more consistent with the gospel. But I want to give you some examples of ways I realized I was an old covenant Christian.
1. Notice the bad much more quickly than the good
2. No heart for revival: content to maintain and protect instead of progress – "with tears" - Acts 20
3. Challenging relentlessly, without mixing in the comfort and hope of the gospel: "not lifting a finger to help them"
4. No heart for outreach
5. Not a friend of sinners
6. Where's the hope that makes 'em ask?
7. Care only about my family, my friends, my church
8. Sense of superiority
9. Fear-driven not joy-driven
10. Tom Holliday: Presenting the law as if it’s the gospel and presenting the gospel as if it’s the law.
11. Camel and gnat
12. Broken-hearted re: my own sin
13. Lack of transparency, approachability, compassion: "heavy" "intimidating"
14. Passion for people: not striving to get to know people: pursuing them, listening to them.
IV. Though old covenant Christianity is a major emphasis here in Paul’s letter, there is a more important theme we must not neglect: the superior glory of the new covenant.
A. The gospel is beautiful. It is exciting. It is redemptive and restorative. The gospel is good news.
B. Christ has come. He has poured out His Spirit upon His people. The blessings which were portioned out in small measure have now been lavished in abundance. We are the people upon whom the ends of the ages have come (1Cor.10:11). The OT prophets longed to see what we see but couldn’t (1Pet.1:10-12), for "it was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven." These are even "things into which angels long to look."
C. You see, the coming of Jesus has changed everything. His transforming power has brought us from death to abundant life. He has brought fullness and joy. In Him, light and life and love have burst upon the earth. By sending His Spirit, He has made it so that rivers of living water flow from our inmost being. He is to be praised above everything else. To put Him on a par with the best in the world – even Moses – is a shameful insult. To portray Him as someone who merely came to reinforce what had already been revealed is to miss the point.
D. "For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." (Rom.8:3-4)
E. The law came through Moses, but grace and truth have come through Jesus Christ. – John 1:17
F. To us it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven (Matt.13:11).
G. How blessed are our eyes that they see and our ears that they hear (Matt.13:16)!
H. If you have put your trust in Christ, you have been blessed to be made a member of the new covenant, which is a covenant of grace and of rest.
1. Jesus calls you to come to Him, to rest in His care, rest in what HE has done, not in what you do.
2. You have a real savior, not a theoretical one or a distant one.
I. Before He came, there was an interesting debate about who was the greatest: Was it Abraham? Or Moses? Or perhaps it was David or Elijah or Daniel?
1. But when Jesus comes, it ends the debate. All of the others bow down & worship Him.
J. It’s not enough to say He’s a prophet. It’s not enough to say He’s a great Bible hero.
1. He is the great I AM in human flesh, the Lord and the savior. He is the way, the truth and the life.
2. He is our strong hope — and the light of the world! It’s impossible to exaggerate His glorious significance.