A New Covenant for Transforming the Heart

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A New Covenant for Transforming the Heart

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“But Jesus has now obtained a more excellent ministry, and . . . he is the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted through better promises” (Hebrews 8:6 Hebrews 8:6But now has he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises.
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

God planned from the beginning to transform the limited and temporary covenant He made with ancient Israel—with its abundance of symbolic sacrifices—into a far superior covenant commitment with a permanent sacrifice for sin open to all of mankind.

God’s covenants contain a variety of promises . Yet, in one sense, they all reflect a single commitment. Through them God is making known key aspects of His plan for man’s redemption from sin so salvation may be offered to all peoples. He has determined to ultimately give everyone an opportunity through Jesus Christ to enter His everlasting family of holy and righteous sons and daughters (2 Corinthians 6:18 2 Corinthians 6:18And will be a Father to you, and you shall be my sons and daughters, said the Lord Almighty.
American King James Version×
; 2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
American King James Version×
). God has never wavered in this commitment since the beginning of His creation.

John states, “But as many as received Him [Jesus Christ], to them He gave the right to become children of God, to those who believe in His name” (John 1:12 John 1:12But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:
American King James Version×
). Through Jesus Christ, we can attain the destiny God planned for us—to become members of His divine, holy family, a future planned for mankind long ago.

Paul adds: “In him [Jesus Christ] we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and insight he has made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure that he set forth in Christ, as a plan for the fullness of time, to gather up all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth” (Ephesians 1:7-10 Ephesians 1:7-10 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he has abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known to us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he has purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fullness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him:
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

Therefore His “new” covenant is a “better covenant” that offers the “better promises” related to eternal life that were not included in the Sinai Covenant. God chose not to make those better promises—especially forgiveness of sin through Christ’s sacrifice and the gift of the Holy Spirit—available to everyone until after Jesus had been crucified.

A key objective of those better promises is to set in motion the process of transforming the hearts and minds of those who respond to God’s call to repent and accept Christ as their Redeemer. Through that process He offers to make them heirs of “the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15 Hebrews 9:15And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
American King James Version×
).

God’s call to repentance is scheduled to be presented to humanity in stages—with most of mankind receiving that call only after the second coming of Christ. During this “present evil age” (see Galatians 1:4 Galatians 1:4Who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us from this present evil world, according to the will of God and our Father:
American King James Version×
), God is calling a much smaller segment of humanity to repentance to serve as “the light of the world” and to “make disciples of all the nations” (Matthew 5:14 Matthew 5:14You are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid.
American King James Version×
; Matthew 28:19 Matthew 28:19Go you therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost:
American King James Version×
).

(For the compelling details of God’s salvation timetable, be sure to request our free booklets What Is Your Destiny? and God’s Holy Day Plan: The Promise of Hope for All Mankind . )

A comparison of the two covenants

A primary distinction between the Old and New Covenants is in where God’s law is written (Jeremiah 31:31-34 Jeremiah 31:31-34 31 Behold, the days come, said the LORD, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: 32 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they broke, although I was an husband to them, said the LORD: 33 But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, said the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34 And they shall teach no more every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the LORD: for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest of them, said the LORD: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.
American King James Version×
; compare Ezekiel 36:26-28 Ezekiel 36:26-28 26 A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you: and I will take away the stony heart out of your flesh, and I will give you an heart of flesh. 27 And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes, and you shall keep my judgments, and do them. 28 And you shall dwell in the land that I gave to your fathers; and you shall be my people, and I will be your God.
American King James Version×
)—not in whether it continues to define His will.

Under the New Covenant the spirit or intent of the law is to be inscribed in the hearts of those who are converted by receiving the Holy Spirit . This required a change in the law as to who would hold the office of high priest, giving us a High Priest who could assist us in obeying God from the heart (Hebrews 7:12 Hebrews 7:12For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
American King James Version×
).

The new focus is on heartfelt repentance that leads to forgiveness of sin through faith in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. We are also told to “not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2 Romans 12:2And be not conformed to this world: but be you transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
American King James Version×
)—with the spiritual help supplied by God’s Spirit.

The Sinai Covenant’s rituals and sacrifices could only remind the people of their guilt and their need for redemption. They could not cancel their guilt—blot out their sins: “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4 Hebrews 10:4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
American King James Version×
). Under the New Covenant, however, Jesus Christ’s sacrifice blots out permanently the sins of those who repent and cancels their guilt (John 1:29 John 1:29The next day John sees Jesus coming to him, and said, Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world.
American King James Version×
; 1 John 1:7 1 John 1:7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship one with another, and the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleans us from all sin.
American King James Version×
; Revelation 1:5 Revelation 1:5And from Jesus Christ, who is the faithful witness, and the first begotten of the dead, and the prince of the kings of the earth. To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood,
American King James Version×
).

Significantly, the New Covenant first had to be offered to the same people who had received the Sinai Covenant—the physical descendants of Abraham. All of the apostles, including Paul, honored this requirement. Scripture shows that Paul, when visiting various cities, went to the Jews first, then to the gentiles Acts 13:45-46 Acts 13:45-46 45 But when the Jews saw the multitudes, they were filled with envy, and spoke against those things which were spoken by Paul, contradicting and blaspheming. 46 Then Paul and Barnabas waxed bold, and said, It was necessary that the word of God should first have been spoken to you: but seeing you put it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of everlasting life, see, we turn to the Gentiles.
American King James Version×
; Romans 1:16 Romans 1:16For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.
American King James Version×
).

Peter explained why the Jews had to be given the first opportunity to accept Christ as their Savior: “Yes, and all the prophets, from Samuel and those who follow, as many as have spoken, have also foretold these days [of Jesus Christ and the New Covenant].

“You are sons of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers . . . To you first, God, having raised up His Servant Jesus, sent Him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from your iniquities” (Acts 3:24-26 Acts 3:24-26 24 Yes, and all the prophets from Samuel and those that follow after, as many as have spoken, have likewise foretold of these days. 25 You are the children of the prophets, and of the covenant which God made with our fathers, saying to Abraham, And in your seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed. 26 To you first God, having raised up his Son Jesus, sent him to bless you, in turning away every one of you from his iniquities.
American King James Version×
; compare Ezekiel 16:60-63 Ezekiel 16:60-63 60 Nevertheless I will remember my covenant with you in the days of your youth, and I will establish to you an everlasting covenant. 61 Then you shall remember your ways, and be ashamed, when you shall receive your sisters, your elder and your younger: and I will give them to you for daughters, but not by your covenant. 62 And I will establish my covenant with you; and you shall know that I am the LORD: 63 That you may remember, and be confounded, and never open your mouth any more because of your shame, when I am pacified toward you for all that you have done, said the Lord GOD.
American King James Version×
).

Providing a permanent sacrifice for sin— first to Jews and then to the gentiles—so genuine reconciliation with God through Christ would open the door for God’s laws to be written in the heart by the Holy Spirit, is the foundation of the New Covenant. The gift of His Spirit to those who repent and are baptized provides the “missing dimension” in the human mind that makes this “better” relationship between God and His people work (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
American King James Version×
; Romans 6:3-4 Romans 6:3-4 3 Know you not, that so many of us as were baptized into Jesus Christ were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we are buried with him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life.
American King James Version×
).

A personal relationship with our new High Priest

Hebrews 7 explains another change from the Sinai Covenant to the New Covenant. Under the Sinai Covenant, the high priest was a physical human being from the tribe of Levi, serving in the physical tabernacle or temple until his death. Jesus, however, born of the tribe of Judah, is now our eternal High Priest, serving in heaven with direct access to God the Father.

Notice how plainly this is stated in Hebrews 8:1-2 Hebrews 8:1-2 1 Now of the things which we have spoken this is the sum: We have such an high priest, who is set on the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in the heavens; 2 A minister of the sanctuary, and of the true tabernacle, which the Lord pitched, and not man.
American King James Version×
: “The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man” (NIV).

Unlike the high priest under the Old Covenant, Jesus Christ as High Priest can personally assist every individual called by God. “They will all know me,” He says, “from the least of them to the greatest” (Hebrews 8:11 Hebrews 8:11And they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest.
American King James Version×
, NIV). This huge advantage of the New Covenant was not available under the Sinai Covenant with only a physical high priest.

Jesus, although divine and immortal, can still personally identify with our weaknesses and problems because of what He experienced as a human being: “For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God . . . Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted” (Hebrews 2:17-18 Hebrews 2:17-18 17 Why in all things it behooved him to be made like to his brothers, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. 18 For in that he himself has suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

As High Priest, Jesus is willing and eager to help Christians in their struggles to overcome sin. “For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need” (Hebrews 4:15-16 Hebrews 4:15-16 15 For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities; but was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy, and find grace to help in time of need.
American King James Version×
).

Symbolic rituals no longer needed

The temple-based system of worship under the Old Covenant came to an end in A.D. 70 when Roman armies captured Jerusalem and completely destroyed the Jewish temple and the priesthood system.

As the book of Hebrews explains about the introduction of a new covenant, “By calling this covenant ‘new,’ he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear” (Hebrews 8:13 Hebrews 8:13In that he said, A new covenant, he has made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away.
American King James Version×
, NIV; compare Matthew 24:1-2 Matthew 24:1-2 1 And Jesus went out, and departed from the temple: and his disciples came to him for to show him the buildings of the temple. 2 And Jesus said to them, See you not all these things? truly I say to you, There shall not be left here one stone on another, that shall not be thrown down.
American King James Version×
). By indicating the destruction of the temple beforehand and then allowing it to happen, just as foretold, God ended the Sinai Covenant’s system of worship.

Notice this clear explanation of the temporary nature of that tabernacle/temple system: “Now the first covenant had regulations for worship and also an earthly sanctuary. A tabernacle was set up. In its first room were the lampstand, the table and the consecrated bread; this was called the Holy Place.

“Behind the second curtain was a room called the Most Holy Place, which had . . . the gold-covered ark of the covenant. This ark contained the gold jar of manna, Aaron’s staff that had budded, and the stone tablets of the covenant. Above the ark were the cherubim of the Glory [over the mercy seat] . . .

“When everything had been arranged like this, the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ministry. But only the high priest entered the inner room, and that only once a year, and never without blood, which he offered for himself and for the sins the people had committed in ignorance. The Holy Spirit was showing by this that the way into the Most Holy Place had not yet been disclosed as long as the first tabernacle was still standing.

“This is an illustration for the present time [before the temple system was destroyed in A.D. 70], indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshipper. They are only a matter of food and drink and various ceremonial washings—external regulations applying until the time of the new order [established through the New Covenant]” (Hebrews 9:1-10 Hebrews 9:1-10 1 Then truly the first covenant had also ordinances of divine service, and a worldly sanctuary. 2 For there was a tabernacle made; the first, wherein was the candlestick, and the table, and the show bread; which is called the sanctuary. 3 And after the second veil, the tabernacle which is called the Holiest of all; 4 Which had the golden censer, and the ark of the covenant overlaid round about with gold, wherein was the golden pot that had manna, and Aaron’s rod that budded, and the tables of the covenant; 5 And over it the cherubim of glory shadowing the mercy seat; of which we cannot now speak particularly. 6 Now when these things were thus ordained, the priests went always into the first tabernacle, accomplishing the service of God. 7 But into the second went the high priest alone once every year, not without blood, which he offered for himself, and for the errors of the people: 8 The Holy Ghost this signifying, that the way into the holiest of all was not yet made manifest, while as the first tabernacle was yet standing: 9 Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience; 10 Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

Notice how explicitly the parts of the Sinai Covenant that had to be altered are defined in this passage.

Hebrews explains temporary aspects

These temporary aspects of the Sinai Covenant were applicable only until everything they symbolized was fulfilled by or through Jesus Christ. It is essential that we understand accurately what the book of Hebrews explains.

The author of Hebrews does not say that the laws of God defining righteousness were changed or abolished by the New Covenant or that they were only temporary. He does explain that the Sinai Covenant’s symbolic features— summarized as “food and drink and various ceremonial washings” are no longer necessary under the New Covenant. Indeed, it would soon become impossible to continue them because in A.D. 70 the physical temple, to which they were inherently linked, was completely destroyed.

The fact that these examples are restricted to physical items, all having only symbolic significance, is crucially important! The laws of God that define sin are not included among those items explicitly identified as terminated with the destruction of the temple.

The focus in Hebrews is entirely on things associated with the symbolic worship system of the physical tabernacle (and the later temple complex) and the temporary Levitical priesthood. Notice its explanation:

“When Christ came as high priest . . . he went through the greater and more perfect tabernacle that is not man-made, that is to say, not a part of this [physical] creation. He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.

“The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

“For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant, that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance —now that he has died as a ransom to set them free from the sins committed under the first covenant” (Hebrews 9:11-15 Hebrews 9:11-15 11 But Christ being come an high priest of good things to come, by a greater and more perfect tabernacle, not made with hands, that is to say, not of this building; 12 Neither by the blood of goats and calves, but by his own blood he entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us. 13 For if the blood of bulls and of goats, and the ashes of an heifer sprinkling the unclean, sanctifies to the purifying of the flesh: 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 15 And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

The tabernacle/ temple ministry or service of the Sinai Covenant was only symbolic and temporary. In contrast, the spiritual ministry of Jesus Christ focuses on an eternal inheritance” because it offers “eternal redemption” to those whose hearts are transformed by God’s Spirit.

However, God’s laws defining righteousness are not symbolic or temporary. The Psalms depict them as “wonderful” and “perfect,” destined to last “forever” (Psalms 19:7 Psalms 19:7The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple.
American King James Version×
; Psalms 119:129-160 Psalms 119:129-160 129 Your testimonies are wonderful: therefore does my soul keep them. 130 The entrance of your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple. 131 I opened my mouth, and panted: for I longed for your commandments. 132 Look you on me, and be merciful to me, as you use to do to those that love your name. 133 Order my steps in your word: and let not any iniquity have dominion over me. 134 Deliver me from the oppression of man: so will I keep your precepts. 135 Make your face to shine on your servant; and teach me your statutes. 136 Rivers of waters run down my eyes, because they keep not your law. 137 Righteous are you, O LORD, and upright are your judgments. 138 Your testimonies that you have commanded are righteous and very faithful. 139 My zeal has consumed me, because my enemies have forgotten your words. 140 Your word is very pure: therefore your servant loves it. 141 I am small and despised: yet do not I forget your precepts. 142 Your righteousness is an everlasting righteousness, and your law is the truth. 143 Trouble and anguish have taken hold on me: yet your commandments are my delights. 144 The righteousness of your testimonies is everlasting: give me understanding, and I shall live. 145 I cried with my whole heart; hear me, O LORD: I will keep your statutes. 146 I cried to you; save me, and I shall keep your testimonies. 147 I prevented the dawning of the morning, and cried: I hoped in your word. 148 My eyes prevent the night watches, that I might meditate in your word. 149 Hear my voice according to your loving kindness: O LORD, quicken me according to your judgment. 150 They draw near that follow after mischief: they are far from your law. 151 You are near, O LORD; and all your commandments are truth. 152 Concerning your testimonies, I have known of old that you have founded them for ever. 153 Consider my affliction, and deliver me: for I do not forget your law. 154 Plead my cause, and deliver me: quicken me according to your word. 155 Salvation is far from the wicked: for they seek not your statutes. 156 Great are your tender mercies, O LORD: quicken me according to your judgments. 157 Many are my persecutors and my enemies; yet do I not decline from your testimonies. 158 I beheld the transgressors, and was grieved; because they kept not your word. 159 Consider how I love your precepts: quicken me, O LORD, according to your loving kindness. 160 Your word is true from the beginning: and every one of your righteous judgments endures for ever.
American King James Version×
).

Paul describes God’s law as “holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good.” He then adds, “We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin” (Romans 7:12-14 Romans 7:12-14 12 Why the law is holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. 13 Was then that which is good made death to me? God forbid. But sin, that it might appear sin, working death in me by that which is good; that sin by the commandment might become exceeding sinful. 14 For we know that the law is spiritual: but I am carnal, sold under sin.
American King James Version×
, NIV). He taught that the problem that the New Covenant solves is the un spiritual responses of man, not some supposed defect in God’s spiritual laws.

Jesus upholds obedience to Old Testament laws

Since many aspects of the Sinai Covenant were temporary, those who serve God under the New Covenant need to understand Jesus Christ’s explanation of what is not included in the changes that had to be made. He was fully aware that the needed changes made by the New Covenant could be easily misinterpreted.

So in His famous Sermon on the Mount, He confirmed emphatically that the Old Testament scriptures would continue as the guide for Christian conduct. Notice His clear statement:

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets; I have come not to abolish but to fulfill [to fill up the law to its fullest intent and purpose and to become the High Priest and ultimate sacrifice foreshadowed in both the Law and the Prophets]. For truly I tell you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one letter, not one stroke of a letter, will pass from the law until all is accomplished” (Matthew 5:17-18 Matthew 5:17-18 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass, one stroke or one pronunciation mark shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

Jesus is very specific. The Old Testament is to remain unaltered, with a new understanding that its figurative aspects merely point to His role as our permanent High Priest and ultimate sacrifice.

But the entire Old Testament—every word and character—is to be preserved and used by Christians. Jesus makes it very clear that not even a part of a single letter of that original text is to be deleted or changed. He came to bring to pass what God had promised or foretold in His Word, not to discard or annul it. Even the sections describing the ceremonial aspects of the Sinai Covenant still teach us valuable lessons about the importance of Jesus Christ’s work and sacrifice for us, as the book of Hebrews explains in some detail.

Jesus forcefully confirmed that His preaching should never be interpreted as nullifying any part of the Old Testament scriptures: “Therefore, whoever breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, will be called least [by those] in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great [by those] in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:19 Matthew 5:19Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

Through the remainder of Matthew 5 He gives many examples that show the law’s requirements are even more binding on Christians, not less. He does this by illustrating the spiritual intent of the law that should govern our very thoughts and attitudes in addition to our actions.

Paul concurs with Jesus on the Old Testament

Paul, like Jesus, boldly tells us, “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17 2 Timothy 3:16-17 16 All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: 17 That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works.
American King James Version×
).

“All Scripture is God-breathed” (NIV) is the literal translation of the first part of Paul’s statement. Jesus and Paul both present the entire body of Old Testament scripture as divinely inspired and essential for equipping Christians to serve God.

Yet Paul did not say that Christians are required to perform—precisely as written—every detail given to ancient Israel. His emphasis is that all of it is profitable or useful —though not every detail is required of Christians for reasons explained above.

What then is not required? That also has been made very clear. Most symbolic aspects of Old Testament instructions are not now required. They were “concerned only with foods and drinks, various washings, and fleshly ordinances imposed until the time of reformation” (Hebrews 9:10 Hebrews 9:10Which stood only in meats and drinks, and divers washings, and carnal ordinances, imposed on them until the time of reformation.
American King James Version×
).

Jesus Christ’s sacrifice replaced those symbolic aspects of the law that were merely temporary rituals. Though they were not spiritual commands, their value in explaining the role of Jesus as our High Priest and sacrifice for sin still exists. They still serve as important teaching tools.

This distinction in their use today is important! Temporary aspects of Old Testament legislation never defined sin. They usually represented how Jesus Christ would pay for sin or, as with the symbolic meaning of circumcision, that our fleshly inclination to sin needs to be removed.

When God thundered the Ten Commandments from Mt. Sinai, He declared that He would show “mercy to thousands, to those who love Me and keep My commandments” (Exodus 20:6 Exodus 20:6And showing mercy to thousands of them that love me, and keep my commandments.
American King James Version×
). His merciful forbearance of ancient Israel’s repeated disobedience under the Sinai Covenant is a type of the much greater level of mercy and redemption that the “new covenant in [Christ’s] blood” (Luke 22:20 Luke 22:20Likewise also the cup after supper, saying, This cup is the new testament in my blood, which is shed for you.
American King James Version×
) now offers to those who repent.

For human beings to receive that mercy, the Son of God had to become our sacrifice for sin. In the epistles of the New Testament the word death is used more than 60 times in reference to either the penalty for sin or the atoning sacrifice of Jesus Christ. The entire sacrificial system of ancient Israel was given to emphasize that forgiveness of sin requires the shedding of blood (Hebrews 9:22 Hebrews 9:22And almost all things are by the law purged with blood; and without shedding of blood is no remission.
American King James Version×
).

We must never forget that all Scripture is inspired and vital for our lives. All of it lays a solid foundation for Christian doctrine. All of it is profitable for instructing us in righteousness. Without it we could never be sure what righteousness is.

Here is an important principle: To properly understand the New Testament, we must first understand the Old Testament. The New Testament is not written as a replacement for the Old Testament. Rather the Old Testament is the basis and foundation of the New Testament (Matthew 5:17-20 Matthew 5:17-20 17 Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, Till heaven and earth pass, one stroke or one pronunciation mark shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. 19 Whoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I say to you, That except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, you shall in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven.
American King James Version×
; Acts 28:23 Acts 28:23And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening.
American King James Version×
).

Only if we apply the principles of righteousness revealed in all of those Scriptures to our thinking and behavior will we be able to grow to the spiritual maturity that God desires! Only then will we be considered “complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work,” as Paul instructs us (2 Timothy 3:17 2 Timothy 3:17That the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished to all good works.
American King James Version×
).

Jesus expressed this point even more emphatically. “It is written,” He said, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God’ ” (Matthew 4:4 Matthew 4:4But he answered and said, It is written, Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of God.
American King James Version×
, quoting Deuteronomy 8:3 Deuteronomy 8:3And he humbled you, and suffered you to hunger, and fed you with manna, which you knew not, neither did your fathers know; that he might make you know that man does not live by bread only, but by every word that proceeds out of the mouth of the LORD does man live.
American King James Version×
). The only Word of God at that time was what we now call the Old Testament scriptures.

According to both Paul and Jesus, those Scriptures are essential to our Christian growth and development. We must study them thoroughly to learn the thinking of God embedded in them. Through their instruction God wants to change our attitudes and thoughts, our hearts and minds, by giving us understanding of His thinking.

He says: “For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are My ways higher than your ways, and My thoughts than your thoughts. For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and do not return there, but water the earth, and make it bring forth and bud . . . so shall My word be that goes forth from My mouth; it shall not return to Me void, but it shall accomplish what I please, and it shall prosper in the thing for which I sent it” (Isaiah 55:9-11 Isaiah 55:9-11 9 For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways, and my thoughts than your thoughts. 10 For as the rain comes down, and the snow from heaven, and returns not thither, but waters the earth, and makes it bring forth and bud, that it may give seed to the sower, and bread to the eater: 11 So shall my word be that goes forth out of my mouth: it shall not return to me void, but it shall accomplish that which I please, and it shall prosper in the thing whereto I sent it.
American King James Version×
).

God’s goal is to develop in us the mind of Christ (Philippians 2:5 Philippians 2:5Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus:
American King James Version×
)—for us to have the same thinking and outlook that He has. For that to happen, we must have the same trust in, and deep respect for, God’s inspired Word that Jesus Christ and Paul had (compare Isaiah 66:2 Isaiah 66:2For all those things has my hand made, and all those things have been, said the LORD: but to this man will I look, even to him that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembles at my word.
American King James Version×
). When we do, those Scriptures become the instruments that transform our thinking and behavior as He intended, if we internalize them with the enabling help and power of God’s Spirit.

Other New Covenant improvements

Paul also explained that some aspects of the Scriptures will, of necessity, need to be applied “not of the letter but of the Spirit” (2 Corinthians 3:6 2 Corinthians 3:6Who also has made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.
American King James Version×
). What did he mean? What distinguishes the “letter” of the law from the “spirit” of the law? And what conditions make this distinction necessary?

One crucial change—the change in the priesthood—gives us the beginning point for understanding this distinction. Jesus Christ replaced the priesthood of Aaron’s descendants by becoming our permanent High Priest (Hebrews 7:11-28 Hebrews 7:11-28 11 If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? 12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertains to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there rises another priest, 16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life. 17 For he testifies, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. 18 For there is truly a cancellation of the commandment going before for the weakness and unprofitableness thereof. 19 For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw near to God. 20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: 21 (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said to him, The Lord swore and will not repent, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) 22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. 23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 But this man, because he continues ever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Why he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them. 26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens; 27 Who needs not daily, as those high priests, to offer up sacrifice, first for his own sins, and then for the people’s: for this he did once, when he offered up himself. 28 For the law makes men high priests which have infirmity; but the word of the oath, which was since the law, makes the Son, who is consecrated for ever more.
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). This makes a vast difference in the way certain parts of the Old Testament laws are applied.

Verses 18 and 19 explain why Old Testament regulations for the appointment of a high priest had to be modified: “For on the one hand there is an annulling of the former commandment [specifically limiting the priesthood to Aaron’s descendants] because of its weakness and unprofitableness, for the law [requiring high priests to be appointed from Aaron’s descendants] made nothing perfect; on the other hand, there is the bringing in of a better hope [Jesus Christ’s appointment as our permanent High Priest], through which we draw near to God.”

This change was foretold in the Old Testament scriptures. God promised that the Messiah would be seated at His right hand before returning to earth as the King of Kings: “The Lord said to my Lord, ‘Sit at My right hand, till I make Your enemies Your footstool’ ” (Psalms 110:1 Psalms 110:1The LORD said to my Lord, Sit you at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.
American King James Version×
).

This prophecy also confirmed by an oath that the Messiah (Jesus) would be the new, permanent High Priest: “The Lord has sworn and will not relent, ‘You are a priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek’ ” (Psalms 110:4 Psalms 110:4The LORD has sworn, and will not repent, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
American King James Version×
).

We see that the Old Testament both foretold and authorized the change in who would be the High Priest and how He would administer His office. The book of Hebrews explains the importance of this change in the application of laws governing the appointment and duties of the high priest.

“This was confirmed with an oath; for others [Aaron’s descendants] who became priests took their office without an oath, but this one [Jesus] became a priest with an oath, because of the one [God the Father] who said to him, ‘The Lord has sworn and will not change his mind, “You are a priest forever” ’ —accordingly Jesus has also become the guarantee of a better covenant.

“Furthermore, the former priests were many in number, because they were prevented by death from continuing in office; but he [Jesus] holds his priesthood permanently, because he continues forever. Consequently he is able for all time to save those who approach God through him, since he always lives to make intercession for them” (Hebrews 7:20-25 Hebrews 7:20-25 20 And inasmuch as not without an oath he was made priest: 21 (For those priests were made without an oath; but this with an oath by him that said to him, The Lord swore and will not repent, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec:) 22 By so much was Jesus made a surety of a better testament. 23 And they truly were many priests, because they were not suffered to continue by reason of death: 24 But this man, because he continues ever, has an unchangeable priesthood. 25 Why he is able also to save them to the uttermost that come to God by him, seeing he ever lives to make intercession for them.
American King James Version×
, NRSV).

This change in the priesthood required that the law appointing Aaron’s descendants to that office be changed. But it did not abolish either the office or the basic role of a high priest.

It only required that laws regarding that office be modified so as to properly apply to Jesus Christ as our permanent High Priest. Therefore those laws are still applicable and profitable—but now according to the “spirit” of the law instead of the precise “letter” of the original text.

As Hebrews 7:12-16 Hebrews 7:12-16 12 For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law. 13 For he of whom these things are spoken pertains to another tribe, of which no man gave attendance at the altar. 14 For it is evident that our Lord sprang out of Juda; of which tribe Moses spoke nothing concerning priesthood. 15 And it is yet far more evident: for that after the similitude of Melchisedec there rises another priest, 16 Who is made, not after the law of a carnal commandment, but after the power of an endless life.
American King James Version×
explains: “For when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law. He of whom these things are said belonged to a different tribe, and no one from that tribe has ever served at the altar. For it is clear that our Lord descended from Judah, and in regard to that tribe Moses said nothing about priests.

“And what we have said is even more clear if another priest like Melchizedek appears [as prophesied in Psalms 110:4 Psalms 110:4The LORD has sworn, and will not repent, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
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], one who has become a priest not on the basis of a regulation as to his ancestry but on the basis of the power of an indestructible life” (NIV).

A superior approach

Paul devotes most of 2 Corinthians 3 to explaining this important difference in the administration of some of the laws written in the Old Testament. They are not abolished. But the application of their text sometimes has to be applied in a way that is compatible with New Covenant realities.

In such instances the “spirit” of the law takes precedence over the letter of the law—with the clear understanding that the “spirit” of the law faithfully preserves the original intent for which any particular law was given. Two important principles stand out.

First, the new emphasis is on where the law is written— in the heart of those whom God calls rather than merely on tablets of stone (2 Corinthians 3:3 2 Corinthians 3:3For as much as you are manifestly declared to be the letter of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart.
American King James Version×
).

Second, the law’s basic principles, intent and purpose are still permanently useful and applicable to all of humanity (see James 1:25 James 1:25But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
American King James Version×
; James 2:8-12 James 2:8-12 8 If you fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, You shall love your neighbor as yourself, you do well: 9 But if you have respect to persons, you commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all. 11 For he that said, Do not commit adultery, said also, Do not kill. Now if you commit no adultery, yet if you kill, you are become a transgressor of the law. 12 So speak you, and so do, as they that shall be judged by the law of liberty.
American King James Version×
). Even more significant is the fact that the provision for such modification had already been revealed and divinely approved in Psalms 110:4 Psalms 110:4The LORD has sworn, and will not repent, You are a priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek.
American King James Version×
.

It is also important to note that not everything concerning the office of the high priest had to be amended—only the regulations necessary to accommodate Jesus Christ’s appointment as our permanent High Priest.

The same principle applies to sacrifices and ceremonies. A change from merely symbolic animal sacrifices to the real and permanent sacrifice of Jesus Christ necessitates an adjustment in the law. But it does not abolish our need for a sacrifice. The law’s requirement that a sacrifice be made for sin remains intact. But now it is the sacrifice of Christ that fulfills that requirement (Hebrews 10:4 Hebrews 10:4For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins.
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, Hebrews 10:14-18 Hebrews 10:14-18 14 For by one offering he has perfected for ever them that are sanctified. 15 Whereof the Holy Ghost also is a witness to us: for after that he had said before, 16 This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, said the Lord, I will put my laws into their hearts, and in their minds will I write them; 17 And their sins and iniquities will I remember no more. 18 Now where remission of these is, there is no more offering for sin.
American King James Version×
).

Therefore, some changes to the law were necessary to amend what was already in the law, to bring it up to date. God’s law has not been abolished by the New Covenant, but it now contains important revisions that accommodate the “better promises” foretold in those very same Scriptures.

The New Covenant administration of law

God especially gives His true and faithful ministers, through the power of His Spirit, the understanding they need to properly discern the intent of the law under legitimate New Covenant contexts (compare Matthew 18:18 Matthew 18:18Truly I say to you, Whatever you shall bind on earth shall be bound in heaven: and whatever you shall loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.
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; Acts 15:1-29 Acts 15:1-29 1 And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brothers, and said, Except you be circumcised after the manner of Moses, you cannot be saved. 2 When therefore Paul and Barnabas had no small dissension and disputation with them, they determined that Paul and Barnabas, and certain other of them, should go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question. 3 And being brought on their way by the church, they passed through Phenice and Samaria, declaring the conversion of the Gentiles: and they caused great joy to all the brothers. 4 And when they were come to Jerusalem, they were received of the church, and of the apostles and elders, and they declared all things that God had done with them. 5 But there rose up certain of the sect of the Pharisees which believed, saying, That it was needful to circumcise them, and to command them to keep the law of Moses. 6 And the apostles and elders came together for to consider of this matter. 7 And when there had been much disputing, Peter rose up, and said to them, Men and brothers, you know how that a good while ago God made choice among us, that the Gentiles by my mouth should hear the word of the gospel, and believe. 8 And God, which knows the hearts, bore them witness, giving them the Holy Ghost, even as he did to us; 9 And put no difference between us and them, purifying their hearts by faith. 10 Now therefore why tempt you God, to put a yoke on the neck of the disciples, which neither our fathers nor we were able to bear? 11 But we believe that through the grace of the LORD Jesus Christ we shall be saved, even as they. 12 Then all the multitude kept silence, and gave audience to Barnabas and Paul, declaring what miracles and wonders God had worked among the Gentiles by them. 13 And after they had held their peace, James answered, saying, Men and brothers, listen to me: 14 Simeon has declared how God at the first did visit the Gentiles, to take out of them a people for his name. 15 And to this agree the words of the prophets; as it is written, 16 After this I will return, and will build again the tabernacle of David, which is fallen down; and I will build again the ruins thereof, and I will set it up: 17 That the residue of men might seek after the Lord, and all the Gentiles, on whom my name is called, said the Lord, who does all these things. 18 Known to God are all his works from the beginning of the world. 19 Why my sentence is, that we trouble not them, which from among the Gentiles are turned to God: 20 But that we write to them, that they abstain from pollutions of idols, and from fornication, and from things strangled, and from blood. 21 For Moses of old time has in every city them that preach him, being read in the synagogues every sabbath day. 22 Then pleased it the apostles and elders with the whole church, to send chosen men of their own company to Antioch with Paul and Barnabas; namely, Judas surnamed Barsabas and Silas, chief men among the brothers: 23 And they wrote letters by them after this manner; The apostles and elders and brothers send greeting to the brothers which are of the Gentiles in Antioch and Syria and Cilicia. 24 For as much as we have heard, that certain which went out from us have troubled you with words, subverting your souls, saying, You must be circumcised, and keep the law: to whom we gave no such commandment: 25 It seemed good to us, being assembled with one accord, to send chosen men to you with our beloved Barnabas and Paul, 26 Men that have hazarded their lives for the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. 27 We have sent therefore Judas and Silas, who shall also tell you the same things by mouth. 28 For it seemed good to the Holy Ghost, and to us, to lay on you no greater burden than these necessary things; 29 That you abstain from meats offered to idols, and from blood, and from things strangled, and from fornication: from which if you keep yourselves, you shall do well. Fare you well.
American King James Version×
).

As Paul explained, “He has made us competent as ministers of a new covenant—not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life” (2 Corinthians 3:6 2 Corinthians 3:6Who also has made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

A major focus of the Sinai Covenant’s “ministry” or priesthood—its service to the people on God’s behalf—was to remind them constantly that God condemns both evil and evildoers. The New Covenant ministry is more focused on bringing sinners to heartfelt repentance so they can escape condemnation in the judgment to come (Acts 17:30-31 Acts 17:30-31 30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commands all men every where to repent: 31 Because he has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world in righteousness by that man whom he has ordained; whereof he has given assurance to all men, in that he has raised him from the dead.
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).

Paul describes the Sinai Covenant’s approach as “glorious.” He never belittles or berates it. God designed both covenants to gloriously fulfill their intended objectives. But the New Covenant is a better covenant that offers eternal forgiveness with eternal life, not just symbolic, temporary forgiveness within the community of Israel for the benefit of physical blessings only.

“If the [old] ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the [new] ministry that brings righteousness [by blotting out sins through the death of Christ and leading people to obedience and eternal life]!

“For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory [of the new administration of righteousness]. And if what was fading away [the Sinai Covenant’s physical reminders of the death penalty for sin] came with glory, how much greater is the glory of that which lasts!” (2 Corinthians 3:9-11 2 Corinthians 3:9-11 9 For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more does the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. 10 For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excels. 11 For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remains is glorious.
American King James Version×
, NIV).

The Sinai Covenant’s glorious reminders of condemnation for guilt through symbolic sacrifices has been replaced by a more glorious and permanent administration of mercy and true righteousness through Jesus Christ as our new and permanent High Priest.

Through the Holy Spirit, Christ gives His servants in whose hearts the law is now written the ability to discern how to properly apply the laws of God to their own lives (Jeremiah 31:33 Jeremiah 31:33But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, said the LORD, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people.
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; 1 Corinthians 2:11-14 1 Corinthians 2:11-14 11 For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
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; Philippians 1:9-10 Philippians 1:9-10 9 And this I pray, that your love may abound yet more and more in knowledge and in all judgment; 10 That you may approve things that are excellent; that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ.
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).

“For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ,” writes Paul, “for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes . . . For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘The just shall live by faith’ ” (Romans 1:16-17 Romans 1:16-17 16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God to salvation to every one that believes; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek. 17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.
American King James Version×
).

Teaching people how to live righteously because they truly trust God was a vital aspect of Paul’s ministry. And the same should be true today.

Proper spiritual discernment

How did Paul and the other apostles discern what parts of the law might have a different application under the New Covenant than they did under the Sinai Covenant?

All godly discernment must fall within the boundaries that are lawfully allowed by the Scriptures. In other words, the law’s proper application is determined by the guidelines revealed in the Scriptures themselves, not by our own feelings or opinions. We should never allow the opinions of those who rely on human tradition contrary to the Scriptures to sway us against God’s law.

Paul strongly stresses the point that “the law is good if one uses it lawfully” (1 Timothy 1:8 1 Timothy 1:8But we know that the law is good, if a man use it lawfully;
American King James Version×
). Therefore, Christians need to be cautious not to accept or adopt assumptions that the Scriptures themselves do not support.

Plainly speaking, the Bible interprets the Bible. This is especially important in studying the writings of the apostle Paul, who wrote some passages that many people misunderstand and distort (see 2 Peter 3:15-16 2 Peter 3:15-16 15 And account that the long-suffering of our Lord is salvation; even as our beloved brother Paul also according to the wisdom given to him has written to you; 16 As also in all his letters, speaking in them of these things; in which are some things hard to be understood, which they that are unlearned and unstable wrest, as they do also the other scriptures, to their own destruction.
American King James Version×
).

Because all new Christians need guidance, Paul explains the proper means through which Jesus Christ provides it. He tells us: “It was he [Jesus] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.

“Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming” (Ephesians 4:11-14 Ephesians 4:11-14 11 And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; 12 For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: 13 Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a perfect man, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ: 14 That we from now on be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive;
American King James Version×
, NIV).

A spiritually capable, teaching ministry is essential to our spiritual health and personal growth in the Church that Jesus built. We all need guidance from spiritually qualified ministers of Jesus Christ.

To ensure that Church judgments about the application of Scripture to current situations are sound and accurate, their compatibility with the entire Word of God must be checked thoroughly. As Paul explained to Timothy, “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, handling accurately the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15 2 Timothy 2:15Study to show yourself approved to God, a workman that needs not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.
American King James Version×
, NASB).

Therefore, we must be careful to seek spiritual advice only from ministers who faithfully believe “every word of God” (Luke 4:4 Luke 4:4And Jesus answered him, saying, It is written, That man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God.
American King James Version×
) and faithfully teach that “all Scripture” is “profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16 2 Timothy 3:16All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness:
American King James Version×
).

That is why Paul wrote: “How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?” (Romans 10:14-15 Romans 10:14-15 14 How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? 15 And how shall they preach, except they be sent? as it is written, How beautiful are the feet of them that preach the gospel of peace, and bring glad tidings of good things!
American King James Version×
).

We need to be very careful that ministers and teachers from whom we seek spiritual guidance know the Bible well and teach it accurately— rather than interpreting it according to the traditions of men. Paul warns us to beware of those who “are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ” (2 Corinthians 11:13 2 Corinthians 11:13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
American King James Version×
).

Building on fundamental principles

Sadly, even some of the earliest Christians were negligent in correctly discerning, comprehending and rightly applying the intent of the Scriptures. The author of Hebrews told them that “though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God; and you have come to need milk and not solid food.

“For everyone who partakes only of milk is unskilled in the word of righteousness, for he is a babe. But solid food belongs to those who are of full age, that is, those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil” (Hebrews 5:12-14 Hebrews 5:12-14 12 For when for the time you ought to be teachers, you have need that one teach you again which be the first principles of the oracles of God; and are become such as have need of milk, and not of strong meat. 13 For every one that uses milk is unskillful in the word of righteousness: for he is a babe. 14 But strong meat belongs to them that are of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil.
American King James Version×
). Such ability comes from studying the “word of righteousness” regularly and using it skillfully over an extended period of time.

As mentioned earlier, everything God has revealed to us through His law has one central aim— to teach us to love as He loves. According to the law, that love is focused in two distinct directions: first toward God, and then toward our fellow human beings, all of whom are created in God’s image.

The Ten Commandments expand those principles of love. God desires to write the fullness of these principles in our hearts.

Let’s now turn our attention specifically to how Jesus Christ personally assists those who receive the Holy Spirit—particularly in rightly discerning and applying the principles of God’s law under the New Covenant with a pure heart.