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God's Law and the New Covenant

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God's Law and the New Covenant

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He answers: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill [actually ‘fill to the full,’ meaning fully explain or fully express]. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away [and they clearly haven’t passed away], one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

“Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:17-19 Matthew 5:17-19 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.
American King James Version×
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Notice how Hebrews 10:16-17 Hebrews 10:16-17 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.
American King James Version×
summarizes the New Covenant: “ ‘This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.’ Then He adds, ‘Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.’” This is perfectly consistent with Christ’s words. God’s laws aren’t annulled under the New Covenant; they are written into our hearts and minds so we might obey Him better.

A new covenant wasn’t needed because the laws included in the Old Covenant were inadequate or faulty. Rather, the New Covenant was needed because, as Hebrews 8:8 Hebrews 8:8For finding fault with them, he said, Behold, the days come, said the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah:
American King James Version×
tells us, “God found fault with the people . . .” (NIV).The fault was in the nature of the people themselves (Hebrews 8:7-9 Hebrews 8:7-9 7 For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. 8 For finding fault with them, he said, Behold, the days come, said the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: 9 Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, said the Lord.
American King James Version×
)—the fact that human beings are hostile to God’s laws rather than spiritually minded and willing to obey (see Romans 8:5-8 Romans 8:5-8 5 For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace. 7 Because the carnal mind is enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be. 8 So then they that are in the flesh cannot please God.
American King James Version×
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What people need to have changed is their heart, not the laws that define sin—sin being the violation of God’s law (1 John 3:4 1 John 3:4Whoever commits sin transgresses also the law: for sin is the transgression of the law.
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). Such change in the heart is possible only when people receive God’s Spirit. That’s why the focus of the New Covenant is on providing the way and the means for sins to be forgiven so people may receive the Holy Spirit.

That is why the sacrifice of Christ is such a central focus. During His last meal with His apostles, on the night before He was crucified, “He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, ‘Drink from it, all of you. For this is [meaning this represents ] My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins’ ” (Matthew 26:27-28 Matthew 26:27-28 27 And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink you all of it; 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins.
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Further, we are certainly not forgiven for disobeying God just so we can go on freely disobeying Him! Clearly God’s laws remain in force. God intends to indelibly inscribe them into our emotions and thinking, our hearts and minds. The difference now is that these laws are to be written into our very thinking.

This is why the members of the United Church of God follow Christ’s example of applying God’s commandments according to the fullness of their intent as explained in Christ’s Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. (To better understand why obeying God’s commandments is so important, be sure to read our Bible study aid booklet The Ten Commandments . To understand the biblical truth about the New Covenant, read the free Bible study aid The New Covenant: Does It Abolish God’s Law? )