05 March 2009

The New Covenant Person : Fulfiller and Interpreter of The Old Covenant

“It is, in other words, that all the law and all the prophets point to Him and will be fulfilled in Him down to the smallest detail. Everything that is in the law and the prophets culminates in Christ, and He is the fulfillment of them. It is the most stupendous claim that He ever made.” D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, on Matt. 5:17, 18
So then, how do we interpret the bible? Or let me say it another way. How do we understand the text, the printed page that we hold in our hands in light of who Christ is as the Living, Eternal Word of God.?
If we understand that Jesus is the Living Word and that means that He is the Word incarnate, then we can understand that the first way to understand Scripture is to understand Christ because that is the priority of Scripture from Genesis to The Revelation. If we do this we can say that the text we read was lived by Him. So, what we read about Him all through Scripture as God, as Jesus, and as The Holy Spirit, reveals to us His completeness as a person with all of His attributes and as we understand that and how He has acted before He was incarnate and how He lived as the God/man then we can more easily understand the things He says with His words because His life and His words are indicative of who He is and the imperatives- the commands He gives us - once we are in Him, are rooted or established first in Him and who He is then in us and who He has made us to be. We have the Living Torah, The Living Word, the Inscription of God. When we read Romans 12:1,2 this should give us a better understanding of why and how we understand the Word of God.
“1 Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” Romans 12:1, 2, NAS95.
For us the will of God in essence is growing in the grace and knowledge of our Lord.
Romans 12:1-2 can be seen as some may say a way, some the means of doing this.
In the first verse, Paul speaks of a call to worship that all Christians will and must embrace to some degree or there is no work of the abiding Holy Spirit and a changed heart.
Paul speaks of the literal human body as a sacrifice unto God. Instead of taking a lamb to slaughter as a sacrifice for God, as Israel did before Jesus died on the Cross, Paul offers up visual imagery to allow the reader to better understand that Christians should offer their bodies unto Christ. This use of sacrificial language by Paul is important to mention. Literal sacrificial worship at this time was very vivid in the minds of most ancient religions, including Judaism. Using metaphors to describe this sacrificial act of worship were vastly understood by the Roman culture that he originally wrote the book of Romans to (Moo 73). Therefore, this usage of language was not foreign to the people that he wrote this specific letter to. This mention of a so-called spiritual sacrifice is considered an act of worship. Paul displays this sacrificial speech in symbolic and cultic terms in these verses (Moo 750). Instead of a literal slaughter of the human body, Christians should offer the body to be used by God for his discernment and will. The word “urge” or beseech in this verse is a translation of the Greek word parakaleo. This word is designed to deliver the correct meaning and usage of the word, which has moral undertones within it. The word parakaleo was often used when signaling a shift in conversation in the Greek language (Moo 73). Therefore, when a slight subject change was to be noted in text, this is a common word to include in usage to signal this change in conversation. This verse is designed to ask for dedication from Christians unto God, without demanding this act. Because the act of giving the body to Christ is an act of worship, this act cannot be forced but one who is truly regenerated does not ned to be forced because we possess the desire to do so, albeit the conflict of the remnant of the old man may at times cause a struggle within us. . This worship is, however, a worship that not only involves the mind, the heart meaning the total being of who we are in Christ.
The second verse of this passage speaks of God’s ability to transform an individual. The transformation is a life long enterprise as we are seeking the prize and the goal of Christ our Lord. Paul here is not referring, although some tend to believe so, to the church to stop conforming to the world, but is saying be continually being transformed
into the likeness of Christ, into who you are. This is a direct reference to the theology of Romans chapter 5-8. Not being conformed to the world, the age that produces what we were. Here in Romans 12, because of the work that has been accomplished for us by Christ from justification to sanctification to the indwelling of the Spirit we are now to be who we are according to the renewing process that keeps transforming us into the likeness of Christ. To be transformed is having the mind of Christ in a growing way, in a maturing way, in knowing the Living Word and His words and walking in the Spirit. Knowing the will of God does not first come from obeying some external standards of law like the Decalogue. We are bound to the Law of Christ which includes all that Jesus has taught us and that which has been taught us by His apostles, all that is Jesus’ teaching preserved in the teaching of the NT writers (This was Jesus’ own plan: John 16:12; John 14:25, 26; John 15:26, 27; 16:12-15). This includes how they interpreted the Old Testament Scriptures in light of Christ, which then gives us the proper understanding of how to understand the Old Testament Scriptures as they are fulfilled in Christ. In this way we know that all Scripture is given to us by Christ and therefore is inspired and we learn what is for teaching by way of illustration from the Old Testament and what can be applied in light of Christ in the New Covenant. For example, we do not follow the dietary laws of the Old Covenant but they teach us about the holiness of God’s people and how they were meant to be set apart as different. We see in all the sacrifices, which we do not make, that they pointed to Christ and are all fulfilled in Him. This informs and instructs us but we don’t do those things.
But the Law of Christ is Christ Himself and His law is written on our hearts. That Law is there because by His Spirit, His Holy Spirit, the Spirit of Christ we are internally driven to outwardly show who we are and a means of that is the desire to obey the imperatives-the commands- the written laws that reveal the standard of Christ for His New Covenant people. We are not shaped by the imperatives but by what Christ has made us to be and is making to be. I am not who I am in Christ because of what I do I do what I do because of who I am, even though in this life it will be imperfect.
We should not be saying, as Steve Fuchs has written that: “Jesus is the guy we need to obey and imitate.”
“We should be saying that ‘Jesus is causing us to act RIGHTLY’. It’s no longer about obedience to codes, but anticipation for being fully ruled. It’s about taking our eyes off of what we need to do in sanctification, fixing them instead on what we are/are becoming by his sanctifying work and fixing them on the glory of what is in store for us and longing for Him to speed up the procession being excited to be ruled (driven) entirely by Him in every act and thought.
We are still under a Law, but it’s a law of a different nature. His nature is Spirit, not code. Codes tell, but Spirit causes. This Spirit who causes us to think and act righteously is not conforming us to the list of imperatives in the NT anymore than to the Decalogue alone or the whole of Law and Prophets This Law of Christ is everlasting in the forward AND backward sense.
He existed from the beginning even while He was only revealed in the shadows of Law and Prophets. He was always the true substance of Righteousness.
The True Covenant didn’t change so much as His substance became fully visible and exposed the shadows to be mere shadows (Col 2 uses the word ‘mere’ ).None-the-less, among the shadows the faith of OC believers trusted that He would perfect them by ruling their very thoughts and desires with His own Spirit.
Our hope should not long for how much we’ll obey codes.
Our hope should be fixed on the Righteousness He is fulfilling in us…ruling our thoughts and desires to be perfect as the Father is perfect.”
As the living Word is eternal and as His people we are eternal then His words and the result of them will never pass away.

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