Understanding the Two Covenants
People can live under two separate covenants – the old covenant of the law and the new covenant of grace. Under the old covenant, no matter how hard you tried, the law could never justify you. You strived to be approved by God through your efforts, discipline, religiosity, and works, but you failed every time. It might sound harsh, but that’s the reality of the old covenant. And it wasn’t God’s original plan; the Israelites chose it out of pride.
So, God introduced a new system where you reach the end of yourself and realize you need a Savior, Jesus. The new covenant is all about being fully approved and justified based on what Jesus has done for you. It’s a divine exchange, and it’s way better than the old system of striving.
No, We’re Not Throwing Out the Old Covenant
I know some of you might be thinking, “Does this mean we should throw out the Old Testament?” Absolutely not! The Old Testament is still God’s Word, and we can learn much from it. But we are living in a different system now, the new covenant brought by the cross of Christ. This doesn’t mean throwing out holiness or any moral standards; it means understanding that grace empowers us to live righteously from the inside out, guided by the Holy Spirit, rather than trying to conform externally through rules and rituals. So, it’s not about encouraging lawlessness but embracing grace for true heart transformation.
The Ministry of Death vs. the Ministry of the Spirit
In 2nd Corinthians 3:7-9, the Apostle Paul vividly contrasts the old and new covenants. He calls the old covenant the “ministry of death” because it magnifies our flaws, exposes our sins, and demands perfection without imparting the power to achieve it. On the other hand, the new covenant, the “ministry of the Spirit,” is more glorious. It empowers us with the Holy Spirit and a born-again spirit, enabling us to fulfill the demands of righteousness. So, when you stand at the crossroads, choose the more glorious side of the cross – the new covenant of grace, where righteousness exceeds glory.
Grace: The Journey to Freedom
Let’s start in Galatians chapter 2, where Paul takes us on a journey of understanding grace. You’ll not grasp this overnight, but it’s a journey that will change your life. When you catch grace, you’ll find rest in the knowledge that God looks at you through the lens of Jesus’ sacrifice, and you are well pleasing to Him. And no, this doesn’t make you lazy; it empowers you to live in holiness from the inside out.
The Danger of Mixture and Judaizers
Paul addresses a critical issue in Galatians: the infiltration of Judaizers who insisted that Gentile believers must adhere to Jewish customs, including circumcision. Paul vehemently opposes this idea because even a hint of mixture can nullify the grace of God. Mixing grace with works is like drinking water that’s 99% pure but contains 1% arsenic. It’s lethal to your spiritual life.
Sadly, many Christians unknowingly live with this mixture, thinking they must contribute to their salvation. But the truth is that Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross is enough. He emphasizes the importance of ensuring that the gospel of grace is not compromised.
Freedom in Grace: No Transaction Required
In today’s context, we may not face circumcision requirements, but we encounter modern-day Judaizers who advocate for earning God’s favor through various actions. Whether it’s the belief that blessings come as a reward for praise or any teaching that burdens you with performing to win God’s love, it’s a form of mixing grace with works. The truth is, God’s grace is a gift; it’s not transactional.
We don’t need to appease an insecure God with our actions. Instead, we rest in His grace, understanding that Jesus plus nothing equals everything. So, let’s continue this journey to fully embrace God’s grace and live in the freedom it offers.
Praise: Embracing Your Spiritual Blessings
According to Ephesians 1:3, you’ve already been blessed with every spiritual blessing in Christ. When you praise, you’re speaking heaven’s language. Praise aligns you with the divine stream of heaven, not as a payment for blessings, but as a way to become more aware of what you already have. The Holy Spirit is given to help you recognize the blessings God has freely given you. It’s not about changing God’s mind; it’s about changing your perspective.
Fasting and the Law
Fasting isn’t a tool to change God; it’s a means to change yourself. It’s like a hunger strike, but nothing you do can force God to act. Fasting transforms your heart, making you more receptive to what God has already given you. Similarly, praise doesn’t change God’s mind about you; it changes your awareness of His blessings. It’s a subtle shift that prevents you from mixing covenants, as seen in the behavior of Judaizers.
Beware the Judaizers and Stay True to Grace
False brethren, like modern-day Judaizers, try to sneak in and steer believers away from the liberty found in Christ. They want to bring you back into bondage. Refrain from yielding to their teachings even for a moment. Mixing covenants leads to guilt, shame, and condemnation. God’s grace ensures you’re never abandoned, and His gifts are irrevocable. God doesn’t lend; He simply gives. So, stay rooted in grace, understanding that God’s blessings are yours to embrace.
Rebuking Hypocrisy in the Early Church
In this passionate discourse, Paul addresses a crucial issue: hypocrisy within the church. He begins by highlighting the significance of his message and the importance of questioning it. Paul asserts that this revelation should disturb, unsettle, and even anger those who haven’t heard it before, as it challenges traditional religious thinking.
Paul’s Bold Rebuke
Paul delves into the events in Jerusalem, emphasizing that even esteemed apostles like Peter and Barnabas were not immune to compromising the gospel of grace. He recounts a moment when Peter, who understood the freedom found in Christ, succumbed to peer pressure at a church potluck. This prompted a public rebuke from Paul, demonstrating the gravity of the issue.
The Truth of the Gospel
Ultimately, Paul’s concern revolves around preserving the truth of the gospel, which he defines as “Jesus plus nothing equals everything.” He insists that this message should bring relief, peace, and intimacy with God. He underscores the danger of mixing covenants, which can lead to self-condemnation and a sense of abandonment. Paul’s unwavering commitment to grace and willingness to confront hypocrisy make him a minister of profound significance in the early church.
Works, Favor, and the Truth of the Gospel
Paul begins by clarifying a common misconception about works and salvation. He emphasizes that while good works like attending church, being kind, tithing, praying, studying the Bible, and evangelizing are commendable, they don’t earn salvation or God’s favor. Instead, they serve as a response to the grace already bestowed upon believers. This truth may confound some, but it won’t deter those who understand the depth of God’s grace.
The Unique Message of Grace
Paul highlights the revolutionary nature of the gospel of grace. Unlike other world religions built on appeasing an unpleasable deity, grace offers a radically different approach. He reinforces this message by recounting his journey to Jerusalem, where he met with other apostles who independently received the same divine revelation. This message’s uniqueness and divine origin become evident through their shared understanding.
Justified by Faith, Not Works*
Paul makes a crucial point: justification does not come through works but through faith in Christ. He reminds believers that even striving for good deeds under grace doesn’t make Christ a promoter of sin. Instead, grace empowers believers to live for God. Paul urges readers to remember that the law has no power to justify; we find true justification through faith in Jesus Christ. Galatians 2:20 serves as a key takeaway, highlighting the profound transformation that occurs when one identifies with Christ’s crucifixion and allows Christ to live within them.
Activating Freedom Through Faith
Freedom and victory over sin in the new covenant aren’t achieved through striving but by yielding. We must yield to the fact that we died 2,000 years ago—died to the law, died to sin, and died to our sinful nature. This may not always reflect in one’s life immediately, but transformation occurs as faith appropriates this truth. The key is to focus on Galatians 2:20, meditate on the cross, and become well-versed in the person of Jesus.
Past, Present, and Future: Christ’s Love for You
Jesus loved you on the cross, specifically in that historic moment when He bore your sins. It’s a reminder of His love. By understanding this, we can grasp the depth of His love and how it relates to our identity in Christ.
Guarding the Grace of God
Trying to attain righteousness through behavior, good deeds, or keeping the law diminishes the purpose of Christ’s sacrifice. We need to rely entirely on Jesus as the Savior rather than attempting to assist Him in the work of salvation.
Jesus Is The Solution
Whatever you’re facing right now, the solution is in Jesus. If it’s a financial need, it’ll be met by Jesus. If it’s a physical need, it’ll be met in Jesus. If you need direction, it will come from Jesus.
Lord, I am grateful for the new covenant introduced through Jesus. I recognize that I am fully approved and justified based on what Jesus has already done for me. I pray for discernment to recognize and resist any form of mixture or false teachings that compromise the purity of Your grace. Protect me from those who would burden me with works and diminish the significance of Christ’s sacrifice. In Jesus’ name, amen.