Jul 30, 2010
Jesus did not come to breathe new life into the Old Covenant and rename it the "New" Covenant.
No, the New Covenant, Hebrews 8:9 says, is an entirely different covenant that is "not like the covenant which I made with their fathers." The Old Covenant was broken (Heb. 8:9) and went the way of all broken covenants. Heb. 8:13 (NASB) says it became "obsolete."
The Dispensationalist teachers of a century ago were notorious for teaching that the Jews were saved by the Old Covenant, while the "Gentiles" were saved by the New Covenant. Through such teaching, the distorted gospel was reborn in the modern world after its violent death in 70 A.D. The Old Covenant has saved NO ONE. Not ever. Not even Moses was saved by the Old Covenant, for Habakkuk 2:4 says, "the just shall live by faith."
If the distorted gospel were true, then no one could have been saved prior to the cross, nor would it ever be possible for any Jew or Israelite to be saved, seeing that all have sinned and have broken the Old Covenant. Those who think that Jews are saved by the Old Covenant should ask themselves how the Apostle Paul was saved. He was of the tribe of Benjamin. Does anyone in their right mind believe that Paul preached one path of salvation to the Greeks but depended upon another path for himself? That would be sheer nonsense.
But fortunately for all of us, the Old Covenant was discarded and replaced by a New Covenant, one which made the salvation of the world not only possible but a certainty. Hebrews tells us that the New Covenant is built upon "better" foundations.
Beginning in Galatians 1:10, Paul gives us his thoughts about his former life as a Jew in good standing. Keep in mind that Paul had just asserted that the distorted gospel, which merely added Jesus to the Old Covenant, would result in the curse of God, not His blessing.
(10) For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.
Paul knew that he was going against Judaism itself, and that the Judaizers had sided with the Jews in virtually every issue except in denying Jesus as the Messiah. Paul's revelation was that all are justified by faith equally and without partiality. It had been the revelation of Peter before him, of course, as we read in Acts 10 and 11. But Peter's mission was to the circumcision, and so he tended to downplay his earlier revelation. Paul, on the other hand, was bold and unafraid to assert the truth. He sought the favor of God, rather than of men.
(11) For I would have you know, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. (12) For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ.
Paul had spent three years at Mount Sinai in Arabia, praying and contemplating this new revelation and how it would affect his entire way of thinking. Then in returning to Jerusalem, he spoke with Peter, who no doubt confirmed the revelation by telling him the story of Cornelius and perhaps also how Philip preached to the Samaritans. When we understand the absolute importance of these stories, we can see why Paul would have instructed Luke to record those stories in the book of Acts. They served as witnesses to Paul's foundational teaching.
(13) For you have heard of my former manner of life in Judaism, how I used to persecute the church of God beyond measure, and tried to destroy it; (14) and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions.
Elsewhere, Paul comments on the persecution that the church had received at the hands of Judaism. 1 Thess. 2:14-16 says,
(14) For you, brethren, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea, for you also endured the same sufferings at the hands of your own countrymen, even as they did from the Jews, (15) who both killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets, and drove us out. They are not pleasing to God, but hostile to all men, (16) hindering us from speaking to the Gentiles that they might be saved; with the result that they always fill up the measure of their sins. But wrath has come upon them to the utmost.
There are those who insist that the Romans crucified Jesus. Paul says otherwise, and Peter bears witness to this as well in his Pentecostal sermon in Acts 2:36, saying, "whom you crucified." This is repeated in Acts 5:30, where Peter tells the high priest,
"The God of our fathers raised up Jesus, whom you had put to death by hanging Him on a cross."
Stephen, too, bore witness of this toward the end of the sermon which resulted in his martyrdom. He says in Acts 7:51-53,
(51) You men who are stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears are always resisting the Holy Spirit; you are doing just as your fathers did. (52) Which one of the prophets did your fathers not persecute? And they killed those who had previously announced the coming of the Righteous One, whose betrayers and murderers you have now become; (52) you who received the law as ordained by angels, and yet did not keep it.
The divine Law makes it clear that the priests of Levi were called to make the sacrifices. Jesus was the great Sacrifice, and all of the lambs, goats, bulls, and doves sacrificed in the Law prophesied of Jesus Christ's sacrifice on the cross. Jewish leaders from the day of Pentecost to the present day have tried to divert the responsibility to the Romans. Unfortunately, many Christian leaders, who, unlike Paul, are men-pleasers, have been induced to agree with them.
If they can get us to believe that the Romans crucified Jesus, then they will argue that Jesus was NOT the final Sacrifice for sin, for the Romans were not called to make sacrifices to God. The prophetic type would be broken, and they could then destroy the very foundation of Christianity.
But Peter, Stephen, and Paul never bear false witness against the Romans for crucifying Jesus. Modern preachers should be aware that bearing false witness is a crime punishable by the same penalty that one falsely attempts to place upon an innocent party (Deut. 19:16-19).
One should also keep in mind that Jesus Himself prophesied of His death at the hands of the priests of Levi. Matt. 21:38 says,
"But when the vine-growers saw the Son, they said among themselves, 'This is the Heir; come, let us kill him and seize His inheritance'."
The Romans were not the keepers of the vineyard by any stretch of imagination. I find it disturbing that so many Christian leaders would deny Christ and call Him a liar so that they can please the Jews. Paul would have none of that, as he says in Gal. 1:10. In fact, the book of Acts shows Paul speaking in the synagogues until they were offended by his insistence that Greek believers were equally beloved in the sight of God.
Paul recognized that it was his primary mission to preach the gospel to the other nations in order to bring the gospel of the Kingdom into a world-wide setting. He was called to wrench it from its local setting and (like Isaiah) proclaim not only the God of Israel, but "the God of the whole earth" (Isaiah 54:5).
This was not an easy mission. It involved persecution not only from Judaism but also from Judaistic Christianity. Paul understood this and expected persecution, because he knew that old mindset well, having been raised and educated in that setting. But he had decided to please God rather than men.
This is the second part of a series titled "Galatians." To view all parts, click the link below.
Dr. Stephen Jones