from Issue #1, April 2016, page # 10
by Chester Weaver
Are the Old and New Testaments at variance with each other? What is better about the New Testament compared with the Old Testament? Did God change His intentions with the change in testaments, or did He raise the standards of expectation in the New? Are the Old and New Testaments opposed to each other? Is the Old Testament for the Jews and the New Testament for the Christians?
The first use of love (Genesis 22:2) is located in the Old Testament. The love in focus in this verse is family love. God had just asked Abraham to go sacrifice the son he loved. This same Hebrew word is used for Isaac’s experience with Rebecca two chapters later. Three chapters later, love is used to describe how Isaac felt about Esau’s venison meals.
The next book, Exodus, uses love to describe how people feel about God (Exodus 20:6). Leviticus 19:18 exhorts the Old Testament saints to love their neighbors as themselves. Then Deuteronomy 4:27 uses love to express how God felt about the Jewish people. The Old Testament ends by stating that God loves His dwelling place on earth, at that time desecrated by Jewish apostasy (Malachi 2:11). In between the first and last Old Testament references are over 150 uses of the same Hebrew word.
What is going on here? Is not love a New Testament concept? Does not law encapsulate the Old Testament Jewish experience, “This do and thou shalt live”? Were not grace and love new realities ushered into the world with the teachings and experience of Jesus Christ? The Old Testament had been written upon tables of stone whereas the New Testament law was written upon the “tables of the human heart.”
The reality is that love has always been part and parcel of the way God related to man, how man should relate to other men, and how God expected man to relate to Himself. The historical reality is the sad Jewish story of failed love, first from man to God and then man to man. In the fullness of time God worked to change the sad reality by embodying love and sending Love into the groaning creation, creating Part 2 of the human story. And that is where we find ourselves today. Part 3 of the human/cosmic story has not yet arrived.
But capacity to love, the power to love, and the experience of loving took a huge leap forward with the change of Testaments. Why and how? The Holy Spirit of God was poured out from heaven upon men to energize them to love in ways they could not previously. In the Old Testament the Holy Spirit came upon men in special circumstances to enable them to do special work for God. Samson and the prophet Jeremiah are examples of men doing special work for God. But the common Israelite man or woman did not experience Holy Spirit presence in a personal way. Instead, they saw it from a distance, as in the cloud/pillar of fire leading the Israelites in the desert or hearing the words of a Spirit-directed prophet.
With the pouring out of the Holy Spirit of God at Pentecost, forty days after Jesus ascended to the Father, every single believer had the glorious opportunity to experience an in-filling of the Holy Spirit of God into his/her own life! The Spirit of God would empower each believer, first of all, to understand in a new way the truths of God, and secondly to experience the truths of God in everyday experience. God had come close to humans in the Person of His Son Jesus. Now He came even closer by dwelling within a believer’s heart.
The Holy Spirit of God would enlighten the believer’s mind to comprehend the great liberating truths of God. Those great liberating truths require a transformed mind, a mind possessing spiritual discernment. Once the deeper truths of God are understood, the believer actually experiences a pattern shift wherein he sees all of life from a different perspective. No longer is life about pleasing self (the natural pattern), but it is about promoting the Kingdom of Christ which is outside of himself. The Kingdom of Christ focuses upon the needs of others, the welfare of others, and empowerment of others. In other words the Kingdom of Christ is all about selfless serving.
In this way the New Testament saints live on a much higher spiritual plain than the Old Testament saints. The standard of morality is higher, the standards of ethics are higher, and ability to love is more encompassing. Instead of killing enemies, the New Testament believer loves enemies. Instead of being bound by oaths to tell the truth or to carry out obligations, the New Testament believer lives a life of integrity every day. Instead of needing laws to force right behavior, the New Testament believer delights to do the will of God, especially the opportunities of the Higher Ethic, such as forgiveness, the Golden Rule, Good Samaritan work, humility, Gelassenheit, pulling beams out of one’s own eye, and blessing others in any way possible. No limits exist for the Higher Ethic. The Higher Ethic cannot be enforced. The Higher Ethic is far above laws, rules, and regulations because the believer delights to do the will of God, just as Jesus Himself once said, “I delight to do Thy will, O God.”
The practice of the Higher Ethic makes a powerful impression upon observing people because it is so unnatural. In Reformation times the persecutors needed to cease killing believers in public because the glorious dying of the martyrs caused the observers to desire such inner power for themselves, thus spreading the very cause they were trying to destroy. Moravian missionaries volunteered to go to places from which they would never return, but in the process made deep inroads into enemy territory. In many homes, children observed parents rise above formidable obstacles as they lived a daily faith, causing children to embrace the faith of their parents.
And thus the New Testament faith has come down to our day. Even though the Jews (ever since Christ fulfilled the Old Testament) remain committed to the Old Covenant, the New Covenant is available for them also. In fact, it is available to anyone who is willing to abandon himself and his own cause to adopt God’s eternal cause as his own. The New Covenant is not about race; it is about relationship with the One who fulfilled all the requirements set by the Old Covenant. It remains superior to the Old Covenant in so many ways, especially as a step up in the quality of human-to-human relationships, as well as the all-important human-to-God relationship.
How much longer will Part 2 of God’s plan remain in place? No one knows. At any day Part 3 may be ushered in. If Part 2 is so much more glorious than Part 1 (the Old Testament), what will Part 3 be like? Most likely Part 3 will once again be so much more glorious than Part 2!
I do not want to miss the experience of Part 3 for anything. Do you?
~ CW, Lagrange, IN
Name some things you do or do not do because you are living under the New Covenant.
Note: This article explains one aspect of the differences between the two covenants. We welcome additional articles containing other thoughts about these differences.