Session 15

The New Covenant

Must Christians observe The Law of Moses? Do Jews become Christians when they believe in Jesus?

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Session 15 ... transcript

The New Covenant

3,500 years ago, God placed Israel under The Law. The Law was delivered to the Jewish people through Moses at Mt Sinai. The Law is 613 commandments ... moral, ceremonial and sacrificial.

In order to find acceptance through The Law, Jews have to obey all the commandments. To fail at even one point is to fail at all The Law (see James 2:10).

Israel said: "We will do it." They failed.

Twelve times in the Old Testament, we read that Israel came under judgment, and then renewed the covenant of The Law with God. "Now we'll do it." they said. They failed.

The Law reflects God's holiness ... His perfection. The problem is with people. No-one can meet the standard (see Hebrews 8:7-8).

A Jew with a heart open to God would have to say: "I am not making it. I fall short. I need help."

Many Jews just give up. They don't even attempt to keep The Law. They are glad to be Jews. They count themselves as a people called by God. But they have no idea how to respond.

Others become religious. A system of rules and observances has been developed and some Jews make a show of piety.

But God announced His solution long before The Law. It's by faith. Abraham believed God. And God counted that faith as Abraham's righteousness (see Genesis 15:6 and Romans 4:3).

Israel failed and failed in their efforts to find acceptance through The Law. God sent word through the prophet Jeremiah: "I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel" (see Jeremiah 31:31). The promise of a new covenant was made to Israel.

Only Israel had any covenant with God at that time. Non-Jews were "without hope and without God in the world" (Ephesians 2:12).

At the Last Supper, Jesus announced the New Covenant. Those with Him were Jews. The first to believe in Jesus were Jews.

Salvation is by faith in Jesus. There is no other way.

The Law was a curse ... on Israel ... because of transgressions (see Galatians 3:10,19). When a Jew believes in Jesus, the curse is lifted (see Galatians 3:13). When a Jew turns to Jesus, The Law is set aside ... for them (see Hebrews 7:18-19).

It's a matter of trust. Who are you trusting in? Are you counting on your own good works of The Law ... your own good deeds? Or are you looking to God for His justification?

Will you accept that Jesus has paid the debt that you never could?

Religious Jews (like the Pharisees of Jesus' day) love the rituals of The Law. They are zealous for The Law.

However, stunningly, we read in the Bible that there were Jews who were trusting in Jesus who were also zealous for The Law (see Acts 21:20). It seems that it is OK with God when a Jew trusts in Jesus but goes on observing at least aspects of The Law ... like the Sabbath and the feasts of Israel and the food laws.

When God saved the apostle Paul, He sent Ananias to pray for him. Ananias was a believer in Jesus. Later, Paul testified that Ananias was a "devout observer of The Law" (see Acts 22:12).

Paul would say: "To the Jews I acted as a Jew so that I might win them. I am not under The Law but to those under The Law I acted as one under The Law, so that I might win them to Jesus." (see 1 Corinthians 9:20). That was Paul's heart ... do anything among his own people so that he wouldn't offend ... so that he might persuade them about Jesus.

Gentiles were never under The Law. When Gentiles started to come to faith in Jesus, certain Pharisees insisted that Gentiles needed to keep The Law (see Acts 15:5). No-one questioned whether those Pharisees were true believers.

But the council in Jerusalem did debate the matter of Gentiles and The Law. And the question was settled, and the Holy Spirit confirmed it (see Acts 15:28). Gentile believers in Jesus do not have to live under The Law.

The council wrote to the churches: "Abstain from pagan sacrificial practices and sexual immorality." And they simply said, "You will do well" if you do so (see Acts 15:29).

Jews and Gentiles alike ... we are all purified by faith in Jesus (see Acts 15:9).

So, how does it all fit together? The church isn't the new Israel. Gentiles are entering into a new covenant that God made initially with Israel. Jews aren't losing their Jewishness. And Gentiles are not entering into any aspect of The Law of Moses. Gentiles aren't becoming Jews.

Romans chapter 11 gives us the answer. Paul uses the picture of an olive tree. The root of the tree is not Israel. The root of the tree is the faith of the patriarchs ... the fact that Abraham, Isaac and Jacob believed God ... and demonstrated their belief (as we read in Hebrews chapter 11).

Israel grew out of this root.

Gentile believers in Jesus become partakers (see Romans 11:17).

God broke off some of the natural branches of the tree. Jews who didn't believe were set aside. That allowed non-Jews to be grafted in.

We non-Jewish believers in Jesus aren't the natural branches. We are wild. God made a way to bring us in.

But God has not finished. He has a plan. God is going to graft natural branches back in. And it's going to release spiritual blessings in the world, and life from the dead for Israel (Romans 11:15).

This is a wonderful time to be alive ... to witness what God is doing. God has a redemptive purpose for Israel. Why don't all Christians understand this? How did things in the church get so confused?

Go now to the next session: "Where we went wrong"