Monday, October 24, 2016

Jeremiah 31: 31-34 New Covenant Law Internalized

KEY TEXT: Jeremiah 31:33-34 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more."

The key difference between the new and the old covenants is not that there is no law in the new covenant. Rather, in the old covenant, the law is external whereas in the new covenant the law is internalized: "I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts" (v.33). How is this done? Ezekiel 36:27 explains it in terms of the Spirit of God: "And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules." So, the Law of the Spirit replaces the Law of Moses under the new covenant to impart the righteousness of the law from within rather than from without: "For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit." 

According to Paul, new covenant believers have a new Law--the Law of the Spirit of life. 

As the Holy Spirit is the Author of the OT Scripture as much as the NT Scripture, only He can interpret both the Law accurately from the perspective of the Cross. Just as Jesus has re-interpreted the Law of Moses in his Sermon on the Mount (especially Mt 5:17-48), and when he appeared to his disciples after his resurrection, so the Spirit of Jesus will similarly open our eyes to re-interpret OT Scripture through the lens of the Cross: "Then he said to them, "'These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.'  Then he opened their minds to understand the [OT] Scriptures" (Luke 24:44-45).

Unfortunately, whenever or wherever the ministry of the Holy Spirit is ignored or over-emphasized, the churches end up either with legalism with respect to the OT Law or with libertinism by totally rejecting the moral restraints of the OT Law. The biblical balance is not rejecting or embracing the OT law but re-interpreting it through the revelation that is from the Spirit of God alone, for Jesus has said: "When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth" (John 16:13). Those who have rejected the OT law completely has misunderstood Romans 10:4 where Paul writes: "Christ is the end of the law" (Rom. 10:4). Paul does not just say Christ is the end of the Law, but rather that He is "the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes." In other words, for believers, the Law of Moses is no longer the basis of our righteousness, but rather faith.

Paul explains in the next verse (Romans 10:5) that there are two ways of obtaining righteousness. The first is by way of the Law of Moses: "For Moses writes about the righteousness that is based on the law, that the person who does the commandments shall live by them" (Romans 10:5). And this is the way of righteousness for Israel before Christ was revealed. It is still a valid way to be righteous before God--for those (especially the Jews) who choose to live by it. But because of our sinful flesh, it is next-to-impossible to keep the law of Moses through self-effort.

The second is by way of faith where the righteousness of Christ is imputed by God to those who believe in Christ's completed work at the Cross. However, as God imputes Christ's righteousness to us by our faith, this righteousness is imparted to us through the gift of the Holy Spirit who now dwells within us, repelling sin and filling us with Christ's righteousness, which is the fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, as we walk by the Spirit, the imputed righteousness obtained by our faith now becomes the imparted righteousness attained by our obedience to the indwelling Spirit. 

That is the gospel--the Good News--for sinners. We are justified by our faith but sanctified by our obedience. And the key to this sanctification is the gift of the Holy Spirit received at our justification by faith: "Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins, and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit" (Acts 2:38). The Law that is external has now become internalized: "And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the Lord,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more" (Jeremiah 31:34).

Father, thank You that You have not only justified us by imputing Christ's righteousness to us, You have also sanctified us by imparting Christ's righteousness to us through Your Holy Spirit. Amen.

 

No comments:

Post a Comment

Feel free to leave your comments.