Friday, October 07, 2011


I wrote about two mistakes ministers make in my last post. Those were..1) seeing the pastor as the all-important person/minister in a church and..2) seeing the church as a business instead of a body. Check the previous post for the entire idea presented about those two mistakes.

Now for the third mistake I'll be addressing made by modern ministers. This is one that is so major that I will deal with it by itself before continuing to a few of the implications of this problem in the third and final post on this subject. 

The third mistake I'm addressing is a failure to see the Old Covenant, including the moral law written on the tablets of stone, as being fulfilled in the New Covenant and not now binding on the people of the New Covenant as a standard for behavior as Kingdom people. 

This is major, as we will see, primarily because of the ramifications of it all. Some ramifications [for example, the tithe and the Sabbath] will be addressed in my final post on this subject next time. But the problem itself is my point at present.

In order to not make this mistake, it would be necessary that one understand how the Old Covenant [Testament] was basically between God and Israel. It is also important to see how the law, called the "Law of Moses" because it was delivered through him to the nation of Israel, codified their behavior as the people of the Covenant following their redemption out of Egypt. [The Exodus] 

At that time and place in history, they were brought out of bondage and into a Covenant with Jehovah as His special people and were to live under certain stated standards presented in the law of Moses. There were, in fact, several purposes for that law, but we are at present interested only in dealing with it's binding effect as a lifestyle upon the Covenant people called Israel . 

This law, by the way, was a unified standard that was not ever thought of as being divided into three parts, Moral/ Civil/ Ceremonial, by the Jewish people. So many bible students would later attempt to make that division with the purpose of retaining the moral law as an eternal standard even for people of the New Covenant. [Testament]  This would include many in our present day, including dispensationalists, who so frequently are found making that mistake.

But the Old Covenant with Israel and the Mosaic law were all only preparatory for something that was yet to come. That covenant was certainly an important step in what could be called "Redemptive history," or the "story of redemption," but God was using it as only temporary "until the time of reformation." [Heb 9:10]  That was when God would speak in a final way to a new brand new people in a brand new New Covenant with a standard of behavior to be  written on their hearts and not on stone. [2 Corinthians 3:3]  

Jon Zens, a friend of mine and as good a scholar on this issue as can be found today, points this out so well when he said... "Thus, all of procedures and special activities in the Old Covenant were types and pictures of the One who would come and deliver a new people from bondage and create a new nation holy to Himself with a new standard of behavior." [See Heb. 3:5/8:5/9:8-9]

All of this is not to say that the Law of Moses was/is not significant for the Christian in the New Covenant in some fashion. But it is to say that it was preparatory and not binding as a lifestyle on those of us who are in the New Covenant .  

Again, Zens states it this way..."This is simply to say, then, that the 'law' [for the New Testament believer] must now be identified with the current covenant in force for the former covenant is no longer operative. Moses was the head of his house: Israel. Christ is now the Head of His house: the church. So we must come to grips with the fact that the house of Moses is finished, and the house of Christ is being built until the end of this age (Heb.3:1-6; Matt.16:18; 28:20). These lines of thought come together rather clearly in Matthew 5:17-7:29." That statement of Jon Zens deserves a second reading I would think.

Jon goes on to say..."So Jesus stands in history as the long-awaited Messiah. The government is to be upon His shoulders, which is to say He is the law-giver. He here [In what He says in the gospels & the epistles] expounds "law" in the New Covenant." But - and this is crucial - While His explication of "law" in His Kingdom incorporates elements of the Mosaic code into the New Covenant, it is as He intensifies the Mosaic elements that they become new. ("whosoever looks on a woman to lust after her has committed adultery with her already in his heart," 5:28)."

Jon's conclusion is that there are certainly similarities between the Mediator of the New Covenant giving His law, and the Old Covenant mediator, Moses, receiving the Ten Words at Sinai, but it is the authority with which the new Lawgiver says what is the standard for the behavior of the New Covenant believer's lifestyle that is to be recognized. We are not under law [Moses] but under grace. [Christ]

[I personally believe there is a major shift from "doing" which is the basis of the Old to "being" which is the basis of the New. This will be seen more clearly as we look at the Sabbath for example next time.]

The proclaimers of the New Testament message were certainly mindful of how their message flowed from the types, offerings, and sacrifices of the Old Testament,  but were also extremely conscious of how their message was new and found its authority in Christ alone and was, thus, fundamentally different than that of Moses.  

This contrast can be clearly seen in the familiar expression used by our Lord in the sermon on the mount when He repeatedly said... "But I say to you." This is why the writer of Hebrews was willing to say things like this in his letter to Hebrew Christians to show them how the old has given way to the new.

"If that first covenant had been faultless, then no place have been sought for the second" (Heb.8:7).

"In that he says, A new covenant, he has made the first old; now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away" (Heb.8:13).

"He takes away the first, that he may establish the second" (Heb.10:9).

"That which is done away....that which is abolished" (2Cor.3:11-13).

It is in this failure of seeing the uniqueness of the Law of Moses for Israel alone and the reality of Old Covenant's
abolishment/fulfillment in the New Covenant that modern ministers so woefully get it wrong. And why is this important? Next time I'll give my two cents on that.

Paul B.


Aussie John said...


I understand what you are saying,when I read your words,"This is major...", and agree totally!

It is that, and any other word which will describe the import of it, and no one could accuse the use of those words as hyberbole. It IS that important!

Of course you will,by some,and maybe by many, be ignorantly charged with Antinomianism for writing what you have.

My observations have led me to believe that many pastors, and hence the people they teach, have a syndrome, which is common amongst prisoners, whom,having once been under the legal system, with its bondage and restraints, lose their ability to take responsibility for their lives, becoming habitually tied to law.

In other words, they don't know HOW to live in the freedom purchased and paid for by the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.

As a consequence the messages they preach are laden with the weight of the law, and, usually cause their listeners to feel bad about themselves,their failures and weaknesses, and they leave the meeting with a burden of guilt on their shoulders.

Pastors learn something else through their attachment to Moses, instead of Christ: control!

Paul, if your next offering is "two cents",what you've already written can be worth the freedom from bondage of many, if they will follow it through in the Scriptures.

Paul Burleson said...

Aussie J,

I may also be accused of flattery when what I say here is read by some but the Lord knows my heart and that will suffice for me. I think what you said here...

"Of course you will, by some, and maybe by many, be ignorantly charged with Antinomianism for writing what you have.'

'My observations have led me to believe that many pastors, and hence the people they teach, have a syndrome, which is common amongst prisoners, whom, having once been under the legal system, with its bondage and restraints, lose their ability to take responsibility for their lives, becoming habitually tied to law. '

'In other words, they don't know HOW to live in the freedom purchased and paid for by the life, death and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ.'

'As a consequence the messages they preach are laden with the weight of the law, and, usually cause their listeners to feel bad about themselves, their failures and weaknesses, and they leave the meeting with a burden of guilt on their shoulders.'

'Pastors learn something else through their attachment to Moses, instead of Christ: control!"...

...may be as clear an assessment of the dangers of the mistake being addressed in this and the next post as possibly could be stated. You, my friend, have said it all.

traveller said...


Thank you for these two posts. Good.

Aussie John, good comments.

If I may I would like to add elaborate further on this. In my view, as humans we often prefer the law of Moses for several reasons. One is because it is clear and easy to follow. Don't do this and in some cases do this other. So, one can always have a clear standard to prove they are "good." Another reason is, as you have indicated Paul, the law of Christ is far more demanding than the law of Moses. Just one example is the idea of forgiveness vs. revenge. It is much easier, and for some more satisfying, to justify our actions by claiming the right to revenge (eye for an eye) as opposed to forgiving someone. It also means we selfishly do not need to be involved in the redemptive process with the Spirit in others' lives if we can just get a little revenge. And I can point to a verse in the Bible that justifies my actions.

Of course, this provides us with the opportunity to be slack in our own personal spiritual growth since it will act as an impediment to the work of the Spirit.

Aussie John said...


Traveller's comment is so pertinent, as is the important matter in his last paragraph.

As the prisoner syndrome illustrates 6he inability of incarceration,on its own,to rehabilitate, so too does law keeping, prevent those claiming to be Christian, from growing in maturity.

Martin Luther had caught the truth of this in his commentary on Galatians 3:24 "But how long are the scolding and the whippings of the schoolmaster to continue? Only for a time, until the boy has been trained to be a worthy heir of his father. No father wants his son to be whipped all the time. The discipline is to last until the boy has been trained to be his father's worthy successor."

The discipline of the law loses its purpose and power at the moment a believer has been indwelt by the Holy Spirit and thereby incorporated into the New Covenant according to the promise fulfilled in Christ.

Paul Burleson said...

Traveller, Aussie J,

From both of you...very clear, astute and appreciated comments.

Rex Ray said...

Ah Ha! My hunch paid off. That is; I read the comments before the post. I sometimes do that if the post is long (7 pages)

Now, I’ll read the post and see if what you said about the excellent comment of Aussie John agrees with what I think you’re post is about.

In the first place, ‘The Law of Moses’ may be misinterpreted as the law of man, but it is the ‘Law of God’.
Therefore, if the post replaced ‘The Law of Moses’ as ‘God’s Laws’ would it be harder to conclude that they were no longer important or that they have been replaced by a higher law?

I believe the word “replaced” can be misleading. If an automobile part is replaced, does that mean the old part was not as good as the new one?
I know that doesn’t fit the situation, so I’ll explain what I mean by:

I have a relative that has a dream house (if he ever retires from his ‘duties’ for the government.) His ‘dream house’ does not bulldoze an old rundown shack covered with tin because under that tin is a log house his beloved grandfather made. It’s not a fancy log house of today, but logs made by hand.
The dream house will start with the log house and expand beyond.

That’s the way I see God’s law of the Ten Commandments and expanded through Jesus.

“But this is the new covenant I will make with the people of Israel on that day, says the Lord: I will put my laws [Ten Commandments…not replaced but fulfilled by Jesus] in their minds, and I will write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” (Hebrews 8:10 NLT)

How did God do this to us? By Calvary and the power of the Holy Spirit that’s within us 24-7. GLORY!

Anonymous said...

Great conversation!
I hope this is not off topic but just another thought to consider.
The Law of Moses or God’s Law of the old covenant was designed to show the people what sin was, their inability to keep the law, and therefore their need for a Saviour. (Their sacrifices couldn’t make them righteous.) At the time of Jesus sermon on the mount, the people were still under the old covenant and many believed that the Pharisees were the only ones who could do it right. Jesus certainly ‘raised the bar’ but he was not giving them a higher standard to aim for. He was making it impossible for humans to do.
The New Covenant between God and humanity is based on who Jesus is as fully God and fully human. He was the perfect divine sacrifice as well as the only human to live his life as the perfect response to the Father. Therefore in Him everything is fulfilled and finished. In Him, we died when He died and rose as new creatures when He rose. Under the New Covenant we can only trust in Him living his perfect Life in us, following his voice, and working where we see him working. Jesus himself is the New Covenant and his life and love are written on our hearts.
Resting in that truth and letting his love overflow out of us to others is coming to be my understanding of the new covenant. It is very difficult to live in freedom – much easier to have a law, principles or code to measure ourselves and others by. Don’t we each have the responsibility to encourage one another to live from that New Life within us and not let anyone with any kind of title come in between or point us to anything else?

Paul Burleson said...

Rex & Anon [Elvera]

I want you to know that I'm away from my office in a meeting in Comanche Tx. It is not an easy access to the Internet here. I'll respond to you both when I return to Norman in a few days. Good stuff.

Aussie John said...

I love this comment by John Bunyan: "“Wherefore, whenever thou who believest in Jesus, dost hear the law in its thundering and lightning fits, as if it would burn up heaven and earth, then say thou, I am freed from this law, these thunderings have nothing to do with my soul; nay, even this law, while it thus thunders and roars, it doth both allow and approve of my righteousness. I know that Hagar would sometimes be domineering and high, even in Sarah’s house, and against her; but this she is not to be suffered to do, nay, though Sarah herself be barren; wherefore, serve it also as Sarah served her, and expel her out from thy house.

My meaning is, when this law with its thundering threatenings doth attempt to lay hold on thy conscience, shut it out with a promise of grace; cry, The inn is taken up already; the Lord Jesus is here entertained, and here is no room for the law. Indeed, if it will be content with being my informer, and so lovingly leave off to judge me, I will be content, it shall be in my sight, I will also delight therein; but otherwise, I being now made upright without it, and that too with that righteousness which this law speaks well of and approveth, I may not, will not, cannot dare not make it my Saviour and judge, nor suffer it to set up its government in my conscience; for by so doing, I fall from grace, and Christ Jesus doth profit me nothing…

The sum, then, of what hath been said is this—The Christian hath now nothing to do with the law, as it thundereth and burneth on Sinai, or as it bindeth the conscience to wrath and the displeasure of God for sin; for from its thus appearing, it is freed by faith in Christ.” [Bunyan, “Of the Law and a Christian”. Collected Writings, pp. 923-924]

rsctt said...

Thank You for your valued information. You share wisdom, not just words!

Rex Ray said...

Hey Paul!
If you’re developing ‘writer’s block’, what about trying Acts 15 and related scripture? :)