with Jeremy Westcott –
We live in a new age, in a New Covenant that Jesus made with the Father. We and all mankind are included in it. Jesus warned his disciples of the religious and political spirit that would be like leaven, yet my experience, through the churches and movements in which I have been involved, is that our understanding of the New Covenant has invariably been tainted with Old Covenant concepts.
Unconditional love requires absolutely no sacrifices or offerings but an Old Covenant mindset always requires something: it requires our obedience, our obligation, our duty – which are all dead works and none of them have any value whatsoever before God. The Father does not require them (and actually He never did, which may be a shock to a lot of people. I will come back to that!).
Operating under an Old Covenant works-based performance-orientated mindset towards God will wear us out; we will never be at rest if we think we have to earn His love and favour. There is no guilt, shame or condemnation within unconditional love: they are just religious concepts which will keep us coming back for more religion.
The book of Hebrews is almost entirely about the differences between the two covenants. It was written to people who were so accustomed to the Old Covenant ways of thinking that they were in danger of missing out on the benefits of the New. And Hebrews 6:1-2 are very misunderstood verses. I totally misunderstood them for most of my life and taught the concepts they contain as foundations of the New Covenant.
What that passage actually says is this:
Therefore leaving the elementary teaching about the Christ, let us press on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God, of instruction about washings and laying on of hands, and about the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. (Hebrews 6:1-2).
So the Old Covenant was immature, and the New Covenant will bring us to maturity, but only if we don’t lay another Old Covenant foundation. What is that Old Covenant foundation? Repentance from dead works, faith towards God, instructions about washings (baptisms), laying on of hands, the resurrection of the dead and eternal judgment. All those things are Old Covenant understandings and mindsets which have nothing to do with the New Covenant. And yet most of those things are what we habitually teach: repentance, faith, baptisms, laying on of hands, resurrection and judgment. Those subjects are part of most churches’ foundation courses (they were certainly the basis of ours).
So when I used to read Hebrews 6:1-2, I just thought the writer was enumerating the elementary principles of Jesus that we needed to lay – but in reality they were exactly the opposite of that. Now I realise that these were the very foundations that the writer advises us not to lay again in the New Covenant! It is so important that we do not mix covenants by embracing Old Covenant understandings. Let’s not lay that Old Covenant foundation in the New Covenant: the only foundation of the new covenant is love.
The completeness of the fulfilled promise
Look at the passage again in the Mirror Bible:
Consequently, as difficult as it may seem, you ought to divorce yourselves from sentimental attachment to the pre-figuring doctrine of the Messiah, which was designed to carry us like a vessel over the ocean of prophetic dispensation into the completeness of the fulfilled promise. A mind shift from attempts to impress God by your behaviour to faith righteousness in Christ is fundamental. There is no life left in the old system: it is dead and gone – you have to move on. All the Jewish teachings about ceremonial washings (baptisms), laying on of hands (in order to identify with the slain animal as a sacrifice) and all teachings pertaining to a sin consciousness, including the final resurrection of the dead in order to face judgment, are no longer relevant. [All of these types and shadows were concluded and fulfilled in Christ, their living substance. His resurrection bears testimony to the judgment that he faced on humanity’s behalf and the freedom from an obstructive consciousness of sin that he now proclaims.] (Hebrews 6:1-2 Mirror).
‘The completeness of the fulfilled promise’ – that is Jesus. He is the fulfilment of every promise and covenant: everything is fulfilled in him. He is the conclusion, the completeness of everything that God said, to bring us into the reality of that today. And yet for most of my life I unknowingly tried to live in that same Old Covenant system by doing the very things that I should have left behind. If only the children of God, right throughout the world, would come into a revelation of this reality: that we would not have a sin consciousness but a righteousness consciousness instead!
The Law of Moses
Every church I have ever been in has always focused on sin. But we know that the more we try not to do something, the harder it is not to do it. That is why the Law was ineffective. It is impossible to keep the Law: Jesus made that very clear. And if you failed in one thing, you failed in it all. From the very beginning of the birth of the church, the religious spirit, operating in the Judaizers, tried to get believers back under the Law of Moses (and is still pursuing the same agenda today). But as I mentioned earlier, the whole Old Covenant system of sacrifices and offerings associated with the Law, which was instituted by Moses, was never God’s idea.
For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth were realized through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17).
“What are your many sacrifices to Me?” says the Lord.
“I have had enough of burnt offerings of rams and the fat of fattened cattle; and I take no pleasure in the blood of bulls, lambs, or goats.” (Isaiah 1:11).
For I did not speak to your fathers, or command them on the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings and sacrifices. (Jeremiah 7:22).
If God accepted their sacrifices and offerings, and if He accepts ours, it is only because He accepts us!
And the Holy Spirit also testifies to us; for after saying, “This is the covenant which I will make with them after those days, declares the Lord: I will put My laws upon their hearts, and write them on their mind,” He then says, “And their sins and their lawless deeds I will no longer remember.” Now where there is forgiveness of these things, an offering for sin is no longer required. (Hebrews 10:15-18).
The Mirror Bible again:
So when Jesus, the Messiah, arrives as the fulfilment of all the types and shadows, he quotes Psalm 40:6-8, and says, “In sacrifices and offerings God takes no pleasure; but you have ordained my incarnation! None of the prescribed offerings and sacrifices, including burnt offerings and sin offerings were your request…”
Having said what he did in the above quote, that the prescribed offerings and sacrifices were neither his desire nor delight, he condemned the entire sacrificial system upheld by the law. (These only served to sustain a sin-consciousness and was of no redemptive benefit to anyone.)
Also by saying, “I am commissioned to fulfil your will,” he announces the final closure of the first in order to introduce the second. (Grace replaces the law; innocence supersedes sin-consciousness.) (Hebrews 10:5-6, 8-9).
Mankind is declared innocent. You are innocent. Let that sink in.
The verdict of the judge, in light of the victory of Jesus through the cross, is that all mankind is innocent, not guilty, justified and righteous. That is unconditional love in action; and that is God in action. The cross was an amazing love transaction that dealt with the legal consequences of mankind’s lost identity. Jesus conquered sin and death with love. Love released full and total, unconditional forgiveness.
Forgiveness is as unconditional as love; no works are required.
Each of this series of blog posts is adapted from Mike’s latest FREE video series on ‘Unconditional Love’.
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