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God's Law and the New Covenant

Many assume that, because Jesus Christ instituted the New Covenant, God's laws are thereby made obsolete. What does Jesus Himself say?

Many assume that, because Jesus Christ instituted the New Covenant, God's laws are thereby made obsolete. They lean on this argument to ignore His commandments. But what does Jesus Himself say?

He answers: "Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill [actually 'fill to the full,' meaning fully explain or fully express]. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away [and they clearly haven't passed away], one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

"Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 5:17-19).

Notice how Hebrews 10:16-17 summarizes the New Covenant: "'This is the covenant that I will make with them after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws into their hearts, and in their minds I will write them.' Then He adds, 'Their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.'" This is perfectly consistent with Christ's words. God's laws aren't annulled under the New Covenant; they are written into our hearts and minds so we might obey Him better.

A new covenant wasn't needed because the laws included in the Old Covenant were inadequate or faulty. Rather, the New Covenant was needed because, as Hebrews 8:8 tells us, "God found fault with the people ..." (NIV). The fault was in the nature of the people themselves (verses 7-9)—the fact that human beings are naturally hostile to God's laws rather than spiritually minded and willing to obey (see Romans 8:5-8).

What people need to have changed is their heart, not the laws that define sin—sin being the violation of God's law (1 John 3:4). Such change in the heart is possible only when people receive God's Spirit. That's why the focus of the New Covenant is on providing the way and the means for sins to be forgiven so people may receive the Holy Spirit.

That is why the sacrifice of Christ is such a central focus. During His last meal with His apostles, on the night before He was crucified, "... He took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, 'Drink from it, all of you. For this is [meaning this represents] My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins'" (Matthew 26:27-28).

Further, we are certainly not forgiven for disobeying God just so we can go on freely disobeying Him! Clearly God's laws remain in force. God intends to indelibly inscribe them into our emotions and thinking, our hearts and minds. The difference now is that these laws are to be written into our very thinking.

This is why the members of the United Church of God follow Christ's example of applying God's commandments according to the fullness of their intent as explained in Christ's Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7. (For a more thorough explanation of why obeying God's commandments is so important, be sure to read our free booklet The Ten Commandments.)

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