Sunday, January 30, 2011

Old Covenant to Renewed Covenant

   Yesterday I posted about Malachi, the last book of the "Old Testament", which I prefer to call the "Old Covenant".  And, tomorrow (or the next day) I will begin posting about the "New Testament", which I prefer to call the "Renewed Covenant".  Meanwhile, I thought I'd write a little about how just the right word can make a difference, and about how we Westerners (the West part of the world, that is - NOT Western America!) tend to get some of our interpretations wrong.  It's all about language.

        The original Greek word, "diatheke" was translated by King James and others as "testament".  Testament  means a statement or a legal contract, such as one's "Last Will and Testament".  But, the more accurate translation of the Greek word, "diatheke", is covenant. There is the big difference:  a contract is an agreement in which there is  an escape clause or some manner in which one of the involved parties can get out of the deal. There might be a penalty for getting out of the contract, but it can be nulled. On the other hand,   a covenant is a promise;  a covenant doesn't have an escape clause;  it is permanent.  A renewed covenant is an extension of the original covenant - not a replacement of the original one.

         I have some close friends who have been married for many, many years.  On their 25th anniversary they renewed their wedding vows.  They had a wedding ceremony almost identical to their original one;  she even wore her original wedding gown!  Did the new wedding cancel out the original one?  No!  It was a renewal of their original promises to each other.  It is the same with God's promises to us;  He didn't do away with the Old Covenant when the Renewed Covenant was established through Christ the Messiah.  The Old Covenant spoke of the coming Messiah;  the Renewed Covenant speaks of His fulfillment of Old Covenant prophecies.

      Thus - and this is important - the laws of the Torah (the first five books of the Bible) are not null and void, as many believe nowadays.  The Old Covenant is still in place;  likewise, the Renewed Covenant is also in place. In Matthew 5: 17-18,  Jesus the Messiah states, "Do not think I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished." (NIV)  Jesus did not speak against the Law - only against the abuses and excesses to which it had been subjected by some of the Jewish leaders.  He was actually trying to get His people to return to the original purpose of the Law.
    If you are wondering what happens when a person changes even one letter of the Law,  go back to my posting  about Solomon's decision to do so... it is the posting for Ecclesiastes 3:16.  God did not intend for us to pick and choose which of His commands we are to follow. And, we will reap the consequences of disobedience.
     There are three types of laws and commandments in the Old Testament. (1) The ceremonial laws related specifically to Israel's worship in the Temple.  Obviously, since we do not live in Israel and there is currently no Temple, these laws cannot currently be maintained.  (2) Civil law applied to daily living, and can be found primarily in Leviticus 1,2, and 3. The principals behind civil law are the same principals America's founding fathers based our laws on.  Many of these laws are difficult to understand in a non-agricultural mode of living, yet they are timeless because of their underlying principles of daily conduct. (3) Moral laws (for example, the Ten Commandments)  are direct commandments from God and they require complete obedience.  Moral law reveals God's character as well as His expectations for us;  He always wants what is good for us, even when we don't quite realize it!

      I could go on and on; but, will limit this posting to what I've written.  Should a reader be interested in further investigation,  leave a comment and I will recommend some books to read to help clarify.  As I said in the beginning of this post,  this idea is foreign to those of us with a Western mindset, because we do not understand the context in which it was originally written.

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