I’ll never forget the moment I first encountered the Lord and surrendered my life to Him. It was the spring of 2010. I was 21 years old at the time, and for the first time in my life I felt an almost euphoric sense of peace and joy. In the blink of an eye, I went from depressed and confused to overflowing with hope and clarity. What a beautiful thing salvation is. For the next six months of my life, I felt like I was on a spiritual high. I lived from a place of total freedom and acceptance in the Lord. However, as time went on and I spent more time in church and learned from other believers, I became more confused in a lot of ways and the freedom that I first walked in seemed to be slipping away.
As I tried to put together the pieces of what it looked like to be a “good Christian,” questions started to flood my mind: Am I allowed to drink alcohol? Should I be watching this movie? How often should I be praying? Do I need to read my Bible more? What is expected of me?
Every Christian seemed to have their own opinions on these topics. As a new believer genuinely trying to walk out my faith the best I could, I wanted some real answers. Couldn’t someone just give me a list of rules or a set of guidelines that I could follow to know how I’m measuring up in my Christian walk?
Sadly, this is how so many Christians live their lives today. Having once tasted of the sweet salvation and freedom in Christ, they then subject themselves to rules and regulations, essentially putting themselves under “law.” They’re mixing the law with faith.
This is not a new issue within the church. In fact, this was something that Paul was constantly rebuking the early church for. In the 1st century church, there was a group of people called the Judaizers. This word stems from a Greek verb meaning, “to live according to Jewish customs.” Judaizers taught that for Christians to be right with God, they still needed to follow the Mosaic Law. For example, they promoted the idea that circumcision was a requirement for salvation. In the book of Galatians, we see Paul addressing Peter about this very issue.
“If you, though a Jew, live like a Gentile and not like a Jew, how can you force the Gentiles to live like Jews? We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners, yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law, but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we have also believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” – Galatians 2:14-16.
Paul was reminding Peter that we are not justified by works, but through faith in Jesus and his completed work on the cross. By trying to abide by Jewish laws, we are only subjecting ourselves back into bondage.
Enter the new covenant.
When Jesus died on the cross, it instituted a new covenant between Him and the Father. This is great news for us, because there is nothing we can do on our end to mess up this covenant. All we have to do is simply receive Christ, and as His bride, we get to partake in all the benefits of this covenant deal. As new creations in Christ, we have been given a robe of righteousness and God says He will remember our sin no more.
During the time period between Jesus’s crucifixion (30 AD) and the destruction of Jerusalem (70 AD), the old (Mosaic) covenant still lingered. God only recognized the new covenant between Him and Jesus, but many still operated under the old covenant system. We read in Hebrews though that God had plans to soon make the old covenant obsolete once and for all. “In speaking of a new covenant, he makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.” – Hebrews 8:13.
In 70 AD, God brought judgment upon the old covenant system through the destruction of Jerusalem and completely put an end to the old covenant way of life. The temple was burned to the ground and the genealogical records were destroyed.
So, why is this important to us today? Well, because the old covenant is no longer in place today, the only covenant that we partake in is the new covenant. And the good news is, this new covenant is infinitely better than the old. Hebrews 8:6 says, “But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises”
Throughout Hebrews, we also read that the new covenant has a better sanctuary (Heb. 9:1-10), a better sacrifice (Heb. 9:11-28), and better results (Heb. 10:1-18). Now, knowing this about the new covenant, how does it apply to the predicament I was in years ago – wondering what is required of me to be a “good Christian” and what I can and can’t do?
To put it simply, there is only one requirement of Christians today. That requirement is to love others as Christ loves us. The new covenant “law” is a law of love. In John 15:16, Jesus says, “This is my command: love each other.” Throughout the rest of the New Testament, Paul and the other writers give some other more specific “commands” to give practicality to what love looks like, but it always points back to this one charge from Jesus himself: love one another.
How freeing is that! We are not bound to a list of dos and don’ts, but rather we are called to walk in step with the Holy Spirit in intimate relationship and to abide in Christ’s love for us and each other. We have been released from the law and now serve in the way of the spirit, not the written code, which is what God always wanted from the beginning. As partakers in this beautiful new and better covenant, performance does not determine our value, but the fact that we’re sons and daughters does!
I encourage you to seek intimacy with the Holy Spirit in your life, because as you grow in relationship with Him, you will naturally walk in the law of love. You will no longer think in terms of dos and don’ts, but you will naturally flow in your identity as a son or daughter of God and your actions will be rooted in love. You will be free to experience life as God intended for you to experience it, abundantly (John 10:10).
Written by: Nate Ebel