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Friday, May 1, 2009

The New Covenant Radically Different from the Old

Years before I'd ever given the subject of "covenants" any serious thought, Judy and I went to the West Indies with all good intentions of being "New Testament Church Planters". In my mind if one established churches after the death and resurrection of the Lord Jesus, one was establishing New Testament (Covenant) churches!! I was to learn years later how wrong I was!

In recent years I've come to realize that 90% of what we taught believers in Dominica to do was patterned NOT after the New Covenant but rather after the Old!!

Under the Old Covenant (established by God with Israel at Sinai) all of life was divided into two categories: (1) Holy things and (2) Common things.....
-there was a Holy building (the tabernacle or temple) where Israelites were to offer all their sacrifices and offerings and common buildings (their homes and all other buildings),
- there was a Holy ministry with special credentials (the sons of Levi between the ages of 20 and 50) and the common people,
-there was a Holy priesthood with special credentials (the sons of Aaron) and the common people,
- there were Holy clothes (worn by the priests and Levites in the tabernacle/temple) and common clothes worn by common people and by the Levites and priests when not serving in the tabernacle/temple,
- there were Holy foods eaten only by the priests and their families and common foods eaten by the common people,
- there were clean animals which Israelites could eat and unclean animals which only Gentiles could eat,
- there were Holy days (sabbaths, feats and new moons etc) consecrated in special ways and common days,
- there were Holy tithes required to be given/used in special ways (i.e. for the support of the Holy priests and ministers) and common uses of resources with which the Lord blessed the people,
- there were Holy offerings for the building and maintenance of the Holy building and common uses of the people's resources for their own needs,
- there was one instance in all the O.T. where the Word of God was read from a pulpit of wood (when the people returning from captivity did not have the Word of God in their own hands Nehemiah 8:4) and other times when the common people had the scriptures and were to read and talk of them with their children throughout the day,
- there was a school of the prophets where young men were trained in prophetic ministry and there were prophets whom God personally called and equipped apart from any school.

Can you begin to see how the majority of things we taught the Dominican believers to do were patterned after the Old Covenant and not the New? We taught them the OC dichotomy between the Holy and the Common, between the sacred and the secular! But the beauty of NC life and ministry is that, for the child of God, the common is made holy! There are no longer to be any such divisions in our lives or ministries!

- We taught the saints in Dominica to meet in a special building (we called it "the church"!) But according to the New Covenant, saved people themselves are the church and such people in the early centuries met most often in their own homes! (Acts 2:2,46; 5:4; 8:3; 12:12; 16:40; 20:20; 28:30; Romans 16:5; I Cor.16:19; Col.4:15; Philemon1:2)

- We taught them that the church must be lead by a special credentialled class of ministers called the "clergy" who were distinguished from the common people, the "laity" by special titles, by special clothes, by special documents/certificates/letters, by special responsibilities and by a special means of support! But such a distinction is absolutely foreign to New Covenant scriptures. All New Covenant believers ARE God's kleros (clergy, inheritance, heritage appointed lot I Peter 5:3), all are gifted and to be equipped for ministry (I Peter 4:10,11; Ephesians 4:11,12), and all are ordained to bear fruit that remains (John 15:16)!

- We taught them that "clergy men" must wear special clothes when ministering "in church" and that the laity should wear special clothes (not their common clothes) when they "went to church"! But such a teaching is absolutely foreign to the new Covenant scriptures!

-We taught them, that there were special Holy days for "going to church" and ordinary days for doing their own business! But the New Covenant scriptures make no such distinction between "the sacred" and "the secular"! Rather, the New Covenant scriptures teach us that NC saints are called to live holy lives 24/7 (I Peter 1:14,15)!!

- We taught them that there were Holy foods (little pieces of bread or crackers and little cups of grape juice) which were to be eaten and drunk only on special holy days, in the Holy building when they were administered to them, by the Holy ministers) and that these Holy foods were clearly distinct from the ordinary food which they ate in their own homes! But the New Covenant scriptures never separate remembering the Lord from the eating of daily meals in ordinary dwellings (Acts 2:42,46; 20:7-11; 28:35)!

- We taught them the necessity of bringing their "tithes and offerings" for the support of the Holy ministers and the maintenance of the Holy building but that the rest of their resources could be used for their own ordinary needs! But the New Covenant scriptures teach that we are stewards of all that has been entrusted to us and we must give account of our stewardship of 100% for the total is the Lord's (II Cor.8 and 9)!

-We established a Bible school for the training of young people who wanted to go "into the ministry" but that those who wanted to train for other occupations should seek out other ordinary schools. New Covenant believers were equipped and discipled by older saints in the course of ordinary daily life among the saints.

- But more than anything else, we taught them two or three times every week that "pulpit ministry" or "the sermon" was the central and most important component of "doing church" when the saints gathered together! But such ministry is absolutely foreign to the New Covenant scriptures! In fact, I have yet to find even one instance in the New Covenant scriptures of divine truth being communicated to saved people by means of a "sermon" or monologue lecture! We have been falsely conditioned to think of a "homily" as a monologue sermon delivered by a pastor from a pulpit to a congregation and that "homiletics" is the art of sermon preparation and delivery, but such could not be further from the truth! If we simply go to the Bible, we learn that the Greek word HOMILEO always designates a conversation among a number of people! (Luke 24:14,15; Acts 20:11 and 24:26)

When the impact of the radical differences between OC and NC life and ministry dawned upon my heart and mind, I was astounded to realize that while I had believed we were establishing NC assemblies we had actually been gathering the Lord's NC people under the bondage of OC teachings and practices whereas He desired that they live in the liberty of New Covenant ministry! (See the contrasts as they are shown in Galatians 4:21-5:2 and in II Corinthians 3)

Only in the last 9 years have we personally enjoyed living and ministering in the context of New Covenant relationships where all believers are appreciated at priests, ministers and God`s ordained clergy, where we realize that all of life is to be lived in holiness, where we practically realize that as believers we ARE the church where ever we go, that all Christians are called to full time ministry and that, for us, there is no distinction between things "sacred" and things "secular"! We enjoy simply meeting with other believers in each others' homes, remembering the Lord as we eat our meals and ministering one to another as the Lord desires saints to do whenever they assemble together i.e. "provoking or stirring one another up to love and good works and exhorting one another" (Hebrews 10:24,25).

We encourage all believers to remain no longer under the bondage of Old Covenant principles where the "holy" is separate from the "common" and the "sacred" is separate from the "secular" in the lives of God's people, but to live in the glorious realization that for us the common has been made holy by the One who established His New Covenant with us (Hebrews 8:10-13)!

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