If you ask most Christians today how someone is “saved”, they will most likely answer “believe in Jesus sacrifice for the forgiveness of your sins and you will be saved”. While this is a right answer…it is actually only part of the right answer. The truth is when Jesus offered His Salvation; He offered it through the New Covenant. The word “Covenant” means contract. Thus, an offer of salvation is an offer to enter into a New Contract with Jesus. But few today understand they are entering into a contract when being presented with salvation. Moreover, a contract has its terms. And when Jesus offered the New Covenant, He did not present it with just the one term (to believe); rather He presented it with two. The Apostle John summed up the two terms of the New Covenant as so: “And this is His Command: To Believe in the name of His Son, Jesus Christ, AND to Love one another as He Commanded us” 1 John 3:23
These are the terms of the New Covenant and the true Gospel message! At the Last Supper, along with offering His coming Sacrifice through the Bread and the Wine, Jesus also Commanded His Disciples to Love others as He Loved them. But rarely is the vital second term of the New Covenant presented at salvation. And sadly, by not accepting the second term, the person has not truly entered into the New Covenant.
Now some may protest that Jesus’ Command to Love is a “Law” and the Apostle Paul said we are not saved by keeping the Law. But Paul was speaking there of the Old Covenant Law. Paul also said the Old Covenant Laws were only foreshadows meant to be fulfilled. The New Covenant (to believe and Love) FULFILLS the Old Covenant Laws.
“Do not think that 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. Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Matt 5:17
Here Jesus said in His Kingdom we MUST still keep the Old Covenant Laws—but His “fulfilled” version: The New Covenant through Jesus fulfilled the Old Covenant; and here is how.
THE TRUE NEW COVENANT
Today, when most couples marry, they will usually exchange some kind of vows. Most often the vows of faithfulness such as “for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health” are expressed. Moreover, the vows are proposed and accepted during the wedding ceremony and the marriage is consummated within hours. But in the ancient Hebrew culture the marriage process was handled much differently. For the Hebrews, the marriage vows were the terms of a legal contract which could contain many types of terms. They could secure financial obligations such as dowry’s and property rights and even specify the physical duties of the spouses. Once the couple accepted the terms of their contract they were considered married, but they did not consummate the marriage at that time. Rather they would then undergo a long betrothal (engagement) period of usually a year before their actual wedding. This period was upheld in order that any unforeseen problems could arise before the consummation. For example, if the woman was pregnant by another man, it would “arise” during the betrothal period. In short, the betrothal time was a time of testing.
The Old Covenant between God and Israel was like a Hebrew marriage contract where terms were proposed and both parties had to accept them. God proposed that He would be Israel’s God and give them the beautiful Land He promised their forefather Abraham—if they would be faithful to keep His Laws. The Laws were read and Israel accepted.
God separated Israel out from the wicked nation to shine a holy light in a world darkened by sin. And through God’s rule and Law, Israel became that holy nation. However in their newly exalted state, Israel grew self confident and rejected God’s rule by requesting a man king rule over them instead. Moreover, they did not continue to keep the Covenant Laws as they had promised; rather they became just as wicked as the other nations. God sent His prophets to warn Israel of His judgment and their destruction if they did not stop their evil practices and return to keep His Laws. The Prophets rebuked Israel harshly. Using the metaphors of a woman, the Prophets likened Israel unto an “unfaithful wife” and even a “harlot” whom God would soon “divorce”. Although God tried to reconcile His unfaithful Bride for many years, it was to no avail. So the Covenant was broken and Israel was cast out of their Promised Land.
But even though Israel had completely failed, the prophets foretold that someday God would save Israel from her demise. He would send her a truly Holy King and make a New Covenant with her. He would also give Israel a “New Spirit” which would cause them to be able to keep God’s Laws from their heart—and never to fail again! These prophecies were fulfilled when Jesus made His New Covenant and gave the Holy Spirit.
Now just as the Old Covenant was as a marriage contract which had its terms, the New Covenant also had its terms. In fact, the Laws of the New Covenant are the same Laws as the Old Covenant—only through Jesus, they are fulfilled! Indeed, Jesus proclaimed that He did not come to abolish the Old Covenant Laws, but to fulfill them. A fulfillment simply means to FULLY- FILL something. A fulfillment does NOT change a Law, rather it makes it COMPLETE. The Old Covenant Laws were incomplete because they only provided for the physical life. But because Jesus of the Spirit, He transformed the physical Laws into Spiritual Laws which could save man Spiritually or COMPLETELY! For example, because Jesus was God and thus eternal, when He died on Passover, His sacrifice transformed the physical Passover lamb Sacrifice into an Everlasting Spiritual Passover Lamb Sacrifice. Now the Israelite no longer needs to keep the physical Passover yearly; rather they only need to keep Jesus in their heart and He will be their Spiritual Passover Sacrifice eternally! And Jesus not only fulfilled Passover, but through His life, death and resurrection, He fulfilled all of the Laws.
The Old Covenant had 613 Laws, but Jesus said all of these Laws could be summed up in the TWO Laws: “Love the Lord your God…” and “Love your neighbor as you love yourself”. Here Jesus tells that the Old Covenant Laws could be divided into TWO main categories. The Laws that pertained to man’s obligations to God (“Love the Lord your God…”), and Laws that pertained to man’s obligations to man (“Love your neighbor…”). The Laws which pertained to man’s obligations to God are the “Sacrificial and Ceremonial Laws”; while the “Social Laws” pertained to man’s obligations to man. Jesus would simply need to fulfill these two Laws in order to fulfill the whole Law. And through the New Covenant, Jesus did so. Here is how He did it.
Jesus “proposed” the New Covenant to His Disciples at the “Last Supper” which was actually a Passover Supper. The Command to keep the Passover was the first Sacrificial and Ceremonial Law of the Old Covenant. During the Supper, Jesus combined the Passover Ceremony with a Hebrew Betrothal Ceremony. Jesus offered His Disciples His Body and Blood (coming Sacrifice) using the Bread and Wine of the Passover Ceremony. In doing so, He offered Himself as the Eternal Lamb of God that would fulfill not only the Passover sacrifice Law, but ALL of the Sacrificial and Ceremonial Laws—and man’s obligations to God. Jesus offered the Passover cup as a groom would offer a cup of wine to his bride in order for her to accept his proposal. The Disciples accepted the proposal by partaking in the Bread and Wine. In doing so, they accepted the blood of the New Covenant that would fulfill all of the Sacrificial and Ceremonial Laws. Then, after Jesus offered His Sacrifice to fulfill the Sacrificial and Ceremonial Laws, He offered it to fulfill the Social Laws as well:
“…I shall be with you a little while longer. You will seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ so now I say to you. A New Commandment I give to you: Love one another; as I have Loved you, you must Love one another.” John 13:34
Here Jesus referenced His coming sacrifice as it would fulfill the Social Laws. Again, Jesus said all of the Social Laws could be summed up in the one command to “love others as you love yourself”. But Jesus fulfilled or completed this Law when He loved others MORE than He Loved Himself—in that while we were yet sinners and enemies of God, He died for us! Hence, just as Jesus’ sacrifice fulfilled Passover and made it an eternal provision, Jesus made the Law of Love an eternal provision as well. For whereas the old Law commanded a man to love others only within the bounds of the love he had for his own physical life here in this world; Jesus loved others beyond that temporal bound. In doing so He bestowed on us the boundless (eternal) Love of God. Thus, through His Sacrifice Jesus transformed the old Law of love that provided only for the temporal physical life—into a Law of Love that provides for the Eternal Life. Just as Jesus’ sacrifice transformed the physical Passover lamb into an Eternal Passover Lamb, His sacrifice transformed the physical law of love into an Eternal Law of Love. And if we will “accept” Jesus’ Love, He promised that it would transform our temporary life into an Eternal Life as well. And to “accept” this Love we must. For just as the Disciples were offered to accept Jesus’ sacrifice for the fulfillment of the Sacrificial and Ceremonial Laws, they were also offered to “accept” His Sacrifice as the fulfillment of the Social laws as well. Indeed, after Jesus gave the Disciples His New Command, He explained what this Love would really mean to them. He explained that difficult times and trials would tempt them to stray from His Love. But that His Holy Spirit would come and help them to remain in His Love. Jesus repeated His Command (to Love as He loved them) two more times, and told them that they must obey it seven times. (John 13-17). After Jesus had said all these things, the Disciples proclaimed that they “BELIEVED” and “ACCEPTED” all that Jesus had just said:
“For I gave them the Words you gave me and they have ACCEPTED them.” John 17:8
Only after the Disciples had “accepted” both terms of the New Covenant (which would fulfill the Sacrificial and Ceremonial Laws and the Social Laws) did Jesus close the New Covenant wedding ceremony by praying the unity prayer (to become one) symbolizing the union of marriage.
“…that all of them may be ONE, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us”. John 17:20
Moreover, Jesus extended the New Covenant to all who may believe:
“My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message” John 17:20
Hence, just as the Disciples accepted the New Covenant, we too must accept it. We too must accept Jesus’ Sacrifice as it fulfilled the Sacrificial and Ceremonial Laws which satisfy our obligations to God. And we too must accept His Sacrifice as it imparts His Eternal Love into us, compelling us to Love others as He Loved us—which will satisfy our obligations to man. Only then have we truly accepted the terms of the New Covenant!
But sadly, for centuries millions of people have been told that they must only “believe” in order to be saved, as the abandonment of the second term began a long time ago. In the second century A.D. the Roman Emperor Constantine came to believe in Christ, and that the unifying power of the Christian Church could restore his crumbling Empire. So he adopted Christianity as the Empire’s official religion—and even became the Church’s Arch Bishop. At first, Christians were allowed to be exempt from the Empire’s military because of the Command to Love. But over time, because the Command was affecting the Empire’s militaristic ambitions, the Command was taken out of the salvation message altogether. This great falling away from the Law to Love is often called the great apostasy. The man of Lawlessness, who took the New Covenant Law away from the New Covenant, is the Holy Roman Emperor or Popedom. The removal of the second term is the reason the once loving pacifist Church became so brutal and bloody. Moreover, the removal of the second term from the salvation message creates a sad paradox for those who have only “believed”. For while believing in Jesus’ sacrifice does provide the fulfillments for the Sacrificial and Ceremonial Laws; it will not provide the fulfillment of the Social Laws. Indeed, for not loving others as Jesus has Loved them, the believer will be judged as the wicked servant in the parable of the debtor:
“Then the master called the servant in. ‘You wicked servant,’ he said, ‘I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?’ In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart.” Matt 18:21.
And even more sadly, the Debtor will never be able to “pay back” his sin debt—so his “prison” will be forever.
The Apostle Peter also warned the Christians of this falling away
“For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, Love. For if you possess these qualities in increasing measure, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But if anyone does not have them, he is nearsighted and blind, and has forgotten that he has been cleansed from his past sins. Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall, and you will receive a rich welcome into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. 2 Peter 1 5-11
Therefore, if you have not accepted both Terms of the New Covenant: “to Believe Jesus Christ AND to Love as He commanded”, I encourage you to do so today.
“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. My command is this: love each other as I have loved you.” John 15:9