Who are you to judge someone else’s servant? To his own master he stands or falls. And he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand. One man considers one day more sacred than another; another man considers every day alike. Each one should be fully convinced in his own mind (Rom. 14: 4-5).
Oh, come on Paul; give it to me straight, should we worship on Sunday or not? Can we eat meat sacrificed to an idol or not? Don’t hem and haw, just give me the rule and I’ll obey. But he doesn’t; why not?
Paul doesn’t give us hard and fast rules to live by because that’s not how Christianity works. That’s how Judaism worked, but not Christianity. Judaism had a covenant with God called the law (or the old covenant). It was a written code. One showed fidelity to God by following the laws, rules and biblical principles. It didn’t work well, and that was God’s point. We can’t please God in our own power. He gave mankind every opportunity to show Him we could please Him by trying real hard. What we showed Him was that we would cave in to our flesh. So, in his grace he gave us a new covenant that would work; one based on the power of the Spirit living in us.
For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. But God found fault with the people and said:
“The time is coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the house of Israel
and with the house of Judah.
It will not be like the covenant
I made with their forefathers
when I took them by the hand
to lead them out of Egypt,
because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
and I turned away from them,
declares the Lord.
This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel
after that time, declares the Lord.
I will put my laws in their minds
and write them on their hearts.
I will be their God,
and they will be my people.
No longer will a man teach his neighbor,
or a man his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’
because they will all know me,
from the least of them to the greatest.
For I will forgive their wickedness
and will remember their sins no more.”
By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and aging will soon disappear (Heb. 9:7-13).
Here’s the secret of the new covenant we Christians (and those of Israel and Judah who became Christians) have with God. Our covenant isn’t a crude, one size fits all law, rule or principle. It is God’s direct instruction for our particular situation. It is based on our personality, character and our particular circumstance. But it is God’s individual law put directly into our heart and mind (see Heb. 8:10). And, it will never violate God’s written word. So, let’s live in that new, superior covenant. Let’s not judge God’s other servants. He may have given them other instructions. Let’s live in the freedom of our new covenant with God. Yet let’s reflect everything we think we hear from God through the beautiful lens of Scripture. That’s what it’s for.
- Why do you think we want to go back to laws, rules and principles?
- What is the difference between living according to “biblical principles” and living in the new covenant?
- What is the difference between living according to the law and “biblical principles?”
- Does Jesus’ instruction to not judge others (Matt. 7:1-2) make more sense now?
For other blogs on the new covenant and other aspects of the simple church life, read Ross's blog The Jesus Virus. He will soon have a new book out: Viral Jesus: Recovering the Contagious Power of the Gospel. Watch this space for more information.