Did you know that the Law was largely Israel's attempt to shape God into their image and the patterns of the world? So God used it to begin distinguishing them from the other nations primarily by his presence (according to Moses) and some of the content such as not boiling a kid in his mothers milk or tattoos which were pagan worship practices associated with other gods. Still as a whole, the system of Law was nothing more than another expression of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil says, "do the good and avoid the evil and you will become like God." That was the temptation of Adam and Eve. They were already created in the image of God yet the tempter says, "eat this and you will become like God." The original sin was to deny who they were and by action try to "become like God" by religious human effort. The Law said, "I will bless you if you do good and curse you if you sin." In other words, the Law is the tree of the knowledge of good and evil on steroids!
The Law Was the Pattern of This World
Consider this: the kind of covenant the Law presents is actually a covenant that was common to the other nations. Remember that when the Exodus event happens, God says that he wants them to be a holy nation and ALL be priests unto God. But instead they refused and said, "Moses you go up there on the mountain instead."
Thereafter a different kind of covenant is established that was common in that day. It was called a Suzerain-Vassal Treaty. Notice how Dr. Meredith Kline explains this treaty:
In the Ancient Near East, treaties between kings was common. These were treaties drawn up among equals and mostly outlined agreements to honor each other's boundaries, to maintain trade relations, and return run-away slaves. These treaties are preserved in the Mari Tablets and in the Amarna texts. Also preserved in these collections are treaties drafted between a superior and his inferior. If the relationship was familial or friendly, the parties are referred to as "father" and "son." If the relationship is bereft of kindness and intimacy, the parties are referred to as "lord" and "servant," or "king" and "vassal," or "greater king" and "lesser king." The greater king is the suzerain and the lesser king is a prince, or a lesser lord in the service of the greater king. The lesser lord is a representative of all the common people who are under the protection of the greater king. He enforces the treaty among the masses.
These Suzerain/Vassal treaties open with two sections: 1) The identification of the Suzerain by his name and titles; 2) The historical survey of the Suzerain's dealings with the vassal. The purpose is to illustrate to the vassal how much the Suzerain has done to protect and establish the vassal who therefore owes submission and allegiance to the Suzerain. These two sections are referred to as the "Preamble."
The next section of these treaties list the "stipulations." What the vassal is required to do is spelled out in principal and detail. This section is often concluded with the requirement that the vassal deposit his copy of the treaty in his temple, where he is to occasionally read and study it to refresh his memory concerning his duties.
The last section of these treaties contains the blessings and curses of the Suzerain. If the stipulations are met by the vassal, he will receive the Suzerain's blessings, which are listed. If the vassal fails to meet the stipulations, he will receive the Suzerain's curses, which are also listed.
This is exactly what we find in Deuteronomy, a copy of the world's practice! These are just like the one's Egypt used. But what they didn't bargain for is that one of the problems with this kind of treaty, when it relates to God, is that instead of some national false god being responsible for enforcing the covenant blessings and curses, it placed Yahweh as both the king and the God to enforce it, thereby, by their own invitation making God the author of wrath based on the covenant stipulations.
Did you know what the prophetic voice of God declared in Jeremiah 7:21-23?
"Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel: “Add your burnt offerings to your sacrifices and eat meat. FOR I DID NOT speak to your fathers, or command them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, CONCERNING BURNT OFFERINGS AND SACRIFICES. But this is what I commanded them, saying, ‘Obey My voice, and I will be your God, and you shall be My people. And walk in all the ways that I have commanded you, that it may be well with you.’
God intended for them to commune with him personally and know his voice and have a relationship, but instead THEY are the ones who wanted a sacrificial system, and Law! The Law was never the image of God, only Christ is!
I love what it says in Isaiah 59:2, "Your sins have separated you from your God." It doesn't say that their sins separated God from them, but it pushed them away from God. Separation was always an illusion.
Again, it was Samuel that wept because Israel wanted a king like the other nations and it was God who said, "They have not rejected you, they have rejected me" (1 Sam. 8:7). Because he wanted to be their king, God never intended to give them an earthly king. But God gave them what they wanted, all the while the blindness and distortion continues.
When Christ comes, he comes to rectify the earthly king mentality. Under the new covenant he returns to the original intention of God being their king on a spiritual throne, not an earthly one. In the very first sermon of Peter at Pentecost, he makes the point that the throne of David was the same as the throne in heaven, as Christ redeems the earthly concept and transforms it back into the heavenly one. Hebrews 1 says that throne is in heaven.
Acts 2:30-31, "Therefore, being a prophet, and knowing that God had sworn with an oath to him that of the fruit of his body, according to the flesh, He would RAISE UP THE CHRIST TO SIT ON HIS THRONE, he, foreseeing this, spoke CONCERNING THE RESURRECTION OF THE CHRIST..."
Ultimately Paul teaches us that it was God who gave the Law to them so that they would come to the end of themselves. But he also taught that as the Law was coming to its conclusion it was the Law that brought wrath, (Romans 4:15). That wrath was simply allowing them to experience the fruit of their own actions (Romans 1:18-32). Romans 1 in particular says that they exchanged the knowledge of God for an idolatrous view of God. Giving them over, was the ultimate statement that under Law to give people what they wanted was to end up in their own destruction.
Jesus IS the Revelation of God.
John 1:18, "No one has seen God at any time. The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He has declared Him."
Not Adam. Not Elijah. Not Moses. Not Abraham. Not one single prophet had a full, true accurate revelation of who the Father was. Not a single one. Only Jesus is the revelation of the Father. That is why he said in John 14:9, "Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; so how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’?
The Law was not a revelation of God, it was a revelation of sin (Romans 3:19-20). Only Jesus is a revelation of the Father. We are not being conformed to the image of the Law, but the image of Christ.
Did you notice that Jesus said, "you have heard it said, but I say to you..."? Don't his words supersede the Law? Did you notice Jesus forgiving people before the asked (Matthew 9) or Peter being restored without ever once having Peter confess his failure, or ask forgiveness? Or did you see how Jesus said to love the Lord your God with all your heart mind soul and strength was the fulfillment of the Law, and then in the upper room as he teaches what the new covenant would look like he says "a NEW commandment I give you, that you love one another as I have loved you."? The word for new is kainos meaning a brand new way of doing things. The new is utterly unlike the old in every way!
Why The Judgment Passages After the Cross?
The difficulty that some have is that there are still promises of judgment and wrath after the cross and resurrection. If you look closely you will see that they are all quotes from the Law itself (Hebrews 10:30; Deuteronomy 32:35-36). What some don't realize is that the Law, though made obsolete, was now fading away (Hebrews 8:13). It wasn't completely fulfilled yet because there were unfulfilled promises to Israel which would all be finished and fulfilled by AD 70 (Luke 21:20-22, Matthew 5:17-18).
That transitional period is confusing for us because we read the Bible as if it were written to us. It was written to THAT generation and generally speaking to a Jewish audience. Gentiles were of course coming in, but until the temple, the priesthood, the sacrificial system, and the earthly city were judged and removed according to the Law and prophets, then it remained as two covenants sort of competing with one another.
I realize that it is very frustrating for some to be confronted with the God of the gospel who is in a good mood, instead of the one they have created, like Israel, from their own minds. But it is actually the testimony of scripture itself, and the message to which their generation and ours need to return. More societal conflict, governmental wars and relational damage is done in the name of the "bible" as "Law" than we can imagine. The Church has to get this right!
So what is "sin" in the New Covenant since we are being conformed to the image of Christ instead of the image of the Law? Essentially there is only one. It is unbelief. Unbelief is the root of everything contrary to the image of Christ. It is unbelief in a loving Father who forgave our sins 2000 years ago before we asked. It is unbelief in the love of God for humanity. It is unbelief in the truth that Christ has redeemed humanity through his death burial and resurrection. That is what the Holy Spirit convicts of in the New Covenant (John 16:8-11). That is what the Spirit is grieved about when we don't embrace and accept our redemption. It is rejecting our sonship and hardening our hearts to grace.
More importantly the question is, who is God? By the testimony of scripture, God IS LOVE. And what will happen if you believe that? You will become what you receive.
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