The Covenants Confusion
There is something very wrong with the way many Seventh-day Adventists understand the two covenants. There is one basic misconception which lies at the root of all the errors and it is this:
Most are locked into the idea that the law is at the heart of the covenants and that it is the focus of the covenants. This is very far from the truth as revealed in the word of God. The truth is that JESUS is at the heart of the covenants and in fact, He Himself is the focus and meaning of the covenants.
The false concept goes something like this: God wanted man to keep His laws, therefore He commanded man to keep them with the promise that if they kept them, He would bless them and give them eternal life. However, man did not keep his part of the bargain, so God promised that He would give them a new covenant which is the same covenant, a requirement to keep the laws with the promise of eternal life if man obeys. The only difference is that now God has changed the nature of His people by showing them His love in the sacrifice of Jesus, so those who respond to that love will now keep the laws and will thus, be partakers of the covenant. You see, it is all focused on the law, the law is the goal, the law is the purpose of the covenants. The law is the thing which is of supreme importance. This is false in many ways. Can any honest and unbiased person read the New Testament and really come to such a conclusion?
Notice also that in this teaching, the only difference with the coming of Jesus is what He taught (the information He brought) and what He demonstrated by His death (He revealed how much God loves us). Jesus did not bring more power, Jesus did not bring new life, Jesus did not bring the new birth, Jesus did not bring the kingdom of God, Jesus did not bring a new covenant, because (according to this teaching), all these things were ALREADY AVAILABLE during the time of the Old Testament before Jesus came! This is not the truth.
The truth goes like this: The covenant is God’s condition under which He establishes a relationship with His people. This was always the issue between God and man – the broken relationship. It is true that under the Old Covenant, the way presented for repairing that broken relationship was for man to obey God by keeping the commandments. This was an impossible way which could never work, but God established it because He wanted to teach humanity the great lesson that it is not possible for men to relate to God on the basis of his behavior. He wanted men to understand that there is only ONE way to be reconciled to God and it is through the gift, through the way which God would provide. The law, or the Old Covenant was given so that men could know their own helplessness and their need of God’s own life. It was intended to point men, to lead men to Christ.
In this understanding, the Old Covenant was not reality, it was not the truth. It was an illustration of the true covenant which was to be established with the coming of Christ. It was a teaching tool to point to a much, much greater reality. That reality was NOT THE LAW! That reality was JESUS CHRIST! It was never about the law, the law was only the tool used to make the point, it was always about Christ! This is what Isaiah expressed very clearly:
“I the LORD have called thee in righteousness, and will hold thine hand, and will keep thee, and give thee for a covenant of the people, for a light of the Gentiles;” (Isa 42:6)
Jesus is God’s covenant. Jesus is the way of restoring the broken relationship between God and His people. When we have received Christ, the relationship is repaired, it does not depend on keeping the law, it depends on our receiving Christ. It is not about LEGALISM, it is about RIGHTEOUSNESS BY FAITH. The aim is not that the law should be kept, the aim is that the relationship with God should be restored. This is what it is all about.
When we are in Christ we do walk in harmony with the law, but this is not what it was all about. We walk in harmony with the law because the law is good and God is good and the life of Christ in us is good. Keeping the law is only a by-product of the life which we possess, it is not the goal of that life. Now that we have Christ we have found the goal, we have found the purpose, we have found the meaning. It is Jesus who is the way, the truth and the life, not the law.
“For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
I hope those who read will see that I am not saying the law is not good, I am not saying the law is abolished. But I am saying emphatically that the law is not the issue. The issue is man’s relationship with God and Jesus is the solution to that, not the law. This is my point. The law does not belong where we have put it, only Christ belongs there.
So in summary:
The error teaches that both covenants are the same covenant and the only difference was in the way people respond to both. Under both, the goal and purpose is THE LAW. The goal is the establishment and the keeping of the law and Christ is the means to that end.
The truth teaches that the old covenant was an ILLUSTRATION to point to the new. One covenant was typical and illustrative, the other is the reality. They are not the same! The goal was restoration to union and fellowship with God and this was to be accomplished by the introduction of the life of God into the life-stream of humanity by the gift of God’s Son. The law was the means to that end, but that end is Christ.