Please read The Basis of Christianity pt.1 first, but as a quick refresher:
The basis of the Christian faith is not in religion, but in a covenant relationship with God:
The Jews had a covenant with God – yet because they (on the general whole) did not want to comply with the covenant arrangement that God had established with them, therefore, the law was added. It was because God wanted a personal covenant relationship with them, and they refused to comply, seeking – rather – a clergy class to relate to God for them (Ex 20:19). Both the Jewish Law and its priesthood (which together form religion), were added only because the people were not willingly compliant to the relational covenant God had already made with them.
Religion is something that develops for transgressors of the covenant – the bible refers to this as: ‘the curse of the law‘ (Gal 3:13). Even the first, inferior, covenant required no law prior to Moses (for Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were compliant to the covenant without the guardrail of the law set in place to hold them to it – their HEARTS were circumcised).
When Jesus came, He superseded the Old Covenant, and removed the requirement of the law, and earthly priesthood (religion) so that anyone who would come after Him, and follow Him in Spirit and Truth is not bound by any law but that of love, nor to any priesthood but the resurrected Lord, Jesus Christ. True Christianity is no religion – it is a covenantal relationship that one has, personally, with God on this basis. Submission to religion of any kind is coming under that which Paul the Apostle declared to be a ‘yoke of bondage.‘ (Gal 5:1)
Let me share an example of what I mean when I refer to the difference between religion, and a covenant relationship:
When I married my wife, I did not give her a list of duties that she must perform, although there definitely ARE certain things that I expect of her – we are in a covenant together. She has always been aware of the expectations that I have of her, but if she fails to comply with them for a time, she does not cease to be my wife. If she were a good wife, interested in an healthy relationship with me, she would WANT to meet (and, indeed, exceed) my expectations. In a healthy marriage, there is no system of merits, and de-merits. Each party simply loves the other, and edifies and ministers to the other.
If my wife decided to behave as though we were not married and act unfaithfully, on the other hand, and do only as she pleased with no regard for my expectations of her – then I would have two choices: 1) I can break off the relationship (divorce), or 2) I can attempt to work it out. Of course, the only way you could work out a relationship which one of the parties does not want to be in it is to MAKE them comply with expectations. In such an event, one WOULD lay down a low of requirements for their spouse – it is the only thing they can do to maintain the covenant relationship they entered into with a person who is resistant to it.
The law [religion] is added for those who are not in pursuit of God’s heart – those who are not in appreciation of the covenant He has made with man – those who must be MADE to comply. Contrariwise, those who hearken, and obey God need no religion of any kind – they need only to cut covenant with God.
The Old Covenant of circumcision is expired – the new covenant is on the basis of faith in Jesus Christ.
Further, this New, superior Covenant is on the basis not of works, but of faith (Gal 2:16). As the New Covenant is on the basis of faith (Rom 1:17) – on the basis of worshipping God in Spirit, and in Truth (John 4:23 & 24) – on the basis of the spiritual reality, rather than the carnal commandment (Heb. 7:16) – any reversion to the law (carnal commands – religion – which work on the basis of compliance with rules and forms, types, and ceremonies, etc.) is not only powerless for the purpose of salvation, but is also ANATHEMA (an abomination) under this covenant (Gal 3:2-7).
The signs and promises of the Old Covenant were temporal (PHYSICAL offspring, PHYSICAL land, PHYSICAL circumcision), and outward (again, see The Basis of Christianity pt.1). As such, a law COULD be added to it in order to make people comply with the natural elements of the temporal covenant.
The New Covenant – on the other hand – is fully spiritual, it is a salvation which is from faith, to faith (Rom 1:17). If one’s heart is not right before God, no law can fix that, and no compliance with commands can rectify it. No religion of temporal commands or ceremonies can make the heart comply with God, on the work of Jesus’ blood, and the power of the Holy Spirit can make a man’s heart right.
The writer of the book of Hebrews – Paul – creates a theological basis for Jews (as the book is written to Hebrews) to understand the change from the Old Covenant, to the new. Interestingly, in the book of Hebrews, Paul works backwards. While the basis of the Jewish religion was the Covenant, Paul starts his discourse not with the Covenant, but with the Priesthood, then to the law, and finally establishes the New Covenant as superior to the Old.
He does so by these means: he establishes that Jesus has become our High Priest, and superseded the Levitical Priesthood (Heb 7). He then declares that once the priesthood is changed, the law must also change (7:12); he clarifies that the law was not the perfection of the Covenant to begin with, for the ‘law made nothing perfect’ (v. 19). Finally, he declares that since Jesus was made a high priest, and the law was changed, Jesus became – in fact – the mediator of the better covenant (v. 22). In reverse order, Paul unravels the ancient religion of the Jews, and declares that the very covenant that the entire religion and culture were based upon is expired (Heb 8:13), and that Jesus is the mediator of the New Covenant (7:22 & 8:16).
As we went through the bases of the Old Covenant in the first post on this topic, I shall cover the bases of the New Covenant in my next post on the topic which will then be linked: here.