Under the Old Covenant, we have the Law. Along with the law came “if – then” statements. Tied to the if-then’s were blessings and curses. If you do X, then you will be blessed, but if you do Y, you will be cursed.
The problem is we err if we bring the same thinking into the New Covenant. The New Covenant is not Old Covenant 2.0; it’s a completely different operating system. It’s like Mac versus PC – I’ll let you decide which version represents which Covenant. 😉
Yet, don’t we see imperatives (defined as expressing a command or plea) in the New Testament?
Yes, but notice something very important – they are not attached to if-then conditions when it comes to how we live them out.
As an example, in Galatians, I found three direct if-then statements:
“I do not treat the grace of God as meaningless. For if keeping the law could make us right with God, then there was no need for Christ to die.” – Galatians 2:21 NLT
“For if the inheritance could be received by keeping the law, then it would not be the result of accepting God’s promise. But God graciously gave it to Abraham as a promise.” – Galatians 3:18 NLT
“Listen! I, Paul, tell you this: If you are counting on circumcision to make you right with God, then Christ will be of no benefit to you.” – Galatians 5:2 NLT
Note all three are connected to the idea that if you’re still attempting to live by the Law, then you’re nullifying the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus – the fulfillment of God’s original promise. None of these are handing out blessing or curses based on our behavior, but they are stating positional facts about where we are in relation to God based upon what we believe about Jesus.
I’m reading a book where the author makes this assessment –
Now consider Galatians 5:1. After four chapters of passionate insistence that justification (a legal term declaring one not guilty – just-as-if-I’d never sinned) is by faith apart from works of the law, Paul issues a couple of strong imperatives: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, [imperative] then, and do not let yourselves [imperative] be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.” Are these commandments with conditions? Is there an “if”? No! The command here is precisely to not return to the law. It is an imperative to stand firm in freedom from the law.
He goes on to write –
Freed from the burden and bondage of attempting to use the law to establish our righteousness (right standing) before God, Christians are free to look to the “imperatives” of Scripture, not as conditions, but as descriptions and directions as they seek to serve their neighbor. Once a person is liberated from the commonsense delusion that keeping the rules makes us right with God and, in faith, believes the counterintuitive reality that being made righteous by God’s forgiving and resurrecting word precedes and produces loving action (defined as serving our neighbor), then the justified person is unlocked to love, which is fulfillment of the law.
Today’s Good News is your blessing from God is not dependent upon you getting if-then conditions right. Jesus got all of them right for you – which is the fulfillment of the Old Covenant and ushers in the New. When we believe this is true about Jesus, we become adopted children of God with full access to all of His blessings and an eternal inheritance that cannot be lost.
Does this mean life will be all butterflies and rainbows from the moment you place your faith in Jesus? No. In fact, Jesus was clear that in this world we would have trouble, but one of the blessings of God is Jesus has overcome the world. In other words, this place is only a temporary dwelling – both this world and the bodies we inhabit within it.
So, don’t be confused into thinking God’s blessing means we won’t suffer. That’s not the evidence of Scripture. No, our blessings are much more eternal than that, and there is a blessing that I’ve personally experienced in the middle of deep hurt — peace. A peace that’s almost impossible to explain. A peace that transcends earthly conditions. And that, my friend, is a real blessing – and is really Good News.
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