Quick Guide to Understanding the New Testament
There are at least four things about the New Testament that are greatly misunderstood, and these keep people from really understanding the incredible truths about Christ's life, His Cross, and His resurrection:
1. There is No Law of God: The Old Covenant Law was given only to Israel and it ended when Christ came. Gentiles never had any relationship with the Old Covenant Law. Today, your conscience functions like the law; universally, people know that it is wrong to kill or steal. Institutional religion has always functioned as if we are under law and this, more than any other thing, has kept people from understanding the life of faith.
The Old Covenant Law was self-empowered living while New Covenant grace is God-empowered living; the Old Covenant was external, the New Covenant is internal. You are able to live righteously by the power of Jesus Christ living in you, not by trying to keep your denomination's set of rules (their version of the law). Christ in you is what faith is all about.
2. You Have Both an Inner Spirit and an Outer Mortal Body: When you trust Christ as your Savior, God completely removes your old, inner nature ("spirit" or "heart") and replaces it with a new heart filled with God's Spirit; you become righteous because Jesus now lives in you, joined eternally as one with you. You can never sin in your inner spirit because Jesus in you can never sin (1 John 3:9). And, your future is assured because eternal life is found in Jesus Christ, and Him alone (1 John 1:2; 5:11,12a).
However, your body, which is your temporary home while on the earth (2 Corinthians 5:2,4), was not changed when you believed; this part of you is not yet redeemed and can still sin (Romans 8:10a). Since your mortal body and mind do not have the capacity to be righteous, God has given you the life of faith, which is the power of Christ in you as He lives out His life through you; your part is to follow His life (Galatians 2:20).
3. Jesus Emptied Himself to Live on this Earth as a Human Just Like You: This is a critical issue: Jesus became like you so that you can live like Him. The Bible does not teach that Jesus was fully God and fully man at the same time as is commonly taught; this myth is a man-made tradition that has become almost univerally accepted by denominational religion.
Rather, Jesus emptied Himself of His deity (Philippians 2:6,7) for "a little while" during His time on this earth (Hebrews 2:7a,9a). He became like us in every way (Hebrews 2:17a), but without sin (Hebrews 4:15; 2 Corinthians 5:21). At His baptism, the Holy Spirit came down and entered Jesus (Matthew 3:16). The Holy Spirit then became Jesus' power to do the works and miracles of His Father (John 14:10). The Holy Spirit that lived in Jesus is the same Holy Spirit that now lives in you, and is your power to live the life God wants for you.
Note: Most people are taught that if you believe that Jesus was fully and only human while on the earth, you are denying His deity. Actually, you are confirming His deity because He who became lower than the angels for a little while must be He who is higher than the angels, that is God (Hebrews 1:8; John 1:1).
4. Context is Everything: People use many Scriptures out of context. The Bible was written by Jews primarily to Jews. Jesus came to save the Jews, who were under the Law; this was His primary mission. But, by the gracious love of God for the world, He brought forgiveness to everyone and the offer of new life to those who trust Christ as Savior. Many of the books and letters of the New Testament were written specifically to Jews. The two exceptions were the letters of Paul, which were written to both Jews and Gentiles, and the Gospel of Luke/book of Acts which Luke, the only Gentile writer, wrote to a single individual. Therefore, it is important to understand the context when reading the New Testament.
Example: God won't forgive you unless you forgive others (Matthew 6:14-15). Jesus was speaking to the Jews about the Old Covenant Law; He was not speaking to the Gentiles. Today, God gives a new righteous heart to all who believe in Jesus Christ; forgiveness comes naturally. The reason many Christians don't experience this is that they are trying to live by law (Galatians 3:3) instead of by Christ in them (Galatians 2:20).
Example: Many pastors try to compel people to give money by using verses that feel a little threatening (Malachi 3:8,10). The tithe was only for Israel under the Old Covenant Law, and it was usually in the form of food, not money. New Testament giving is from the heart, as God prompts you; it is never based on rules or pressure from others.
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