The New Testament is often misinterpreted. These four points will greatly enhance your understanding of what the New Covenant is all about. Note: "Testament" and "Covenant" mean the same thing.
1) The Old Covenant Law Was Given to Israel
Summary: God gave the Old Covenant Law to Israel, and only to Israel. The Gentiles were never given the Law and never had any part in it. This means that any talk of God's Law as the rule of life is a misunderstanding of what the Bible teaches. People for all time have had their conscience telling them the difference between right and wrong. For believers in Jesus Christ, they now have something much better than the Law; they have the Spirit of Christ living in them, living out His righteous life through them. The Law, although holy in every way, was self-empowered living; neither the nation nor the people could live up to God's standard of righteousness. The New Covenant is God-empowered living which does meet God's standard of righteousness.
Important Note: The Law given through Moses (Old Covenant Law) was holy and reflected God's righteousness; it guided Israel as to how to live and worship God. The failure was not in the Law but Israel's inability to keep the Law through their own human effort. In the New Covenant, God comes to live in all who trust Jesus Christ as Savior, so that it is Christ who lives your life as your follow Him in faith.
When people read the New Testament, beginning with the four Gospels, they often come to the conclusion that since Jesus lived under the Law, we are to live under the Law as well. We are to live as Jesus did; but we are to live by faith, not Law (Galatians 3:11).In doing so, we "fulfill" or "establish" the Law in that we can, for the first time ever, live a righteously.
The Gospels are about the life and teachings of Jesus, who was born under and lived under the Law of Moses. Jesus taught the Law, but not as the religious leaders were teaching it. Jesus taught the Law as God intended it to be taught, with mercy and grace. Jesus did not even introduce the New Covenant to His disciples until His time on the earth had nearly ended. You can read this stunning overview of New Covenant grace in the Gospel of John, chapters 14-17 (Click to Read).
The Gospels are not the New Covenant, they are the Old Covenant Law. It is important to understand that God could not institute the New Covenant until after Jesus had died on the Cross and was raised from the dead. The essence of the New Covenant is that God gives a new inner heart and then comes to live in those who trust Jesus Christ as Savior. Jesus first had to defeat sin and conquer death before an eternal God could come to live in those who trust Him.
At His baptism, the Spirit of God came down and indwelled Jesus. Jesus then followed the indwelling life that His Father was living through Him in order to accomplish the works and miracles of the Father (John 14:10). Today, following the indwelling life of Christ in faith is God's way of living life (2 Corinthians 5:7; Galatians 3:11).
Even though the Law was holy and in effect for hundreds of years, it became the ministry of "death" (2 Corinthians 3:7) and the ministry of "condemnation" (2 Corinthians 3:9) following the resurrection of Jesus Christ. God ended the Old Covenant Law (self-empowered living) and exchanged it for New Covenant Grace (God-empowered living). Then the Law completely ceased to exist after a transitional period during the time of the Apostles. The Law ended because it was now obsolete (Hebrews 8:13; Hebrews 10:9b).
Therefore, any teaching today saying that the Law is God's standard to live by is not Biblical and is false teaching. God's standard for living today is relying on the faithfulness of Christ who lives in you.
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2) You Have Both an Inner Spirit & an Outer Mortal Body
Summary: One of the greatest misunderstandings among Christians is not knowing that they have an inner spirit that is distinct from their outer mortal body. Your new, born again inner spirit is the real you, the part of you that will live on into eternity; it has been made fully righteous by the indwelling presence of the Holy Spirit. Your outer body is your temporary "house" that will one day die; it will be replaced with a new, immortal body in the future.
Important Note: Your inner spirit is also known as your "heart" or "nature." These terms are used interchangeably.
If you are a person who trusts in Jesus Christ as Savior, God has already removed your old sinful inner nature and replaced it with a brand new, clean heart (Ezekiel 36:26; Romans 6:6). Since this new heart is a clean vessel and without sin, God now has a place within you where He can live. God's Spirit comes to live in you and joins His righteous and eternal life to your new spirit; you are sealed with a bond that can never be broken (2 Corinthians 1:22; Ephesians 1:13). It is because of this that you are now a righteous child of God. There are no circumstances that can ever cause you to be separated from God (Romans 8:38,39) since God made you fully and forever righteous in your born again heart (Romans 3:22; 2 Corinthians 5:21). You are now part of the Body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12:12). (Note: "God living in you," "Christ living in you" or the "Holy Spirit living in you" all mean exactly the same thing.)
However, your mortal body is still dead because of sin (Romans 8:10a; 2 Corinthians 4:16). You are spiritual perfection (Romans 8:10b) living in the same imperfect mortal body as you had before you became a believer. Your mortal body, which includes your mortal soul, is incapable of being righteous on its own. This is the reason you live by faith. As you follow Christ in faith, He will live out His righteous life in you and do His good works through you (Galatians 2:20).
Although you can never live a perfectly righteous life by your own human strength, the good news is that you can never sin in your born again heart because Christ in you can never sin (1 John 3:9). This is why you let Christ live His life in you instead of you trying to live your life by your own human efforts.
By knowing this about your born again heart and your mortal body, your experiences in this life can now make much more sense. Your mortal body can make you "groan" (2 Corinthians 5:2,4) because of its inability to be righteous. But your born again heart is alive to God because Christ lives in you, joined as one to you. Living by faith is the essence of the Christian life because this is the only way you can live a righteous life.
A question that often arises is whether your soul is the same as your spirit? The answer is "no." Your soul is the immaterial aspect of your mortal body - your thoughts, emotions, personality, hopes, and desires. Your mortal soul has not yet been redeemed and is subject to any manner of error. However, as you walk with Christ, your mind will be renewed (Romans 12:2) and you will be more focused on God's life than you are on your previous life before Christ. But, your soul will never become perfect like your inner spirit.
Note: There is a popular teaching that really messes up people's understanding of their inner and outer persons. It is the notion that you have a body, soul, and spirit that is in parallel to the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. This is completely wrong. A more helpful way to understand who you are is that you are a spiritual person who lives in a temporary outer body, or "earth suit." Your inner spirit is eternal; your mortal body is temporary.
3) Jesus Emptied Himself "For a Little While"
Note: This third point is what some people call "meat" vs. "milk" teaching. Anyone can digest milk, the simple and basic truths of the Bible. But, a "meat" teaching requires some experience with the Holy Spirit teaching you, separating truth from error.
Summary: Jesus Christ, Son of God and Creator of the universe, emptied Himself "for a little while" to live fully as a human while here on the earth (Hebrews 2:7a,9a). Instead of being fully God and fully man at the same time as is commonly taught, Jesus was fully human indwelled by the Holy Spirit. This distinction is critical because, just like Jesus, believers are fully human indwelled by the same Holy Spirit.
Most people are taught that if you believe that Jesus was fully human while here on this earth, you are denying His deity. In reality, it proves His deity. Jesus, the One who was made for "a little while lower than the angels," must be He who is higher than the angels - that is, God (Hebrews 1:8; John 1:1). Jesus' prayer just before His arrest shows that He knew that His glory as the Son of God would return to Him at His resurrection (John 17:5).
While on earth, the Holy Spirit became Jesus' power to do the miracles and works of the Father (Acts 10:38). It was the Father living in and through Jesus by His Spirit (John 14:10b); Jesus experienced the Father's life by faith. Jesus clearly and often stated that He never did anything by His own power, but rather lived by faith (John 5:19; John 8:28; John 12:49). The fully God-fully man teaching prevents you from understanding that Jesus emptied himself so that He could be just as human as you are (Hebrews 2:17); He did this so that you can live the same life of faith that He did. It also prevents you from understanding that the Holy Spirit that indwelled and empowered Jesus is the very same Holy Spirit that now lives in you. Just as God's Spirit was Jesus' power to do the works of the Father, now God's Spirit is your power to live righteously and to do His good works.
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4) Reasons the New Testament is Misunderstood
Summary: Context is everything. People use Bible verses outside of their proper context to say anything they want; many are deceived. Every passage of Scripture must be understood in its proper context. Historically, Gentiles have interpreted the Bible, and particularly the New Testament, as being written to them. For the most part, the Bible was written by Jews to Jews. The Apostle Paul's letters were written to mixed Jewish and Gentile audiences, as were the letters of John. But, the letters of Peter and James were written exclusively to the Jews. All Scripture, both Old Testament and New, is very valuable, but only if properly understood.
There are two overarching reasons that so many unbiblical teachings have gotten passed down through the generations:  when the Gentiles and Jews separated after the first several decades following Christ, the Jewish context of the Bible was lost; this resulted in the unbiblical mixing of opposites - Old Covenant Law (self-empowered living) and New Covenant Grace (God-empowered living); and  people have been taught to trust religious scholars and are not aware that it is the Holy Spirit alone who teaches the things that God reveals through the Scriptures. Religious scholars are the vehicle by which false teaching gets passed down through the generations. They are taught in Seminaries and Bible schools which are academic institutions that teach the mortal mind. The Holy Spirit teaches you in your born again spirit, the only part of you that is now alive to God and able to hear His teaching.
Knowing the context of each New Testament letter is critical if you want to understand what God is saying. Both the Bible and the Christian faith come from the Jews. Jesus, the Prophets, and the Apostles were all Jews. The letters of Peter, James, and Hebrews were written to Jewish believers, and in some cases Jewish unbelievers; they were not written to the Gentiles. Yet, these letters are still valuable for Gentiles; but they are a lot more valuable when you understand their context. Paul's letters were written to mixed Gentile and Jewish audiences. Therefore, the context of the New Testament is Jewish and its setting is the 1st-century Palestine. Jesus said, "... salvation is from the Jews" (John 4:22). (Luke, a Gentile, is the one exception; his Gospel of Luke and Book of Acts were written to just one person, Theophilus.) Book recommendation to understand the context of the New Testament: "The Untold Story of the New Testament Church: An Extraordinary Guide to Understanding the New Testament" by Frank Viola (See on Amazon: Click Backspace to Return)
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