Bible Reading: 2 Corinthians 3:4-18; Galatians 5:1-15
Writing to the Corinthians Paul speaks about both the Old and New Covenants. Before we continue in 2 Corinthians chapter 3 it will be helpful to understand what the two covenants are and what the difference is between the two.
The definition of the word Covenant is literally a contract. It is an agreement between God and His people, in which God makes promises to His people and, usually, requires certain conduct from them. What is known as the old covenant is found in the Old Testament, and the new covenant in the New Testament.
The old covenant is a covenant of law whilst the new covenant is a covenant of grace. The old covenant as been set aside [2 Corinthians 3:11] but the law of God still remains. Speaking of God’s law, Jesus said, “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved” [Matthew 5:17-18]. In other words, although we live in a time of grace, God’s law is still important.
In the Old Testament people looked forward to the cross and sought to keep God’s laws in order to please Him. Under the new covenant we are no longer trying to keep God’s law, but now the Holy Spirit who lives within us enables us to live a life that pleases God, as we walk “not after the flesh but after the Spirit.” As we live in and obey the Holy Spirit we will have the power to live right, and the law of God will be fulfilled in us! When you trust the Holy Spirit to lead you He will always guide you to do the right thing! Here is freedom!
You might, having read this, be asking the question, what is the point of the law? It is the law that teaches us God’s standard and that is absolute and never changes, but it cannot set us free. Law is external; grace is internal. The law is outside us – something I can point to and say, “That’s what I’ve got to do.” Grace changes us on the inside in such a way that it becomes natural for me to act the way God wants.
We have been set free from trying to please God by obeying rules and regulations. We have learned that we cannot earn God’s favour and blessing. Writing to the Galatians Paul says, “Stand fast in the liberty be which Christ has made us free” [Galatians 5:1]. Don’t be tempted to return to the old way of trying to please God by obeying the law – if you do so you will become estranged from Christ [Galatians 5:4].
Why is it that we can never earn God’s salvation?
Read Galatians 5:18. How would you explain the words, “But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law”?