Admittedly we don’t use a lot of wine skins these days so the metaphor may be largely lost to us in the 21st century. Perhaps Jesus today would say that if put regular gas into a diesel engine, you’re going to eventually contaminate a good motor.
Christians, it seems though, are committed to putting the the wrong fuel in their spiritual engine. When Jesus said, “It is finished!” and sacrificed himself on the cross the veil separating the people from the Holy of Holies in the temple was torn in two. (Mark 15:38). Yes we celebrate the event and even write songs about it, but it reality much of the church is busy trying to repair that fabric, keep the “old ways” firmly in place, and God safely behind the curtain.
The mixing of Old Covenant with New has created a schizophrenic body of Christ that trumpets grace and freedom but feels more comfortable when it comes with a few chains and marching orders.
With that in mind, here is a list of 5 errors that result from Old Covenant gasoline being put into a New Covenant engine.
1) Church becomes a rebooted “temple system”
Jewish life revolved around the temple. Scriptures were read, songs were sung, and a priesthood was in place to act as an intermediary to God and receive the people’s sacrifices on His behalf. In a similar fashion today’s Christians have re- created a “temple” system from the more loose structure of saints we see gathering together in the New Testament.
Followers of God were required to go to the temple in the Old Covenant as that was essentially where God was to be found. Now in Christ however, His presence dwells within us. We are no longer supposed to go to a place to experience God, but are instead called to bring God within us to a world that is hurting and groaning to be restored.
In affect though we feel compelled to go to the temple at least once a week. The daily interaction with Christian brothers and sisters in everyday life will never be seen to be enough… at least not to sustain a temple system.
Do I believe Christians shouldn’t gather together? Of course not. But it would not be hard to argue that our Sunday morning services have become defacto “church”. Each “first day of the week” we bring our temple tax, offer up a sacrifice of praise (and time), and listen to what God says to us through his priests. I’ve been musing of late how many missed “church” opportunities I have lost; chances to bring Jesus life to my community when I was instead rushing off to the temple. (A temple which admittedly often has never been located in my neighborhood or community).
By creating an Old Covenant structure for “church” we dilute the New Covenant power and witness Christ’s sacrifice made possible for his bride!
2) Pastors have become the new “priesthood”
Ever since Moses came down from the mountain the followers of God have been MUCH more comfortable with somebody else talking with God and then having that guy tell us what we’re all supposed to do. When Christ ushered in the New Covenant though he didn’t eliminate the priesthood…
… he expanded it.
But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation 1 Peter 2:9
Not just a priest…but a royal priest! But lets face it, we respond to that kind of praise the way we respond to the teacher in school who tells us, “You’re all special”
Our attitude becomes, “If we all are… then none of us are.“
So we make pastors our new priests. And since we’ve turned church into a new “temple system” (see point # 1) well, someone has to run a temple. Let’s pay the pastors to do it.
In the New Testament the word poimen, which is translated as shepherd, where by we get the word pastor is used in only one instance as a noun. Somehow, out of this one reference in Ephesians, we have created a whole church hierarchy of pastor – priests to serve in our temples;
and yes, even the goatee sporting Youth pastor. (Understand I have held more than half of these positions at one time or other so I am chipping away at the branch on which I sit)
Doesn’t anyone find it strange that that Paul could write chapters long letters to churches in the New Testament and never mention who the pastors are? Was he ignoring them? Or was the church instead focused on the other 28 times the term poimen is used in the New Testament; when the word is an action verb used mostly in regards to Jesus shepherding his people?
When we refuse our calling to be New Covenant priests and instead outsource our role to paid professionals, the church misses the full potential of what Christ seeks for his bride.
3) The Ten Commandments and The Law are mixed with Grace
Ask most Christians whether God wants them to obey the Ten Commandments and you are likely to hear, “of course”. The problem is most don’t even understand that the Law and the Commandments were part of contractual covenant God made with a certain people group (Israel) during a certain time period. When Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the Law and proclaimed “It is finished” (John 19:30) that contract and it’s provisions ended.
In Christ we have been given a New Covenant… a new contract…a better contract!
In my current job, I have a contract. That contract stipulates the responsibilities and provisions my employer and I will provide for each other as well as the time frame to which it begins and ends. Now, I keep previous contracts on file as a reference… but only as a reference. It would be silly of me to trumpet conditions of old, expired contracts, if for no other reason, than the provisions in my new contract are better than those in the older contract. In fact the older contract reminds me how much better my new contract is.
Many Christians however parade Old Covenant expired provisions of the Jewish Law as if Jesus had never proclaimed, “It is finished!” Paul the Apostle says:
“All things are lawful to me, but not all are beneficial.” 1 Cor 6:12
Paul could never have said that under the terms and conditions of the Old Covenant because many, many things were unlawful under that contract.
In fact, it is the freedom of the New Covenant that makes many believers uncomfortable and makes them clamor back to the security blanket of rules and regulations. Israel was uncomfortable with their freedom in the wilderness and longed for the familiarity of Egypt…and the chains that came with it.
Many in the church today long for the same thing…
4) Old Testament Prophets vs. Jesus
Here is another interesting quality often seen in today’s church. We like to highlight Jesus when focusing on love and mercy but prefer to quote the Old Testament prophets when it comes time to pull out the big stick and deal out some “justice”. And when a natural disaster occurs it simply reenforces an Old Covenant suspicion that God was somehow behind it bringing judgement on homosexuals, abortionists, and people who read Richard Dawkins.
When in doubt over which way to go, Hebrews is always a good place to start:
In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, and through whom also he made the universe. The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being
Hebrews 1: 1-3
The writer is clarifying that any misconception when there is a discrepancy on understanding God between Jesus and the Old Testament prophets…
…you choose Jesus.
In fact we never see Jesus bringing violence or destruction in order to see people repent or meet out justice. In Luke 9 James and John want to bring fiery destruction on a village that rejects them but Jesus doesn’t simply say no; he rebukes them.
And when His disciples James and John saw this, they said, “Lord, do You want us to command fire to come down from heaven and consume them, just as Elijah did?”
But He turned and rebuked them, and said, “You do not know what manner of spirit you are of. For the Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives but to save them.” And they went to another village.
Luke 9: 54-55
Jesus basically says, “Guess what guys, if someone rejects our message…we can go to another village. It’s that simple, and then nobody has to die a fiery death or anything.”
The church needs to stand down from all the Old Testament prophets at the expense of seeing God revealed perfectly through Jesus Christ!
5) An Unhealthy attention on Israel
Hey, I love Israel. My family has celebrated a Passover Seder for the past 13 years, I have dreamed of visiting Jerusalem one day, and Leon Uris’ Exodus is possibly my favorite novel…
sometimes I think the church forgets that under the New Covenant ALL people are God’s chosen people.
There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (Gal 3:28)
My experience is that when Christians have an unhealthy preoccupation with Israel it often leads to an unhealthy preoccupation with the Old Covenant. The Apostle Peter struggled with this his whole life requiring God to give him a wake up call (Acts 10: 9-15) as well as a public correction by Paul. (Gal 2:11)
The Old Covenant was a contract for the people of Israel a long time ago.
The New Covenant is a new contract God has made through Jesus Christ for all people. Not only are the conditions of it much more favorable…there is no expiry date.
The New Covenant is better…so stop tanking up with Old Covenant gas!