Many Christians today don't know that we're under a new covenant. This new covenant was made possible by the atoning blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross for the entire removal of our sins and also because of His resurrection. The old testament and new testament are literally translated as old covenant and new covenant and there is a good reason why that divider is in our Bibles separating these two things. God is still the same yesterday, today and forever, but Jesus issued a new covenant according to Hebrews that is based of off better promises and actually makes the old testament/covenant obsolete. This also means that we Christians are not under the Levitical law/law of Moses/Jewish law like the Israelites were so we don't need to follow those 613 commandments. We can still read the Old testament to better understand how God related to the Israelites, such as how He created the world, the fall of man, the prophecies of the messiah to come (Jesus Christ) and man's failed attempt at keeping the old covenant. Below are some of the many promises that we have today that the Israelites did not have.
1. The Permanent Indwelling of the Holy Spirit
Back in the old testament, if you turned your back on God, He would turn His back on you. Then, when people would turn back to God, God would then shine his face back on His people and forgive them for their sins. Even King David cried out to God, "please don't take your Holy Spirit from me!"(Psalm 51:11). The problem was that the Israelites had a sinful nature that kept them from keeping their faith in God and their obedience towards Him. It was an endless cycle of turning away, then repenting, then turning away again, only to repent once more. Something needed to be changed. God had the plan of salvation already in motion even before the creation of the world, according to Ephesians. This salvation through Jesus Christ would redeem people from the curse of the law that was brought on by sin, so God knew ahead of time that this old covenant was flawed and that there needed to be a change. God wasn't surprised that they couldn't keep the law in its entirety. According to Romans 7, the law was supposed to bring life, but it brought death instead because no one except for Jesus could keep the law completely. We were born in Adam and into a sinful nature (Romans 5:12-20 NLT) and were doomed to fail from the start. Yet, Jesus was born of the Spirit from physical birth and had an advantage over us, which through the power of the Holy Spirit, gave him the ability to abstain from sin completely, making him a perfect sacrifice (Hebrews Ch. 10 NLT) on the cross for our entire debt of sin.
So, because of this new covenant, we are given the Holy Spirit when we believe in the finished work of Christ (the Gospel) as a "seal" (that cannot be undone), and a guarantee (a sure promise) of our inheritance (eternal life) that is to come (2 Corinthians 1:22 NIV). 1 Peter also says that we are born of an "imperishable seed, not a perishable one" (1 Peter 1:23 NIV). The Bible also says that the Holy Spirit is a down payment (Ephesians 1:14-16, CEB), but it's not like a down payment like we think of in America. A down payment on a house, would be a "partial payment", but the down payment mentioned in this scripture is more about the Holy Spirit being given as a piece of the glory that is to come. It is just one thing that we are given by God to be a witness for Christ and also it is the same spirit that rose Jesus from the dead, that will also raise us from the dead. This Holy Spirit sealing/guarantee/imperishable seed that we have also shows us that we cannot lose our salvation. If His Spirit won't/can't leave us based on these new covenant/testament promises, then how is it possible to lose this free gift of salvation that comes through the basis of "faith through grace and not of works" (Ephesians 2:8-9 NIV)? This Holy Spirit also gives us the strength to do what pleases God. I will talk more about "Eternal Security" in an article/post of its own, since it is a highly debated topic in the church.
2. Jesus Christ Gives Us His Righteousness in Place of Our Own Righteousness.
When we believed in Jesus Christ, His righteousness was credited to our account. We didn't earn salvation through our works, but sometimes we Christians try to place the emphasis on ourselves, thinking that somehow our deeds are good enough or will be good enough at some point in our lives. Paul, the Apostle said in Philippians Ch. 3. "I put no confidence in the flesh" so why should we? In Romans 3:20, Paul says that "no man will be declared righteous by the works of the law", but the law reveals our sinfulness. Galatians 2:16 says, "know that a person is not justified by the works of the law... because by the works of the law no one will be justified". So what about some of the passages in the 4 Gospel letters, that make it seem like it takes works to be saved? Well, Jesus taught the law and was under the law himself. He elevated the law in many circumstances to show people their need for a savior, which is why you see verses that give more insight into this such as when different people like the pharisees, the rich young ruler, Nicodemus and other unnamed people asked Jesus this question, "What must we/I do to inherit eternal life?" and Jesus responded, in different ways. To Nicodemus, Jesus said "you must be born again" (reborn by the Holy Spirit), which meant that is was about placing your faith in Christ to be given eternal life (John 3:1-21 NIV). To the rich young ruler, Jesus told him to "sell all he had" and then to come follow Him. The rich young ruler thought that by doing good deeds that he would be made righteous, but Jesus was pointing out his shortcoming, which was his love for money and that if he wanted to be right with God according to the law, then he must be "perfect" (Matthew 19:16-26 NIV). To the expert in the law Jesus said "Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind'; and, 'Love your neighbor as yourself.". This is an impossibility. (Matthew 22:34-40 NIV) If what Jesus meant about perfecting the law proves that salvation is by works, then we might as well give up on this whole christian thing, because in comparison this would mean that Paul taught a different message than then Jesus did according to that theology. So, in other words, did Jesus and the apostles teach the same Gospel message? Yes, but on the surface it doesn't always appear that way. Therefore, it is by the single "one" work of simply trusting in the finished work of the cross that makes us right with God and cleanses us from all sin. This righteousness makes us blameless in the sight of God. When we depend on our own righteousness we are only fooling ourselves, for no one can keep the law apart from trusting wholly in Christ. John 6:28-29 talks more about this simple act of believing in Jesus for eternal life. There are plenty of more passages that I could cover, but it takes a deep study in order to understand the differences between law and grace.
3. We Have Complete Peace with God Despite Our Shortcomings with Sin.
"Therefore, since we have been justified through faith,we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Romans 5:1 NIV). So, because of this wonderful free gift of grace that we've received through Jesus Christ, we have peace with God that doesn't change depending upon our circumstances, including our faults with sin. It's easy to feel like we're are distant from God when we fall into sin, but scripture doesn't say that we are far from God because of our sinful choices when we are in Christ. As a matter of fact, God and his Holy Spirit that lives inside of you grieves along with you when you sin (Ephesians 4:30 NIV) God brings comfort from his understanding of our frailty and even disciplines us when necessary (Hebrews 12:4-11 NIV), but it is not his wrath that is showered upon us (1 Thessalonians 5:9-10 ESV), only his fatherly love that is comprised of gentleness, kindness, forgiveness and mercy. We are not on a "3 strikes and you're out" system. We have total forgiveness through the blood of Jesus Christ. He took our entire debt and nailed it to the cross nullifying any punishment our sins held against us (Colossians 2:13-14 NIV).
4. No More Sacrifices Need To Be Made in Order To Cleanse Our Sins.
According to the book of Hebrews Ch. 7-10, we are no longer under the old covenant, which means that we are not subject the Jewish law. As mentioned above, The 613 commandments that the Jews followed are not for Christians to adhere to today. So, when Jesus offered up himself for sins once for all time, he made the old covenant obsolete (Hebrews 8:13). This means that we don't need to offer up animal sacrifices, which only covered sins, whereas Jesus removed sins completely. An old testament covering meant that the blood of bulls and goats that were shed for the sins of the Israelites did not forgive sin, but simply hid sin from God's wrath. It basically held back God's punishment from being unleashed on the Israelites when they would break the Jewish law. So, these animal sacrifices were actually foreshadowing Jesus's death on the cross that would finally remove sins once for all time. In summary, God is not holding your sins against you. He has removed your sinful debt completely. Any time you sin as a Christian, God does not add them to your account any longer. (1 Corinthians 13:3-7 NIV) says, "he keeps no records of wrong."
5. Our Old Sinful Nature Was Cut Out and A New Nature Was Put In Us
In many references in the new testament it says that our old sinful nature was taken out and a new nature was put back in (Colossians 2:11). In some verses/translations it appears that the new life/new nature is meant "to be put on" and the old life/old nature is meant "to be put off" (Ephesians 4:22-24 ESV). Regardless, this new nature with it's new desires is a promise/gift that we have through Christ and is one of the many proofs/signs of our salvation. (Romans 6:6, Galatians 5:24) Another reference talks about how the old life is gone and we have new life and have become a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). This can be a confusing topic, but ultimately I don't believe that we have a sinful nature anymore. We were actually born into this world with a sinful nature (even without sinning ourselves) and were destined for God's wrath because of Adam's/Eve's original sin. In other words we were doomed from the start. So, even though sin brought death through Adam and his seed, Jesus brought life through his righteousness to all who believe (Romans 5:12-2 NIV).
What About the New Heart?
This topic is also a bit confusing, but I believe that we have been given a new heart along with our new nature. To be frank, I actually believe that the new heart and new nature are actually the same things, since they both seem to make more sense when applied together. God promised to the Israelites that one day he would change their hearts, turning their stony hearts turn into hearts of flesh. (Ezekiel 11:19-20) (Ezekiel 36:26-27). We also have verses that talk about our circumcision of the heart. It's not circumcision of the flesh that matters, but circumcision of the heart (Romans 2:28-29 NIV) (Colossians 2:11-13). Another issue that needs to be addressed is the issue of Christians claiming that they still have a wicked heart despite the verses saying that we have a new heart that is obedient to God. This stance is referring to the old covenant's teaching on having a wicked heart that turns away from God. Thankfully, our new heart can't do that, because it's bent towards obeying God and serving him. Having a new heart is not nearly as clear as having a new nature, according to my studies in the new testament, but I will continue to learn more about this topic and make more articles about it in the future.
6. Nothing Will Ever Separate Us from God's Love in Christ Jesus
Along with the promise of Eternal Security, we also have even more confirmations of this liberating and comforting truth by the promise that "nothing will ever separate us from God's love that is in Christ Jesus" (Romans 8:31-39 NLT). God has also said, "I will never leave you nor forsake you" many times throughout scripture (Hebrews 13:5-6 ESV) (Deuteronomy 31:6-8 NIV & many more!). One other portion of scripture says that "Our God will never abandon us" (2 Corinthians 4:7-12 NLT). These promises are meant to give us confidence before God, so we won't grow weary and be afraid of our circumstances throughout life. Just because we don't feel God, doesn't mean that he isn't there. We don't always need to feel the power of his presence. Many times in life, you will find your faith being tested, and you will need to rely on the promises that we have in scripture that will help keep your feet planted on solid ground. Guess who that solid ground is? Yep, that's right, it's faith in Jesus Christ, the rock (1 Corinthians 3:10-15 NIV) (Ephesians 2:19-22 NIV) (Luke 6:46-49 NIV). Please don't feel like you need to beg God (pray, sing and shout in order to get his attention) (Matthew 18:19-20 NIV) in order for Him to keep his promises, for he will be faithful unto himself and unto his new covenant promises (2 Timothy 2:13 NIV) (Hebrews 8:7-13 NIV). It's not about keeping your end of the bargain, like how it was in the old testament, which was one of the many flaws of the Jewish people's old sinful nature. As mentioned above, we have a new nature and our old nature is gone.
7. We Can Now Interrupt Scripture Properly Because We Have God's Spirit Living in Us
When Jews read the old testament, they are unable to understand it properly because there is a veil that cover's their eyes and they won't be able to see the truth of God's word without believing in Jesus. (2 Corinthians 3:7-18 NIV) I personally believe that another passage sheds some light on this by mentioning that this veil applies to "all unbelievers", which simply means Jews and Gentiles (anyone who isn't a Jew) who don't believe in Jesus Christ. "Judaizers" are people who practice a mixture of law and grace in order to be saved. The topic of Judaizers is a complicated one, since Paul seemed to insinuate that these people were saved, even though they greatly misunderstood the new covenant freedom from the Jewish law. I believe many Christians today can be considered Judaizers. I also think the Jews are being used for context because Paul talked about the glory of the new covenant prior to mentioning the "veil", since both believing and unbelieving Jews are well acquainted with the Jewish law. (2 Corinthians 4:3-4).
So What Does This All Mean?
Basically, this means that because Christians have the spirit of God living in us, we can now finally understand the deep things of God that we simply could not understand without his spirit. Under the old covenant, people would be inspired by the Holy Spirit and sometimes the Holy Spirit would come upon them, but it was a much rarer circumstance, since the Holy Spirit didn't stay or dwell within those people. (1 Corinthians 2 NIV) We don't even need to have teachers because the Holy Spirit is our teacher and teaches us all things. (1 John 2:26-27 NIV) However, despite this, it's important to realize that the Holy Spirit still gives the gift of teaching to some believers and we shouldn't discredit everything they say, only we should weigh their words to see whether or not they speak in spirit and in truth (Romans 12:3-7 NIV).
8. We Have Freedom From the Bondage of Sin
Because of God's free gift of grace and salvation through Jesus Christ, we have been freed from the bondage of sin/law of sin and death that prevented us from living out the freedom that we now have in Jesus Christ