Catacomb Resident Blog

Covenant Boundaries

25 November 2021

I've gotten some questions, so maybe I need to explain it again from a different angle.

Most Christians can grasp the idea that there is a Covenant of Christ. Plenty of believers will have an answer if you ask them to explain it. I'm not using the term the same way most Christians do.

First, it is necessary to understand that covenants in the Bible always have a spiritual purpose, a moral requirement, and a law code. In most cases, a given covenant will be stated in terms of one or another of those three elements, but the others are always there. The Covenant of Abraham was stated as a personal covenant of faith (spiritual) with a moral element ("walk before me") and a law element (the land would be given to his heirs). The Covenant of Moses was mostly stated in terms of a law code, but God clearly stated that there was a moral element ("it is near you, in your heart"). The spiritual element was implied, in that people did discover spiritual birth under that covenant, and went to Heaven when they died.

Jesus made it a point that His coming Kingdom was based on the Covenant of Moses, in a certain sense. He offered it to Israel first under Moses as a continuation of the national covenant, but they rejected it. So it was translated to an open covenant of hearts (the moral element) and spiritual awakening. But the law code was implied as the Person of Jesus.

So the Covenant of Christ still have all three elements, but for the first time, the law code cannot be that clearly stated. We know that it scoops in everyone under Moses, but only if they live the way Jesus taught Moses, with additional requirements on the one hand, but a vastly reduced law code on the other hand. We also know that the Gentiles were obliged to obey the law code of Noah (Acts 15). On top of that, there are a handful of law code statements made by Jesus and His Apostles throughout the New Testament.

It is most pointedly not legalism under Christ, but Jesus also pointed out that it was never legalism under Moses, either. The bulk of His disputes with the Pharisees was Him calling Israel back to the Hebrew mystical approach to law as the personal will of a living Sovereign. It cannot be separated from the Person of the Lord who granted it, and so it is with God's Law under Jesus. It's now the Person of Christ; He is God's Law.

I've already answered the silly legalistic reading of Romans 6 and the abusive misquoting of verse 14. Nobody is putting you under the Talmudic legalism again, but if you have some crazy notion that following Christ is without behavioral boundaries, you simply do not know Him.

It's true we no longer execute people for the grave sins under Moses. But we do ostracize people unless/until they repent, for pretty much the same things that warranted execution under Moses. This is part of the list a friend of mine wrote in one of his books (used by permission), but you can find it on the Net:

  1. Breaking the Sabbath (Num 15:32-36)
  2. Child sacrifice to idols (Lev 20:2)
  3. Being a medium or wizard (Lev 20:27)
  4. Cursing God or blaspheming (Lev 24:10-16, 23)
  5. Idolatry (Deut 17:2-5)
  6. Someone who entices another to commit idolatry (Deut 13:6-11)
  7. Rebellion against parents (Deut 21:18-21)
  8. A woman who falsely claimed to be a virgin at marriage (Deut 22:13-21)
  9. Sex with a virgin betrothed to another man (Deut 22:23-24)
  10. Adultery (Lev 20:10; implied by Jn 8:3-5) (both man and woman to be stoned)

I left out two items that would never apply to us today. Have you noticed that Hosea married a prostitute named Gomer? She wasn't executed for adultery because Hosea never took her to the judges over it. Even under Moses, there were ways to gain mercy on just about every one of these. It was never legalistic until the Pharisees arose after the Exile.

And in several previous posts I offered an abbreviated list of things prohibited under the Covenant of Christ: women teaching or leading men in church, exposing too much skin in public, long hair on men and short hair on women, lying, stealing, various idolatrous practices, etc. Do you not realize that most of these arose from the law code of Moses, or at least of Noah? The primary shift was ending the ritual laws (including kosher). The broader social behavior code was only slightly modified and was taught by the Apostles to Jewish and Gentile Christians alike.

Get a clue folks. The definition of sin hasn't changed that much. There is some natural variation with the change in context, but not nearly as much as is commonly taught in most churches today. You can get silly about laws regarding cloaks, for example, but it's pretty easy to understand that you don't harass and oppress the poor in your covenant community, which is what that was all about. The law code of Moses was the revealed character of God. He hasn't changed since then. It's not that hard to query your convictions and get an answer for the current context.

The Covenant of Christ presumes you'll observe these boundaries, one way or another. Much more important is that you learn to recognize just how exclusive His Covenant is. Don't grant Covenant privileges to people who don't embrace it. Don't welcome as your covenant brother/sister folks who don't exhibit a sensitivity to the Scripture and a genuine sacrificial love for others. How hard is that to understand? But that business of reverencing Scripture includes excluding from covenant fellowship folks who try to use human reason and social custom to shortcut the boundaries.

The Covenant of Christ still forbids women teaching men, which means it forbids any hint of Western feminism. And the answer to feminism is not Western patriarchy; it's Hebrew patriarchy. There's a huge difference between them. And all those other requirements Paul wrote that Western Christians reject -- reject those Christians as Covenant brother/sister. Reject the long hair on men and short hair on women, and the cross dressing, and the excessive jewelry, and the gossiping, and the exposure of skin, etc. Those things matter to Jesus. Yes, sex of any sort outside of the traditional marriage of one man and one woman is still God's Law today. So it is with typical male locker room chatter and showing favoritism to big shots. Churches must be tribal and feudal, too.

The boundaries haven't moved. But then, the boundaries also don't permit legalism. Don't worship the Bible or make a deity of the rules. Worship the Lord. Prepare your mind to follow the convictions of your heart as to how you react to infractions. What I've written is not the Covenant, but a description of how to discover the boundaries Christ draws in your soul. You don't need me to tell you what day is the Sabbath in Christ and what it means to break the Sabbath, for example. He told the Pharisees that there were priorities about the Sabbath, and He was Lord of the Sabbath and could decide what was appropriate. I'm not defining God's Law; Jesus does that. What I'm doing is provoking your own heart searching.

The nature of the Covenant is your feudal commitment to the Lord. Covenants have boundaries based on the Sovereign's personality and character; our Lord's character hasn't changed since He last walked on this earth.

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