Freedom from the 10 Commandments; distinguishing between the Old and New Covenants.

Image result for Jeremiah 29:11

How would you respond if I told you that the oft-quoted Jeremiah 29:11 doesn’t apply to you? That the promises of prosperity (not of harm) and the plans of hope and a future aren’t promises meant for your comfort? That they’re not actually meant for you at all?

Andy Stanely, in his thought-provoking book Irresistible, declares, “Walk into any Christian bookstore around graduation time and you’ll see a plethora of graduation cards and gifts printed with Jeremiah 29:11…(For I know the plans I have for you, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future). How encouraging. God-fearing graduates can step confidently into the next chapter of their lives assured of prosperity, divine protection, and, hopefully, a job.

“Maybe.

“But who is ‘you’? ‘For I know the plans I have for you.’ You who?

“Certainly not you, that’s who.”

He goes on to quote the Jeremiah 29:10 which says, “This is what the LORD says: ‘When seventy years are completed for Babylon, I will come to you and fulfill my good promise to you and bring you back to this place. For I know the plans…”

Journey Metal Frame Graduation, Jeremiah 29:11   -

So Andy continues, “If this is indeed applicable to graduates, they will have to wait seventy years for God to prosper and protect them. But, if they can hang on until age 88, the best is yet to come!

“Fortunately, these verses don’t apply to graduates. Graduates are under a different covenant. A better covenant. A covenant that doesn’t require animal sacrifice to stay current.”

 I grew up in a Christian home. I grew up going to Sunday school, having theological discussions, and reading my Bible daily. And yet, I never recognized how distinctly–and significantly–removed Christians today are from the old covenant (the law). I had a fuzzy recognition, but not much clarity on the significance of this distinction. However, understanding our separation from the old covenant is critical for a handful of reasons. 

Firstly, not making the distinction between the old covenant (which is obsolete to Christians today) leads us to quote, believe, and expect promises that are not ours (i.e. Jeremiah 29:11). The promise in the old covenant was a cause-and-effect relationship between God and Israel. They were obligated to obey God’s law and, if they did so, they were blessed. The thing is, that promise has been replaced in the era of the New Testament. 

Andy Stanley states, “To put it in broad terms, under the old covenant when you obeyed, you were blessed. When you disobeyed, you were punished. Under the new covenant, when you obey, you may suffer. If you disobey, the world may applaud you and you may Image result for ten commandmentseven prosper. 

“That’s what Jesus said, anyway.

“He should know.”

If you go about misquoting the Old Testament, believing obedience leads to blessings, you’re likely to hard-core doubt your God when things seem to get flipped on their heads. But that won’t be because God isn’t faithful. It will be because you’re citing the wrong promise.

Secondly, attempting to live with the old covenant perspective that obeying the rules is what gives you the “in” with God creates a judgmental attitude toward people who don’t appear to be abiding by God’s laws (in a most hypocritical way). If you’re like me and you grew up in a Christian home, haven’t had premarital sex, never got a tattoo, don’t use cuss words, and–for the most part–respect and obey your parents, you’re quite likely to also be the type who is the quickest to jump at the opportunity to judge others

After all, if obeying the rules is what makes us closest with God, looking down on others will make us feel that much more righteous. The temptation is to believe that the more I can point out other people’s sins, in comparison, the more favored I will be by God. This is not a God-honoring attitude, I can tell you that.

Thirdly, believing that we must obey God’s rules in order to be “cleared” in his sight constantly leaves us wondering if we’ve done enough, if we’re going to make it to eternal life. The Israelites under the Old Covenant were given the books of the Law and had to obey out of compulsion. Every time they sinned, they were required to make some sort of sacrifice to cleanse themselves. This approach put the emphasis on how fallen Image result for bible altarand sinful humans are. And that was the point. Honestly, they could never be made righteous through this system. It was impossible. Period. 

And yet they were under compulsion to try–since God had ordered them to do so. And to the degree they fully tried, they were blessed accordingly under God’s cause-and-effect promise. 

On the other hand, Christ-followers today don’t obey any of God’s laws because we’re under compulsion. We’re not even obligated to obey the Ten Commandments. Andy claims, “According to Paul, Jesus followers are dead to the Ten Commandments. The Ten Commandments have no authority over you. None.” 

He continues, “Hopefully, you won’t run out and commit adultery. Jesus wouldn’t like that. Remember, you belong to him now.” 

Just because we’re not under compulsion to follow God’s law doesn’t mean we can’t take hints from it so that we know how best to love God. But we don’t do it to cover for our sins. We do it out of love. And we love because he first loved us. When he died for our sins, he freed us from the law. If we’ve accepted his gift of salvation–the grace he offers us–we don’t have to wonder if we’ve done enough to please him. We can live with absolute confidence that, even when we mess up and sin, we are still saved. Still photo of brown wooden cross at cliffforgiven. Still free.

And that’s the way I want to be. Clearly, I didn’t believe that I had to offer animal sacrifices in order to please God. But sometimes I have subscribed to the old covenant law in more subtle ways that still have devastating effects. Not seeing this clear distinction has led to confusion about what promises apply to me–and what to expect from God. It’s led me to be judgmental toward others. And it’s prompted the impression that I need to work harder to please God more. 

But Christians today aren’t under the law. At all. And the implications of that might go farther than you recognize.

Please share your thoughts and perspectives. I want to know what you’re thinking.

9 thoughts on “Freedom from the 10 Commandments; distinguishing between the Old and New Covenants.

  1. Hi Dear Friend,
    Thanks as always for sharing your heart.
    I have to disagree with this author. His ideas are not just wrong, but he completely misses the point. There are some 🚩red flags that stand out, but alas I’ll just address a few…
    🚩“Firstly, not making the distinction between the old covenant (which is obsolete to Christians today)”

    I have to oppose the idea that the old covenant is obsolete for Christians today. Every scripture that was quoted in the New Testament was Old Testament scripture. Please consider the word foundation or foundational instead of obsolete. Jesus said “I did not come to abolish the law but to fulfill it.” In fact, Jesus gives a warning about “relaxed” interpretations of His commandments…

    Matthew 5:17-20 English Standard Version (ESV)
    Christ Came to Fulfill the Law
    17 “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. 19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.

    obsolete[ ob-suh-leet, ob-suh-leet ]
    adjective
    no longer in general use; fallen into disuse:
    an obsolete expression.
    of a discarded or outmoded type; out of date:
    an obsolete battleship.
    (of a linguistic form) no longer in use, especially, out of use for at least the past century.Compare archaic.
    effaced by wearing down or away.
    Biology. imperfectly developed or rudimentary in comparison with the corresponding character in other individuals, as of the opposite sex or of a related species.
    verb (used with object), ob·so·let·ed, ob·so·let·ing.
    to make obsolete by replacing with something newer or better; antiquate:
    Automation has obsoleted many factory workers.
    Dictionary.com

    foundation[ foun-dey-shuhn ]
    noun
    the basis or groundwork of anything:
    the moral foundation of both society and religion.
    the natural or prepared ground or base on which some structure rests.
    the lowest division of a building, wall, or the like, usually of masonry and partly or wholly below the surface of the ground.
    the act of founding, setting up, establishing, etc.:
    a policy in effect since the foundation.
    the state of being founded.
    an institution financed by a donation or legacy to aid research, education, the arts, etc.:
    the Ford Foundation.

    It is also worth mentioning that the scriptures are not simply linear historical documentation of’ hey Greek western mindset. Consider that the word up God has layers (like ogre’s. 😉) More like “Types” and “Shadows,” or in English Literature reading Shakespeare, who frequently employed “foreshadowing clues” early on in the story that would be acted out of fulfilled later on in the story to give the reader/audience greater understanding of the plot. Contrary to popular belief, God did not get the idea from Shakespeare, but rather I think Shakespeare got the idea from God. There are great and prolific prophetic dimensions to the scriptures that’re not found by simply skimming the surface.
    🚩On a personal note, Jeremiah 29:11, surely does apply to me today as a Christian. Yes, that was spoken to Israel at that time but if we look deeper it shows the character of God the loving nature of our Father in Heaven. And if our Papa is no respecter of persons – giving to all who ask without finding fault, then I can most certainly claim, ask for, and understand in faith that J. 29:11, promise and so much more applies to me.

    I could go on, but I confess, I do NOT like to give preference to logic and theology, for it is a far lessor thing than Knowing FATHER! Jesus didn’t die so that we could make an argument, prove a point… HIS whole life on Earth, death and resurrection was/is to tear down the veil of separation and reintroduce all mankind back to FATHER. He’s been desperately missing us since the Garden, when we were free to walk and talk hand in hand in purity in pure Light and Love.
    My friend, that’s the big picture of the Holy Scripture. We settle for far too little when we focus only on earthly stuff and human stuff. Read John 3:12 again and can you not feel the anguish in Jesus’ voice when he asks this teacher of Israel why don’t you know this basic stuff I need you to advance do the higher stuff but you don’t even get the basics. “12 I have spoken to you of earthly things and you do not believe; how then will you believe if I speak of heavenly things?”

    But I can feel the love and anguish in Father’s heart as He calls for that wayward or prodigal son (or the human race) back home to Himself. With the words that Jesus spoke in John 3:16-18 (and he only did what he saw the father doing) I can feel God pleading with mankind, “come home come home! it’s OK you’re forgiven you’re not in trouble all your debts are paid come home! your position is here your Crown is here you are my Royal prince and my priest come home! I need you my heart is in anguish over your absence I miss our walks together our talks together are hanging out in the backyard are skipping stones in the Lake, looking at clouds in the days and stars in the night sky and making up stories and sitting by the campfire together! Come on home God the father says in anguish and pleading to all humanity. Can you see that he is longing for those wonderful times in the garden that we had in the beginning before sin.

    I will stop there for now…
    Love Much & Always
    Levi

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    1. Levi, thanks so much for your well-thought-through response! I greatly appreciate pushback as it forces more thinking about God’s word.
      I agree with you that Jesus did not come to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. But, once it’s fulfilled, the law (in the sense it was originally created for) is completely obsolete. Colossians 2:13b-14 says, “He forgave us all our sins, having cancelled the written code with it’s regulations that was against us, and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.” It had it’s purpose, and we can still learn from it, but the law itself is indeed not used anymore, making it obsolete.
      True, we can continue to learn about God’s character, about Israel’s faith journey, about history, and about what pleases God from the Old Covenant, but we are no longer bound to it–no one is bound to this law–hence it is “no longer in general use; fallen into disuse.”
      I definitely support using the Old Covenant to learn about God’s character. Hence, Jeremiah 29:11 can have great application! Especially when you are using it to learn more about who God is–as you are doing. However, I would argue all the graduation gear that quotes this verse is not necessarily quoting it that way. Instead, they’re making it seem like a promise of (in some ways material) blessing from God in our immediate lives–since that was what God was promising Israel (albeit 70 years down the road).
      I like the point you make that really what matters at the base of everything is salvation in God. This is so key!
      Thanks for sharing your thoughts; I respect the pushback you’ve provided and appreciate hearing from you 🙂

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  2. BethAnn, I’d have to largely agree with Levi above. I’d largely be in disagreement with Andy Stanley. Even in the OT, those who followed Gods laws weren’t always blessed in the traditional sense of that word – maybe Andy forgot about Job when writing his book. While we’re no longer bound by the law for our salvation, it certainly does lay out a reasonable approach towards pleasing God, as long as we realize it’s not a ‘karma-esque’ approach. Personally I use OT passages like Deut 15 and Lev. 25 to teach biblical economics, which is not nearly as delineated in the NT. They clearly speak to what pleased God, and I believe that has not largely changed over time. So it sounds like you need to take this book with a grain of salt, or at least a good dose of discernment.

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    1. Thanks for your response! I really enjoy challenging perspectives
      So obviously both Andy Stanely and I cut things short and made some generalizations to fit the overarching point into easily readable form–hence my desire to have conversations about it outside of just what I wrote.
      One of Andy’s points was that God’s covenant was with Israel as a nation. So when the nation as a whole was following God, the nation as a whole would prosper. But when the nation as a whole was turned from God, the nation as a whole would suffer. Within that, “bad” people could be thriving along with the general obedience and good people could certainly suffer in the midst of a nation that had turned form God. And I don’t believe that God’s promise was an equation that always turned out just the right amount of blessing according to just the right amount of obedience. So, I definitely agree that even in the OT good people suffered and “bad” people thrived.
      I also feel like I put a lot of pressure on Andy when I only quoted such a small section of his book. It’s like one of those political speeches where only snippets were taken and re-publicized 😉
      In the end, I do think God made a promise to Israel (as a whole nation) under the Old Covenant to materially bless when Israel was following after God. However, while in the New Covenant we might be blessed in other ways, but we shouldn’t expect material blessing the way the Old Covenant Israelites had a right to. Perhaps you still disagree with this point.
      Also, I definitely agree that the Old Covenant can give us insight in what pleases God, so to speak. However the difference is our motivation. We might use the old covenant to learn about God and his desires for mankind so that–out of love–we can seek to please him. The Israelites, under the old covenant, however sought to keep God’s commands mainly out of obligation. We might be doing similar actions (because we’re obviously serving the same God), but our motivation is very different and I feel that this is an important differentiation.
      Thanks for bringing up conversations 🙂 I appreciate hearing responses!

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      1. Thanks for the great response. Maybe its more ‘reformed’ to think of the OT laws as still having significant bearing on Christians today. Maybe another way to consider it is to realize that almost all of the 613 OT laws God lays out are exceptionally practical in nature. Some involve worship, etc. but those that pertain to daily living we still see today as just good ideas in general. And following wise ideas, whomever they may come from, does generally lead to ‘prosperity’ at the very least. So in that sense we still prosper today by following ideas like not envying our neighbor, or not making idols of other things in our lives. I’d agree with you that possibly not many other people today follow God out of love than did in the OT – King David obviously loved God as did other notables, but its likely many (like today) simply followed a set of rules thinking that this garnered His favor. Christ was pretty firm with the Pharisees – keeping the law alone was not nearly enough to win over God and in fact lead to the devastating disease of legalism. That’s because the OT laws were not in themselves meant to change the heart of man, but rather to point us toward the love God has for all creation, a love we mirror back to God out of gratitude. They paint the picture of care, concern and compassion that we should have towards each other. They were never, in my opinion, meant to be a karma-like reaping of what one sowed, though. And realizing that God is consistent in his motives and work helps us understand that as in the NT, so in the OT His people did not have a checklist to follow to please Him – it was their hearts he was after. Karma is in fact anathema to God’s work – grace that is both undeserved and unattainable by any other means than God’s wonderful love. Maybe someday we can discuss these matters in person. Blessings to you in this good work!

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  3. Thanks Beth Ann. I don’t totally agree with you or Levi. God’s plan (promise) was not monetary or worldly. It was and always is Jesus and this promise crosses the boundaries of both old and new testament is for ALL. And ALL of the Bible is true, and profitable for education and rebuke. Love you!

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    1. Thanks for your response! Part of the reason I feel making the distinction between the Old and New Covenant is so significant is that is help us distinguish between God’s different promises. We argue that God’s promises are not monetary or worldly because the promises that we live under in the New Covenant are focused on nonworldly things. However, God’s promise to the Isrealites under the Old Covenant very much was worldly. Deuteronomy 28:11 states: “The Lord will grant you abundant prosperity—in the fruit of your womb, the young of your livestock and the crops of your ground—in the land he swore to your ancestors to give you.” This is blatantly material blessing. I fear that claiming that this is not worldly makes God out to be a very confusing deity (okay, he is, but that’s another point for another day) who says one thing, but means another (which he doesn’t!). There are certainly times where his word is confusing, but recognizing the difference between the Old Covenant and New Covenant can help limit some of this confusion.
      Now, I’m not claiming that ANY part of the Bible is untrue nor unprofitable. Please don’t feel that I am claiming scripture to be errant. Everyone can learn from both the New and Old Testament and, ultimately, Jesus is the fulfilling promise for everyone. But even though the Israelites were never actually saved by their obligation to the law, that doesn’t mean that this obligation was nonexistent. Paul states in Galatians 3:24-25 “So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.” Ultimately everyone under the Old Covenant was saved through Jesus in the same way that everyone under the New Covenant is. However, despite salvation always being through faith, those under the Old Covenant were also under obligation to the Law–an obligation we do not posses anymore (thankfully!). Is this something you disagree with?

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