By Matt Dawson
As Christians, it’s vitally important that we understand the Old Testament and how it reveals the character and nature of God to us. That’s why we do a message series on it at least twice a year.
However, we have to be careful not to allow OLD COVENANT thinking to invade our NEW COVENANT relationships with Jesus Christ. Jesus was very clear when He came to earth that He was NOT AN ADDITION to the old model of faith, but was starting something BRAND NEW!
Matthew 5:17 “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.
Throughout Jesus’ entire ministry, He used “the Law” to show His disciples their inability to keep the Law and their need for “something NEW.” He summarized over 600+ commandments into one command and established the NEW Covenant on his last night before being arrested. Jesus was not an extension of the old temple model, He fulfilled it!
Many denominations and churches today suffer from Christian SYNCRETISM, in which they believe in Jesus for Salvation but still view “the Law” as the manner by which we obtain salvation and keep God happy.
Here are THREE EXAMPLES of the dangers of Syncretism to the Christian faith.
1. Vertical Morality – we spend a lot of time worrying about our behavior to make sure we’re in good with God. Our actions don’t come from love but from fear. However, Jesus said that in this NEW covenant, how we love God would reflect through our love for others. God’s desire throughout the entire Old Testament (Law & Prophets) was for us to love God and love others equally.
Matthew 22:37-40 Jesus replied: “ ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”
When we believe we have to jump through behavioral hoops to keep God happy, we can easily neglect to love others and yet believe that we are perfectly fine with God. This is why you’ve met some of the angriest, self-righteous, judgmental people who actually believe they are right with God regardless of how they treat you. It’s dangerous to mix old covenant vertical morality with Christianity.
2. Temple Worship – the idea of sacred spaces & places was all changed when the veil was torn and the Holy Spirit entered every believer (New Covenant). Now our bodies are the temple and God is with us wherever we go.
2 Corinthians 6:16 “…For we are the temple of the living God. As God said: “I will live in them and walk among them. I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
With Old Testament thinking, we put a higher value on beautiful sanctuaries over school gymnasiums. God’s house is the LOCATION where people gather (local church) and that we GO THERE to meet with God. However, Jesus said in Matthew 18 that where 2 or 3 are gathered, He’s there. We have to be careful when we mix old covenant thinking with Christianity.
3. Nationalism – there is a great deal written in the Old Testament about the way that God blessed the NATION (all of God’s people) on the actions of a few leaders OR judged them all because of the disobedience of their leaders. This has found its way into a strange form of Christian Nationalism in America that should have no place in our theology. The Bible calls us to respect and pray for our leaders, but the message of the New Covenant is one of personal responsibility and accountability. We will not be judged or held accountable for what our leaders do and how they affect us…. rather you will be judged and held accountable to God for what YOU are doing and how that affects others.
Galatians 6:7-8 “Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. Whoever sows to please their flesh, from the flesh will reap destruction; whoever sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life.”
When nations and cultures are “seemingly” being judged by God, they are really just collectively reaping the consequences of trying to live outside of God’s way! We WILL BE HELD ACCOUNTABLE as followers of God… not as a “so-called Christians nation.”
These are just a few examples of how dangerous it can be to MIX old covenant thinking with the NEW Covenant Jesus brought us. It does not ABOLISH the law, but Jesus fulfilled it by His death and resurrection. We are not stuck in a life of fear driven by VERTICAL MORALITY…our gatherings at a local coffee shop can be Holy Spirit filled, just like it was in the Temple of God… and our NATION is not the entity that drives God’s favor or judgement, but how each of us loves one another because Christ loved us!