I mentioned in the first installment of Teaching Notes that the series would be based on some of my teaching notes from the 1970’s. One of the things I like to do from time to time is compare what I’m teaching now to what I taught decades ago. It goes back to what Paul wrote Timothy about holding fast “the pattern of sound words.” As teachers of God’s Word, are we holding fast to the pattern of sound words that Jesus and His apostles gave us? Are we standing on solid ground when we open the Bible and teach the Gospel of Christ? Are we growing in our spiritual knowledge and understanding in the right direction? My hope and prayer is that we are.
In our most recent Teaching Notes we looked at the subject of Satan. We move now to what the Bible teaches about the New Covenant.
[These notes are from 40 years ago when I spoke to a group of pastors. The notes are in outline form.]
I believe that an essential aspect of the Christian faith and ministry is to understand the covenant we are under.
The Apostle Paul taught that the Old Covenant was a fading one that brought condemnation and death, while the New Covenant brings life, righteousness, and a lasting glory (2 Corinthians 3:6-11). Paul plainly states that –
- we are being led by God into triumphal procession (2 Corinthians 2:14)
- we are the aroma of Christ, the fragrance of the knowledge of Him (2 Corinthians 2:14-15)
- to the perishing we are the smell of death – to the saved we are the fragrance of life (2 Corinthians 2:16)
- our competence comes from God and not ourselves (2 Corinthians 3:5)
- unlike Moses who veiled his face to hide the fading glory from the Israelites, we are being transformed into the likeness of God with ever-increasing glory and need not wear a veil (2 Corinthians 3:12-18)
- we are able to renounce secret and shameful ways, don’t have to use deception or distort the Word of God, and are able to set forth the truth plainly (2 Corinthians 4:1-2)
- rather than look into the fading face of Moses, we can look into the glorious face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 4:5-6)
- this amazing treasure has been placed in jars of clay (the Christian) to show that this all-surpassing power is from God and not from us (2 Corinthians 4:7)
- we carry around in our bodies the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our bodies, and we are constantly being given over to death for Jesus’ sake so that His life may be revealed in our mortal bodies (2 Corinthians 4:10-11)
For a few years after my conversion I tried to live and minister in the strength of the Old Covenant. I was terribly frustrated with the constant feelings of failure and spiritual impotence. Though I prayed and tried to believe that God would answer, I really placed my faith in my own abilities. Thus, my ministry was heavily oriented toward what I could “make happen.” It had the smell of death rather than life (flesh vs. Spirit).
I related strongly to what happened to Paul after his conversion. He started preaching in the synagogues that Jesus was the Son of God to the amazement of the people in Damascus. They knew his prior reputation and couldn’t understand his change. Paul grew more and more powerful and baffled the Jews. However, the Jews conspired to kill Paul, so his friends took him by night and lowered him over the city wall in a basket (Acts 9:22-25). I relate to being a basket case. Paul went to Jerusalem and boldly spoke in the name of the Lord. He debated with the Grecian Jews and they also tried to kill him. The apostles learned about it and took Paul to Caesarea where they shipped him back home to Tarsus (Acts 9:26-30). The very next words in the biblical text are significant –
“Then the churches throughout all Judea, Galilee, and Samaria had peace and were edified. And walking in the fear of the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, they were multiplied.” Acts 9:31-32
Paul’s early style of ministry was Old Covenant, everything coming from him, and the work of God had suffered. After he left the scene, the work prospered again.
I’m certain that Paul was ministering in the Old Covenant because of something he related in Acts 22. He was standing before a great crowd of Jews in Jerusalem making his defense. He gave them a personal testimony of his previous persecution against Christians and his startling conversion. In this defense he spoke of the time in Jerusalem that I quoted from earlier. Paul went to the temple to pray, was in a trance and saw the Lord saying to him –
“Make haste and get out of Jerusalem quickly, for they will not receive your testimony concerning Me.’ So I said, ‘Lord, they know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believe on You. And when the blood of Your martyr Stephen was shed, I also was standing by consenting to his death, and guarding the clothes of those who were killing him.’ Then He said to me, ‘Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.’” Acts 22:18-21
Notice that Paul’s trust was in his own strength — everything coming from Paul. The Lord’s answer was so insightful – “Depart, for I will send you far from here to the Gentiles.” In essence, I believe God was saying, “Paul, I’m going to send you someplace where everything will have to come from Me!”
That is God’s primary message to us as New Covenant believers: “Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God.” (2 Corinthians 3:5)
In conclusion, let me quote from Paul in 2 Corinthians 11:30-33 –
“If I must boast, I will boast in the things which concern my infirmity. The God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is blessed forever, knows that I am not lying. In Damascus the governor, under Aretas the king, was guarding the city of the Damascenes with a garrison, desiring to arrest me; but I was let down in a basket through a window in the wall, and escaped from his hands.” 2 Corinthians 11:30-33
[Thank you for reading these teaching notes from 40 years ago. My prayer is they will be a blessing to you and your ministry.]