There are certain truths in the kingdom of God that even the most gifted elders in the traditional church system cannot easily understand. Jesus explains why in the following parable:
And he spake also a parable unto them; No man putteth a piece of a new garment upon an old; if otherwise, then both the new maketh a rent, and the piece that was taken out of the new agreeth not with the old. And no man putteth new wine into old bottles; else the new wine will burst the bottles, and be spilled, and the bottles shall perish. But new wine must be put into new bottles; and both are preserved.No man also having drunk old wine straightway desireth new: for he saith, The old is better.
The New Covenant is far superior to the Old Covenant: but born again, Jewish believers in Jesus’ time who were raised under the ceremonial prescriptions of the Old Testament law did not quickly adopt and conform to the new pattern of worship that Jesus established. Judaizers attempted to mix the ceremonial aspects of the Old Covenant with the power of the New Covenant. Apparently they did not understand the following verse:
For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.
What Christians believe doctrinally is best examined through observing their religious practice: in this way, their heart toward Christ is best revealed. When those who have left the traditional church system tell traditional church-goers that “we don’t go ‘to’ church, we ‘are’ the church,” they are often mocked at attempting to make such an apparently fine distinction.
However, consider the words of Charles Spurgeon and John Murray:
“Discernment is not a matter of simply telling the difference between what is right and wrong; rather, it is the difference between right and almost right.” [Spurgeon]
“The difference between truth and error is not a chasm but a razor’s edge.” [Murray]
Here’s an example of Judaizing:
And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved.
Much of what we witness in the traditional church system today is an appeal to an Old Testament understanding of God. Consider the similarities between Old Testament Israel and the modern church system:
A high priest [now each assembly has one (head pastor)]
Righteousness through obedience to the ceremonial aspects of the law [righteousness is established by regular pew sitting and donations]
A designated holy place of worship [most modern believers are convinced that assembling is not authorized and commissioned by God, if it doesn’t take place in a government-approved, 503c setting, replete with all the cultural traditions common to temple worship]
A Levitical priesthood who direct all religious activities [the continuance of a spiritual hierarchy and additional layers of priesthood (apostles, bishops, and prophets)]
However, this mentality is contrary to a sound understanding of the Book of Romans–for while the law of sin and death and the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus are both in force in this present world–the spirit of the latter is not reflected in the first (Romans 8:2).
Consider all of the following:
The law condemns (John 3:18, 36); Jesus came not to condemn, but to save. (John 3:17)
The law reveals sin (Romans 7:7); but Jesus Christ reveals grace and truth.
The commandments given to Moses were written on stone; today, they are inscribed upon the hearts of men (2 Corinthians 3:3).
Certainly, for the believer, the law of sin and death has been transformed into a living, breathing relationship with Jesus Christ, our Lord. Pointedly, the ceremonial aspects of the law have been done away with, although the moral truths established in the law continue in force in the hearts of men. We see this in the following examples:
Thou shalt not commit adulteryhas been transformed intoWhosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart(Matthew 5:28).
Thou shalt not killhas been transformed intoany man that hateth his brother is a murderer already in his heart.
Notice, the standard under the New Testament is bothdifferent and higher.
Under the New Testament, not only is what we do important, but also, why we do it. Jesus taught us this, saying, “For if ye love them which love you, what reward have ye? do not even the publicans the same?” (Matthew 5:46).
Under the Old Covenant, form was everything [for there was no indwelling Guide]; under the New Covenant, the external accouterments of religion do nothing to satisfy the God of our hearts Who desires our momentary obedience to His every direction.
Yet, those who have left the form of worship established in the traditional churches hear the same question that the Pharisees posed in an attempt to slander Christ [His spiritual teachings and practices]:
Then came together unto him the Pharisees, and certain of the scribes, which came from Jerusalem. And when they saw some of his disciples eat bread with defiled, that is to say, with unwashen, hands, they found fault. For the Pharisees, and all the Jews, except they wash their hands oft, eat not, holding the tradition of the elders. And when they come from the market, except they wash, they eat not. And many other things there be, which they have received to hold, as the washing of cups, and pots, brasen vessels, and of tables. Then the Pharisees and scribes asked him,Why walk not thy disciples according to the tradition of the elders, but eat bread with unwashen hands?He answered and said unto them, Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men. For laying aside the commandment of God, ye hold the tradition of men, as the washing of pots and cups: and many other such like things ye do. And he said unto them, Full well ye reject the commandment of God, that ye may keep your own tradition … making the word of God of none effect through your tradition, which ye have delivered: and many such like things do ye.
What those who try to reform the traditional church system do not understand is that the problem is never a little leaven—for there cannot be a little leaven–as a little leaven leavens the whole loaf. (Galatians 5:6-9)
The Old and New Covenants are not to be mixed together, as if they serve the same purpose: does not Paul teach us thatthe law is good, if a man use it lawfully, according to its divine intent? (1 Timothy 1:8)
The law of sin and death is made for the old man, the sensual man, to awaken him to the alarm of his condition, that he might haply find salvation in Christ: moreover, it has no power to save, but only condemn.
If the law then is the minister of death, why should we adopt any representation of its actual form, as ministers of life?
Paul makes an important point regarding this distinction between the Old and New Covenants:
If therefore perfection were by the Levitical priesthood, (for under it the people received the law,) what further need was there that another priest should rise after the order of Melchisedec, and not be called after the order of Aaron? For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law.
Notice four things:
First, this change isin the law–it is a legally binding commandment to change–penned by the hand of God. As the Old Testament was a type or pattern of what was to come, nothing about our New Testament manner of living and worship should be modeled upon its form.
The change isof necessity: for as Christ testified in the parable of the new and old garments and the new and old wine, the Old cannot abide with the New–for the nature of these covenants are contrary to one another–and therefore, all men are under the authority of the one or the other, the law of sin and death or the law of the spirit of life in Christ Jesus.
A new spirit is superior to an old form. This was revealed at the time of Christ’s first miracle [turning water into wine]: “When the ruler of the feast had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew not whence it was: (but the servants which drew the water knew;) the governor of the feast called the bridegroom, And saith unto him,Every man at the beginning doth set forth good wine; and when men have well drunk, then that which is worse: but thou hast kept the good wine until now,” (John 2:9-10).
Of course, these types and shadows still inform our walk as symbolic examples of deep spiritual truths, if we consider them with the New Testament insight and aid of the Holy Spirit.
Now, the priesthood encompasses all believers—for we are all members of one another, as a holy nation—and we all function as part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).
Consider the implication regarding the law [using the principle of the tithe, as an example]:
The tithe is still in effect, not as a percentage as under the old form of the law, but as an act of love between man and God.
Before, the priests of the temple received the tithe; now, we give what God tells us to give to whom God tells us to give it, whenever we are so commanded.
Notice, under the New Covenant, everything belongs to God: moreover, every commandment has been personalized, so that each man, as God leads and sees fit, may focus upon those things that God desires of Him in each day.
What many who embrace an Old Testament understanding of Christ do not understand, is that a rejection of the change in how we worship is a rejection of the manner of life authored by the atoning work of Christ.
Therefore, once these truths are revealed to us, we are judged by the word of God, according to our own response: for there is no longer any intermediary between man and God; God deals with each man directly, so that we are all without excuse [the lost and the saved alike].
Recall, whatsoever is not of faith, is sin (Romans 14:23).
Therefore, all these things reveal where we have placed our faith.