Saturday, May 16, 2015

Covenant (8) Moses and Law

Many Christians assume that God’s covenant with Moses was a covenant of works. They believe that the Old Testament required salvation by good works, whereas the New Testament offered salvation by faith. The so-called covenant of works requires humans to earn God’s favour by complying with the law. This is wrong, because it is not possible.

The covenant with Moses was a gracious gift to the people chosen by God. The law was not designed as something to be obeyed in order to receive salvation. They had already been saved when God rescued from Egypt. The law was given to help the people who had been saved live together in peace and safety. These things were a gift from God. They could not be earned.

Abraham understood this five hundred years before the law was given. He knew that good works could not earn forgiveness of sin.

What then shall we say that Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh, discovered in this matter? If, in fact, Abraham was justified by works, he had something to boast about—but not before God. What does Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness. Now to the one who works, wages are not credited as a gift but as an obligation. However, to the one who does not work but trusts God who justifies the ungodly, their faith is credited as righteousness (Rom 4:1-3).
Human efforts cannot earn salvation. Justification was always by faith, so attempting to earn salvation by works of the law was always a distortion of its true purpose. Justification was always by grace and never by good works.

The assumption that Old Covenant was a covenant of works does not make sense because it assumes that God set up something that could never work. God does not make mistakes. He does not demand people do something that they are incapable of doing.

By the time of Jesus, many Jews and especially the Pharisees treated the law as salvation by works, but when it was given to Moses, it was given as a covenant of grace. The law was a grace system, not a works system.

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