8th October 2023

From The Old to The New Covenant Part 2

Passage: Ephesians 2:1-10, John 7:37-39
Service Type:

Automatically Generated Transcript

Last Sunday morning we began our topic, which this morning I'm continuing, about the move from the Old Covenant to the New Covenant. And it is a feature of our Biblical revelation that there was an Old Covenant that God instituted through Moses, and then a part of what that Old Covenant involved with the prophets who came in that period of time was to predict there to be a coming Messiah. And the coming Messiah would be the leader of a New Covenant. And we were talking last time from the Old Testament and the prophecies about that New Covenant. And so we're continuing that today, and we'll start in the Scriptures from the book of Ephesians. Now, the reason why we're going back to the book of Ephesians, which our church has been studied across a couple of years ago, is because it speaks of exactly what is the New Covenant and the fact that it's neither a story of us today needing, being asked to become Jews or to join the Jewish nation or to take on that which the Old Covenant set out. And nor is it a case that the promises about the New Covenant are not also given to the Jewish people, to the land of Israel, to the folk who were under the Old Covenant. And the book of Ephesians talks about there being one new people.

It talks about there being the two old original people, Jews and Gentiles, and now God has made them into one. And that's what we're reading in the book of Ephesians in chapter 2 and verse 1. And it's talking about the fact that God has done the new thing. And last week we were talking about the word ekklesia, the Greek word for church, but it's also, if you find a translation of the Old Testament Hebrew into Greek, it is one of the words that's used for the people of God there as well. And so God has got an assembly, which the word ekklesia means, which is a new one, and that's what we're reading of. And here Paul is writing to the Ephesians, which is a Gentile town, and he wrote and said, And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience. Now here the Apostle Paul is talking to the folk who had been right outside of the covenants of God, right away from the very idea of the God of the universe revealing himself as he had done in the Old Covenant. But now he's talking about a change that came to them. And here he describes them in their non-Christian times in a very drastic way. And it says, You were dead in the trespasses and sins. And the condition of the Gentiles before they came to Christ was just that. And he goes on to say, Among the three whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

So there's something that has happened to the Ephesians that's all changed. But it says, You were dead in the trespasses and sins. Now thinking about this passage during the week has always left a little bit unexplained to me. And what that unexplained bit is, is that these Gentiles, the book of Ephesians is going to tell us, at least the ones he's writing to are in the church, that God has stepped into their lives and that they've been made Christians and that in fact God began the whole process in eternity past. And some of the best teaching in the New Testament about the election of God for those who get saved is in this book of Ephesians and in these passages, in these early chapters. And what was very difficult for me to get my head around was, how is it that on one hand from eternity past they're elected to be saved, but on the other hand, in the description that we just read, they're sons of disobedience, they're children of wrath. In the passions of their flesh they're carrying out the desires of the body and the mind and like the rest of mankind there seems to be in practical living no difference between the elect and this lot. And I've been chewing over this, you are dead in the trespasses and sins. Now during the week I had a difficult moment. I've been getting two things fixed across the last year and there's such a thing called root canals. Put your hand up if you've had a root canal. I just want to say, oh, that's a bit of a relief. I'm not the only one. I dread them and I had several. And what a root canal is, is that you know the nerves that go from the teeth, they get all infected and eventually the nerves die and what the dentist has to do is drill out the dead parts.

And I do not like going to the dentist, all right, but my children go to the same dentist and I want them to hear from the dentist that why don't you be like your daddy who's strong and doesn't, all right. But what no one knows is that these hands of mine feel like talking all the time, I've got to tell you. And when I go to the dentist I stick one hand there and one hand there and I'm gripping my legs for if I didn't tie them down they'd be going like this when the dentist is, you know, drilling away. I don't know what your experience of being in the dentist's chair is like, but you're lying on your back, you're helpless, and they've got you there and there's people drilling and the nurse is washing this, this dentist is drilling and it's the one thing, and for this last occasion that I had an appointment, I've been putting it off for weeks because about a month ago one of those teeth that they'd been working on broke away and came out and I could feel with my tongue there was a whole side of the tooth missing and I said, but when it starts aching I'll go to the dentist. So I hadn't gone for a while and now at last I could not go at all and I got there and when I was sitting in the chair and he's getting to have a little look, he said, Jim, he said, we won't use any injections, you know, when they make it so you don't feel things. I've got a lot of drilling to do, but we won't use any injections. I'm gripping my legs. So the idea of drilling, especially the big heavy rattler one, without injections, then he said, is because there's no nerve there.

The previous work of his, the business of working on where the nerves go, he drilled it all out. And sure enough, I went through the whole thing and although he did all sorts of work and he fixed two areas, I didn't feel very much. I didn't yell. I relaxed my hands. But as he finished up, it was an hour and ten minutes he'd taken doing all that, which is a bit of a record for me lasting about suddenly wanting to stop the man. I said to him, you said that there's no nerve and so that's why I felt nothing. And I asked him, he says, that's the definition of a dead tooth? And he said, no, because there's something different between one that can't feel and one that is dead. True enough, if you're dead, you won't feel anything. No, no, I don't mean me. I mean if your tooth is dead, you won't feel anything. But that doesn't necessarily mean that it's a dead tooth. In fact, the reason why he's doing all this, so as to get rid of all the bacteria and stuff, and the nerve will start a bit further down the tooth canal. And eventually that nerve will grow again. So I said to him, you mean to tell me that we could feel nothing and be unaware that we're dead? Now I'm talking theologically, but he's still thinking I'm talking about the tooth. And he said, yes, the tooth can be dead. If it is dead, you will feel nothing. I can drill away and pull the thing out and whatever. Until there's a nerve, you don't feel a thing.

And immediately to my mind, you were dead in trespasses and sins. And suddenly I realised not only is the case of the deadness of the human race spiritually, because we've been the whole race away from God, a whole lot of us have been in sin. And you may not be terribly worried about your condition like that. But you shouldn't take it as the fact that you're feeling dead, or when you don't have any feeling, is because you're not dead. And it is the case that of all the people who we run into in the street or the people we know at work and the people, there's a lot of them who are unaware they're spiritually dead. In fact, I would say in the numbers that we have that come to church, it's a fact for some of the people, I don't think many, I think most of us who come here because of what we put on an offer is something only Christian people would really want. But I reckon that there's always a sprinkling of people who feel nothing and are unaware that the Apostle Paul has to try and get to them and say, you were dead, you are dead in trespasses and sins. It also sent me searching about the fact of what makes for deadness. It is sin.

The wages of sin is death. I know that verse. I'm sure many of you do. The wages of sin is death. When it says wages, it's you've done the work and the death is coming. And that sense of death happens amongst Christians, not necessarily to be so completely dead that they're lost. But I reckon that if you're a Christian and you get away from God and you cease to read the scriptures and you cease to pray and you stay clear of the other Christians, they're just going to make you feel guilty, and you get out in the world, how many of us from this church, if you know people who are brought up here, are not in church today? Where are they? And sometimes I ask myself, of our own congregation, how are the kids going? And if I ask them, there's a silence. Because although they are good church people themselves and they know the Lord, their kids are nowhere. And it's possible that we can be unaware of the fact that we've been ignorant of the truth that's in the scriptures that sins make you dead. The wages of sin is death. Thank goodness for the rest of the verse. But the gift of God is eternal life through Christ Jesus our Lord.

The wages of sin is death. And when people who once were in the church, sometimes they leave because something has made things more dead. And if you continue in that case, I think you'll end up proving you're not one of the elect. You'll end up proving that the deadness is your permanent condition, and that's a lost person. Now it's a bit of a struggle theologically to work out, is it because they were never elect in the first place, or have they lost their salvation, and there is a theological debate on that issue. I'm not going into. My personal feeling is that if God left you alone and doesn't bring you back, that you never were in the door in the first place. What will cause it to be that people could think they're Christians and not be aware that they're dead? Because maybe they had a religious experience. Maybe there was a group of young people in the youth group who all made responses. Maybe they got baptised and things happened just in the natural. Things happened in the course of events, but they were dead in trespasses and sins, and until you come into the new covenant, that's actually how you are. I do believe people in the old covenant days will end up in heaven if they follow what the new covenant offered. I believe that Moses and the people of Israel who follow through God through the wilderness, I don't know about all of them, but I know that there was offered what is salvation.

But salvation under the old covenant did not include the gift of the Holy Spirit. And one of the things about the move from the old covenant into the new is there's two aspects of it. If you really want to understand the move between the old covenant and the new, first of all, there's a historical aspect that happened in time. And the time when it came right and began was at the day of Pentecost. What was so different about the day of Pentecost? When Peter preached, of course, he preached for them to repent of the decision they made to crucify Jesus. But then he also offered what the gospel offers. It's the gospel of the New Testament. It is the gospel of the whole Bible, you could also say, because the hints of it are all through the Old Testament. But nonetheless, it is something available to respond to. And beginning moment of response for the fullness of the gospel offers actually is the day of Pentecost. The day of Pentecost, the apostle Peter not only called for their repentance from how they crucified Jesus, but he asked them to come to Jesus and get forgiveness from him. He asked, he told them that they will then receive the gift of the Holy Spirit. And that is the aspect of the new covenant that is historically only happened at the day of Pentecost, but is talked about. I'm going to jump a little bit with my order of things, but I've got one there in John 7 that's on the list. If we could go to John 7, thank you.

That was quick. In John 7 and verse 37 and following, Jesus is at one of the Jewish feasts. And it's the feast where all sorts of things happen, where the priests go and get some water and they all walk up these steps and eventually pour the water out over the altar. And the crowd are there and they watch. It's a big drama that really captures the promises of the Bible, of the new covenant. And it's water available to represent the spirit. And Jesus stands up and gives a big shout. And he cries out, if any person thirsts, let him come to me and drink. For he who believes in me as the scripture has said, out of his heart shall flow rivers of living water. Now, the explanation the evangelist John has given as to the availability of that living water is then follows. Verse 39, look at it on the screen. Now this he said about the spirit, whom those who believed in him were to receive. For as yet the spirit had not been given, in the permanent way to live within you, because Jesus was not yet glorified. And the teaching of the New Testament is that Jesus got glorified when he died on the cross for our sins and he rose again and he went to heaven. And in heaven is glorified the one who has achieved our salvation. That's what it all waited for. And what is the very next event that happened when Jesus sat down at the right hand of the Father? The Father gave to him the Holy Spirit to be the one who works on earth through the Spirit. And the Father and Jesus sent the Holy Spirit to the believing disciples that very day.

That was the day of Pentecost. It's the day when the church began. Not everybody in every denomination will understand all this and people have different ideas. But the Pentecost began the church. And that might make some of your minds scurry and say, well, were those people like Zacchaeus not saved? Yeah, they were. But saved means made safe with respect to the judgement. And they would be people who would be one of these, waiting for Jesus to be glorified, but they were still going to get into heaven. But the people of the Old Testament, some of them got saved. What about Enoch who walked with God and God took him to heaven? Lots of people can be saved with respect to Jesus' death being effective and allowing them to be forgiven and they'll end up in heaven. That's what the word saved means. But the word saved means more than that for us, post-Pentecost people. For if you repent of your sins and you trust Christ as your Saviour, if you take him to you as he's been sent from heaven to be the Savior of your soul, if you receive him, you get the authority to become the children of God, even to as many as believe in his name, John 1 tells us. And these were born again. These were born of the Spirit, not by this way and that way, not by human means, not by some determination or some ceremony. But if you come to Jesus and take him as your Saviour, if you put your faith in him, faith is like the other side of repentance. If you repent of having left him, of deserting him, if you repent of how you've sinned against him, if you repent of the very fact that you're a sinner and you say, Jesus, you're my Saviour, please, and you take him as your own, at that moment I want to tell you that you become not only saved in terms of going to heaven, that's not the only thing, but you receive the Holy Spirit sent from heaven into your heart.

This time to be permanently there, not like Old Testament people who had the Spirit come and go like Saul, but the Spirit permanently indwelling you. And that's what this Ephesians passage is talking about. Let's go back to Ephesians in Chapter 2, please. And Ephesians Chapter 2, we'll read a bit further down. Ephesians Chapter 2, now you've got one John there. Sorry that I mucked the order up, this is my fault. I gave a list of how the verses were to go and I seem to jump ahead of myself. I'll get excited and things come out. But this is the verse that we've looked down to. Now the second part of it, there we go, yeah. So when your debt and your trespasses made us alive together with Christ, by grace you have been saved. Last week I was talking about the different words for the idea of grace and how there's one word that is the word of mercy and there's another word that has the idea of grace to you because you are one that belongs. And I talked about this word kesed in the Hebrew and this word kesed really is covenant-keeping grace. And how does the mercy and the grace, covenant-keeping grace, go together? Which is first? And the answer to that, I've been putting some of these ideas in the E-Connective, the answer to that is that mercy is first because mercy is a word about people getting something they're absolutely helpless to do themselves, something they don't deserve utterly.

And it's mercy that lets the Israelites into their old covenant for a start and it's mercy that lets us into the new covenant. You don't deserve it, you never could, there isn't anything you can do to make yourself such that God would give you entrance to the new covenant because we're all sinners, we don't even get to the starting line to be involved, to win for us being in God's covenant. It's totally mercy. But once you're in the covenant, his nature is that he doesn't want to let you go. His nature is he knows you didn't deserve in the first place and when you fail sometimes and when you don't manage to grow and when you find you've, old sin comes up because that's why we need to be sanctified because we've still got the struggle like the Apostle Paul had about the sin that he described as like a dead body strapped to his back and all the worms are eating his way through to him, a wretched man I am, he said. That's the Christian experience when you realise how sin's still having a go at you. But God's chesed grace is that he doesn't kick you out because he made a covenant with you. How did he make the covenant which is the new covenant? He made it by Jesus coming and paying for our sins, crying that great cry, it is finished. And because God has exacted the punishment for all sins through Christ in the immeasurable gift of his life as he shed his blood for the cosmic problem of the world as well as for the individual people, even the animals one day are going to be taken out of the grip they have of eating each other. They're going to be not quite so, well, wild animals because when God finally fixes with us humans, we can share in the effect of Jesus curing all the problems of the world by his mighty death and resurrection.

And this death of Jesus has been sufficient for God to say, I've got you and my son has paid for you, even your present failures, who you might say, boy, that'll tempt me to go out and do a few more if they're free. Actually, some people, that's what they do try. But I want to tell you that the sins have the problem of the death. When I've had my, what do you call them, when they're all fixed, the root canals, if I don't clean my teeth, if I don't get rid of the germs, if I let decays come and do nothing about it, it'll bring death bit by bit. Hopefully my dentist who's good catches up with that and does what's necessary to stop that happening. But present sins of Christians are killing or they're destroying. And you get a bad toothache. And he said to me, you know, it's good when you have a toothache because at least you know there's a nerve there. The trouble is, is that when you see people who go out from Christ or out from the church, away from the Christian influence, and they can be happy in their sins, that's dreadful. And I spoke to him at the end. He's a man that goes to church. And I said, you've just given me my illustration for Sunday. I did, just did. Dead in trespasses and sins. And the principle of sin bringing death is true all the time. Whether it means total no help, I'm not so sure about that. But I think that the only help you have is for God to step down and rescue you from your backslidden state.

A few years back in 2016, Peter, Peter, Peter, Peter from our church, he was once a member, had gone to Mackay and arranged for me to come and do a crusade. He was the associate pastor. And it was a wonderful time. Peter's organisation went very well. And there were people coming to Christ right from the very first message. But there were some that came back to the Lord on the last message. And there was an old man, but at the invitation that I extended for people to come to Christ, he ran. And because he told us how old he was, I was admiring him. He ran down the front and later explained that he came to Christ as a teenager. And now he's an old man and he's been away from God all the time. There's a dreadful loss of someone at the end of age looking back and realising they've missed a lifetime of opportunity to display the power of Christ. And the Apostle Paul talks about that. There'll be some people who will get to heaven as a judgement of Christians and now they have nothing to show of opportunities to have Jesus live through them. We are all going to stand, the Bible says, before the judgement seat of Christ. The actual word is bima in the Greek. And it's a special moment of judgement for Christians. And at that time, there'll be a great rejoicing as the whole of eternity watching all the people who are spectators from all the eras who've been saved there watching and is declared of what Christ has done through these lives. We're going to be his trophies. This is an amazing thing. If ever you felt like you've never really had a sporting opportunity to get a trophy and you watch it on TV, I want to tell you there's a big opportunity for you to be a trophy person at the judgement of the Christians. And all of the creation saved, like the people in the stands, Apostle Paul talked about. And they're all going to be cheering.

Not so much cheering for you for succeeding as a wonderful Christian, but for what Jesus achieved through you. You're going to be his trophies. Nothing more glorious in eternity to know what God has done in your life. Actually, I think as you get older, I'm betraying a little bit here, as you get older, sometimes you begin to realise there are some trophies you know are going to be there. But mostly they're things that Jesus did through you. People have different gifts, so that might represent different things for different people. But I think you're aware of it when you're older that Jesus has been at work. And it's a wonderful heritage, legacy, to realise what Christ has done in your life. To realise the opportunities that he's given you when you took them and Jesus did something wonderful. There's nothing more wonderful for a church than to have some trophies in preparation for the judgement of the Christians. Well, here we have the principle of dead in trespasses and sins. And we as Christians, I'm still exploring, making sure I'm accurate, but I think that temptations that you don't run away from, sins that you wallow in, they're actually bringing a degree of death. I don't mean by a degree of death that you're getting lost, but lostness of a sort is setting in. Have you not noticed that the truth is about our sanctification, that unless you walk with Christ, you can still commit the worst of sins? It's one of the shocks I had. The youth of Christ used to send me to jails to talk to the prisoners and to recognize that you've met up with genuine Christian people in the jails.

And if they were willing to tell you the story, they don't always, but sometimes they tell you the saddest of stories of how they got out of touch with God and sins came in, and that's what led them to be in jail. Or you meet up with people who never got caught by our law, but they tell sad stories of what would have been their legacy and their family. But there's things that went wrong, usually sinful things somewhere. Who knows? You don't always know. But they have a sorrow. Where did I learn this? When my old parents were in the old folks' home and I used to visit them, come up from down south and visit them. There are other people there who, if you got them talking, there were some who had glowing testimonies. There was one old man who loved the Lord. He was really old. And I asked him, have you got any problems with your health? Because they all seemed to. And he says, yes. He says that he taught me that's what comes with old age. But he just had such a glowing spot. And he used to arrange the chapels that I'd come along there and speak at. But there are others for whom some of the sins that got a grip of them in their life still had the grip. And some of them were nasty. Some of them were unhelped by having been a Christian. What are you letting get a grip of you that will make you more and more dead and you feel less and you can live with being a bit of a wreck spiritually, getting easier? Look out! Dead in trespasses and sins are at least the principle of death that sin brings with it. You need to recognize the need to come to God quickly.

The one that made you alive in Christ loves you. And his love, his chesed love doesn't want to let you go. And he's glad to forgive you and restore you. That's what grace is about. So in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. For by grace you have been saved through faith. By the way, and this is not your own doing, it is the gift of God and the way the genders are and the way it says faith is not the gift. There is a gift of faith but that's one of the gifts of the Spirit. But faith is that which brings us the blessing of God rather than our works, which is what the passage is saying. There are works that are done by the Christian but they're not ones that get you saved. They're the ones that you do having been saved and who is going on being saved and will finally be saved when you're glorified. And that's what the passage goes on to say and we are his workmanship created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them. You know what one of the saddest things will be? To get to that moment of the Bema that's the judgement seat for Christians and thinking to yourself I've done this and I've done that and I've done that and the Lord might say to you they were not my good works. They were what you did to vindicate something of your disobedience. We're all heading to be assessed.

Not the judgement as to whether you'll be lost because if you're saved you're going to be saved totally but you may suffer the loss of not getting through that Bema judgement for Christians because there has been the result of sin that has taken you away from the path that God wanted you to be on. I've probably said an awful lot and enough for now but the new covenant began when Jesus had been glorified and he shed forth the Holy Spirit which Peter first offered to the crowds and 3,000 came to Christ. Many of them would have been just normal Jews who went to the temple where people probably would have been saved to go to heaven at the end but were not in the new covenant. That was the opening of the new era. Now what I was going to quote Ephesians to show you is that it goes on to say that there are one new man and both the Jewish people and the people that come to Christ are all in one body. There's no distinction between them and it means that there's no needing to be a Jew. In fact, being a Christian is the essence of where Jewishness was heading toward. The people who are the Jews, some of them are fighting right now over in Israel, they may not know about this yet but the Bible does prophesy for there to be a time in the future history when the nation Israel, the majority of them, will come to Christ. Not just a remnant that will get in the door. And at that time, they'll become the chief leaders of the mission with the gospel, touring around and being chased down, some of them being martyred, but they'll know the Lord in the end, which is a fantastic thing. We'll go on more about that on another day, but let's finish down the moment of prayer.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for the wonder of the new covenant. The new covenant offers the gift of the Holy Spirit permanently to reside in our hearts, to bring us the Messiah-ship of Jesus, to help us to be a part of the Ecclesia, to make us people who are having His works come through us. Thank you, Lord, for the works that you have chosen for us from before the foundation of the world. They're not by how we earn our salvation, they are that which we get as an outcome of our salvation. And we thank you for them and the opportunity to have you working on us, that you prepare us to be your trophies one day. How fantastic is that thought! What a legacy to have from eternity, to know that you have worked through us and brought about your purpose. We praise you in Jesus' name. Amen.

Listen to a recent sermon