The Danger of Mixing the Old and New Covenants
“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” ~Jesus
“Matt, you’re just confusing people! Stick to the Bible and teach God’s Word!” a furious comment shows up under my post.
“Maybe try decaf?” I say in my mind but don’t type, after receiving yet again, hate-filled attacks from supposedly another Christian. They forgot about that love one another thing Jesus commanded.
Almost instantly the enemy presses me to use my gift of word compilation to fire away, pointing out their hypocrisy according to the Law and “setting them straight” with the truth of the New Covenant. But I’m not falling for it. This isn’t my first go-round with a Mosaic Law-abiding citizen, or even this specific person. Plus, I used to mix in Moses’ commandments with Jesus’ too, so I know their M.O.
For years, rather than allow the Spirit to lead me, I made the mistake of using 613 Old Testament commandments as a buffet line just like they’re doing. So I can empathize with their bondage.
Sadly, this person sits on the sideline of Facebook and waits for me to write about the differences in the Old and New Covenants. Like a streaker, they’ll run onto the field of my post, attempting to get attention from the crowd without making any biblical sense. Innocently, I’ll give them that.
“If it’s in the Bible, it applies to me! If it’s in red letters, we’re all supposed to do it!”
Such words have ruined many lives. From the angry pulpits, overbearing relatives, and friends who’ve found religion, opening up the Bible randomly and applying the words to our lives and others can cause carnage–if we aren’t separating the Covenants. We’re missing the point of Jesus Christ’s entire life when we combine the Old Covenant with the New Covenant.
Christ came to teach the full extent of the Old Covenant–the Law–not to abolish it but reveal the true standard to the self-righteous people who believed they were actually living by it (see Matthew 5:17). This is why some of the red letters can be very deadly. They were supposed to be (see 2 Corinthians 3:6). When Jesus taught Law He was setting people up for failure so that they’d lean toward faith in Him alone.
Jesus never mixed the two Covenants, but instead, explained the paradoxes. Who are we to say He was exaggerating as He gave very difficult–no, impossible–behavior passages? Not once did He say, “Give it your best shot and God will grade you on a curve,” never. He said, “You must be absolutely perfect like God if you want to live by the Law. Here’s the standard. Don’t you dare disregard a single commandment or you’ll be least in the kingdom and in danger of hell” (see Matthew 5 & 6).
Combining the two Covenants creates double-talk and confusion in the fullest. This is why Jesus wanted to be perfectly clear about living by the Law: Don’t even dip your toe in it. If you fail at one of the 613–ten of which were the Ten Commandments–you fail at all of them. Not one jot or tittle can be set aside by you. As much as it hurts our pride, we must give up on Law completely, and instead, believe in Jesus only (see Matthew 5:19, 11:28-30, John 1:12).
The good news is, if combining the two creates bondage, separating them sets us free! (See John 8:32).
Because our world is changing so much, in regard to reaching others and how we do it, I’ve been very active with my ministry on social media for years. Online aggression is nothing new, from both the believer and the non-believer. Most of the time I overlook it and move on, but on occasion I’ll spend a while attempting to explain that not all of the words in the Bible were written to Christians.
Now, should all Christians know the words in the Bible, even the stuff not written to us? Of course. From front to back the Bible is true. But we must keep everything in context. We must decode whether or not the Old or New Covenant is being referenced in each verse, passage, section, and book. Especially when Jesus was speaking.
Satan wants us to try to do stuff, and not do stuff, that God never intended for us. The devil and his demons love turmoil and conflict, both with other people and in our minds.
There’s a dividing line in the Bible when we Christians came into play. It’s not the page before the book of Matthew, which reads, The New Testament. It is the Cross. It’s not the birth of Jesus but the death of Jesus because only blood can bring in a New Covenant (see Hebrews 7:22, 8:6, 9:18). When His blood was shed He opened up the opportunity for the entire world to be saved through faith in Him (see Colossians 1:26,27). Before this happened we non-Jews were without hope. Paul tells the Gentile Christians in Ephesus:
“remember that at that time you were separate from Christ, excluded from citizenship in Israel and foreigners to the covenants of the promise, without hope and without God in the world.” (Ephesians 2:12)
Israel was not a geographical location until 1948. This verse is about the Jewish people, not the country. So we must face a truth that’s hard to swallow, especially when we’ve been taught to obey the Law given to Israel: Jesus’ ministry before the Cross was for the Jews only.
The ability to be a Christian had not yet happened for the Gentiles–all of the non-Jews on planet earth. God had made a Covenant with Israel, not us (see Exodus 24:8, 34:27, Galatians 4:4,5).
The title of “Christian” did not exist until after Jesus came back to life. Before His resurrection, Jew or Gentile were the only options. Christ came to preach to the Jews–also called Israel–because they were part of the Covenant given by God through Moses. After the Cross–after blood was shed to bring in the New Covenant–there is neither Jew nor Gentile. We all become one in Christ, a new creation all together! (See Hebrews 1:3, 7:22, 10:10,14,26-29, Galatians 3:28, 2 Corinthians 5:17).
Because the New Covenant had not yet been established–and because God can only work through one Covenant at a time (see Hebrews 8:6,13, 10:9,16)–unless we were part of the group of people led through the Red Sea floor, Jesus was not speaking to us in the gospels. He came to minister to the Jews only before He had died. Yes, we can look back and glean, and we should, but this is not our mail.
The authors of the gospels wrote what they did so both the Jew and the Gentile would see Christ as the Son of God and believe. But the content in all four books was for the Jewish race according to the Old Covenant.
Case in point, in Matthew 15:21-28, there’s an account of a Canaanite woman begging Jesus to heal her daughter. Jesus ignores her, but she keeps asking. Why did He blow her off? She was Canaanite, not Jewish. The disciples urged Him to tell her to buzz off, eventually He turned and said, “I was only sent to the lost sheep of Israel.”
Who were the lost sheep of Israel? The Jews who weren’t believing in God by faith, but attempting to achieve righteousness by the Law (see Galatians 3:11). They had replaced their relationship with Yahweh, with religion. Israel were those who Moses led out of slavery in Egypt, those who were given the Law, by Moses, at the base of Mount Sinai. The people of Canaan were not there. God did not establish His Covenant with this woman’s heathen ancestors, so Jesus kept walking.
So, why would they be lost if they were already God’s chosen people? It’s the same reason we can be lost on this side of the Cross: unbelief in Christ alone and self-righteousness through Mosaic legalism.
However, there’s something very special that happens in the story of the Canaanite woman, a foreshadowing of Christ allowing a non-Jew to be helped by Him through faith. While being called a dog because she was a Gentile, she continues to beg Jesus for help. “I’ll take the crumbs from the table!”
In essence, the Canaanite lady was pleading, “I know I’m not Jewish, but I still believe in your ability to heal my child!”
Moved by her faith in Him, Christ heals her daughter.
This goes to show that God has always dealt with humanity by faith, even before the Law. The Law is thousands of years old, God’s relationship with mankind is much older. This is why the New Covenant is older than the Old Covenant. “Do you believe me?” has always been God’s litmus test for fellowship.
But Jesus still had to deal with the racism and bigotry of the House of Israel, of His own fleshly lineage. For this reason, Christ was born under the Law to redeem the people under the Law (see Galatians 4:4). You and I, we were never given the Law, so observing it is ridiculous. We would be laughed at if we attempted to obey a single commandment.
Therefore, as New Covenant people who try to mix the Old in with the New–even a drop–such is a dangerous concoction. Moses plus Jesus doesn’t work, and here’s why:
“For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” (John 1:17)
Do we want Law (you can only choose this if you’re Jewish)? Or do we want grace and truth (the only option for the Gentile)? We can’t have both. Jesus explains:
“No one pours new wine into old wineskins. Otherwise, the wine will burst the skins, and both the wine and the wineskins will be ruined. No, they pour new wine into new wineskins.” (Mark 2:22)
Christian, you are new–that is, your spirit. The Covenant is new as well. This is why compatibility with God after the Cross is possible. The Law is the Old Covenant. Grace and truth is the New Covenant! New wine is the New Covenant, old wineskins is the Old!
I don’t want to be misunderstood, I’m not saying the Law is wrong or flawed in any way. I’m saying it’s perfect (see Romans 7:12). But if righteousness could come by the Law there wouldn’t be a need for anything new; the Law was a tutor until the Teacher had come (see Galatians 2:21, 3:24, John 14:26). Because of its perfect standards and our inability to live by such–the Jews, of course, not us–humanity had to have another way. For this reason Jesus said:
“I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6)
The person who was attacking me on social media had been taught to mix the Old and the New from the time they were little. They told me so. What was happening as a result? The wineskins bursting. Anger, resentment, legalistic bitterness, comparison of their ability to keep parts of the Law to both me and others.
Then they dropped the bomb, “I’m in my 60’s so I know what the truth is!”
I wanted to say, “Just because something is old doesn’t mean it’s true,” but I kept an even keel and didn’t disrespect them.
Old does not mean correct. The early church “fathers”–heavy on quotations because we are to call no man father (see Matthew 23:9)–they branched off into divisions from the beginning. Faith in Christ alone wasn’t enough. Those who struggled with self-righteousness needed their ears tickled so they added Moses back in, as well as creating “hierarchies of holiness” and brand new church laws (see Galatians chapters 1 through 5, Revelation 2:4).
What makes something true is if it’s biblical and the interpretation is correct based on context. Not if it’s old. Islam is old too. Satanic worship is even older.
I gave my best shot at explaining this with gentleness and respect, they didn’t care though. They continued to belittle me while being extremely passive-aggressive in order to appear in control. This person remained severely condescending toward me about rightly dividing God’s Word into Old and New Covenant. Just the same as the devout Jewish people did toward Christ’s good news, I was “twisting the Scriptures.”
In nearly everything Jesus taught He was comparing the Old and New Covenants. He was comparing slavery and freedom, heavy and light burdens, work and rest, death and life, wide roads of Law and narrow gates of grace. According to the Old Covenant, you worked really hard, attempting to obey 613 commandments to achieve righteousness with God (see Deuteronomy 6:25). The Jews were instructed to mediate on the Law day and night (Psalm 1:2). They were taught they’d be successful, rich, and prosperous by obeying all of the commandments (see Joshua 1:8). This is why wealthy and healthy people bragged on their righteousness.
According to the New, we are to simply rest in faith in Christ’s finished work (see Matthew 11:28-30, John 15:4,5, 19:30, Hebrews 4:11, 10:12, Ephesians 2:8,9, Romans 6:14). We’re taught it’s easier for a camel to fit through the eye of a needle, than for someone who’s become rich through Law observance to make it to heaven. This blew the disciples’ minds! (See Matthew 16:26, 19:24, Luke 18:18-27). Jesus flipped the tables of the Jews both literally and spiritually! (See Matthew 21:12, John 5:39,40).
The most well-behaved, outwardly-righteous people on the planet had to repent! Repent of what? Unbelief in Jesus Christ! (Matthew 23:27,28, Hebrews 10:26-30). Even for the life-long, scripturally-seasoned, educated scholar, they had to change their belief! New Covenant teaching grabs a person’s ego, slaps it on the back of the neck and says, “Get outta here! You’re not needed! In Christ we have everything!” (See Philippians 3:1-9).
Understanding the life of Christ–that His ministry was about the difference in the Old and New Covenants–is paramount in knowing who we truly are as New Covenant believers. Let’s look at a few examples from the gospels to see what I mean:
1. Martha and Mary. In Luke 10:38-42, there’s a story of Jesus visiting the home of two sisters. While He was there, Mary sat at His feet resting and Martha was going bonkers trying to prepare stuff for Him–but He was already there. Jesus kindly corrected Martha and said Mary had chosen wisely. Martha is the Old Covenant, Mary is the New Covenant.
2. The Parable of the Prodigal Son. This famous account is found in Luke 15:15-32. It’s heavily used by people who struggle with legalism as a story of behavior repentance in order to be accepted by God. But the Holy Spirit has revealed to me an even deeper way of seeing this parable. The son who leaves home is us Gentiles, and the son who stayed home is the Jews. When we Gentiles came home to God through faith–not by cleaning up our act–the Father embraced us without us saying a word. Even though the son had a speech all planned out, the Father didn’t want to hear it. Instead, He hugged him with all His might and threw a party. This caused the son to remember who he was and what family he was born into. This is the New Covenant. The Jews, however, were the older brother in the story. Salty because the Father accepted the “bad son” with no questions asked, the older brother stayed outside of the party fuming because he was so well-behaved for so long. The older brother is the Old Covenant, and as you can see, the Old has no place in the Father’s House Party. So who was the true prodigal in the end? The Old.
3. The Parable of the Talents, and the Parable of the Vineyard Workers (see Matthew 20:1-16, 25:14-30). Two different parables, two different ways of God’s judgment. One judgment according to the Old Covenant, and the other judgment according to the New Covenant. What happens in the Old? The people are judged by their performance and get rewarded based on such. What happens in the New? They all get paid the same in the end, no matter what time of day they began.
Friend, Jesus taught the Old Covenant in its purest form to shut up the mouths of the sanctimonious–not to stroke their egos (see Matthew 5:17,18, Romans 3:19). The Law is meant to do the same for people today. He didn’t come to abolish it but to unroll it all the way out and say, “Go ahead. Try. Be perfect like God is perfect–or take a hike” (see Matthew 5:48).
This flies in the face of Christians who struggle with Mosaic legalism, which is an oxymoron because we were never even given the set of 613 commandments to begin with. Do a quick Google search of “What are the 613 commandments in the Law” and you’ll be bored to tears before you finish reading half of them. Remember, you must keep all of them if you want to live by them (see Deuteronomy 4:2, Galatians 3:10).
Yet we want to cherry-pick the Ten Commandments–or “the Nine”–because nobody keeps the real Sabbath, which was from Friday to Saturday. Then we want to denigrate the Law even more by sprinkling in tithing so that we can be entered into the church lotto every Sunday morning. This is really sad, because the only time Jesus mentions the tithe is when He was ripping into the unbelievers due to their laughable Law-following (see Matthew 23:23). Yet we want to tell people God will bless them because they pay money? It’s lunacy.
Rebuking the devour by giving ten percent of your food to the unemployed priests–not cash–was part of the Law. Who’s Law? Israel’s. Not ours. Oh, it’s convenient for the people teaching this fallacy, but it’s not the gospel. Extorting believers is a sin. Why not just let your needs be known and allow people give freely because they’re excited about the message? We give in the same manner in which we received our salvation–by grace. We’ve already been blessed with every spiritual blessing! (See Ephesians 1:3). There’s not a single verse in any New Testament letter that commands a Christian to give an exact percentage of their money away. Instead, we are to give freely, from the heart, not under pressure (see 2 Corinthians 9:7).
Do you see the danger of mixing the two Covenants? Aggressive people. Guilt. Condemnation. Quasi-grace. Give to get. Double-talk. “Yeah, you’re forgiven, but not really.” Pressure-filled, “Be like me!” teaching. And then Christians who experience such will struggle with crippling fear and anxiety, sometimes resulting in suicidal thoughts, “Why am I not good enough?”
Then they’ll punish themselves, attempting to relieve the pain. Some don’t kill themselves, but they’ll cut their bodies and confidence, “Because I deserve it,” they’ll say.
This same hazardous concoction of mixing Old and New is what got Jesus killed. The Jews could not separate the two and it ticked them off to the point of plotting against Jesus, spitting in His face, beating Him to a bloody pulp, then brutally murdering Him. That’s what Law does. It is a ministry of death and death is what you’ll get when you place someone under it (see 2 Corinthians 3:7-18).
This is why, in our minds, the Old must be gone completely so that we can enjoy the New! (See Galatians 2:19, Romans 7:4). The Law hasn’t died, but we’ve said, “Uncle!” and repented of trying to obey a single command! We’ve turned away from Law and toward faith in Christ alone! We’ve stopped trusting Jesus for only His saving blood, but now for the guidance of His Spirit too!
Jesus’ New Covenant only has two commandments: believe and love (see Matthew 13:34,35, 1 John 3:23).
I can already hear a Law-lover screaming at me, “You’re so wrong, Matt! Jesus said we are to love God with all of our heart, soul, and mind! And to love our neighbor as ourself!”
…Friend, yes, He did, but that is love according to the Law. Anytime Jesus was asked a Law-based question He gave a Law-based answer. Just look:
“Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
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.” (Matthew 22:36-40)
Do you see it? So many of us allow our heads to explode when we see the word commandment. We immediately mix Moses’ 613 in with Jesus’ two. If we aren’t deciphering the commandments of the Old and New Covenants, we mix them together, therefore causing a sulfurous combustion. Jesus’ commandments are not burdensome (1 John 5:3). Moses’ were (Deuteronomy 4:2, James 2:10, Galatians 3:10). The Old Covenant was about stressing out while trying and trying to love God with everything we are! The New Covenant is about relaxing and realizing God has loved us with everything He is, through His Son (see John 3:16, Romans 5:8).
So today, my friends, know this: As a person who has believed in Christ’s forgiveness, once, you are the beneficiary to the Covenant between the Father and the Son, established by blood at the Cross. You’ve been taken out of the equation, set aside, and now you simply benefit from their unchangeable promise to one another. It’s the same God, but a New Covenant–the Covenant He made with Abraham before Moses, which could not be completed until Christ came. You have no role whatsoever in the New Covenant. You are a branch. You take nothing from God, you simply receive by faith. No “name it claim it” necessary! What have you received? A new, perfect spirit! Life! Christ’s life! (See Genesis 17:4, Galatians 3:16, 2:20, Hebrews 6:16-19, 7:22,25, 10:10,14, Ephesians 2:8,9, John 15:5, Colossians 3:4, 2 Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:6-10).