Continued from Part 2a…
Two Covenants, Two Principles
As we look at these two covenants in relation to these two men and these two trees, we see that they represent two fundamentally different principles.
The principle of the Old Covenant is that it works from the outside in. It begins with that which is in the physical world that is from God (i.e. the Law, the Scriptures, the temple, the priests, the sacrifices, physical manifestations, etc.). As men interact with these through the physical senses there is an impact upon the soul (mind, will and emotions) which is intended to bring the individual into right relationship with God. The hope is that one’s spirit is thereby brought into union and communion with God, who is Spirit. Its direction can be depicted like this:
WORLD → BODY → SOUL → SPIRIT → GOD
Because of sin, however, the spirit of man is separated and cut off from God and thus remains in a place of death no matter how much influence it receives from the soul. So in reality the Old Covenant principle actually works like this:
WORLD →BODY → SOUL → SIN → DEATH
The principle of the New Covenant, however, is that it works from the inside out. It begins with God bringing us into spiritual relationship with Himself through the redemptive, reconciliatory, regenerative work of Christ. Having thus joined Himself with our spirit, He then works through our “spiritual senses” to transform our soul (mind, will and emotions), so that He is able to manifest Himself through our physical body in this world. Its direction can be depicted in this way:
GOD → SPIRIT → SOUL → BODY → WORLD
This is the principle of the New Covenant. This is the way of life!
Although the New Covenant has superseded the Old Covenant in God’s purpose, the two foundational principles of these two covenants still remain. The choice is before us, even as it was to Adam, as to which principle we will approach God by, and through which we will seek to live for Him. We can either embrace the “outside-in principle” of the Old Covenant, or we can embrace the “inside-out principle” of the New Covenant.
In Romans 7 & 8 we see these two principles laid out, respectively. These chapters spell out for us the “old way of the written code” versus the “new way of the Spirit”. (Rom.7:6) The “outside-in principle” of the “letter”, here, is seen to lead to utter frustration, bondage and inward death (see 7:7-25). The “inside-out principle” of the Spirit, however, leads to peace, righteousness and inner life (see 8:1-17).
Paul later spoke of these two opposing principles in relation to ministry, when he said: “…our sufficiency is from God, who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter, but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” (2 Cor.3:5-6) The “letter” is according to the principle of the Old Covenant. The “Spirit” is according to the principle of the New. They represent two opposing directions.
We also see these two principles contending for one another in the Galatian church on a corporate level. The Judaizers were trying to bring the believers there back under the external requirements and way of the Old Covenant in order to be pleasing to God. Paul rebuked them sharply for allowing themselves to be dragged back again into the yoke of bondage. In the sharpest of contrasts, he laid out the two ways of the external law versus the indwelling Spirit. He strongly exhorted them to fully return to the principle and way of the New Covenant as the only way of life and liberty. (See the epistle to the Galatians, especially chapters 3-5.)
Two Covenants, Two “Christianities”
The point that we must see in all of this is that there is a battle raging over the souls of individual believers and over the church corporately. It is warring to keep us from entering into the full blessing and life of the New Covenant by deceiving us with a “Christianity” that is still according to the principle of the Old Covenant. This “Christianity” places its primary focus upon externals, and upon that which relates to the soul. This form of religion can take on a thousand different expressions, all cloaked with New Testament phraseology and practice, but it does not ultimately produce a heaven-born, spiritual people who are daily being transformed into Christ’s image by the Spirit.
One way this soulish “Christianity” manifests itself is as a religion primarily of external appearances. The emphasis may be upon the physical building, the sensory atmosphere, the staging, lighting, music, garb, oratory, and the like. Everything is crafted to make a “fair show in the flesh” (Gal.6:12). This can take on traditional tones, or it can be cutting-edge contemporary in nature. It matters not, if what is stimulated and massaged is the physical senses in order to create a religious experience in the soul realm.
Likewise, this form of Christianity can hone in on one or more of the aspects of the soul as its primary emphasis. The mind, for instance can be the idolized faculty. This can lead to everything from dead theological intellectualism, to a mind-control form of “faith” teaching. When the focus is on the will, the nature of the church is marked by legalism, religious works, authoritarianism and even asceticism. On the other end of the pendulum, when the emotions are the focus of religious faith and fervor, the church is shaped by emotionalism, subjectivism, aestheticism, and all forms of entertainment. All of this, though very appealing and influential in moving the souls of men, ultimately leads to deception, bondage and spiritual death if it predominates over the spiritual part of man. This form of religion is all too popular and prevalent, for it appeals to the fleshly nature of man, which does not want to be subject to the cross or to the leading and lordship of the Holy Spirit.
The “Christianity”, however, that is fully according to the nature of the New Covenant is primarily marked by spirituality. The Holy Spirit working within the human spirit is the predominant mark of the Church that is of this character. In such an expression, it is not raw intellectualism, nor sheer determinism, nor hyped-up emotionalism that prevails, but the persistent and powerful working of the Holy Spirit. The emphasis is upon the inner man being transformed by an ongoing personal encounter with the Living God. The mind, will and emotions are renewed and sanctified by the Spirit’s anointing permeating the soul from the inside out. With the deep working of the Spirit, the roots of sin and death are put to death at their source bringing true deliverance from the lusts of the flesh and the love of the world. The physical expression is in keeping with true godliness and purity. Spiritual values and heavenly pursuits naturally fill the heart and motivate the actions. Such a “Christianity” is marked preeminently by “LIFE”. It is filled with the fruit of the Spirit, with holiness, and with true liberty. This is the Church of the New Covenant. This is the Church that Jesus died to birth.
The Scriptures are profoundly simple in their most central truths. The two trees, the two Adams, and the two covenants, all point to the simplicity of the choice that God has offered to mankind. The way of life and death has been clearly laid out, even from the beginning. Paul said to the Corinthian believers, however, “But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 11:3) That ancient serpent is still working to seduce and deceive the wife of the last Adam to eat of the wrong tree. May we be those who flee from his enticing lies, and lay hold of all that is laid up for us in Christ, the New Covenant, and the Life of the Holy Spirit.