The cross divides the “Old” from the “New”
By: Peter Youngren
From: October 2008
Found in: The old versus the new covenant
While most Christians recognize that the cross of Jesus is important, many do not recognize the immensity of its significance.
The cross is the dividing line between the old and new covenants. When Jesus cried out “it is finished,” the old had passed away and the new had come!
An enormous change
The change was so enormous that at first even Jesus’ disciples found it difficult to leave the old behind. Simon Peter was corrected several times, both directly by Jesus (Acts 10 and 11) and by Paul (Galatians 2), because he was seduced back to the old covenant in the face of which Jesus had already accomplished at the cross. If the apostle, who preached on the Day of Pentecost, and who saw miracles as his shadow fell on the sick needed correction, it is no surprise that many today have failed to understand Jesus’ full work of redemption. Instead of zigzagging back and forth between the old and the new covenants we must let our compass, the Holy Spirit, focus our direction and remind us of all that Jesus has done for us and for the world.
God has already given everything
Before the cross people engaged in spiritual activities in order to obtain something from God, while after the cross we pray, worship and believe because of what God has already provided for us. The Law of Moses was clear that people had to obey and keep the commandments “day and night” in order to receive God’s blessing (of course, no one ever succeeded). In the new covenant we receive the blessing because of what Jesus has done; His obedience and sacrifice has been credited to us.
Jabez prayed in order to get God to bless him. That was a good prayer for Jabez, because he lived under the old covenant, but it is not suitable for us. We pray because God has already blessed us in Christ: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who has blessed us with every spiritual blessing in the heavenly places in Christ.” (Ephesians 1:3)
Notice God “has blessed” us; it is not a matter of “going to bless us.”
God has already “moved”
Our new life in Christ is entirely dependent upon and wrapped up in Jesus’ finished work. It’s not “you move and then God moves,” as I have often heard preachers say. Our message is that God has already been appeased by the sacrifice of Jesus. God has already “moved.” He doesn’t respond to us because of our efforts - God has already responded by providing all we will ever need in Jesus Christ. Our job is simply to believe what Jesus has done. Our faith does not move God; if it did that would mean God is in the wrong place. No, faith is relying on what Jesus has done. Faith does not look forward to what God will do someday (that would be old covenant thinking), but real faith looks at what Jesus has done on the cross. It is sufficient.
Discover what you already have
Before the cross we have types, shadows and rituals. After the cross we have reality. Before the cross believers looked forward to the work of Christ; now we look back at what He has done. This is the essence of the Christian life. When we first get saved we don’t know all that Christ has provided for. Still at that moment of “new birth” we receive everything we’ll ever need. We need not look for “more” of God, since we already have it. Instead our quest is to discover what we have. Just like Adam had to open his eyes and discover all that God had provided in the Garden of Eden, so then the Holy Spirit opens our eyes to discover our inheritance. The Apostle Paul never suggested that the people lacked anything, but that they needed to acknowledge what they had. In his prayer for Philemon, he writes: “that the sharing of your faith may become effective by the acknowledgement of every good thing which is in you in Christ Jesus.” (Philemon 6)
If we were to ask many Christians to make two lists, one acknowledging all their deficiencies, failures and problems, and the other to acknowledge what they have, I’m afraid that the first list would be the longest. Our faith doesn’t become effective by pointing out what we don’t have, but what we have. When Paul addressed the Ephesian believers, he wrote: “that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give to you the spirit of wisdom and revelation in the knowledge of Him, the eyes of your understanding being enlightened; that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, and what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power.” (Ephesians 1:17-19)
Notice Paul doesn’t pray that God will give the Ephesians anything - he prays their eyes will be opened to see what they have.
Filter the Old Testament through the cross of Jesus
The cross changes our view of the Old Testament scriptures, because we now understand that Moses, Psalms and the Prophets are testimonies of Jesus. (Luke 24:27, 44-45). Without this “Christ” revelation the Old Testament is a “veiled” book, read without understanding. “But their minds were blinded. For until this day the same veil remains unlifted in the reading of the Old Testament, because the veil is taken away in Christ.” (2 Corinthians 3:14) Though Paul is addressing the Jewish scribes, the same is true today. Many read the Old Testament without the revelation of Christ’s finished work on the cross, when the only proper understanding of these scriptures is by filtering the Old Testament through the cross of Jesus. When we see Jesus, we recognize He is our double portion, the anointing, our intercessor, our faith, our all in all. We do not walk in the footsteps of Elijah or the other prophets; we follow Jesus Christ. These are not “the days of Elijah” or the “days of Ezekiel” but the days of Jesus Christ and His believers. Moses and Elijah, representing the Law and the Prophets, vanished from the Mount of Transfiguration, and only Jesus remained. What a beautiful picture of how the Old Testament order of Law and Prophets has passed away, to be replaced by Jesus Christ, in whom dwells all the fullness of God.
The Law is fulfilled
Those who argue otherwise have a serious problem. According to Jesus we are liable for every “jot and tittle of the Law,” until “all is fulfilled.” Praise God that all is fulfilled! Otherwise we would be liable for every Mosaic ordinance. Instead we are in a new covenant, because “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness.” (Romans 10:4)
Before the cross our obedience was on display; now it’s Christ’s obedience. Then it was an outward adherence to religious rituals; now it is the heart’s transformation by the power of the cross.
No article can even begin to show the full depth of the cross of Jesus. Once we see even a glimpse of its significance, we discover that it forever separates us from the Law. The cross is the place of payment for the world’s sins. Now we approach God simply because of what Jesus has done. Suddenly the entire New Testament makes sense. The Apostle Paul’s writings come alive. We no longer see ourselves as “have- nots,” but we have everything in Christ.
A discovery tour
I encourage you to go on a discovery tour. Read the New Testament as if you were reading it for the first time, and believe that “all things” for every area of our lives are ours through the knowledge of what Jesus did. (2 Peter 1:1-4)
By: Peter Youngren
As founder of World Impact Ministries, Celebration Bible College, Way of Peace and the Celebration Churches in Toronto, Hamilton and Niagara, Canada, Peter and his wife RoxAnne are committed to equipping believers to fulfill their purpose before the return of Jesus Christ.
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