Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
March 9, 1961
NUMBER 43, PAGE 8-9,13b

The Two Covenants

D. L. Williams (Submitted By Hoyt Houchen, Abilene, Texas)

There are two fundamental doctrines taught in the world with reference to salvation from sin:

1. Salvation or justification from sin by faith made perfect by works, by which is meant that sinners are made free from sin by the intercession of Christ on the condition of obedience to law through faith.

2. Salvation or justification from sin by faith without works, which is also called justification by faith only, by which is meant that sinners are made free from sin through faith independent of obedience to law or works.

Therefore the advocates of both doctrines agree with reference to salvation depending upon the intercession of Christ, but differ respecting the conditions upon which Christ saves.

Now it is evident that both of the above doctrines cannot be true. And in order to know the truth with reference to this matter, it is necessary to study the revealed will of God and abide by its directions.

We learn that the nature of the Jewish covenant was such that implicit obedience to all the requirements of the law was necessary to the enjoyment of the blessings promised. Moses, when exhorting the Israelites respecting their duties to God, said: "All the commandments which I command thee this day shall ye observe to do, that ye may live, and multiply, and go in and possess the land which the Lord sware unto your fathers." (Deut. 8:11) "Beware that thou forget not the Lord thy God in not keeping his commandments, and his judgments, and his statures, which I commanded thee this day." (vs. 11) "And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish." (vs. 19)

From the above it is readily seen that God required implicit obedience to his commands in order to the reception of his blessings under the Jewish covenant.

But it is equally as necessary to obey the laws of God under the new covenant as it was to obey the laws of the Jewish covenant. James said: "But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed." Jas. 1:25) Hence the redemption that is in Christ does not release man from the necessity of obedience to law in order to salvation, but releases him from serving under one covenant (Jewish), and binds him to the requirements of another, which is the perfect law of liberty (gospel).

But it may be asked, "If the Jewish covenant was God's law to man, why the necessity of a change of the law?"

"For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change of the law." (Heb. 7:12) Jesus was "made a high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec." (Heb. 6:20) It appears that Christ, the great high priest, was represented in the time of Abraham in the person of Melchisedec. He was a king and also a priest of God. His descent was not counted from the sons of Levi, who gave attendance at the altar of the Jewish tabernacle, for he is described as being "without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days nor ending of life, but made like unto the Son of God, abideth a priest continually." (Heb. 7:3)

From this we conclude that Christ was represented in the person of Melchisedec all along the line, apart from the Jewish covenant, which "was added because of transgressions, till the seed (Christ) should come, to whom the promise was made," after which he became high priest after the order of Melchisedec, and not after the order of Aaron. But the Levitical priesthood, which was after the order of Aaron, was a type of Christ also; for those priests offered sacrifices that set aside the sins of the people and their own sins until Christ, when he bore them upon the cross. It is evident, therefore, that Christ was represented by two orders of priests, which typified the intercession of Christ for the sins of the whole world.

But Why The Necessity Of A Change Of The Priesthood?

Because the law under the Levitical priesthood could not give life; "for, if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law." (Gal. 3:21) "For the law (of Moses) having a shadow of good things to come, and not the very image of the things, can never, with those sacrifices which they offered year by year continually, make the corners thereunto perfect." (Heb. 10:1) "And every priest standeth daily ministering and offering sacrifices which can never take away sins." (vs. 11)

Why could not the law of Moses give life? Paul said: "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them. But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident; for the just shall live by faith." (Gal. 3:10,11) By which is meant the faith of the gospel.

What Was The Nature Of The Law Of Moses Which Deprived The Sinner Of Being Justified By It?

In order to explain this it is necessary to note the condition of man after the fall. Paul said: "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good, I find not. For the good that I would, I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.

"I find then a law, that when I would do good evil is present with me. For I delight in the law of God, after the inward man, but I see another law in my members warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members." (Rom. 7:18-23)

From this we learn there are two controlling elements or principles in man, one warring against the other. One is inclined to evil, the other to that which is good. Paul describes the former as belonging to the flesh or members, and the latter as belonging only to the mind. This principle of the flesh, or members, is also called "the law of sin," the "carnal mind," etc. No person can serve God with the carnal mind, "Because the carnal mind rs enmity against God: for it is not subject to the law of God; neither indeed can be." (Rom. 8:7) But Paul also said: "So, then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God." (Rom. 7:25) We do not understand the above to teach two distinct minds exist in man, but when the desire to do evil controls the mind it becomes the carnal mind, and when the desire to do good controls the mind it becomes the spiritual mind, which is clearly shown by the following: "For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace." (Rom. 8:6)

Now, it is evident that the conclusion of this matter is, that the principles of good and evil exist in man; that they are warring one against the other, each striving to possess full control of the mind, and in order to be free from sin the mind must be controlled by the principle which tends to that which is good to the exclusion of that which is evil. Hence, when the sinner accepts that which is good and acceptable in the sight of the Lord, and serves him with the mind, he is made free from sin.

But we understand that the nature of the law of Moses was such that no person who possessed the sinful nature of carnality could be justified by it; and as this sinful flesh could not be made subject to the law of God, it was impossible for the Jews to bear the yoke that was put upon them. Hence the great necessity of the Son of God coming in the likeness of sinful flesh, and condemning this sin in the flesh. "For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh." (Rom. 8:3) Hence Christ condemned sin in the flesh, by which we understand that he fully satisfied the law for man with reference to the sin of the flesh, by which he made the way possible for man in sinful flesh, to be justified in the sight of God in obedience to law.

Paul said: "0 wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then, with the mind I myself serve the law of God, but with the flesh the law of sin." (Rom. 7:24, 25)

Christ did for man that which man could not do for himself. He fully satisfied the demands of the law of God for man, and placed him under a law, in obedience to which the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in man.

For he condemned sin in the flesh "that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit." (Rom. 8:4)

How Is The Righteousness Of The Law Of God Fulfilled In Us?

Christ fulfilled the law for us, and his righteousness is counted unto us all who walk after the Spirit.

How do we walk after the Spirit?

By following the directions of the Spirit. How does the Spirit direct?

By his law. "For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death." (Rom. 8:2)

If The Law Of Moses Could Not Give Life, Why Was It Imposed Upon His People?

"It was added because of transgressions till the seed should come to whom the promise was made." (See Gal. 3:19) "Moreover the law entered that the offense might abound." (See Rom. 5:20) What offense? The offense of Adam. "Wherefore as by one man sin entered into the world, and death by sin; and so death passed upon all men, for that all have sinned. Therefore, as by the offense of one, judgment came upon all men to condemnation, even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life." (Rom. 5:12, 18)

From this it is evident that the law of Moses was added in order to convince the world that they were under the condemnation of the offense of Adam, and that their eternal salvation depended upon obedience to law, made acceptable by the righteousness of Christ being imputed unto them. (See Rom. 3:19, 20)

Now it is evident that obedience to law is the only principle by which man can worship God and receive the promised reward. God is perfect in all his ways; hence all his laws are perfect. Man became corrupt by sin. God gave perfect law to imperfect man. This law, which was ordained to life, was made death to man; for it was ordained to lead him to Christ by convincing him that he was dead in sin, and unable to acceptably obey God without the intercession of Christ.

This grand truth reveals to poor, fallen man the great love of God for him, when by faith he accepts the fact that God sent his only Son to do that for man which man could not do for himself because of the offense of Adam. "For God so loved the world that he gave his only begotten son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life." (John 3:16)

Now, in view of the foregoing evidence on this subject, we are forced to conclude that Christ did not redeem 'man from the necessity of obedience to the law of God, but by his intercession man was redeemed from his fallen state, in which it was impossible for him to serve God acceptably, and restored to the favor of God, under which he can be saved in obedience to law.

This intercession we understand to be the debt that Christ paid for man. Man could not possibly pay the debt for himself; hence his salvation wholly depended upon the mercy of the Son of God. And as the law of Moses was given in order to convince man of his indebtedness and of his inability to pay the debt, it was taken out of the way when Christ paid the debt, and a perfect law of liberty was given in its stead.

It is, therefore, quite evident that man's obedience to the gospel requirements is no part of the debt which Christ paid. Obedience to God's law was a duty that man owed to him in honor to his name even before the debt which Christ paid was incurred. Angels are in actual possession of eternal life, yet we understand that they are subject to the law of God, and implicit obedience to his law is re quired. A failure to comply with their law would disinherit them, which is shown by the following: "And the angels which kept not their first estate, but left their own habitation, he hath reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day." (Jude 6) "For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast them down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment...." (2 Pet. 2:4)

The same might be said of man if Christ had not interceded for him. Man failed to keep his first estate; but by the intercession of Christ he is reinstated to the extent of being back under the favor of God, where obedience to his law will be accepted. Hence, Christ paid all the debt incurred by the return of sinful man unto obedience to God's law; but he did not pay for a privilege to be bestowed upon man to dishonor God by refusing to obey his laws. (See 2 Thess. 1:7, 8)

That Christ did pay all the debt is evident from the following: "For the wages of sin is death: but the gift of God is eternal life, through Jesus Christ our Lord." (Rom. 6:23)

Now, in view of the foregoing facts, we conclude that obedience to the law of angels is of such a nature that it would be impossible for man in sinful flesh to obey a similar law to the extent of being justified in the sight of God without the mediation of Christ, and we understand that obedience to the law of Moses was also of a nature similar to that of angels, with the exception that it was in the hand of a mediator. (See Gal. 3:19) And if this law had not been in the hand of a mediator, no person who worshipped under it could have been saved; for those who received this law, which was received by the disposition of angels, did not keep it. (See Acts 7:53) But Christ, the mediator of the New Testament, redeemed them from the curse of the law, and gave in its stead a perfect law of liberty. (Gal. 3:13) (See also Rom. 7:6; Gal. 5:1; Jas. 2:12)

This law of liberty is perfect, because obedience to it gives life, This law is the words of Jesus, and he said: "The words that I speak unto you, they are spirit and they are life." (Jno. 6:63)

The perfect law is a law of liberty, because it liberated sinful man from serving a law which could not give life.

In view of these facts it is evident that no one could be justified by the law of Moses, for it made no provision for the infirmities of the flesh, further than in types and shadows, which only pointed forward to the time when such provision would be made through Christ. Hence there was no actual law of pardon connected with the law of Moses further than those types and shadows which could never take away sins. And as man was born in sinful flesh, he was unable to obey this law to the extent of being justified, for it required implicit obedience, without a single offense through life, in order to be justified by the law, even from the moment he became accountable to God for his acts. Hence all who worshipped under the law of Moses were under the curse of the Law, for none could claim that they had not offended in any point of the law. (Jas. 2:10) And as there was no law of pardon under this covenant, obedience to which could give life, the salvation of all who worshipped under this covenant depended upon Christ redeeming them from under the curse of the law, and giving them a law providing for the infirmities of the flesh. (Heb. 9:15; Chap. 10)

But someone may ask, "If it is impossible for man in sinful flesh to obey God acceptably without the righteousness of Christ being imputed unto him, why not simply trust in his righteousness to save him without any dependence upon, or obedience to law?"

We answer, simply because God does not so require in his revealed will. It would be attributing more to Christ than he promised. It would be contrary to his will. It would be rebellion against the government of God .God gave his law to man, and requires him to keep it. This is a sufficient reason why it should be obeyed. The righteousness of Christ is imputed unto all who obey the gospel, and sin is imputed unto all who disobey it.

It is, therefore, evident that obedience to the gospel is a duty that all accountable beings to God owe him in honor to his name. Hence the necessity of a careful investigation in regard to the way of salvation as revealed in the gospel of Christ will be apparent to all concerned in this matter.