Posts Tagged 'vs. New Covenant'

The Holy Spirit and You, Part One


It may not seem like it, but the Holy Spirit occupies a very conspicuous place in our present dispensation.  The name “Holy Ghost” or “Holy Spirit” is seen 93 times in the New Testament; over 50 times in the book of Acts alone.

In the Gospels we see the ministry of Jesus.  In Acts we see the ministry of the Holy Spirit and we are currently in the age of the ministry of the Holy Spirit.  The apostle Paul, when writing to the Corinthians church, tried get that point across to that congregation:

Now if the ministry that brought death [the letter of the Law], which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, transitory though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?  (2 Corinthians 3:7, 8  TNIV)

 1.  The old kind of glory

Paul had been comparing the Old and New Covenants; he wrote about the intensity of Moses’ glory but said it was only temporary.  The great theologian compared the glory of the two covenants and showed that the New was far more splendorous than the Old.  Why is that?

When Moses came down from Mount Sinai after meeting with God, he carried the two stone tablets, on which God had carved the Ten Commandments.  When he reached the encampment, what did he find?

When Moses approached the camp and saw the calf and the dancing, his anger burned and he threw the tablets out of his hands, breaking them to pieces at the foot of the mountain.  (Exodus 32:19  TNIV)

What followed was an expression of God’s anger against His people:  three thousand of them died because they broke the Covenant God had made with Moses.  When Moses came a second time to the Israelites carrying the second set of stone tablets, we see how gracious God was and how willing He was to renew His Covenant with Israel.  But by worshiping the golden calf, the people had already broken the Law God had given them and abrogated the covenant.  When Paul wrote what he did to the Corinthians – that the “letter of the law” brought death –  he was referring to the effect the Covenant had on those disobedient Israelites.

Indeed, because of the unbelief and rebellion throughout their 40 year desert wandering, that generation of Israelites was condemned to die.

Nevertheless, as surely as I live and as surely as the glory of the Lord fills the whole earth, not one of those who saw my glory and the signs I performed in Egypt and in the wilderness but who disobeyed me and tested me ten times – not one of them will ever see the land I promised on oath to their ancestors. No one who has treated me with contempt will ever see it.  (Numbers 14:212-23  TNIV)

No wonder Paul thought the “ministry of the law” was really “the ministry of condemnation.”  But at the same time, the Old Covenant was glorious.  At Mount Sinai, the Israelites witnessed the glory of God manifested in incredible atmospheric displays:  thunder, lightening, and smoke.  In the Apocryphal book of Sirach, we read this:

He made an eternal covenant with them and revealed his commands to them. They saw the splendor of his majesty and heard the glory of his voice.  (Sirach 17:12-13 GNTCE)

Why was the Old Covenant glorious?  It’s because it came from the heart and mind of God; it was holy and righteous.  As the Law radiated God’s glory, so did the face of Moses.  The Israelites couldn’t even look at the face of Moses, so great was their sin.

That glory, though, was very temporary; it did fade away.  The glory of the Old Covenant was fading away, not because of any fault of the Covenant, but because of the hardened hearts of the people.  The hard hearted Israelites caused the nullified the Law because they externalized it; they obsessed on the “letter of the law,” not the spirit.

2.  A new kind of glory, a new kind of Law

Very typical of Paul, he compares the lesser to the greater; in this case, the lesser glory of the Law to the greater glory of the Spirit

will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious?  (2 Corinthians 3:8  TNIV)

The answer is not needed. Of course, Paul is saying, the ministry of the Spirit is light years greater than that of the Old Covenant.   But just what is “the ministry of the Spirit?”  Naturally the Holy Spirit was busy in the Old Testament, but what Paul has in mind here is the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit – the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in every believer, which began on the Day of Pentecost in Acts 2.

The ministry of the Spirit is far superior to that of the Old Covenant because unlike the Law, which had been externalized by the Jews, the ministry of the Spirit actually gets inside the believer and transforms him into the likeness of Christ.

And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.  (2 Corinthians 3:18  TNIV)

So, then, the New Covenant, infused with the dynamic of the Holy Spirit, is able to do something the Old Covenant couldn’t do, and was not designed to do:  change the man.  The Old Covenant was glorious.  It really did offer a man a way of salvation but man was too weak to fulfill its demands.  The Old Covenant would have resulted in a fulfilling, glorious way of life that would have been completely pleasing to God, but man, because of his sinful and rebellious spirit, turned the glorious Law into a ministration of death.

Now, what Paul had said about the Old Covenant seems harsh.  But we must remember that the Old Covenant was the only the promise.  The New Covenant is the fulfillment of that promise.  The Old Covenant, with all it’s regulations pointed to something more – something greater – and that “something greater” is the ministry of the Holy Spirit, the Dynamic of the New Covenant.

The New Covenant, unlike the Old, is not written on tablets of stone!  It’s written on our hearts!  That’s another way of talking about the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit.  Under the Old Covenant, the Jews obeyed the letter of the written Law.  Under the New Covenant believers are to willingly submit themselves to the “still small voice” of the Spirit of God dwelling in them.  And as we do that, we become like Christ.  We are fully co-operating with this work of the Spirit; He does not force us to submit to the will of God.  We have a free will and it’s up to us to hear the Word of God and to submit to that Word through the ministry of the Holy Spirit.

That’s the glorious nature of the New Covenant!   There is a power within every believer that has the potential to re-create that believer in the very image of Christ.  All we have to do is yield ourselves to that power, and that power is personal:  He is the Holy Spirit.

His divine power has given us everything we need for life and godliness through our knowledge of him who called us by his own glory and goodness.  Through these he has given us his very great and precious promises, so that through them you may participate in the divine nature and escape the corruption in the world caused by evil desires.  (2 Peter 1:3-4 NIV84)

 3.  He, not it

Most Christians instinctively know that the Holy Spirit is a person, not an “it,” but they don’t consciously think about that.  The personal pronoun is routinely used in Scripture in talking about Him:

But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.  He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you.   (John 16:13-14 NIV84)

The Holy Spirit and the Covenants:  Why New is Better

The Holy Spirit is as much a person as the Father and the Son, and it is He who has taken up residence in the hearts of all believers.  He is not a mere feeling or emanation or warm feeling!  However mysterious and  unfathomable it may seem, the simple fact remains that this mighty, powerful, holy Being, whose presence in our lives is soul-moving and life-changing is a Person.  And that Person – the Holy Spirit – is God!

Then Peter said, Ananias, how is it that Satan has so filled your heart that you have lied to the Holy Spirit and have kept for yourself some of the money you received for the land?  Didnt it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasnt the money at your disposal? What made you think of doing such a thing? You have not lied to men but to God.  (Acts 5:3-4 NIV84)

How precious is the gift of the Holy Spirit?  How loving and compassionate is our Heavenly Father that He has given us the gift that keeps on giving:  His presence in the Person of the Holy Spirit.  No Christian ever has to be a failure if he is living for Christ.  No Christian ever has to play the victim, no matter the circumstances.  Every Christian, without exception, has been given the ability to live his life full of optimism, good cheer, abundance, and above every circumstance by the Holy Spirit.  He is our partner in this life.


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