| The Two Covenants - Andrew Murray |
From "The Two Covenants" by Andrew Murray
The Two Covenant: Sin Christian Experience
"These women are two covenants: one from Mount Sinai, bearing children unto bondage, which is Hagar. Now this Hagar answereth to Jerusalem that now is for she is in bondage with her children. But the Jerusalem which is above is free, which is our mother. So then, brethren, we are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free. With freedom did Christ set us free. Stand fast, therefore, and be not entangled again in a yoke of bondage." GAL.iv. 24-31, v. 1.
The house of Abraham was the Church of God of that age. The division in his house, one son, his own son, but born after the flesh, the other after the promise, was a divinely-ordained manifestation of the division there would be in all ages between the children of the bondwoman, those who served God in the spirit of bondage, and those who were children of the free, and served Him in the Spirit of His Son. The passage teaches us what the whole Epistle confirms: that the Galatians had become entangled with a yoke of bondage, and were not standing fast in the freedom with which Christ makes free indeed. Instead of living in the New Covenant, in the Jerusalem which is from above, in the liberty which the Holy Spirit gives, their whole walk proved that, though Christians, they were of the Old Covenant, which bringeth forth children unto bondage. The passage teaches us the great truth, which it is of the utmost consequence for us to apprehend thoroughly, that a man, with a measure of the knowledge and experience of the grace of God, may prove, by a legal spirit, that he is yet practically, to a large extent, under the Old Covenant. And it will show us, with wonderful clearness, what the proofs are of the absence of the true New Covenant life.
A careful study of the Epistle shows us that the difference between the two Covenants is seen in three things. The law and its works is contrasted with the hearing of faith, the flesh and its religion with the flesh crucified, the impotence to good with a walk in the liberty and the power of the Spirit. May the Holy Spirit reveal to us this twofold life.
T he first antithesis we find in Paul's words, " Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or the hearing of faith?" These Galatians had indeed been born into the New Covenant; they had received the Holy Spirit. But they had been led away by Jewish teachers, and, though they had been justified by faith, they were seeking to be sanctified by works; they were looking for the maintenance and the growth of their Christian life to the observance of the law. They had not understood that, equally with the beginning, the progress of the Divine life is alone by faith, day by day receiving its strength from Christ alone; that in Jesus Christ nothing avails but faith working by love.
Almost every believer makes the same mistake as the Galatian Christians. Very few learn at conversion at once that it is only by faith that we stand, and walk, and live. They have no conception of the meaning of Paul's teaching about being dead to the law, freed from the law--about the freedom with which Christ makes us free. "As many as are led by the Spirit are not under the law." Regarding the law as a Divine ordinance for our direction, they consider themselves prepared and fitted by conversion to take up the fulfilment of the law as a natural duty. They know not that, in the New Covenant, the law written in the heart needs an unceasing faith in a Divine power, to enable us by a Divine power to keep it. They cannot understand that it is not to the law, but to a living Person, that we are now bound, and that our obedience and holiness are only possible by the unceasing faith in His power ever working in us. It is only when this is seen, that we are prepared truly to live in the New Covenant.
The second word, that reveals the Old Covenant spirit, is the word "flesh." Its contrast is, the flesh crucified. Paul asks: "Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye made perfect in the flesh?" Flesh means our sinful human nature. At his conversion the Christian has generally no conception of the terrible evil of his nature, and the subtlety with which it offers itself to take part in the service of God. It may be most willing and diligent in God's service for a time; it may devise numberless observances for making His worship pleasing and attractive; and yet this may be all only what Paul Calls "making a fair show in the flesh," "glorying in the Flesh," in man's will and man's efforts. This power of the religious flesh is one of the great marks of the Old Covenant religion; it misses the deep humility and spirituality of the true worship of God--a heart and life entirely dependent upon Him. The proof that our religion is very much that of the religious flesh, is that the sinful flesh will be found to flourish along with it. It was thus with the Galatians. While they were making a fair show in the flesh, and glorying in it, their daily life was full of bitterness and envy and hatred, and other sins. They were biting and devouring one another. Religious flesh and sinful flesh are one: no wonder that, with a great deal of religion, temper and selfishness and worldliness are so often found side by side. The religion of the flesh cannot conquer sin.
What a contrast to the religion of the New Covenant! What is the place the flesh has there? "They that are Christ's have crucified the flesh, with its desires and affections." Scripture speaks of the will of the flesh, the mind of the flesh, the lust of the flesh; all this the true believer has seen to be condemned and crucified in Christ: he has given it over to the death. He not only accepts the Cross, with its bearing of the curse, and its redemption from it, as his entrance into life; he glories in it as his only power day by day to overcome the flesh and the world. " I am crucified with Christ." "God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of my Lord Jesus Christ, by which I am crucified to the world." Even as nothing less than the death of Christ was needed to inaugurate the New Covenant, and the resurrection life that animates it, there is no entrance into the true New Covenant life other than by a partaking of that death.
"Fallen from grace." This is a third word that describes the condition of these Galatians in that bondage in which they were really impotent to all true good. Paul is not speaking of a final falling away here, for he still addresses them as Christians, but of their having wandered from that walk in the way of enabling and sanctifying grace, in which a Christian can get the victory over sin. As long as grace is principally connected with pardon and the entrance to the Christian life, the flesh is the only power in which to serve and work. But when we know what exceeding abundance of grace has provided, and how God "makes all grace abound, that we may abound to all good works," we know that, as it is by faith, so to it is by grace alone that we stand a single moment or take a single step.
The contrast to this life of impotence and failure is found in the one word, "the Spirit." "If ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law," with its demand on your own strength. "Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not"--a definite, certain promise-- "ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh." The Spirit gives liberty from the law, from the flesh, from sin. "The fruit of the Spirit is love, peace, joy." Of the New Covenant promise, " I will put My Spirit within you, and I will cause you to walk in my statutes, and ye shall keep My judgments," the Spirit is the centre and the sum. He is the power of the supernatural life of true obedience and holiness.
And what would have been the course that the Galatians would have taken if they had accepted this teaching of St. Paul? As they hear his question, "Now that ye have come to know God, how turn ye back again into the weak and beggarly rudiments, where unto ye desire to be in bondage again?" they would have felt that there was but one course. Nothing else could help them but at once to turn back again to the path they had left. At the point where they had left it, they could enter again. With any one of them who wished to do so, this turning away from the Old Covenant legal spirit, and the renewed surrender to the Mediator of the New Covenant, could be the act of a moment one single step. As the light of the New Covenant promise dawned upon him, and he saw how Christ was to be all, and faith all, and the Holy Spirit in the heart all, and the faithfulness of a Covenantkeeping God all in all, he would feel that he had but one thing to do--in utter impotence to yield himself to God, and in simple faith to count upon Him to perform what He had spoken. In Christian experience there may be still the Old Covenant life of bondage and failure. In Christian experience there may be a life that gives way entirely to the New Covenant grace and spirit. In Christian experience, when the true vision has been received of what the New Covenant means, a faith that rests fully on the Mediator of the New Covenant can enter at once into the life which the Covenant secures.
I cannot too earnestly beg all believers who long to know to the utmost what the grace of God can work in them, to study carefully the question as to whether the acknowledgment that our being in the bondage of the Old Covenant is the reason of our failure, and whether a clear insight into the possibility of an entire change in our relation to God, is not what is needed to give us the help we seek. We may be seeking for our growth in a more diligent use of the means of grace, and a more earnest striving to live in accordance with God's will, and yet entirely fail. The reason is, that there is a secret root of evil which must be removed. That root is the spirit of bondage, the legal spirit of selfeffort, which hinders that humble faith that knows that God will work all, and yields to Him to do it. That spirit may be found amidst very great zeal for God's service, and very earnest prayer for His grace; it does not enjoy the rest of faith, and cannot overcome sin, because it does not stand in the liberty with which Christ has made us free, and does not know that where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. There the soul can say: "The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death." When once we admit heartily, not only that there are failings in our life, but that there is something radically wrong that can be changed, we shall turn with a new interest, with a deeper confession of ignorance and impotence, with a hope that looks to God alone for teaching and strength, to find that in the New Covenant there is an actual provision for every need.
| 2016/1/4 11:31||Profile|
| 2016/1/4 11:33||Profile|
| Re: The Two Covenants - Andrew Murray |
"The reason is, that there is a secret root of evil which must be removed. That root is the spirit of bondage, the legal spirit of self effort, which hinders that humble faith that knows that God will work all, and yields to Him to do it."
This is what Hudson Taylor found
"As gradually the light dawned on me, I saw that faith was the only prerequisite to laying hold of His fullness and making it my own. But I had not this faith . . . I strove for it, but it would not come; I tried to exercise it, but in vain. Seeing more and more the wondrous supply of grace laid up in Jesus, the fullness of our precious Savior - my helplessness and guilt seemed to increase. Sins committed appeared but as trifles compared with the sin of unbelief which was their cause, which could not or would not take God at His word, but rather made Him a liar! Unbelief was, I felt, the damning sin of the world - yet I indulged in it. I prayed for faith but it did not come. What was I to do?
When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never seen it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure, but saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory): "But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One."
As I read I saw it all! "If we believe not, He remains faithful." I looked to Jesus and saw (and when I saw, oh, how joy flowed) that He had said, "I will never leave you." "Ah, here is rest!" I thought. "I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I'll strive no more. For has He not promised to abide with me - never to leave me, never to fail me?" And Dearie, He never will!"
Are you striving after faith, or resting on the Faithful One?
| 2016/1/4 12:53|
| Re: |
"When my agony of soul was at its height, a sentence in a letter from dear McCarthy was used to remove the scales from my eyes, and the Spirit of God revealed the truth of our oneness with Jesus as I had never seen it before. McCarthy, who had been much exercised by the same sense of failure, but saw the light before I did, wrote (I quote from memory): "But how to get faith strengthened? Not by striving after faith, but by resting on the Faithful One."
Amen! That is the key to victory and the
overcoming life. "Not by striving after faith,
but resting in the Faithful One."
| 2016/1/4 13:29||Profile|
| Re: |
"I have striven in vain to rest in Him. I'll strive no more. For has He not promised to abide with me - never to leave me, never to fail me?" And Dearie, He never will!"
Ah, there it is. The Spirit showed me two groups of people a number of years ago. There was a river and it had a strong current found at its strongest in the deepest part of the river towards the middle. On either side, dense forest, almost jungle like in its density. There were some who had entered into the river, not up to the ankles or knees or waist, but fully immersed, no longer standing on their own two feet, being taken down the river by the current. Then I looked and saw there was another group. Headed down the river no doubt, but on dry land on their own two feet hashing and slashing their way in exhausting efforts to beat a path through the dense forest.
The river was God and the Holy Spirit was the current. The forest was this life and the efforts to make forward progress was the flesh. I wonder, are you floating down the river or maybe you are on the banks of the river blasting your way through by your own efforts, thinking those efforts are virtuous and throwing rocks at those who have found the current of God and never seem to tire...........bro Frank
| 2016/1/4 15:14|
| Re: |
This speaks volumes to those that have gone deeper with the Lord, and have gotten in over their head so to speak in the river of life, but God will never let you drown when you are in that life flow, and what at one time seemed to take so much effort comes about naturally, like fruit coming forth because the branch in abiding in the vine.
There are many that are wading around in the shallows because they are afraid of the unknown. Yet, when God calls you to go deeper, He will not let you sink, much like Peter walking on the water. Jesus was not about to let him sink because He stepped out of the boat with his eyes on Jesus, putting His faith in the Word of God.
| 2016/1/4 17:18||Profile|
| Re: |
There are two groups of people just as there are two kingdoms, and two spiritual sources in which men abide.
Paul draws many parallels in Galatians describing the children of the spirit (promise) and the children of the flesh. It is always one of two choices.
From Galatians 4:
son of bondmaid.........son of freewoman
born after the flesh.....born through promise
slave children.............free children
................................children of promise
................................children of Jerusalem above
covenant of Law.........covenant of promise
old covenant..............new covenant
Mt. Sinai....................Mt. Zion
physical Jerusalem......Jerusalem above
Paul keeps switching back and forth figuratively explaining that "the Jerusalem above is free and she is our mother." He describes the ideal city as one in which the Prince of Peace (Isa 9:6) resides and that because of the presence of Jesus Christ it is a community of Peace. Paul describes this as a present reality where Jesus Christ reigns as Lord of all.
The Scriptures constantly show the parallels between the flesh and the Spirit and the opposing kingdoms of God and Satan. It teaches that the physical city of Jerusalem and its temple were temporary, provisional and perishable. Prophetically and eschatologically the "heavenly Jerusalem above" was sought where God dwelt more fully (Jn. 3:3,7; 8:23). But the Jewish religion in the 1st century emphasized the external and the physical as they were so caught up in legal bondage and physical deliverance that they no longer sought spiritual and heavenly realities.
Paul is teaching the Galatian church that the spiritual reality of the heavenly City of the Prince of Peace is already available to us as the community of Christians in Christ. He does not refer to a "Jerusalem that is to come in the future," but to "the Jerusalem above that is presently free." That city and land (Gen. 12:7; 13:15) that was promised and anticipated is now realized in Jesus Christ.
Paul was not speaking of an earthly geography but rather a spiritual geography.
Abraham was "looking for the city...whose architect and builder is God" (Heb. 11:10), for the "better country, a heavenly one" (Heb. 11:16), which is now realized for Christians who have "come to Mount Zion, to the city of the living God, the heavenly Jerusalem,...and the church of the first-born who are in heaven, and to God..." (Heb. 12:22,23). As Christians, we have "citizenship in heaven" (Phil. 3:20), even though there is a "not yet" realized expectation of the consummation of such a new covenant community in "the holy city, Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God" (Rev. 3:12; 21:10). This serves to evidence that the "Jerusalem above" is not to be strictly identified with the physical, visible and institutional Church on earth.
The "promised land" to the Christian is Christ. Rest and peace from our "enemies" (sin, flesh, devil) and all the provision that is available in Christ.
So we have two groups of people then as we do, today following hard after two different kingdoms. One is heavenly and spiritual and the other is earthly and fleshly.
The Hope of Israel
| 2016/1/5 1:40|