Broken Promises - Part 1

Scripture: Hebrews 8:7-10, Exodus 19:5-6, Galatians 4:21-24
What does the Bible teach about the Ten Commandments? Have they been cancelled? Are they out of date? This talk focuses on the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. One was broken by the works of man. The new was made on better promises because Jesus came and died. Only through grace can we obey the law of God.
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Some of the strangest and wildest opinions have been held, and are still being held, concerning the subject of the Ten Commandments. One would think that only the worst type of violent criminal could complain against the law that God wrote with His own hand. Surely the rules of God would be rules of love, and His people would be delighted with them. Only the rebellious and disobedient would want to nullify them. Yes, that's the way it ought to be, friends, but unfortunately it just hasn't worked out that way. The truth is that not only Christians have tried to do away with the rules of God, but theologians and preachers have led the way in seeking to cancel the great moral law of God.

Today we're going to try to find out why. Why have entire denominations taken the position that these laws are now out-of-date and no longer apply to modern society? Especially are we interested in that question when we remember that more promises in the Bible revolve around obedience than any other subject. Over and over God talked to the people and promised to bless them IF - IF - IF - always if they would obey His law. And repeatedly the people promised that they would do it, and would accept the conditions laid down by God. In the Bible we call these oral agreements between God and His people, covenants, and they form a very important part of the sacred record of the Scriptures.

There were a number of covenants made, but Bible students are concerned mostly with the Old Covenant and the New Covenant. Here's what we're told about these two covenants in Hebrews 8:7; "For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. " Then in verse 10 we read, "In that he saith, a new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old is ready to vanish away."

All right, this much is clear: one agreement that God made with the people was to be annulled, that was called the Old Covenant. But another agreement took the place of it, the New Covenant. Now, we inquire, what was wrong with the one that waxed old and disappeared, and how did the new one differ from the old?

The Old Covenant was an agreement between God and Israel. God promised to bless Israel upon condition of obedience to Him. Exodus 19:5,6. The Ten Commandments were the basis of the covenant. The agreement was made "concerning all these words of the law." Exodus 24:8.

God wanted to write the Ten Commandments on the heart in the Old Covenant but the people said, no, we can do it ourselves! They relied on their own works instead of letting God do it with the power of the Holy Spirit.

The weakness of the Old Covenant lay in the fact that it was dependent upon the promises of the people. "All that the Lord hath spoken we will do." Exodus 19:8. The faultiness of the Old Covenant did not lie in the commandments over which it was made, nor in God's part of the agreement, but in the human element. "For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a New Covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah. . . For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts; And I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people." Hebrews 8: 8,10.

There it is, friends; that is the New Covenant. It is just that plain.

It is just that plain. Under the New Covenant God does that which men tried and failed to do under the Old Covenant. In other words, God makes the promises instead of the people. They could not keep their promises to obey because they were weak in the flesh, and God's commandments are holy. So they fell short under the Old Covenant. Under the New, God promises to live in their hearts and provide the strength and miracle grace to obey.

Paul gives a perfect example of these covenants in Galatians 4:21-24. He says, "Tell me, ye that desire to be under the law, do ye not hear the law? For it is written, that Abraham had two sons, the one by a bondmaid, the other by a freewoman. But he who was of the bondwoman was born after the flesh; but he of the freewoman was by promise. Which things are an allegory: for these are the two covenants; the one from the mount Sinai, which gendereth to bondage, which is Agar."

When we understand this allegory, this story of Abraham and his two sons used here to illustrate a point, we will be off to a good start in understanding the two covenants. Those of you who are familiar with Abraham's experience will know what I mean.

God told Abraham and his wife, Sarah, that they would have a son. They both felt that Sarah was too old to become a mother. With his wife's consent, Abraham had a son by Hagar, a servant woman. Abraham and Sarah had good intentions. They were trying to work out the right thing, that they should have a son, but in the wrong way. The Old Covenant likewise was trying to do the right thing, obey God's laws, but in the wrong way.

God did for them what was impossible without His help. He gave them a son in their old age. It was the same thing that they had tried to do in ways of their own devising, ways that God could not accept. God showed them that human strength and human works can never obey the spiritual laws of God. But the miracle powers of God worked in Sarah to produce a son. Even so the miracle grace and power of God spiritualizes the Christian so that he can obey the law of God.

The New Covenant was a "better" covenant, not because of better laws, but because of better promises. In the place of human promises the New Covenant has God's promises. Under the New Covenant it is not the works of the flesh, but "Christ in you, the hope of glory." Colossians 1:27.

The Old Covenant was by works. The New Covenant is by faith in the promises of God. But the New Covenant does not do away with the Commandments. Rather, it makes it possible for us to keep them through Christ dwelling in our hearts. Paul forever settles this question: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law." Romans 3:31.

Some who have not made a thorough study of the matter have felt that the law was the Old Covenant. Then they reason that because the Old Covenant has been done away with, therefore the law has been done away with also. The error of this line of reasoning becomes apparent if we put the words "Old Covenant" in Romans 3:31 in place of the word "law." It would then read, "Do we then make void the Old Covenant through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the Old Covenant." This, of course, is absurd. You can't void and establish at the same time. No, the Old Covenant was not the Ten Commandments. But it was the agreement between God and the people concerning keeping those commandments.

Going back to the experience of Abraham and Sarah, we find that it required a supernatural act of God to bring the child of promise into being. Just so, because the flesh is weak, man cannot attain to the righteousness of the law in his own strength. All attempts on the Old Covenant basis of "we will do" will produce only children of bondage. But when the heart is yielded to God, when the Holy Spirit writes the law in the tables of the heart, then, by the working of God's power, "the righteousness of the law" is "fulfilled in us." Romans 8:3,4.

Ishmael, the son of the bondwoman, represents those who are born after the flesh and are "not subject to the law of God, neither indeed can be." Romans 8:7. They try to do the right thing in the wrong way and they fail. Isaac represents those who are born after the Spirit, in whom the righteousness of the law is being fulfilled. So it is the commandment breakers who are the children of bondage. Only the commandment keepers are truly free. Do you see? The commandment keepers are free from the finger of the law that condemns them for their sin. For when you keep the commandments there is no condemnation for those in Christ Jesus. Jesus has paid for your sins and you love Him and keep His commandments. Those under the curse or condemnation of the law are the commandment breakers. They are under the curse because the law condemns them for their sins because they are unwilling to keep God's law.

In closing let me give you a simple illustration that will help you to remember the difference between these two covenants.

A man asks me to build a house for him. He gives me the plans and specifications. There are ten specifications having to do with the number of rooms, size of rooms, type of materials, etc. When the job is finished, he will give me the sum of $100,000.

When the house is finished, I call the man and ask for my $100,000. He comes over to look at the house and finds that I have not followed the specifications regarding the size of the rooms. I keep reminding him that it is pretty good otherwise, but he keeps harping on the specifications. This annoys me, so I say, let's burn the specifications and then every thing will be all right.

That is just what people say about the Ten Commandments, God's specifications. Let's throw them away and then everything will be all right. Everybody is breaking them anyway. But the trouble is not with the law, but with the people. The Bible says, "For finding fault with them. . ." (the people). Hebrews 8:8. God was all right, and His Commandments were all right, but the people were all wrong.

Now getting back to our illustration: under the New Covenant the owner says, I am the master builder. We will start all over again, but this time I will stand right by you and see to it that every specification is carried out. We will work together and when the job is finished according to specifications you will get your $100,000 as we originally agreed.

You see, the new arrangement doesn't change the specifications. It doesn't change God. It does change us. It is the most wonderful thing in all the world how Christ can come into the heart and transform the life.

Before the Old Covenant came into being the New Covenant existed and was understood. But the promise goes back to the foundation of the world, for Christ is the "Lamb slain from the foundation of the world." Revelation 13:8.

There is no salvation in an Old Covenant experience by works. It is only in a New Covenant experience of faith in Jesus that we have salvation, whether Old or New Testament times.

The Old Testament heroes of whom we read in Hebrews 11 found a New Covenant experience in Old Testament times. Paul tells us in Romans 4 that Abraham found this New Covenant experience of being justified by faith. He lived two thousand years before Christ died on Calvary. This goes to show that apart from Christ there is no salvation in Old Testament time or New. "For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins." Hebrews 10:4.

These sacrifices had virtue only as the sinner, by bringing a lamb for a sin offering, demonstrated his faith in God's promises to some day send a Saviour who would be "brought as a lamb to the slaughter." One who would be "wounded for our transgressions," and "bruised for our iniquities." Isaiah 53.

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