Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Covenant and the Testimony

The Covenant, Tablets of the Covenant, Tables of Testimony, Tablets of the Testimony – these are some of the names for the two stones on which were written the Ten Commandments.

Find for me if you can any other thing that is more dear to the hearts of the Armstrongist churches than the 4th Commandment. Why? Because they feel these 10 are the unalterable and eternal moral law of God, binding on all men for all time... except that they feel Jesus Christ has magnified [altered] them… all but the 4th one, that is. Now, ask any Armstrongist and they will tell that the Old Covenant is in fact gone.

But many people, including the Armstrongists, insist that the 10 Commandments are just as binding today as they were in Moses’ day. We were never taught just what the 10 Commandments actually are. Most do not understand that they ARE the heart of the Old Covenant. They refuse to accept it. Read for yourself what the very heart of the Old covenant was:

(EXO. 34: 28) So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

(DEU. 4: 13) So He declared to you His covenant which He commanded you to perform, the Ten Commandments; and He wrote them on two tablets of stone.

(DEU. 9: 9) When I went up into the mountain to receive the tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant which the LORD made with you, then I stayed on the mountain forty days and forty nights. I neither ate bread nor drank water.

(DEU. 9: 11) And it came to pass, at the end of forty days and forty nights, that the LORD gave me the two tablets of stone, the tablets of the covenant.

(DEU. 9: 15) So I turned and came down from the mountain, and the mountain burned with fire; and the two tablets of the covenant were in my two hands.

And now let’s turn our attention to the Ark of the Covenant. Why do you suppose they called it the Ark of the Covenant? Because it was the Ark (box, repository) of the Covenant (Ten Commandments).

(I KIN. 8: 9, 21) 9 Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb, when the LORD made a covenant with the children of Israel, when they came out of the land of Egypt. 21 And there I have made a place for the ark, in which is the covenant of the LORD which He made with our fathers, when He brought them out of the land of Egypt.

There are 45 verses in the KJV where the phrase “Ark of the Covenant” can be found.

(NUM. 10: 33; 14: 44; DEU. 10: 8; 31: 9, 25, 26; JOS. 3: 3, 6, 8, 11, 14, 17; 4: 7, 9, 18; 6: 6, 8; 8: 33; JDG. 20: 27; I SAM. 4: 3-5; II SAM. 15: 24; I KIN. 3: 15; 6: 19; 8: 1, 6, 9, 21; I CHR. 15: 25-29; 16: 6, 37; 17: 1; 22: 19; 28: 2, 18; II CHR. 5: 2, 7, 10; 6: 11; JER. 3: 16; HEB. 9: 4)

Anyone who insists the Decalogue is not the Old Covenant, I'm very sorry, but the overwhelming weight of this evidence stands against your interpretation.

Let's look at another angle. The Ark is also known as the Ark of the Testimony and the tablets the Teblets of the Testimony.

(EXO. 31: 18) And when He had made an end of speaking with him on Mount Sinai, He gave Moses two tablets of the Testimony, tablets of stone, written with the finger of God.

(PSA. 32: 12) If your sons will keep My covenant and My testimony which I shall teach them, their sons also shall sit upon your throne forevermore

(EXO. 32: 15) And Moses turned and went down from the mountain, and the two tablets of the Testimony were in his hand. The tablets were written on both sides; on the one side and on the other they were written.

Testimony means “witness”, as in a witness in a court hearing. These two tablets were the Tablets of the Testimony. A witness between Israel and God that the Covenant was agreed to, and it bore witness both to blessings for keeping the covenant and curses for not keeping the covenant.

This is just like Paul said.. the law says “do” (ROM. 10: 5-6; GAL. 3: 10-12). However, that way is not faith. That way is not of the New Covenant. The New, glorious Covenant is not like the Old (JER. 31: 31-32). The Old was passing away in Paul’s time. In fact Paul says it was passing away as Moses descended the mountain (II COR. 3: 7, 13). In 70 AD it passed away completely.

God keeps a copy of the Testimony in His temple, much the same way as a bank keeps a copy of loan forms.

(REV. 11: 19) Then the temple of God was opened in heaven, and the ark of His covenant was seen in His temple.

These things Moses had were merely copies of the things in Heaven (HEB. 8: 4-5; 9: 23). What need do we have of the wooden box or the stone tablets? Even the food laws, Feast Days, Sabbaths, and New Moons were mere shadows (COL. 2: 16-17). The entire Old Covenant was temporary. The eternal substance, the reality is Christ! He is our rest (MATT. 11: 28; JER. 31: 2). (Thus we see even the 4th Commandment was magnified.) Jesus is the High Priest (HEB. 8: 1-2). Jesus is the sacrifice (EPH. 5: 2). Jesus is the redemption (ROM. 3: 24; EPH. 1: 7; COL. 1: 14).

And again the Old is not like the New. Three times every year all the males had to travel to the tabernacle (temporary dwelling) where this box sat and testified against them (EXO. 23: 14, 24; DEU. 16: 16). When they arrived, they were not allowed in. There was a veil that prevented anyone from even seeing the earthly copy of the Ark of the Covenant (EXO. 26: 33; 40: 3). If someone were to accidentally come into contact with the Ark, they would die (II SAM. 6: 6-7; I CHR. 13: 9-10). One day each year, on the Day of Atonement, only the High Priest was allowed to pass beyond the veil, and only after an elaborate sacrificial ritual (LEV. 16). So very many things were set in place to show that the people were set apart from God. All of that was fulfilled and changed in the New Covenant when Jesus’ blood atoned for the sins of mankind. The breach between man and God that had existed since Adam was now healed. That veil was torn in two when Jesus died (MATT. 27: 51; EPH. 2: 14). Today we have access directly to the throne of God. That is not to say that we have access to the Mercy Seat that was on the Ark of the Covenant that was kept behind the veil – no, we obtain mercy directly from the real throne of grace! We are not worthy, but Christ is.

(HEB. 4: 14-16) 14 Seeing then that we have a great High Priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession. 15 For we do not have a High Priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but was in all points tempted as we are, yet without sin. 16 Let us therefore come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Having reviewed some differences between the Old and New Covenants, let’s look now at how the New treats these tablets.

(II COR. 3: 4-11) 4 And we have such trust through Christ toward God. 5 Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think of anything as being from ourselves, but our sufficiency is from God, 6 who also made us sufficient as ministers of the new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7 But if the ministry of death, written and engraved on stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of the glory of his countenance, which glory was passing away, 8 how will the ministry of the Spirit not be more glorious? 9 For if the ministry of condemnation had glory, the ministry of righteousness exceeds much more in glory. 10 For even what was made glorious had no glory in this respect, because of the glory that excels. 11 For if what is passing away was glorious, what remains is much more glorious.

Why was the Old called a “ministry of death” and “ministry of condemnation”? Isn’t the law good and holy (ROM. 7: 12)? Yes, it is. The problem was with men (HEB. 8: 8). We were not able to live up to it. And this is important! The point was that we should come to see how very sinful we are (ROM. 7: 13) and know how we cannot be perfect of our own effort, so that grace is an undeserved gift from God (EPH. 2: 8-9). This is not to say that we cannot be "good" people apart from Christianity. Mankind has a natural sense of morality, and we can discover moral truths by trial and error, but we will miss the bullseye. Even with the law in front of us we still miss the mark. Sin is not only a wholesale lawless abandonment of righteousness (I JOHN 3: 4), it can also be as simple as missing the mark. “Missing the mark” is probably the most basic definition of sin. The law no doubt about it is superior to going it alone, but even the law cannot bring God’s standard of righteousness to mankind, or else it would have done so (GAL. 3: 21). It cannot because it is external to us and it depends on our effort. It can guide us to being better than we otherwise would have been, but it cannot affect real change in our hearts. Here is a list of things that do not come by the law:
Justification (GAL. 2: 16)
Righteousness (GAL. 2: 21)
The Spirit (GAL. 3: 2)
Perfection (GAL. 3: 3)
Miracles (GAL. 3: 4)
Inheritance (GAL. 3: 18)
Life (GAL. 3: 21)
Grace (GAL. 5: 4)

Being fatally flawed because of the nature of men, and never having been meant to be eternal in the first place, the Old Covenant is gone (HEB. 8: 7-13). The Old is obsolete! Vanished away! We ask “what was the Old Covenant?” And the Bible itself tells us what the Old Covenant was (see above).

The idea that the Old is now written on our hearts and is still binding in practice stands directly at odds with the words of the Bible. Yet we see that murder, adultery, idolatry, blasphemy, theft, covetousness, etc are still against the eternal moral principles – which is summed up in one word, “love”. Is the difference merely academic? No. Why would Jesus die for an academic argument? Let’s get into that difference.

We’ve seen several times so far that the tablets were a testimony. A testimony of what? Of how wonderful and just and loyal and perfect mankind is? It should have been, but no. The law most often is an effective witness AGAINST us. The Old Covenant had blessings and curses. Read Psalms 50. It speaks of God’s love for the righteous and rebuke to the wicked. Herbert Armstrong spoke of a list of accusations against us. HWA used a certain verse as his reference point to this idea.

(COL. 2: 13-14) 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.

We were taught in Armstrongism that this thing which was nailed to the cross was not the 10 Commandments but rather was a list of our sins. This list would be a serious testamony against us. We ask “what was the testimony?” The Bible itself tells us (see above). It was written on two Tablets of the Testimony and kept in the Ark of the Testimony. The very 10 Commandments are the testimony that was contrary to us!

How is this so??

(ROM. 7: 8-11) 8 But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9 I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10 And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11 For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me.

This is how!

Now, read again Bill Hohmann’s statement from his post “The Function of the Law”

“This then reveals a purpose of the law as being a witness against the Israelites [bolding mine]. They were, by nature, rebellious and stiff-necked. Elsewhere they are described as being faithless. They did not have the heart to follow God, even after the grand display where God spoke the ten commandments and the people heard God. This law exposed their collective hearts. This law prevented their denial in regards to their hearts.”

The law, which is unbendingly holy and just and good, accuses us of our sin and witnesses against us to our deaths. Our conscience bears witnesses that the testimony of the law against us is true. Note that the law has no provision for our forgiveness. If you mess up so much as one time, you are guilty. No amount of animal sacrifices could take away sin (HEB. 10: 11). This is why a Savior had to come. Not to rescue us from morality and deliver us to lustful anarchy, but to rescue us from our own earned condemnation and translate us through oneness with Christ into grace and the promise God swore upon Himself to Abraham (GAL. 3: 14, 18, 29).

The witnesses against us are the very ordinances written and engraved in stone … which those who teach the law do not understand (I TIM. 1: 7).

You see, it is not about us; it is about Christ. Our effort gets us nowhere at all. If we do nothing good, we will have a terribly hard time in the judgment. If we follow the law perfectly, erring only one time, we deserve no better. Saul was, legalistically speaking, blameless (PHP. 3: 6). Even so, Paul counted all of his legalistic accomplishments as dung for no less of a reason than God does not want our own righteousness through the law, He wants His own righteousness in us by faith (PHP. 3-11; ROM. 3: 28). If God is in us we will be growing and changing and learning to do good works. Then, do we really work at all? No. It is Christ that works in us. So, even if you do good, it is not you that does good, but Christ in you. It is no longer us who live (GAL. 2: 20). It is by faith from first to last (ROM. 1: 17). Never earned. We know the law is not faith (GAL. 3: 12). Faith in what or whom? Christ! It is not about us.

Loved dearly by God, are you offended at this? Why? Because you keep and teach and make your boast in the Old law? Those who love to teach the law do not themselves keep the law (GAL. 6: 13). Do you not know the Old law? That it enslaves us (GAL. 4: 21-31). That we fall from grace if we seek to be justified by the law (GAL. 5: 1-4). That it tests God (ACTS 15: 10). Or is it because you love to be condemned? Or to condemn others? I don't believe that.

Is it righteousness you are concerned with? Don't turn backwards to the Old Covenant. So many people have posed the false dilemma to me that if the Old Covenant law is removed then the only alternative is lawlessness. The Old is obsolete. That’s the Bible truth! In its place is the better covenant with better promises (HEB. 7: 22; 8: 6; 12: 24). If the perfect Spirit of the righteous God is in you, how do you suppose you should conduct yourself (I PET. 1: 15; II PET. 3: 11)? In the New Covenant we do not need to look back at the Old law that was against us and was a yoke no man could bear. Christ's yoke is light (MATT. 11: 29-30). We look forward to the New law, which is not new but is the first principle - love. God is love (I JOHN 4: 8). Love fulfills the law (MATT. 5: 17; ROM. 2: 27; 8: 4; 13: 8, 10; GAL. 5: 14; 6: 2; JAS. 2: 8).

Do we need the external Decalogue, which IS the Old Covenant (see above)? No. Are those who follow it condemned? I wouldn’t think so. Be fully convinced in your own mind. Following it personally and preaching that a seventh-day sabbath is a requirement on all Christians are two separate matters. The law is good if used rightly (I TIM. 1: 8).

Rather repent, believe, hold fast, endure temptation, be changed in your heart, love, and walk according to the Spirit!

14 comments:

angel said...

I've been wondering about something, maybe you can clarify. Can you explain what the God Family doctrine is all about and what HWA and Weinland taught/teach about Jesus? I seem to remember they deny His deity; do you think this has anything to do with their insistence on holding on to the Old Covenant? I'm thinking there's a direct correlation here, but I'm not sure how I'd explain it.

xHWA said...

Excellent questions, angel! And I'll try my best to answer you.

The God Family doctrine is an unorthodox, anti-Trinitarian (it presumes God and Jesus are two distinct, separate beings) teaching of Herbert Armstrong, the Watchtower Society, certain other Millerite groups, and if you can believe it the Mormons. The idea might even originate with the Mormons.

It basically states that God is reproducing Himself. When we are resurrected we will be exactly like Jesus is, fully God beings (not part of a "Trinity" but separate and distinct God beings), in the Family of God (think "God" as a last name), with all the powers of God, although in authority we will be in a submissive role below God and Jesus [and HWA].

I rather liked RedFox's posts on the God Family doctrine, which you can find here:
God Family
A Source For God Family
Jehovah's Witnesses and the God Family

As to the nature of Jesus, HWA taught that the Father and the Word have always existed from eternity as two distinct, separate God beings. That it was the Word who created all things according to the plan of the Father. That it was the Word who spoke to man in the Bible. That it was the Word who became Jesus. And that we will follow the resurrection pattern of Jesus and go from flesh to eternal God being.

Ron Weinland utterly anathematizes himself to Armstrong doctrine by claiming Jesus was a regular man, not pre-existen at all, born as we are. I know for a fact that this idea was something Ron threatened to disfellowship a man for suggesting. It certainly is not something he always believed.

I think many things come from the insistence on holding on to the Old Covenant. You are probably right that it fits somehow.
But more likely, in my mind, is that HWA was deeply influenced by Alexander Hyslop and this doctrine comes from a deep distrust of all things Catholic. I would guess that it is less an insistence on keeping the Old Covenant, and more of an insistence on utterly abandining the Trinity doctrine.

Bill said...

In false Christian cults, Jesus is, in one way or another, diminished.

HWA claimed, among other things, that the gospel was not about Christ; he was "merely" the messenger of the gospel.

HWA also taught that Christians would become God as God is God. This doctrine is patently false. God states that He alone is God, and that there is no other like Him, and there never will be anyone else like Him. We become "sons" but the term needs to be understood in the context of scripture.

HWA used this "family" concept in some regards, then abandoned it in other regards, especially when it came to the law. Then we were not "family" we were "subjects."

Luc said...

What you say in your post has been said, but maybe sandwiched in between other things.

So often I have shown various people Deut 4:13 ("He has declared to you his covenant, the Ten Commandments") and saying this verse alone should be sufficient in combination with Hebrews 8:13 "he has made the first one (covenant) obsolete," and 10:9 " he has set aside the first (covenant) to establish the second," to open the eyes; but it was like talking to the wall.

I've stuck these scriptures in front of my wife's brother over and over again, and it's the same, I might as well be telling a little kid about algebra.

It seems so simple, and when one did finally get it, it was entirely on her own, and nothing I said contributed to it. It was she her bible, and prayer.

I think, however that it's good to focus in on the fact that the covenant is what was written on those stone slabs. If this simple fact can penetrate the prejudice, it should instigate a moment of clarity, and a sudden freeing of the mind. But this resistance is a matter of prejudice, and simply not being able to comprehend that a law is not needed against thing outside the nature in those the law is designed to control. (I don't need a law against sticking my finger in a light socket).

'God can change your nature' making law unnecessary' is a concept beyond the logic of those who wont credit God with this capability, or that seem to think that selfishness is an innate quality of a sentient being. 'With faith in God, he can and will recreate you' , is one of the primary messages of the good news from God: Col 1:27 "Christ in you, the hope of glory."

xHWA said...

"What you say in your post has been said"

Yup! At least 1,000 times. :-) That's our toil. To repeat the same info over and again to every new mind that comes in from the dark.

"If this simple fact can penetrate the prejudice"

That's the best I can hope for. To help a very little bit. To say something that gets them to do.....

"It seems so simple, and when one did finally get it, it was entirely on her own, and nothing I said contributed to it. It was she her bible, and prayer."

...what you just said right there.

Bill said...

I guess it is to my shame that I also would not listen to anyone else. It was through personal study that God began to force open the clamps on my mind. Then later, it was as though God said to me, "now you get to deal with people who were as stubborn and close-minded as yourself."

It would seen though that there is always something that gets the ball rolling. For me, it was Tkach's sermon in Big Sandy that fateful day. I did not believe him, but I did realize that if he and others could conclude that what Armstrong taught was wrong, then maybe I didn't do such a good job of proving all things after all, and began studying in earnest, and worked out a methodology for properly evaluating Scripture we were not taught at A.C.

xHWA said...

"now you get to deal with people who were as stubborn and close-minded as yourself."

My punishment is more than I can bear!!!

Seeker Of Truth said...

"And now let’s turn our attention to the Ark of the Covenant. Why do you suppose they called it the Ark of the Covenant? Because it was the Ark (box, repository) of the Covenant (Ten Commandments)."

"(I KIN. 8: 9, 21) 9 Nothing was in the ark except the two tablets of stone which Moses put there at Horeb..."

How can one possibly get around that? If we are honest with ourselves and if we want God's truth, we will stop ignoring verses such as these.

"The Old was passing away in Paul’s time. In fact Paul says it was passing away as Moses descended the mountain (II COR. 3: 7, 13). In 70 AD it passed away completely."

Why was it already passing away as Moses descended the mountain? Because it was counting down to its expiration date... that of the day, the moment, Jesus would die on the cross.

"(COL. 2: 13-14) 13 And you, being dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, He has made alive together with Him, having forgiven you all trespasses, 14 having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.
We were taught in Armstrongism that this thing which was nailed to the cross was not the 10 Commandments but rather was a list of our sins."


What I find curious, is the word REQUIREMENTS. If this is a list of our sins, what is that word doing in here?... Unless, of course, it is referring to the list of requirements in the OC.

"Are those who follow it condemned? I wouldn’t think so. Be fully convinced in your own mind. Following it personally and preaching that a seventh-day sabbath is a requirement on all Christians are two separate matters. The law is good if used rightly (I TIM. 1: 8)."

This is what Paul has to say of the matter:

"2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all.
3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law.
4 You who are trying to be justified by law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace.
5 But by faith we eagerly await through the Spirit the righteousness for which we hope.
6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love."


So how do I understand all this? I understand it to mean that there is no issue in observing these things so long as you understand they NOT required. However, there is serious issue if you do it as if a requirement, or teach that it is so, to others. Because by this, one becomes separated from Christ Jesus, our Savior! How do we obtain salvation if we are separated from our Lord?

xHWA said...

Excellent insights, Seeker. I completely agree.

What do you feel about motivation? I mean, what do you personally suppose motivates a person to actively ignore Biblical information like this?

xHWA said...

I'll admit my own ignorance.
Until last week, I had no idea these verses existed or I had never thought of things in this way before.

I do not recall seeing more than 2 of these several verses that clearly state the 10 Commandments are the Old Covenant. (And those 2 I had only found a few months ago).

I had never thought of the Ark of the Covenant as the "Ark (box, repository) of the Covenant (Ten Commandments)"

And I had certainly not put the pieces together of them being a witness against us until Bill mentioned it and I started looking at the term "Tablets of the Testimony".

Anders said...

You quote: MATT. 5: 17
(le-havdil)
The question is what is written in the original version corresponding to that verse.

If you want to follow the first century Ribi Yehoshua (the Messiah) from Nazareth who spoke about that Torah will always be valid: A logical analysis of the historical documents, including the earliest MSS, and archaeology shows what he taught and how to follow him.

Learn more here: www.netzarim.co.il

Anders Branderud

xHWA said...

Anders,

I will not follow the way that all of the Apostles clearly agreed is not binding on the Gentiles. The entire point of the Jerusalem council was to settle the debate you still bring even now, which is that Gentiles DO NOT have to be Jews in order to be Christian. And a Gentile I most certainly am.

I will not slip on your yoke of bondage because I already know that way. It was decided 2,000 years ago.

I understand you only mean to be helpful, but to undo the entire New Covenant based upon Jewish tradition is not the path of understanding.

xHWA said...

*a note about Anders' comment w/ link*

Just so that no one is confused, Anders is a believer in a highly modified Orthodox Judaism that rejects the New Testament and thinks of Jesus only as a first century Rabbi. [NOT a Messiah.]

They believe that the Jews were kicked out of Judea by the Romans. Then the Romans placed Gentiles in control of the area. Then those Gentiles forged the New Testament to erase the the history of the Jews.

Hence his comment about the "original version" of Matthew.
Which he cannot produce.

I highly recommend extreme caution if you insist on visiting his link.

Seeker Of Truth said...

xHWA said...
"What do you feel about motivation? I mean, what do you personally suppose motivates a person to actively ignore Biblical information like this?"

You have to delve into psychology here I think. There may be one reason or multiple, depending on the individual.

It may simply be that they are hearing something they like. It sounds good to them. Or something they want to be true. (Have you ever heard someone say; "Tell me everything will be okay."? Because just to hear it, fact or not, gives them some peace and/or comfort.) And they don't want anyone messing with this 'thing' that they want to be true. Or you could say; they don't want you raining on their parade, or bursting their bubble.

It may be a matter of - it's what they have been told for so long, whether by parent or by minister, that it makes it 'fact' without question. And they don't want anyone coming around messing with their 'fact'.

It can also be a matter of simply not knowing the Bible, or not knowing how to study or decipher, (which is why I'm always pushing the Logic Problem Puzzle Books. It may sound trivial, but I'm telling you, it will teach you how to see, find and gather information for a clear and logical answer. If anyone doubts me, I challenge you to buy a Logic Problem Puzzle Book and do a bunch of them and tell me it didn't open your eyes to clue gathering and clear, logical deduction!) Did you know there are courses on 'How to Study'?

You have to first become familiar with what's in the Bible, and then learn what is the subject.. how would you summarize the contents thereof, book by book, and then get into understanding all the nuances, messages and meanings.

I think...