How the New Covenant Redefined Grace
- Barbara Latta Crosswalk.com Contributing Writer
- 2021 8 Nov
A lot of Christians panic when they sin because of the term “fallen from grace.” If we are not established in the Word and merely lean on traditional sayings, this can create a fearful emotion.
To know what it means to fall from grace, we need to know what grace really means.
Grace is the Lord’s gift of favor and mercy given to us for salvation because of the sacrifice of Christ. We are given eternal life, the fruit of the spirit, and power over the enemy of our souls because of what Jesus did on the cross. We accept His finished work by faith, not by something we do (Ephesians 2:8).
Old Testament Grace
After Adam and Eve fell to temptation, the ravages of sin spread throughout the earth and the Lord sent the Flood to destroy almost all living things.
After the Flood, wickedness continued to expand as people populated the planet once more. The descendants of Abraham traveled to Egypt to avoid famine and there they thrived. Miracles from the Lord delivered them from slavery, and He used the time in the desert to separate His people from the rest of the world.
Here Jehovah instituted His commandments to show them what sin was and how much they needed a Savior.
For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:17 NIV)
If they obeyed God, offered sacrifices for sin, and didn’t adopt the ways of the idol-worshipping nations around them, they were given mercy. Righteousness was put on their account for the future until the Savior would arrive to permanently wash away sin (Hebrews 10:6-7).
Those who were willing to obey the Lord were given acceptance into the fold such as Rahab and Ruth. David was spared the punishment the Law demanded after he sinned with Bathsheba, though he did suffer the consequence with the death of his child (2 Samuel 12:13-14).
The Shadow of Things to Come
When we see a shadow against a wall, it is a distorted image of the true person whose silhouette is broadcast. The rules, festivals, and ceremonies of the Levitical law were shadows pointing to the Messiah. Now that His reality is with us, we don’t need the symbols any longer. How much better to see the person who creates a shadow, than to only have the shadow itself.
Therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration of a Sabbath day. They are a shadow of the things that were to come; the reality, however, is found in Christ. (Colossians 2:16-17)
As Paul wrote in Galatians, to fall from grace means we have taken ourselves away from approaching the throne based on God’s gift of salvation, and instead we start seeking favor and answers from Him based on our performance. We go back to law-keeping in our thoughts and actions.
Since you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules: “Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. (Colossians 2:20-22)
The Jews who didn’t want to let go of the Law attempted to be justified by what they did.
Law-keeping for us today means trying to please the Father through achievements such as how much we attend church, give offerings, read the Bible, help people, and anything else we view as a gold star on our heavenly chart. All these deeds are important, but they are the result of our relationship, not the way we approach the throne.
When we do this, we have fallen away from living under the worthiness Jesus bought and put ourselves back into the performance mindset. What our behavior says is that Jesus is not enough. Our efforts represent obtaining salvation our own way.
You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. (Galatians 5:4)
An emphasis on works produces condemnation because just like the Old Testament Law, it cannot save us. The fruit of the flesh is through our efforts, but God’s gift blooms through the fruit of the Spirit.
For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Galatians 5:17-18)
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Christ Enacted a New Covenant
The Law was always hanging over the heads of the Jews because no one could keep it. Just one indiscretion meant the whole requirement was broken (James 2:10).
Once Jesus arrived, He fulfilled all the elements of the Law. He abolished the commandment’s power of guilt over man. Trust in the Son is now all that is needed because Jesus took upon Himself the wrath of the Almighty.
He has saved us and called us to a holy life—not because of anything we have done but because of his own purpose and grace. This grace was given us in Christ Jesus before the beginning of time, but it has now been revealed through the appearing of our Savior, Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel (2 Timothy 1:9-10)
The new covenant of righteousness through belief in Him was established through promise. We are not children of the bondwoman, but of the free (Galatians 4:31).
Live by Faith Not Works
Paul wrote his somewhat scathing letter to the Galatians because they had been told by some Jews they had to also be circumcised and obey regulations of Judaism along with their submission to the only begotten Son of God. They reverted to mixing rules with their new life.
The Old Testament laws are now gone because the blood of Christ was the final sacrifice. They received Him by faith, as we all do. And we are to live the same way we received Him—by faith. Because the Son of God did all the work and satisfied all the requirements.
So then, just as you received Christ Jesus as Lord, continue to live your lives in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness. (Colossians 2:6)
Circumcision was a sign of the covenant Yahweh made with Abraham. A covenant that would be fulfilled by a future redeemer. Now that the redeemer is here, circumcision is no longer needed.
In him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ, having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through your faith in the working of God, who raised him from the dead. (Colossians 2:11-12)
The power of sin, performance, and guilt was nailed to the cross.
When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross. (Colossians 2:13-14)
Grace Is Greater Than Sin
We cannot sin beyond Christ’s ability to save us. Falling from grace doesn’t mean we are thrown out of the family of God. He told us He would never leave us or forsake us (Deuteronomy 13:8).
The law was brought in so that the trespass might increase. But where sin increased, grace increased all the more, so that, just as sin reigned in death, so also grace might reign through righteousness to bring eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord. (Romans 5:20-21)
God never intended for people to live under the Law forever. Grace is God’s part in the plan of salvation as He presented to us the eternal gift of His Son. Faith is our part when we receive what He did. All we need to do is live in the knowledge that we are complete in Christ.
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/Tinnakorn Jorruang / EyeEm
Barbara Latta is a true southerner and is transplanted from Arkansas to Georgia. She writes a monthly column in her local newspaper and contributes to devotional websites, online magazines, and has stories in several anthologies. She is the author of God’s Maps, Stories of Inspiration, and Direction for Motorcycle Riders. She enjoys traveling with her Harley-riding prince on his motorcycle taking in the creativity of nature. Drinking coffee on the patio while the sun comes up is her favorite time of day. Barbara shares about walking in grace and thriving in hope on her blog, Navigating Life’s Curves, at www.barbaralatta.blogspot.com. She cherishes her role in life as a wife, a mom to two grown sons, and Mimi to one granddaughter.