The Law and Grace – Differences & Similarities 2: Leadership

I’ve been looking further again at the differences and similarities between the Old Testament and the New Testament. One of these differences which I mentioned in my first post I want to take a deeper look at – the leadership of the participants of the covenants.

In my previous submission I sought to establish that Christians are the modern day equivalent of Levites, and our high priest is Christ himself.

1 Pe 2:9 But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people belonging to God, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.

Rev 1:5-6 To him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood, and has made use to be a kingdom and priests to serve his God and Father – to him be glory and power for ever and ever! Amen.

Heb 4:16 Let us then approach the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.

Interestingly, this promise was given to the Israelite people as well in Ex 19:5-6

Ex 19:5-6 Although the whole earth is mine, you will be for me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.

The difference between the two however is in the actualization of this promise. In the OT, only the Levite tribe was allowed entry into the Tent of Meeting and therefore the people could only approach God through them. Look at what Moses said to Korah the Levite when he challenged him.

Nu 16:9 Isn’t it enough for you that the God of Israel has separated you from the rest of the Israelite community and brought you near himself to do the work at the Lord’s tabernacle and to stand before the community and minister to them?

However, Heb 4:16 tells us that we can approach the throne of grace “with confidence”. And I Co 3:16 says we are the temple of God and of His Spirit. The promise of a kingdom of priests that the Israelite community did not fully have is granted in all it’s essence to every disciple of Christ.

With that established, we’ll come to the substantive matter at hand: leadership. Taking the Christian life to be a journey to a promised land (which it actually is in reality), it is important for us to understand that God is leading us in the same way that he led them in the exodus from Egypt to Caanan. The striking parallels of this truth are expressed all over the NT, some examples of which are 1 Co 10:1-13 and much of the book of Hebrews.

The leaders of the people of Israel in the Exodus was Moses and Aaron. The two represent on one hand authoritative leadership and mediation and on the other intercession for the sins of the covenanted. These responsibilities are also explicitly shown and assumed by Christ Jesus in the NT. As we seek to establish these similarities/differences, we’ll see how they should affect what Christianity should be like (and probably isn’t right now).

Leadership in the OT

God appointed Moses the man to lead the people out of Egypt into Canaan.

Ex 3:9-10 And now the cry of the Israelites has reached me, and I have seen the way the Egyptians are oppressing them. So now, go. I am sending you to Pharaoh to bring my people the Israelites out of Egypt.

When Miriam and Aaron opposed Moses’ leadership, God himself testified about him and the role of leadership that God had called him to.

Nu 12:6-8 When a prophet of the Lord is among you, I reveal myself to him in visions, I speak to him in dreams. But this is not true of Moses; he is faithful in all my house. With him I speak face to face, clearly and not in riddles; he sees the form of the Lord. Why then were you not afraid to speak against my servant Moses?

This burden of leadership of an ungrateful, unbelieving people was such that even Moses had cause to complain why God had made him lead these people.

Nu 11:11-12 He asked the Lord, “Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers?

That Moses was also the mediator of the OT cannot be overemphasized. When he was ready to declare the decrees of God to them, this was his introductory statement:

Dt 5:4-5 The Lord spoke to you face to face out of the fire on the mountain. (At that time I stood between the Lord and you to declare to you the word of the Lord, because you were afraid of the fire and did not go up the mountain).

And again hear him repeat what the Israelites told him to do:

Dt 5:25,27 But now, why should we die? This great fire will consume us, and we will die if we hear the voice of the Lord our God any longer … Go near and listen to all that the Lord our God says. Then tell us whatever the Lord our God tells you. We will listen and obey.

The Apostle John confirms this statement, comparing his role to that of Christ.

Jn 1:17 For the Law was given through Moses; grace and truth came though Jesus Christ.

The ceremonial work of atoning for the sins of the nation of Israel was declared the duty of Aaron and his family, with the rest of the Levite clan assisting him.

Lev 9:7 Moses said to Aaron, “Come to the altar and sacrifice your sin offering and your burnt offering and make atonement for yourself and the people; sacrifice the offering that is for the people and make atonement for them, as the Lord commanded.”

Nu 3:5-6 The Lord said to Moses, “Bring the tribe of Levi and present them to Aaron the priest to assist him.”

It is worth noting the division of responsibilities to two different people – Moses and Aaron, even though they were all of the same tribe of Levi. However, this was not the original idea of God. When God called Moses he gave him all the authority and responsibilities needed to lead the people of Israel. It was based Moses’ own insistence on his inadequacy that God provided Aaron.

Ex 4:13-15 But Moses said, “Oh Lord, please send someone else to do it.” Then the Lord’s anger burned against Moses and he said, “What about your brother, Aaron the Levite? I know he can speak well … You shall speak to him and put words in his mouth; I will help both of you to speak and will teach you what to do.

Leadership in the NT

Jesus Christ’s leadership had two purposes which were closely interlinked – to lead us like Moses, into a promised land referred to as the Kingdom of God where we will be the kings, and secondly to lead us to God himself. The achievement of the former implies the fulfillment of the latter.

Mt 19:27 Peter answered him, “We have left everything to follow you! What then will there be for us?” Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel.”

Jn 14:6 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”

If there is one other role of Jesus Christ that most Christians will not dispute, it’s the role of of mediation – as already stated in Jn 1:17 above and reiterated in 1 Ti 2:5.

1 Ti 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.

The role of atonement for the sins of the people which Jesus Christ again plays is better captured in the book of Hebrews.

Heb 8:1-2 The point of what we are saying is this: We do have such a hight priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who serves in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.

Heb 7:20 He has become a high priest for ever, in the order of Melchizedek.

Heb 7:11 If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come – one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron.

So we see two clear things happening with the coming of Jesus Christ.

  1. A parallel form of leadership to that of the Law.

  2. A combination of both offices of leadership and priesthood (what Peter calls “royal priesthood” in 1 Pe 2:9) into one person – the person of Jesus Christ. The unification of leadership into one person was the same thing God wanted to achieve when he called Moses, but seeing his human failure, had to break that responsibility up into two to include Aaron as well.

Obviously, the calling of Jesus Christ is far superior to that of Moses and Aaron, though the form and function of it is still the same – to lead God’s people to Him and to His purpose. The all-encompassing, all-sufficient leadership of Christ is very well captured in Eph 1:22

Eph 1:22-23 And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills everything in every way.

This understanding of the role of Christ to the people he is leading (the Church composed of his disciples) forms the basis then for a very critical look at Christianity today. I believe that most Christians accept the fact that Christ is our priest and the mediator of the covenant between us and God. But most of us do not also fully realize the dimensions of his authoritative leadership of the church.

Christ is the head of the Church, and therefore that position cannot be taken by a human being, whether symbolically or authoritatively. His authority cannot be challenged, in the same way Korah could not challenge the authority and calling of Moses. He exerts his authority as head of the Church through the Holy Spirit (take a critical look at Acts 15). This understanding of the role of Christ was so well grounded in NT Christians that there is no recorded pattern of single leadership of any local church – all examples denoted plural leadership. That way the Holy Spirit brings them (the leaders) as well as the whole body into agreement signifying the will of Christ, not of one person as we have it today. No wonder strong rebuke was given to those who made such attempts.

3 Jn 9-10 I wrote to the church, but Diotrephes, who loves to be first, will have nothing to do with us. So if I come, I will call attention to what he is doing, gossiping maliciously about us. Not satisfied with that, he refuses to welcome the brothers. He also stops those who want to do so and puts them out of the church.

I Co 1:12-13 What I mean is this: One of you says, “I follow Paul”; another, “I follow Apollos”; another, “I follow Cephas”; still another, “I follow Christ”. Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you?

This is why I do not agree with the notion of man made authorities like Popes, Moderators, Presidents, General Overseers, Archbishops, Chairmen and co – whether they are symbolic or authoritative. They are all usurping the role of Christ exerted through the Holy Spirit on this earth.

The Current Situation

Today we have a situation in Christendom where our pastors have created their own “Levitical” tribe called the “clergy” and labeled everyone else the “lay” ( I don’t know where these terms are in the Bible). They have twisted the OT to put their brothers into “slavery” under them. I guess the “clergy” does not understand the definition of their role as per Eph 4:11-16. What do they understand of “… to prepare God’s people for works of service”? I hope the understanding is that the works of service are to be done for God, not for them. They have forgotten that they are to teach men & women to be like Christ, filled with the word and with the Spirit – so that they won’t be blown by all sorts of winds (Eph 4:15-16), a good example of which is the current wind of “prosperity” cum “motivational” teaching.

Unfortunately the concept of the “lay” has really made Christians “laid” back (I think the appropriateness of the word itself cannot be lost on anyone). And this has been so well ingrained in Christians of today that we do not see the need to even know the word of God for ourselves. After all as Isaiah said, we think that the word is “sealed” – only the clergy can expound it to us. We don’t understand that we ARE the priests who are supposed to be doing the work with our High Priest, not someone else doing it for us.

Is 29:11-12 For you this whole vision is nothing but words sealed in a scroll. And if you give the scroll to someone who can read and say tho him, “Read this, please,” he will answer, “I can’t; it is sealed”. Or if you give the scroll to someone who cannot read and say “Read this, please,” he will answer, “I don’t know how to read”.

But look at what the Apostle Paul advised the Colossian church to do.

Col 3:16 Let the word of Christ dwell in your richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom, and as you sing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in your heart to God.

Today, to have an intellectual discussion with a fellow Christian about the word of God is tantamount to heresy. It is as if we are afraid of the word of God. Our Christianity is only evident in the four corners of the church room. We don’t have the word dwelling in us, so we can’t discuss it. At best, we can only talk of opinions and mindsets, not on what the word itself says. In fact, Christians are not interesting anymore. Most of us are in it for the social value and fashion statement and have never truly repented, believed and obeyed.

Let us look at the word of God again and ask the Spirit to lead us into truth because we have our Moses and Aaron – and he is called Jesus Christ. No one else in any form can take His place.

The Law and Grace: Differences Between the Covenants

I find that one of the greatest confusions created by dominant Christianity today is the (un)intentional mingling and confusion of some of the foundations or truths of the covenants of the Law and that of Grace (or Old and New Testaments). I’ll try in this post to outline some of differences between them and how these understandings should influence our actions as Christians.

  1. The New Testament is based on what God “promised to our fathers” (Ac 13:32; 2 Co 7:1;2 Pe 3:4,9). It is based on unconditional promises made to Abraham (Ge 12:2-3;15:4-21; Gal 3:14,16) and repeated his immediate descendants Isaac (Ge 26:24) and Jacob (Ge 28:13-15) and also to David (2 Sa 7:11-16;Is 55:3-5). However after 400 years of giving the promises he now creates a new covenant – one based on a conditional promise (Ex 19:5) to his favourite nation Israel (contained in all of Ex 19-24). Heb 8:6 says the New Testament is founded on better promises. You see why?
  2. Both covenants had mediators, and the Old Testament’s mediator was Moses (Dt 5:4-5; Jn 1:17; Gal 3:19). However there is something unique about the New Testament. Because it is based on an unconditional promise, it means that one cannot appeal to any middle person to force compliance or fulfillment of that promise (it is self-maledictory – Heb 6:13-14,18). The delivery of that promise is based on the person’s own honour. God is forced to fulfill his sworn promise by coming down on earth himself in the form of Christ. And so Christ is the mediator of the covenant which He himself, as the word of God (Jn 1:1) covenanted with the fathers (1 Ti 2:5;Heb 12:24; 8:6; 9:15). This is what Paul meant when he said “A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one” (Gal 3:20). God himself is the keeper/enforcer of his own covenant through Christ – no middleman.
  3. The promises made to the fathers contained elements for not only Israel’s attention but for the whole world at large. God tells Abraham that “all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you”. He reiterates it to Jacob as well (Ge 28:13-15). God tells David that his kingdom will be established and will rule the world forever. However note what Moses says in Dt 5:3: “It was not with our fathers that the Lord made this covenant, but with us, with all of us who are alive here today”. Ex 19:5 says “out of all nations you will be my treasured possession”. The Law was given for Israel and Israel alone to follow. It could be applied to a gentile only if they had been converted to Judaism.
  4. In the Old Testament a tribe was set aside as the tribe of priests, the Levites. They alone were to offer prayers and sacrifices both on behalf of themselves and the nation under the leadership of a high priest. In the New Testament, the High Priest is Christ himself (Heb 8:1-2) who once and for all performed the sacrifice in the heavenly typification of the earthly temple with his blood (Heb 9:23-26). This is in stark contrast to the Old Testament where the chief priest had to offer blood again and again to cleanse both himself and the nation. Also the New Testament considers all its partakers priests. All these priests must act under the direction of the Holy Spirit and display different gifts and ministries in an equal brotherhood as children of promise (Joel 2:28; Jer 31:34; Eph 4:11;1 Co 12:7-11). There is no division between so called “clergy” and “laity” (1 Pe 2:4-5; 9-10) as this is just an attempt by self-serving men to use OT priesthood to confuse and therefore gain control over their fellow NT brothers (Gal 4:21-31). “If perfection could have been attained through the Levitical priesthood (for on the basis of it the law was given to the people), why was there still need for another priest to come – one in the order of Melchizedek, not in the order of Aaron?” (Heb 7:11). No wonder Gal 5:1 says “do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery“.
  5. In the Old Testament tithes were paid to the Levitical priesthood and they alone had the right to determine what to do with it – “I give to the Levites all the tithes in Israel as their inheritance in return for the work they do while serving at the Tent of Meeting” (Nu 18:21,24;Mal 3:8). Abraham paid his tithe to Melchizedek, priest of the Most High God (Ge 14:18-20). Tithing began before the Law was given and the first instance of it was not to a Levite, for they did not exist then. However, in the Law God redirected it to be paid to them. The New Testament, founded on the “promises to the fathers” and not on the Law requires that we pay our tithe to our High Priest whose priesthood is “of the order of Melchizedek”. As Heb 7:9-10 says, even Levi can be considered to have paid it even when he was still in the loins of his forbearer Abraham. Because the New Testament banishes the Levitical priesthood (v 11), the already illegal “clergy” has no right to claim tithes paid by Christians to Christ as theirs. We as a “people”, a “priesthood” and a “nation” of and belonging to Christ have the right to determine what we want to do with our tithes, which could include giving “double honour” to the elders whose work is teaching and preaching (1 Ti 5:17-18). They themselves cannot claim “Levitical priesthood” and do what they want with it. I hope they realise that “when there is a change of the priesthood, there must also be a change of the law” (Heb 7:12) and come to repentance. Our tithing as Christians is not paid to Old Testament Levitical priesthood but to the priest “of the order of Melchizedek” – Christ. Christians must wake up and stop being deceived by the so called “men of God”.
  6. In the New Testament, the Holy Spirit came upon men and women of God, such as his prophets, kings etc (Jg 6:34;1 Sa 10:10). In those times the Holy Spirit was an influence that came upon them to do the will of God. In contrast the Spirit lives with and in men and women of the New Testament (Jn 14:15-17;Jn 7:37-38;Joel 2:28;Ac 2:4;Eph 5:18). That is why Paul says we individually are a temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Co 6:19) and as a group are also the temple of the Spirit (1 Co 3:16). The work of conviction of the unrepentant person is done by the Holy Spirit (Jn 14:8), therefore the Old Testament experience of the influence of the Spirit exist for anyone who comes into Christianity anew. But the new experience of the Spirit must be felt by him filling each and every disciple. He is our only source of power to do good works (Ac 1:8), the seal guaranteeing our inheritance (Eph 1:14), the One who leads us into all truth (Jn 16:13), teaches us the mind of God (1 Co 2:10,16) and binds us together into one body (1 Co 12:13) . Works done without the direction of the Spirit does not and cannot please God (Ro 8:6-8;Gal 5:16-18). His indwelling presence in every believing Christian cannot be overemphasized, failure of which only leads to “having a form of godliness but denying its power” (2 Ti 3:5). No doubt the majority of the church today is guilty of this grave sin, with orthodox Christianity the most guilty.
  7. The Old Testament had special days and times set aside for special events – Passover, Sabbath, Feast of Weeks, Feast of Trumpets, Feast of Tabernacles etc (Lev 23). However, all these were set aside with the coming into being of the New Testament, especially for us Gentiles (Gal 3:23-25). That is why Paul was concerned when he found the Galatians “observing special days and months and seasons and years” (Gal 4:10). The only sacrament of the New Testament covenant is that of The Lord’s Supper and no more. This is one reason why it is not a vital issue whether we meet on a Saturday or Sunday so far as we do not neglect gathering together to encourage and build up one another, and another reason why the early predominantly Gentile church decided to meet on “the Lord’s day” (Ac 20:7). However modern Christianity has burdened itself with all sorts of institutionalized Christmases and Easters and Lents etc. Observe that anytime God told Abraham to do something and he (Abraham) did something else in addition, trouble came out of such an action. Look at the trouble Lot brought him (Ge 13-14) when God gave a simple instruction – “Leave your country, your people and your father’s household …” (Gen 12:1). God promised him a son by Sarah, but being impatient he had to go for one from Hagar first and we all know how his descendants are suffering for that. Are we trying to write our own version of the Law? Now Christianity finds its “special days” hijacked by the world for it’s own pleasures and we are battling to explain to an unrepentant world the significance of our own self-instituted, non-scriptural “special days”. Santa Claus is going nowhere. We created him!

These are a few that I’ve discovered so far. Hope to flesh it up with more as the Holy Spirit gives the guidance. In the meantime ponder them in your head, and find out whether you are being “Lawful” or “Graceful”.