By Ray Gentry

While we as Christians should value our God-given ability to reason, and we can learn from traditions and experiences, the Bible is to be the ultimate foundation of our moral decision making process. Fortunately, the New Testament also teaches us that our Heavenly Father now plays an active role in teaching us how to do what’s right, similar to how our earthly parents taught us.

But first before answering our question: we’ve seen that the New Testament goes to great lengths to show that the Old Covenant has been made “obsolete,” replaced by a new agreement called the New Covenant, which is a higher standard than the Old agreement given to Moses. We’ve also seen we must appreciate the “newness” of the New Covenant, yet is it entirely different than what was revealed to Moses?

An important question to consider is this: since we should know the Old Law doesn’t directly carry over into the New, then when God had told Moses something was an “abomination,” is it now no longer an abomination? To wrongfully say it’s no longer an abomination would be entering into antinomianism (against the law). For an example of an abomination, in Deuteronomy 14:3 God told the Israelites to not eat anything that is an “abomination,” and verse 8 says that the pig is included. Fortunately the New Testament answers that specific question in Romans 14 (we have liberty with regard to what we eat). Therefore, sometimes the New Covenant makes dramatic changes and allows liberty.

But what about things not specifically changed in the New Testament? When studying, we see there are other “abominations” that the New Testament still forbids, therefore the New Testament sometimes upholds what was taught to Moses. Thus, sometimes there’s continuity and other times there’s discontinuity.

All of this brings us to “gray areas:” things which aren’t specifically instructed in either testament. We should again remember that the Old Covenant was given to a mostly unregenerate people, and is too low of a standard for someone who is permanently indwelled with God’s Holy Spirit. The New Covenant is a higher standard, which is why and how the Old Covenant could be made obsolete and replaced. We have “liberty” in the New Covenant, yet the way we behave should be as someone who submits to the leading of the Holy Spirit. We’re no longer rebellious at heart, but must be sensitive to the guidance of the Spirit living within us, and know that if we stray too far, Hebrews 12 explains to us that our Heavenly Father will take action to correct us (if we truly are one of His children).

And now to answer our question, this passage explains how our Heavenly Father teaches us how to do what’s right, and is similar to how our earthly parents taught us:

“ ‘My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,

Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;

For whom the Lord loves He chastens,

And scourges every son whom He receives.’

If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is there whom a father does not chasten? But if you are without chastening, of which all have become partakers, then you are illegitimate and not sons. Furthermore, we have had human fathers who corrected us, and we paid them respect. Shall we not much more readily be in subjection to the Father of spirits and live? For they indeed for a few days chastened us as seemed best to them, but He for our profit, that we may be partakers of His holiness. Now no chastening seems to be joyful for the present, but painful; nevertheless, afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it,” (Hebrews 12:5-11).

We now see that God disciplines His children when we stray too far, and those trained by that discipline will be able to produce a harvest of righteousness. Again, it’s all the work done by God, He is responsible for doing the work in us to correct us if we stray too far, and we rest in Him, even though His discipline is benevolently painful. Remember, God had told us, “this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the LORD: I WILL put My law in their minds, and write it on their hearts; and I WILL be their God, and they shall be My people,” (Jeremiah 31:33 and Hebrews 8:10). Not only is all of that Good News, but we’ll also eventually see that Jesus is our Sabbath rest from us having to try to keep the Law all by ourselves. This is what the Sabbath “rest” had pointed to; it was all Christ-centered, and this is why Jesus as the Lord of the Sabbath declared, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you REST,” (Matthew 11:28). The Old Covenant symbol of the Sabbath is transformed into the New Covenant reality in Christ: rest from our works through faith in Christ’s past, present and future work for us, in us, and through us (see Hebrews 4:7-11).

All of this is better in every way than having to meticulously attempt to follow any list of rules and regulations based on fear (this also makes it easier when we encounter “gray areas”). We instead now have a new God-given desire deep down inside of us, which is one of the primary fruits of the Spirit, and this love inside us is a much greater motivator than fear.

If you’re struggling with something you know is an “abomination,” the Good News is that “you” can’t conquer what you’re struggling with, only Jesus, the victorious King of His Israel of God can conquer it for you by empowering you with His Holy Spirit. When you’re struggling with something you know you can’t conquer, then the answer is to daily beg and plead for the power of the Holy Spirit in your life, just as Jesus taught:

“I say to you, ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. For everyone who asks receives, and he who seeks finds, and to him who knocks it will be opened. If a son asks for bread from any father among you, will he give him a stone? … If you then, being evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your heavenly Father GIVE THE HOLY SPIRIT TO THOSE WHO ASK HIM!” (Luke 11:9-13)

The Holy Spirit is THE gift that we should seek from God. The Spirit in our lives gives us the empowerment to conquer sin and He is who we should desperately be seeking. We just can’t make it without our “Helper,” our “Advocate,” the Holy Spirit, and this new regeneration with the Spirit is the only way we’re given true life. The supreme importance of the regenerating (born again) life given by the Holy Spirit is stated here by Jesus:

“Truly, truly, I tell you, no one can see the kingdom of God unless he is born again,” (John 3:3).

In looking into the differences between the Covenants, the Old Covenant contained judicial laws, with punishments for lawbreakers. However, in describing the New Covenant, rather than seeking to punish our brothers and sisters if (or rather, when) they do something we judge to be wrong, Jesus instructed us this way, “Do not judge, or you too will be judged. For in the same way you judge others, you will be judged, and with the measure you use, it will be measured to you,” (Matthew 7:1-2). The reason why we aren’t to judge is because we’re unable to see where someone is at in their walk with God, and we’re unable to comprehend how God is working in that person’s life (pronouncing judgment upon someone is different than Biblically offering disapproval to a brother or sister engaged in sin). In the New Covenant, God is the One who judges and leads His people.

Therefore, when anyone knows there’s something in their life that they know is wrong, but they either don’t have any motivation to change or they ignore the pleading of the indwelling Holy Spirit, then if they’re a true child of God what comes next is discipline from our Heavenly Father. Pay attention to what God is doing in your life to motivate you to change, be willing to be trained by it, and know that the pain you’re going through to change and motivate you will produce a harvest of righteousness if you’re willing to submit to being changed by it.

In the New Covenant, rather than appealing to Moses for morality, we instead look to our higher standard which is known as the Law of Christ (Galatians 6:2, 1 Corinthians 9:21, Mark 12:28-31, etc.). We should note that at the transfiguration, Moses and Elijah (representing the Law and the Prophets) look to Christ; Christ does not look to Moses and Elijah for validation because God powerfully declared to them, “This is my Son, whom I love; with him I am well pleased. Listen to HIM!” The reason why any moral command is carried on is due exclusively to Christ Himself absorbing it through His death and resurrection as our victorious Prophet, Priest and King. Morality has been redefined in Christ through all that He taught us during His ministry on earth, and all that He will teach each one of us with His Holy Spirit.

In conclusion, our permanent indwelling of the Holy Spirit is THE glorious guide of the New Covenant that keeps His people within the Law and no longer rebellious lawbreakers. Because of the work done by Jesus, we who are God’s Elect are instead viewed as being legal, “within the law,” and no longer lawbreakers. God’s Word in Hebrews 10:14 even goes so far as to say that we are now “perfect,” yet the process of sanctification is still ongoing and sometimes we stray too far from God’s will for our lives. As we’ve seen, Hebrews 12 explains the painful but benevolent discipline that’s given to His people to keep us within His will, as He molds us into His image through the work of the Holy Spirit. We’re then able to bear His fruit, and since Jesus is the vine, then by being connected to Him we bear His fruit. Jesus is also our Sabbath rest from us trying to do works of the Old Covenant Law of “death” and “condemnation.” We must instead find our rest in Him and allow Him to do the work in us through His Holy Spirit. No Old Covenant Law could ever bring forth His fruit quite like being connected to His “more glorious” New Covenant’s guide, the Holy Spirit.