Breach of Covenant
According to Jesus, love of God and love of one’s neighbor was the foundational basis for all law. Failure to love God and one’s neighbor is therefore the foundational basis of all law breaking: sin. Under the Christian Covenant, failure to be like Christ was failure to keep the covenant, and therefore sin.
“Sin not Unto Death”
The Lord viewed all converts to Christ as “little children” (1John 3:7) and thus immaturity is expected. Such immaturity was sin (1John 1:8); it was sin “not unto death” (1John 5:16). Such sin was expected, although not accepted, and the Lord’s Table was provided as a cleansing of sin and conscience: it was there for a reason. One making progress towards Christlikeness was said to be growing in grace and the Spirit, sort of a perfection in itself. One was not thrown out of the covenant every time he sinned; you are not in covenant in the morning, out in the afternoon and back in that evening. Error is not the basis of being out of covenant for us any more than it was for the Corinthian church which even in its time of grave error and sin was called by Paul as the church of God, of saints and people who had dedicated themselves to Christ (1Cor. 12). Paul demonstrated that they were accepted, even with their sins, and offered correction so that they may be conformed to Christ.
Sins Unto Death”
This, on the other hand is the complete repudiation of Christ and His Covenant. Since there is no way other than by the cross, a complete rejection of the way results in being lost. The New Testament reveals two ways in which this can happen:
First, a complete break with Christ and the church. This was called “fallen away” (Heb. 6:6), “severed from Christ (Gal. 5:4), “deliberately keep on sinning” (Heb. 10:26), “carried away” and “fall from your secure position” (2Pet. 3:17), “remove your lamp stand” (Rev. 2:5), and “denied my name” (Rev. 3:8). In the long course of human and Divine experience demonstrated that some people keep their commitments, and others do not.
Second, one could “fall away” by their own utter neglect of their covenant pledge. The Apostles spent considerable time and effort writing to their flocks urging them to remain faithful:
|Paul||By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain. (1Cor. 15:2)|
|Peter||Therefore, my brothers, be all the more eager to make your calling and election sure. For if you do these things, you will never fall (2Pet. 1:10)
If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. (2Pet. 2:20)
|Jude||They are godless men, who change the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord.
Though you already know all this, I want to remind you that the Lord delivered his people out of Egypt, but later destroyed those who did not believe. And the angels who did not keep their positions of authority but abandoned their own home—these he has kept in darkness, bound with everlasting chains for judgment on the great Day. (Jude 4 ff.)
|John||Be faithful, even to the point of death, and I will give you the crown of life. (Rev. 2:10)
And I saw the souls of those who had been beheaded because of their testimony for Jesus and because of the word of God. (Rev. 20:4)
|Hebrews||We must pay more careful attention, therefore, to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away. For if the message spoken by angels was binding, and every violation and disobedience received its just punishment, how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? (Heb. 2:1 ff.)
Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.
So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised. (Heb. 10:32 ff.)
See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God. But encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin’s deceitfulness. We have come to share in Christ if we hold firmly till the end the confidence we had at first. (Heb. 3:12 ff.)
|James||What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? . . . You see that a person is justified by what he does and not by faith alone. (James 2:14 ff.)|
|Jesus||‘Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels. For I was hungry and you gave me nothing to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me nothing to drink, I was a stranger and you did not invite me in, I needed clothes and you did not clothe me, I was sick and in prison and you did not look after me.’ . . . They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’
“He will reply, ‘I tell you the truth, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’ (Matt. 25:41 ff.)
So then, each of us will give an account of himself to God. (Rom 14:12) The terms of keeping the New Covenant are being “in Christ”. There is no way to keep the covenant terms if we are outside of Christ, and there is no way to keep the covenant terms if we swear allegiance to Christ, and then utterly turn our backs on our obligations. Repent! Return to your first love!