An area of contrast between the old covenant of law and the new covenant of grace is the order of events in the believer’s life. Under the old covenant, life was “do and receive”. If you do X, then you will receive Y from God.
But this old arrangement of “do and receive” is no longer in effect after the cross. The writer to the Hebrews calls the old covenant arrangement “obsolete, growing old, and ready to disappear” (Hebrews 8:13). Paul proclaims that “it is being brought to an end” (II Corinthians 3:10). But we really hate to give it up. Why?
The do and receive just sounds so right to our human ears. Our parents, our teachers, our coaches, other authority figures in our lives drilled this into our heads. You behave in a certain way – good or bad – and you will receive the reward or the punishment. It is ingrained into our old nature.
But this order is completely flipped on its head in the new covenant of grace. The first order of business is “to believe”. “Therefore they said to Him, ‘What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?’ Jesus answered and said to them, ‘This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He has sent.’ ” (John 6:28-29). Or said another way, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes Him who sent Me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life” (John 5:24).
So the first move is for us to believe something. First, we must believe “in the One that God has sent”. We must believe that Jesus Christ was the substitute for us when He died on a cross in our place.
When we first believe, we immediately go to step two, and I mean immediately! In step two, “we receive”. We receive forgiveness for our sins, we receive the gift of eternal life, we receive a new identity that comes with all kinds of new; a new nature, a new Spirit, a new heart, a new purity, a new self, a new disposition, a new life, and a new power over sin. That is a lot of receiving. And it has nothing to do with our behavior, nothing to do with our “do”. Any change in behavior has not even happened yet. It is all a free gift of grace.
Now after we “believe” and “receive”, then and only then does the “do” come into play. This is the new covenant. We “believe, receive, and do” in that order. We live inside out. We live out of the righteousness that Christ has put in us. We live out of the new self, “a self created in the likeness of God, a self created in righteousness and holiness” (Ephesians 4:24).
Here is the explanation that permeates the New Testament letters, “This is what Christ has done for you and to you. He has saved you and He has made you into a new creation with His divine nature inside you. You now have a power to “do” that was not available to the Old Testament followers of God.”
Our “believe” is not just the one time belief for salvation. The Christian walk is also informed by “believe”. That is why faith is such an integral part of the apostles’ discussion of the Christian life. Faith is required because I will experience the indwelling Christ living His life through me only if I believe His promises to do so are true. Believing He will, and does, live in me empowers me to live like Christ. Our “believe and receive” energizes our “do”.
This distinction is so important to understand. You are not working, like God’s people of the old covenant, to earn God’s approval, acceptance, and blessing. You are no longer under the “do and receive”. You are under a new arrangement. And it is an arrangement that is so FREEING. The pressure is off. The death of Jesus worked, it accomplished the Father’s plan to restore you into a right relationship with the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit. It is a relationship based purely on God’s gift of grace.
The pressure to live up to something in off. Rather than “live up”, you are now free to “live out” of the righteousness of Christ placed in you at your new birth. It’s in there! Allow it to shine forth as you “believe, receive, and do”.