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How to Be an Overcomer

Four basic lessons and an epilogue on what the Bible teaches about being an overcomer.

Category - Short Book

Lesson 2

On Being Obedient

An overcomer is one who has learned to be God’s obedient servant. One must be a servant before one can be a true son, for even sons must learn obedience as servants while they are yet minors (Gal. 4:1).

One mark of an immature Christian is one who expects the privileges of a son before coming to maturity. They think they are sons just because they have been “born again” into the family of God. But they do not realize that being in God’s family requires Christian growth to learn responsibility, so that they will know how to use authority wisely with the mind of Christ.

In ancient times Israel celebrated three main festivals, each of which has meaning to us today. The three were: Passover, Pentecost, and Booths (or Tabernacles).

Passover celebrated the day God delivered Israel from Egypt. It was the day Moses began to lead the Israelites to the Promised Land. After crossing the Red Sea, Moses led them to a place called Mount Sinai, where God gave them the Ten Commandments. That day came to be celebrated as the feast of Pentecost.

A year after God gave them the law, Israel left Mount Sinai and began moving toward the land of Canaan, which God had promised as their inheritance. When the people got there, they sent twelve men to spy out the land. They returned after 40 days and gave their report. The land was very productive, they said, but it was already inhabited by too many people, some of whom were giants. The people’s faith melted, and they did not believe God could help them conquer the land.

So God made them return to the wilderness for another 38 years before allowing them to enter the land under Joshua.

The point is that if Israel had inherited the land at their appointed time, they would have entered the land on the first day of the Feast of Booths. Instead, they refused, and that generation all died in the wilderness without receiving their inheritance. Even so, they were to commemorate that day by celebrating the Feast of Booths every year.

The Meaning to Us

The meaning for us is this: We ourselves were saved from our own bondage by Jesus’ death on the Cross. He died at the Feast of Passover to bring the Church to its divine inheritance, its “Promised Land.” But this was only the beginning of the journey. Seven weeks later on the day of Pentecost, the Holy Spirit was given to the Church (Acts 2). This was the true fulfillment of Pentecost, even as Jesus’ death on the Cross was the true fulfillment of Passover.

But Pentecost was not the final feast to be fulfilled. The third great festival was the Feast of Booths, representing the inheritance, our “Promised Land.” This does not refer to a person “going to heaven.” Heaven is not our inheritance. Our inheritance is the glorified body, the “tabernacle” that will clothe us in immortality (2 Cor. 5:1-4).

You see, we lost that immortal body when Adam sinned long ago. The body is made of the dust of the ground. It is our “land inheritance.” God’s intention was to display His glory in the earth as it is in heaven. His purpose will not be fulfilled until His glory covers the earth as the waters cover the sea (Hab. 2:14). His intention is not to destroy this “dust” but to fill it with His glory. This was illustrated and proven by Jesus Himself when He was transfigured in the mount (Matt. 17:1-5).

An overcomer is one who makes the journey all the way from “Egypt” to the “Promised Land.” To do this, he must first leave Egypt. That is, he experiences Passover by placing his faith in Jesus Christ, the “Lamb of God” (John 1:29). In the New Testament, this is called “Justification” (Rom. 4:25).

Secondly, he experiences Pentecost by being filled with the Holy Spirit. This is a separate experience that begins the process called “Sanctification” (1 Cor. 1:30). This means we are set apart for divine service, and that we begin learning obedience by being led by the Holy Spirit. As a person learns to be led by the Spirit, he learns to hear and obey the voice of God.

If he qualifies as a faithful servant, then he is eligible for the third and final festival, Booths, by which he is clothed with the robe of immortality. Every believer will receive this reward eventually, but not everyone will receive it at the first resurrection. Most will have to await the second resurrection described in part one: On Being a Forgiver.

The simple fact is that the Church of the Pentecostal Age in the past 2,000 years has followed the example of the Israelite “Church in the wilderness” (Acts 7:38) under Moses. For this reason, most believers are not overcomers like Caleb and Joshua.

Law and Obedience

Justification is by faith alone. But once a person has been justified, saved, born again—whatever one prefers to call it—then God begins to teach the believer obedience. No one is justified by the law—that is, by obedience to the law. But neither is a believer sanctified apart from the law. A true Pentecostal is not lawless but lawful.

When I use the term “law,” I refer to any command that God gives us, whether part of the written record of Scripture or by a direct leading of the Holy Spirit. Anything that God says to do is a law, for God requires obedience to all of His commands.

Israel was “saved” or “justified by faith” when they left Egypt. That is, they heeded the call and had faith that God would bring them out of bondage and into the inheritance that He had promised them. This preceded the law by about fifty days. This was to show us that justification is distinct from the law and from sanctification. Romans 3:28 says,

28 For we maintain that a man is justified by faith apart from works of the law.

Once Paul established that justification is not by the law, then in Romans 6 he began to teach the principles of sanctification. Romans 6:1, 2 says,

1 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace might abound? 2 May it never be! How shall we who died to sin still live in it?

Sin is the transgression of the law,” John says in 1 John 3:4 (KJV). More literally, the verse reads, “sin is lawlessness” (NASB). The Greek word is anomia. It comes from the Greek word nomos, “law.”

The law defines sin for us. Murder is a sin because the law defines it so in Exodus 20:13. Adultery is a sin because the law defines it so in Exodus 20:14. Theft is a sin because the law defines it so in Exodus 20:15.

The Apostle Paul tells us in Romans 3:20, “through the law comes the knowledge of sin.” He says also in Rom. 7:7,

7 I would not have come to know sin except through the law; for I would not have known about coveting if the law had not said, You shall not covet.

It is the same in today’s society. Our government has laws which define “sin” as they see it. If there were no law against theft or murder, then even the most brilliant judge could not convict any man of theft or murder. This is why men pass laws. They are the standard of measure in every court to decide guilt or innocence.

So it is with God’s Kingdom. The standard of measure for Christian conduct is the divine law. To break one of His laws is to be a sinner. And we know that all men have broken the law, for Romans 3:19 and 23 say,

19 Now we know that whatever the law says, it speaks to those who are under the law, that every mouth may be closed, and all the world may become accountable to God… 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

Because all men have sinned, there is no way for anyone to be justified by the law, for the law can only condemn the guilty. But Jesus came and paid the debt for the sin of the whole world in order that we might be justified. The law does not care who pays the debt, as long as it is paid. Jesus satisfied the full demand of the law, and so the law no longer has grounds to condemn us or to force us to pay restitution for the debt incurred by our sins.

Yet in doing this, Jesus did not put away the law. If He had put away the law, He would not have needed to pay its penalty. He simply could have repealed the law. But He did not do this, for the Apostle Paul says in Rom. 3:31,

31 Do we then nullify the law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the law.

In America and every other nation, men are constantly changing their laws. We used to have laws outlawing adultery and homosexual relations. Those laws have now been put away. This means that no one can be prosecuted in a court of law if they do these things. Others want to put away the laws against using marijuana or heroin. If those laws are put away, then no one could be prosecuted for doing those things either.

So it is with God’s law. Some Christians teach that God put away His law, and not just a few of the laws, but the entire law. If that were the case, then all human activity would be lawful in the eyes of God. There would be no such thing as sin. God would have no right to judge any man or nation for disobedience, for nothing could be defined as disobedience or sin. Rom. 4:15 says, “where there is no law, neither is there violation.”

Is there sin in the world? Only if the law is still in effect. Will God judge the world at the Great White Throne? Only if there is a law by which He may judge sin.

This does not mean that laws cannot change. They do change. There are moral laws, of course, that remain unaltered. But there are certain forms of the law that change, and there are changes in administration and authorities.

For example, in the Old Testament, God required that men bring sacrifices to the temple. In the New Testament, Jesus came to be the final Sacrifice for all time that would never have to be repeated. Likewise, in the Old Testament, the priestly authority was restricted to the portion of Levites that were descended directly from Aaron, Moses’ brother. But in the New Testament Jesus came through a different order of priesthood called the Order of Melchizedek (Heb. 5:6) that did not require physical descent from Aaron. Instead, it required spiritual descent from Jesus Christ, the continuing High Priest of that Order.

So yes, certain things in the law were changed. But murder is still a sin, theft is still a sin, and adultery is still a sin. God did not change His mind on those moral issues, nor did He suddenly legalize them when Jesus died on the Cross.

Pentecost and Obedience

Rom. 10:17 tells us that “faith comes by hearing.” In the Hebrew language of the Old Testament, the word shema can mean either “to hear” or “to obey.” We can translate it either way and still be correct. In other words, the biblical concept of hearing God cannot be separated from obedience to what one has heard. If a person claims to have heard God speak, but does not obey His voice, then that person has not really heard at all. This is what the Apostle James meant when he wrote in James 2:17 and 24,

17 Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself… 24 You see that a man is justified by works, and not by faith alone.

This has confused many people, who think that the Apostle James was contradicting the Apostle Paul (Rom. 3:28 to 4:5). But this is not the case. Both were correct. Paul was correct in separating justification from sanctification—that is, Passover from Pentecost. But James was correct in putting works with faith—linking obedience with hearing.

Paul’s teaching tells us that Passover and Pentecost are two different festivals that commemorate two different occasions. Israel came out of Egypt prior to receiving the law at Mount Sinai. Hence, justification is by faith, apart from obedience to the law.

James’ teaching tells us that on the feast of Passover, Israel received the revelation that they were to kill a lamb and put the blood on the door posts and lintels of their houses. Hearing that word was not enough. They had to act upon it in order to save their firstborn sons from death. Thus, obedience is the result of faith, and without obedience, there is no genuine faith at all.

If you have been justified by faith and believe that Jesus Christ died for your sins and rose again for your justification, then you have begun your journey to the Promised Land. You have “left Egypt,” the place where you were in bondage to your sin. You are now part of the “congregation” (Church), even as those who left Egypt on Passover were part of the Church in the wilderness (Acts 7:38).

This means you are now a CITIZEN of the Kingdom. The citizens under Moses were allowed to enter the outer court of the Tabernacle.

There were three parts in the Tabernacle of Moses: the outer court, the Holy Place, and the Most Holy Place. When considering ourselves to be the temple of God, these three parts of the Tabernacle correspond to body, soul, and spirit. But we may also view these three parts in terms of our place in the Kingdom: Citizen, Priest, and body of the High Priest. (Today we are of a Melchizedek priesthood, not a Levitical priesthood.)

Once you have left Egypt and become a citizen of the Kingdom, you are eligible to go to “Mount Sinai” to experience Pentecost. This is sometimes referred to as a “second work of grace” in our lives. A true Pentecostal is one who has the right to enter the Holy Place of the Tabernacle. Only the priests could enter the Holy Place. Thus, a true Pentecostal is more than a mere CITIZEN of the Kingdom. He is also a PRIEST of the Kingdom.

The Old Testament pattern for this is seen in the fact that those of the tribe of Levi were citizens of the Kingdom, assisting in the outer court. But the descendants of Aaron were priests who had the right to enter the sanctuary itself, that is, the Holy Place.

Pentecost is the feast of the giving of the law. It celebrates the day that God gave Israel the Ten Commandments at Mount Sinai in Exodus 20. On that occasion, God spoke, and the people all heard the voice of God. Deut. 4:12 says,

12 Then the Lord spoke to you from the midst of the fire; you heard the sound of words, but you saw no form—only a voice.

Israel was too fearful at that time to hear more than just the Ten Commandments. They begged Moses to tell God to stop speaking to them directly (Ex. 20:18-21). They preferred instead to let Moses tell them what God said—that is, to hear God indirectly through a human agent. Heb. 12:19 refers to that day, saying,

19 and to the blast of a trumpet and the sound of words which sound was such that those who heard begged that no further word should be spoken to them.

That day Israel set a terrible precedent by refusing to hear the voice of God directly for themselves. They wanted a man, a professional preacher, to hear God and then tell them what He said. They wanted an indirect relationship with God. So God granted their request.

Instead of writing His law on their heart by His voice, He gave them the law on tablets of stone. If the people wanted to hear the voice of God, they had to read the tablets which had no life. They did not understand that “faith comes by hearing” (Rom. 10:17), and that “without faith, it is impossible to please Him” (Heb. 11:6).

One can certainly receive faith by reading stone tablets (or the written word, which we call the Bible). But this can only happen through the action of the Holy Spirit. We cannot bypass that direct voice of God and still hope to see our faith grow. We must learn to hear God whether we are reading the Word, or listening to a preacher, or observing the signs of the times. The externals in and of themselves will not produce faith in us. Faith comes when we see God and hear His voice in those externals.

God desires a personal and direct relationship with each of us. This is what separates us from those worshipping “the unknown god.” God is not content to throw Scripture at us and then leave us to figure out how to live by it. He operates in us by His Spirit each moment of the day, and if we will but listen, we can be guided always by that silent, inner voice.

This is Pentecost. Unfortunately, Israel set a pattern in Exodus 20 that rejected the true meaning of Pentecost. They all heard the Ten Commandments, and so we see that even today that this portion of the law is known in the Church. But Israel received the rest of the law indirectly through Moses, for he was the only one who heard the rest of the law when he ascended the mount in Exodus 20:21.

It is unfortunate that even in the Church today, the rest of the law remains concealed from most of the people. They do not study it, for it is not a revelation to them. There is a veil over their eyes that is not removed except by the revelation of the Holy Spirit, who alone can bring this Scripture to life.

In Acts 2 the veil was removed from the eyes of the 120 disciples in the upper room. They overcame the effects of the decision of their forefathers. The 120 decided that they DID want to hear the rest of the revelation of God. They were not satisfied with what they had heard in times past. They were not satisfied with partial seeing and partial hearing. They wanted Jesus to heal their partial blindness, even as Jesus healed the man born blind in the ninth chapter of John.

Miracles and Lawlessness

Most Christians have read Jesus’ “Sermon on the Mount” more than once. It is recorded in Matthew 5-7. Toward the end of this passage, He speaks of knowing the difference between true and false prophets by their “fruit.” Then it says in Matt. 7:21-23,

21 Not everyone who says to Me, Lord, Lord, will enter the kingdom of heaven; but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name perform many miracles? 23 And then I will declare to them, I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.

The Greek word translated “lawlessness” is anomia. The King James Version renders it “iniquity,” which is technically accurate but does not adequately convey to most people the concept of despising God’s law. The NASB is more accurate, rendering it “lawlessness.”

In this passage Jesus was talking about believers. In fact, He was talking about believers who could even perform miracles. They are even people who have the Holy Spirit to some extent, for we read in 1 Cor. 12:3, “no one can say Jesus is Lord except by the Holy Spirit.” Jesus was apparently not nearly as impressed by miracles as were other men in His day and even today.

Miracles are good and certainly very helpful, but they are never said to be a mark of an overcomer. So if you have never performed a miracle, do not be discouraged in your quest to be an overcomer. John the Baptist did no miracle either (John 10:41) This is not a lesson in miracle-working; it is a lesson in simple obedience as led by the Spirit.

In Num. 20:11 Moses struck the rock, and a miracle happened. Water came out of the rock for the Israelites. But God had not told Moses to strike the rock—not on this occasion. God told him in verse 8 to speak to the rock. Moses was disobedient and should have known better, and so he was not allowed to enter the Promised Land.

This is a good example of how miracles may be done in disobedience to God. Jesus foresaw the day when “many” would say, “Lord, Lord, have we not done many miracles in Your name?” Jesus did not dispute their claim. But miracles do not determine who is and who is not an overcomer. God is more interested in obedience than in miracles.

The Tares and the Wheat

In Jesus’ parable of the tares in the wheat, Jesus again uses the term anomia, saying in Matt. 13:41,

41 The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness [anomia] 42 and will cast them into the furnace of fire; in that place there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

Will the lawless be judged by “fire”? Yes, that is what it says, but I do not believe that this is a literal fire that tortures people. For a complete study on the nature and duration of the “fire,” see my book, The Judgments of the Divine Law. There we show that the “fire” is the “fiery law” that God gave to Israel (Deut. 33:2). It represents the divine judgment of the law. The law never prescribed torture for any sin. For example, the “fire” applied to a thief was that he would have to pay restitution (Ex. 22:1-4).

There are two kinds of lawless people: believers and unbelievers. Both will be judged according to the divine law. Paul says of believers in 1 Cor. 3:11-15,

11 For no man can lay a foundation other than the one which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if any man builds upon the foundation [Christ] with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, 13 each man’s work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be revealed by FIRE; and the FIRE itself will test the quality of each man’s work.

Notice here that Paul was speaking of those who were building upon the Foundation which is Christ. If Christ is already laid as the foundation in their lives, then they are Christians. What Christians do AFTER they have received Christ is pictured by the gold, silver, and precious stones—if they have done things in obedience and by faith. But if they have built with wood, hay, or straw, these things picture those works of the flesh (lawless acts) that can and will be burned by the fire of God in that day.

14 If any man’s work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward. 15 If any man’s work be burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire.

Clearly, this indicates that believers will be tested by fire in some manner. Their works will be judged according to the measure of the fiery law. All lawless works will be consumed in the fire, for they are the wood, hay, and straw.

So getting back to the parable of the tares and the wheat in Matthew 13, Jesus says that those who “commit lawlessness” are tares—that is, they are look-alike believers whose fruit is poisonous, not nourishing. At first, tares and wheat look the same. It is only toward harvest that the difference becomes apparent, for the wheat becomes heavy with grain and bows its head as if in humility. The tares produce small, light seed that remains unbowed and whose seed is poisonous. We will truly know them by their fruit.

Legalism is Lawlessness

Whenever we say that Christians ought to be lawful, there are always some who think this means we must be legalistic. The scribes and Pharisees were legalistic, and we do not advocate being like them. In their scrupulousness to follow the law, they actually broke it.

Many examples are given in Matthew 5. Legalism is where a person reads the law that says, “Thou shalt not murder,” but they think it is okay to hate their neighbor (Matt. 5:21, 22). Legalism is where a person reads the law that says, “an eye for an eye,” and then they insist that it is their sacred duty to exact vengeance in full to all those who offend them (Matt. 38-42). Legalism is where a person reads in the law, “Thou shalt love thy neighbor,” and then adds his own tradition, “and hate thine enemy.” Legalism is where a person narrowly defines “neighbor” so that they do not have to love non-Israelites.

This is why Jesus preceded all of these examples by saying that our righteousness must exceed that of the Pharisees (Matt. 5:20). In other words, we have to do a better job of interpreting and applying the law than they did. Many of their opinions destroyed the law.

In Mark 7:7-9 Jesus said to them,

7 But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men. 8 Neglecting the commandment of God, you hold to the tradition of men. 9 He was also saying to them, You nicely set aside the commandment of God in order to keep your tradition… 13 thus invalidating the word of God by your tradition which you have handed down.

It is most unfortunate that men interpret and apply the law by their carnal mind and understanding, instead of letting the Holy Spirit do this for them. This was the problem with the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day, as Jesus said in Matt. 23:27, 28,

27 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. 28 Even so you too outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness [anomia].

The problem has persisted to the present. When men do this, they become legalistic, discrediting the law and causing others to cast it entirely. In doing this, they are no longer able to live by EVERY word that has come from the mouth of God (Matt. 4:4). An overcomer prays to see the difference between lawfulness and legalism, and then bear witness to the law as an expression of God’s nature.

A legalist looks for loopholes in the law in order to justify his sin. He is not interested in doing the will of God but wants to sin with immunity. The law does have gaps in the revelation, for if God had given legislation about every action, the volumes would have been endless.

An example is found in the law of Passover. The law said that every man was to celebrate the feast. But it also said that one who was unclean could NOT keep the feast. It so happened that a man died, and his sons buried him (Num. 9). In touching the dead body, they were rendered unclean and were not able to keep the Passover. So they came to Moses to ask him what to do in such a case.

Moses recognized that God had not yet ruled on such cases, so he went to God to get a further revelation about this. God told him that if they could not keep the Passover in the first month, they were to keep it in the second month on the same day of the month.

This ruling was a tremendous revelation, because it shows us that there is a second opportunity to be justified by faith in the blood of the Lamb. Many have scorned the idea of “second chancism,” insisting that one can be justified only in this present lifetime. But the law manifests the heart of God in this matter. If a person is “unclean” in this age, there is a second opportunity (not “chance”) for him to be justified in the age to come. This idea is more fully discussed in my large book, Creation’s Jubilee and a smaller booklet, If God Could Save Everyone—Would He?

A legalist interprets the Bible according to the idol of his own heart—that is, his own desire and understanding, rather than by the revelation of the Holy Spirit. He either looks for loopholes in the law to justify his sin, or he adds his own traditions to the law that make the law a heavy burden to the people.

Overcomers are those who desire to know the mind of God, rather than to establish their own desire or point of view. They genuinely want to be obedient, rather than to dictate their wishes to God.

The Leading of the Holy Spirit

It has always been the desire of God to lead us by the direct action of the Holy Spirit. This was pictured under Moses by the pillar of fire by night and the pillar of cloud by day which led Israel through the wilderness. However, men are carnally minded and seem to have difficulty hearing the voice of God. Some have rebellious hearts that refuse to hear, and others have much heart idolatry that prevents them from hearing.

For this reason, God has given the law on external tablets (whether on stone or paper is not the issue). God prefers to write the law on our hearts by the spoken word, for that internalizes the word and makes it part of our very nature. But few seem to be able to hear that word, and so we have been given a written record of the word. Men study this written word either with the carnal mind or by the spiritual mind with differing results.

The Holy Spirit was not given as a better alternative to the law, or as a law substitute. The Holy Spirit was given so that we could know the mind of God every time He speaks. Anyone could read that which was written in the past, but the mind of God could only be revealed by the direct action of the Holy Spirit. In other words, the Holy Spirit is the Illuminator of the law, the One who gives us understanding. This was how Jesus taught the disciples, but when He left them bodily, the Holy Spirit became His substitute in this way. John 14:25, 26 says,

25 These things I have spoken to you, while abiding with you. 26 But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you.

Hence, the Holy Spirit is not a law substitute, but a Jesus substitute. Understanding this, we will not fall into either trap—legalism or lawlessness. Instead, we will learn to follow the leading of the Holy Spirit, who will never tell us to violate the law of God. The Spirit may lead us to violate men’s traditions—their understanding of the law—but not the law as God intended for it to be understood from the beginning.

Those who lack understanding have said that Jesus often violated the divine law. The Pharisees believed this, and they crucified Him on a charge of blasphemy for claiming to be the Messiah. They could find no other charge against Him. Pontius Pilate found the Lamb of God to be without blemish, saying, “I find no guilt in Him” (John 19:4). The Passover lambs were required to be without blemish (Ex. 12:5). Jesus fulfilled that law. So how can anyone say that He violated the law? If He were guilty of sin, He would not have qualified as the Lamb of God to take away our sin. Sin is lawlessness (1 John 3:4).

The Meaning of Obedience

Most Christians understand that God wants them to be obedient. Some mistakenly make obedience a prerequisite for salvation (justification), and this puts them under the bondage of trying to be good enough to merit salvation. That view is held by those who do not know the difference between Passover and Pentecost. Passover brings us justification by faith apart from works (Rom. 3:28). Pentecost, however, brings us into obedience and cannot be separated from our works.

In Pentecost, we are led by the Spirit to do whatever God leads us (or tells us) to do each day. That is the meaning of obedience. It directly affects everything we do. If a person claims to be filled with the Spirit, but refuses to be obedient, he is not a true Pentecostal. 2 Cor. 10:5 says that we conduct spiritual warfare for this purpose:

5 We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.

The Apostle Peter confirms this, saying in 1 Peter 1:14, 15,

14 As obedient children, do not be conformed to the former lusts which were yours in your ignorance, 15 but like the Holy One who called you, be holy yourselves also in all your behavior.

Since most people understand that obedience is a virtue, we need not belabor this point.. As I see it, the more important problem is that people have dissociated obedience from the law. It is not that the first five books of Moses represent the entire law. They are not. The law is the entire written word, along with every spoken word that God has ever said to men on an individual basis.

Whatever God tells men to do is a law, simply because it requires obedience. The only qualifier to this is that men must also pray to know the mind and will of God in every command. If we try to obey according to our carnal understanding, we are sure to fail regardless of our “good intentions.”

The Two Covenants

One of the greatest keys to being an overcomer is to understand the difference between the Old and New Covenants. There are many covenants in Scripture, but each is an expression of just one or the other and not both.

If a covenant requires the will of man to implement it or to make the covenant valid, or if man is required to vow or promise to do something, then it is part of the Old Covenant. But if a covenant is based upon the promise of God, then it is part of the New Covenant.

The classic Old Covenant is seen in Exodus 19:5-8,

5 Now then, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be My own possession among all the peoples, for all the earth is Mine… 8 All the people answered together and said, “All that the Lord has spoken we will do!” And Moses brought back the words of the people to the Lord.

This covenant at Mount Horeb was valid only if the people obeyed God’s laws. However, they failed to do so immediately. In fact, it was not long before they were worshiping the golden calf (Exodus 32:19). With the first sin, the covenant was violated. That is why Paul tells us that their own works could not justify them.

A second covenant was thus needed, one that would actually work. God made this second covenant with them forty years later in the plains of Moab just before Moses died. We read in Deut. 29:1,

1 These are the words of the covenant which the Lord commanded Moses to make the sons of Israel in the land of Moab, besides the covenant which he had made with them at Horeb.

The nature of this second covenant is seen clearly in verses 10-15,

10 You stand today, all of you before the Lord your God… 12 that you may enter into the covenant with the Lord your God and into His oath which the Lord your God is making with you today, 13 in order that He may establish you today as His people and that He may be your God, just as He spoke to you and as He swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

This second covenant was the New Covenant under which Joshua led Israel into the Promised Land. It was God’s oath, not man’s oath. Whoever makes an oath, vow, or promise, is the one responsible to keep it. In this covenant, God bound Himself by an oath to establish them as His people and to be their God as He had sworn to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.

Most people are aware that God’s covenant with Abraham was part of the New Covenant and that the “New” Covenant was established even prior to the “Old” Covenant. The two covenants are better described as God’s promise vs. man’s promise. The Old Covenant could be broken, because man could not keep his well-intentioned vow. The New Covenant cannot be broken, because God will always keep His vows, oaths, promises, and covenants.

John 1:12, 13 tells us,

12 But as many as received him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born [gennao, “begotten”], not of blood [bloodline or human genealogy] nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

John says that the sons of God are begotten by the will of God, not by the will of man. That is another way of saying that we do not become sons of God by our own will. In other words, we can become sons of God only through the New Covenant, where God fulfills His vow in us. Our will is merely a response to God’s will.

If we have genuine faith, it is because we have heard Him speak to our hearts, because “faith comes by hearing” (Rom. 10:17). If God does not first speak, we will not hear. He, then, is the initiator of our faith, and our faith is evidence that God is fulfilling His promise in us.

Abrahamic Faith

True Abrahamic faith, Paul says, makes us children of Abraham (Gal. 3:7). Abrahamic faith is described in Rom. 4:20, 21,

20 Yet with respect to the promise of God, he [Abraham] did not waver in unbelief but grew strong in faith, giving glory to God, 21 and being fully assured that what God had promised, He was able also to perform.

Abrahamic faith, then, is believing that God is able to fulfill His promise, His oath, His vow. That is New Covenant faith. By contrast, Old Covenant faith is where we believe that God will help us to fulfill our own vow of obedience. Such was the faith of the Israelites at Mount Horeb. They all prayed that God would help them fulfill their Old Covenant vows, but because “all have sinned” (Rom. 3:23), this was insufficient to save anyone. So Paul tells us again in Gal. 3:18,

18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise.

“Law” in this case means the Law Covenant, i.e., a covenant based upon man’s vow, man’s will, man’s works, and man’s good intentions. God does indeed help us keep our vows, but the problem is that we have already sinned from an early age. Hence, we need a better covenant, as the book of Hebrews tells us.

The bottom line is that we need to refocus our faith. Instead of having faith in ourselves (with God’s help, of course!), we need to have faith that God is able to keep His promise and that He does not need our help to do it. If He needed our help, then it is not really the New Covenant at all, but just another subset of the Old Covenant.

An overcomer’s faith is in God, not in himself. It is based on the New Covenant, not on the Old Covenant—God’s vow, not man’s vow.