Clash of the Covenants: A Book Review

Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through The Grace Guarantee by Michael C. Kapler (2018)

It’s not an easy task to find a good read on the differences between the Old and New Covenants that isn’t influenced or tarnished by denominational, traditional, or religious  bias and preconceptions. But I finally found one in Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through the Grace Guarantee by Michael C. Kapler.

In my opinion, Kapler successfully (and brilliantly) illustrates the dangers involved in failing to recognize that the Old and New Covenants don’t mix, were never intended to be mixed, and the Old Covenant has been done away by the New and the Law of Moses has no role in a believer’s life today. He does this in a warm, informal, and easy-to-read style that draws us in and keeps our attention. For example, he accurately notes, “… a mixed concoction of the two covenants together will lead to a diluted message of what was accomplished for us at the cross.” He goes on to add, “Quite often the starting point for covenant confusion is not realizing the Old was made obsolete, removed completely, and replaced with something New.”

Clash of the Covenants is organized into three main parts:

  • Part 1: Covenant Confusion
  • Part 2: Covenants Collide
  • Part 3: Covenant Conclusion

In each section, the author gives us examples which clearly illustrate his point. Here are a few short quotes to give you the flavor of the book and to whet your appetite for more of the same:

“The Mosaic law could not bring forgiveness of sins, life, or freedom and was never meant to be mixed with what could bring us these blessings.”

“Christians have been on a works treadmill for centuries by mistakenly trying to abide in the works of that law, or a modernized version of it. Since the law was against us, the result was bearing fruit for death instead of fruit for God. But Paul’s good news for his Jewish friends who had been bound to the law is they were now released or freed from it.”

“Religion has taught the covenants as though they were two ships that are in sync, but this mixture becomes more like a sinking ship that leaves people in doubt and fending for themselves while being driven and tossed by the wind and the waves.”

As you read this book you’ll find Clash of the Covenants gives us a refreshing grace-centered conversation about topics such as the Law, the 10 Commandments, the Sermon on the Mount, The Lord’s Prayer, forgiveness of sin, confession of sin, repentance, tithing, and the new heart, all from a grace-centered, New Covenant point of view.

In my Amazon review of Clash of the Covenants, I called it refreshing and the best-kept secret on Amazon. That was after reading the Kindle version in 2017. Now that the paperback version is available, I am thrilled to see it gaining in popularity. This book is a must read because it puts redemptive history in perspective by recognizing the glory of the New Covenant over the Old and pointing us to Jesus and the grace of God alone. In Kapler’s words, “God is not your parole officer, He broke you out of prison.”

Clash of the Covenants: Escaping Religious Bondage Through the Grace Guarantee, Copyright 2018, Michael C. Kapler. 230 pages.

About the Author

Michael C. Kapler works in the communications industry and has a 20 year background in Christian radio. Since 2005, he has co-hosted the Growing in Grace Podcast, along with Joel Bueseke. This is one of our favorite podcasts!


My wife and I interviewed Mike and Joel on our Grace Cafe Podcast in March of 2018. For your convenience, here’s that interview:

 

Behavior Modification, Sin, and Rules-Based Religion

I spent years convinced that behavior modification equaled maturity in the faith. Where an outward appearance of good behavior and conformity to the rules and standards imposed on me meant I was sinning less and was applauded as progress in the right direction. But woe unto me if I slipped and messed up. At those times, the solution was never grace, it was more law. A reinforcement and reminder of the rules and laws I was expected to follow. In short, the outside of the cup looked pretty good but on the inside, I was dying a slow death. That’s what law-driven sin management does. When the focus of our faith becomes an obsession with policing sin, our natural inclination is to think imposing laws and rules is the solution. But is it? In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul made this short but powerful observation:

“…the power of sin is the law.” 1 Corinthians 15:56

Think about it. If the law – any law – is what gives sin its power, then piling on rules and law to curb or avoid sin actually has the opposite affect. It empowers sin and gives sin more muscle. Wasn’t that Old Covenant Israel’s problem all along? They agreed to the terms of the Old Covenant – a covenant of law-keeping and works righteousness – and yet God “found fault with the people.” (Heb. 8:8). Why? Because they couldn’t live up to the terms of the covenant. They couldn’t do it. No one is made righteous by keeping laws or rules. No one. Law-based rule-keeping leads to one of two things: a self-righteous attitude in thinking I’m somehow pulling it off (i.e. the Pharisees), or an eventual crash and burn because living under that kind of pressure is exhausting and makes you give up.

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How To Have a Jesus-Lite Theology of the New Covenant

A New Covenant without Jesus? It happens. I’m living proof. “Without” may be the wrong word. A “Jesus-lite” theology of the New Covenant is a more accurate description of what I want to talk about. Twice in the Old Testament book of Isaiah (Isaiah 42:6 and Isaiah 49:8), the coming Messiah himself is called the promised New Covenant. He is the covenant. The New Covenant isn’t something outside of Jesus that he brought with him, he himself is the New Covenant. His shed blood is the blood of the covenant (Matthew 26:28). He is both the covenant-maker and the mediator of the covenant (Hebrews 6:13-20).

But when our pursuit of the New Covenant becomes more about gathering information than it is about knowing the Person who is the covenant, things get ugly. When our study of the New Covenant becomes more about data mining the pages of Scripture and less about relaxing into relationship with the Covenant-Maker, there’s something seriously wrong with our theology of the New Covenant. When our comparison of the Old Covenant with the New focuses more on the  performance of those under each covenant, where the actions, words, and attitudes of the people become the litmus test for who’s a believer and who isn’t, we’ve missed the point. When Jesus, who is the New Covenant, receives only occasional, honorable mention and our conversations, conferences, and seminars instead center on the performance of the people, we’re on a slippery slope where our theology of the New Covenant has become man-centered, performance-centered, and fixated on the wrong things.

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Rethinking Religion, Part 5: Formal Church Membership

“Bring up church membership and watch people squirm.” –Ed Stetzer

Isn’t that the truth? I squirmed just typing that and you probably did too as you read it. Formal church membership can be an explosive subject because people either see no need for it or they have a deep-seated emotional investment with it. I don’t think I’ve met anyone who is truly neutral to the idea of formal church membership. We seem to either run from it as an unnecessary burden that can in some instances be abusive, or we run to it with robust fervor because we’ve convinced ourselves those who aren’t a formal member in an institutional church are either sinning or fringe Christians who don’t really get it, or both.

In this post, I want to talk to you about formal church membership. It’s a subject that keeps presenting itself to me on this journey God has me on, so I want to address it. My views on formal church membership haven’t changed much in the last 44+ years but more recently, I’m seeing a trend in many institutional churches that is alarming. Allow me to say at the outset that I’ve pastored churches that have formal church membership and I’ve pastored churches that don’t. I’ve been on the inside of both systems and I’ve seen the positives and the negatives of each. I’ll talk more about that in a minute. First, let’s review where we’ve been in this Rethinking Religion series.

Review and Rewind

This is part five of a multi-part series I’ve called Rethinking Religion. If you haven’t read parts one thru four yet, you can use the links below to do so. In this post, we’re going to continue building on what I introduced in parts one thru four as we tackle the subject of formal church membership. What is formal church membership? Is formal church membership required of me? Is formal church membership a Biblical mandate that I am compelled to obey? If I choose not to become a formal member in a local church, am I sinning? Should I feel guilty? To refresh your memory, I’m presenting this multi-part series in the following order and there is more on the way:

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Rethinking Religion, Part 4: Community and Accountability

This is part four of a multi-part series I’m calling Rethinking Religion. If you haven’t read parts one – three, I encourage you to read them before reading this one because they build on one another. Here’s a glimpse of what I’ve written so far:

I’ve previously noted that the directive by Ignatius (ca. 110 AD) was firmly in place in most local assemblies by the middle of the 3rd century (250 AD). By that time, Ignatius’ words, “Follow your bishop as Jesus Christ followed the Father… Let no one do anything in the church apart from the bishop… Holy communion is valid when celebrated by the bishop or someone the bishop authorizes” were considered the norm and assumed to be directives originating in scripture. But they are not. Tradition and tradition alone has given us this model. It is nowhere in the New Testament.

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The Pastor-Driven Church

Last month I wrote a blog called, Why is There a Pulpit? In it, I shared this tweet that appeared in my Twitter feed:

“Wherever the pulpit is going, that’s where the church is going.”

In addition to asking why there is a pulpit, we need to explore the pastor centrality so prevalent in most institutional religious settings. The pulpit isn’t neutral for several reasons, one being because it presents one more level of separation between the assembly and the “professional” up front. In almost every institutional religious setting, everything inside the room and everything outside the room points to the pulpit. The pulpit is the focal point.

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