God is looking for those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. However, in order to worship Him in this way, one must have the Spirit of God! In Matthew 26:41, Jesus says, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak. A person's flesh can respond to something inspirational and even say, "Yes, I want to do right." But if his heart is not circumcised, a person lacks the resolve to do right consistently. The New Covenant was designed by God to circumcise the heart!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Seven)
The context of Romans 8 is somewhat different than the context in Hebrews 8, but the principle Paul deals with is similar. Flesh in Romans 8:3 refers to people. The problem with the Old Covenant was not with its laws, but with one of the parties who made the covenant—"them" (Hebrews 8:8). Obviously, he refers to the people who made the covenant. They would not keep its terms!
This is confirmed by the Old Testament record, which shows that Israel never kept the Old Covenant except for brief periods of time. This is why there are so many references in the Old Testament to their being stiff-necked, being fornicators or adulterers, or filled with iniquity.
It was not that Israel could not keep the terms of the covenant but that they would not. God's intent in making the Old Covenant was limited. Israel should have been able to keep its terms. To think otherwise is to accuse God of being unfair in His proposition and having taken advantage of Israel's ignorance. Human nature is always looking for ways to shift blame.
We must be careful, or we might be guilty of doing the same thing under the New Covenant. We could say that it is too hard, and use our complaint as a justification for our failures and bad attitudes. Jesus anticipated this.
In the Parable of the Talents in Matthew 25, He gives five talents to one, two talents to another, and one talent to a third. The response of the person to whom He gave one talent is, "I knew that You were a hard man, and that You reap where you do not sow. And therefore I hid it" (Matthew 25:24-25). He is saying, "God, You were too hard!" He essentially shifts the blame to God. Jesus understood that human nature never changes: It always wants to shift the blame!
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Ten)
Christ came as a human being and had to deal with life as we do. He had the same time, space, and constraints as we do. He became tired and had to eat. Was He not subject to the futility of this world? Was He not subject to decisions made by others beyond His control? Was He not subject to persecution? Was He not subject to pain? Did He not get caught in other people's dilemmas? Did the court system treat Him in an advantageous way? No, He received an unjust trial. He did not receive the decision He deserved, and His life was taken away as a result. On the stake, He suffered pain unjustly. He had to deal with things the same way as we do.
What this does for us is—because of God's calling and the response we have made—God adds to the gift. He not only gave His Son, but now He gives His Spirit. We find in verse 11 that, if we have that Spirit, we have the beginnings, the down payment, on immortality, on eternal life. We become sons and daughters of this great God. We are drawn into a Family, which is not only a family in the normal sense, but we also become brothers and sisters of Christ in another, equally important area. It has something to do with the fact that He, too, was subject to the same kind of sufferings we are—the unfairness of life.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 1)