The author of Hebrews tells us the following;
“For where a covenant is, there must of necessity be the death of the one who made it. For a covenant is valid [“firm, secure”] only when men are dead, for it is never in force while the one who made it lives.” (Hebrews 9:16-17/NASU)
The Greek we interpret into English as “force” is ischuo (is-khoo’-o) which is defined, in part, as “to have (or exercise) force, to be strong, to have power evinced [“manifested”] in extraordinary deeds.” What I see in this is that the power of God’s covenant is never in “force” as it could be as long as we, His followers, continue to live for ourselves, by our own will. God’s kingdom always begins within first and then works its way without. The external is always a manifestation of the internal. Until God’s power is being manifested within us it will not be manifested through us.
Matthew describes a time when some Pharisees and scribes came to Jesus, asking Him why His disciples were breaking the tradition of the elders by not washing their hands when they ate bread. Jesus responded to their question by asking them a question;
“Why do you yourselves transgress the commandment of God for the sake of your tradition? For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother,’ and, ‘He who speaks evil of father or mother is to be put to death.’ But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever I have that would help you has been given to God,’ he is not to honor his father or his mother.’ And by this you invalidated the word of God for the sake of your tradition.” (Matthew 15:1-9/NASU)
To “invalidate” God’s word is “to render it void, to deprive it of force and authority.” Many of the religious traditions of men within the church have done this very thing.
Jesus continued His rebuke, saying;
“You hypocrites, rightly did Isaiah prophesy of you: ‘This people honors Me with their lips, but their heart is far away from Me. But in vain do they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the precepts of men.’” (Matthew 15:7-9/NASU)
Lastly, Paul said to the church in Corinth;
“Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain.” (1 Corinthians 15:1-2/NASU)
To believe in vain is “to believe without reason or effect.” It is to invalidate the word of God, to deprive it of force and authority.
What I see through these verses is that until we join Christ on His cross in the death of our desires (Galatians 5:24, Ephesians 2:3), our wills, wants, and wishes, the covenant we have entered into through repentance is of little to no effect in us. It will not come to life, Christ’ life, without our death. Disobedience deprives the covenant of its “force” and authority. As we continue in obedience after turning to the Lord, growing up in our salvation in Him, His power and authority is then manifested in and through us.