The Holy Scriptures
The Holy Scriptures, Old and New Testaments, are the written Word of God, given by divine inspiration. The inspired authors spoke and wrote as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. In this Word, God has committed to humanity the knowledge necessary for salvation. The Holy Scriptures are the supreme, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of His will. They are the standard of character, the test of experience, the definitive revealer of doctrines, and the trustworthy record of God’s acts in history.
How Does the Old Testament relate to the modern Christian?
The great dividing mark in the experience of many Christians is that space between Malachi and Matthew. The proclamation of many churches is, “We are a New Testament church, who live by the new testament. The old testament was done away with at the cross”
Some will go so far as to say, “The old testament was about obedience to God’s law, the new testament is about grace and forgiveness.” They will go on to say, “We couldn’t keep it so Jesus kept it for us and we are no longer under the law, so we don’t have to keep the letter, we just keep it in our hearts.” I will address this misunderstanding throughout and, hopefully, provide a better reasoning that will lead to a better experience.
“It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God.’”
Matthew 4:4-(Quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3)
This is from Genesis to Revelation!
At the time Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, there was no new testament.
There is a huge misunderstanding about the old testament and it relevancy to us today; mostly because much of the teaching in our churches look through the tinted glasses of denominationalism rather than every word of God.
The books of the Tanakh (The old testament, as referred to by the Jews) are often confused with the old covenant and the new covenant. Did you know that the new covenant can be found in the old testament? This we will explore from scripture itself.
Jesus spoke very plainly to the Sadducees about their error on a doctrinal topic. Why did they “err” in their understanding on the religious topic being discussed? Two things:
Jesus replied, “You are in error because you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.”
Matthew 22: 29
It is important that each individual who follows Jesus understand and know every word that proceeds from the mouth of God and experience His power in their own lives.
What are the scriptures and the power of God?
A few decades after the cross (66-67 AD), Paul encouraged young Timothy about the Holy Scriptures:
But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.
Then he goes on to say in the next verse:
All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.
2 Timothy 3: 14-17
Let’s break this down and observe a few points knowing that the new testament writings and letters were not considered scripture until later. So, Paul is talking to Timothy about the old testament (aka Tanakh)
1.) Paul encourages Timothy to pay attention to what he has learned since childhood from the Scriptures. The Scriptures were (at this time) only the old testament. There was no new testament when Paul encouraged Timothy.
2.) The Holy Scriptures will make him “wise about salvation that comes through faith in Jesus.” Again, the only scripture at that time was the old testament. If it is true for Timothy, it is true for us! The old testament can make us wise about salvation through faith in Jesus.
3.) All Scripture (old testament) is profitable for:
Instruction in Righteousness
To equip the worker for God
Look at all that is missing in the Christian experience if we don’t live by EVERY word that proceeds from the mouth of God! Is our experience with Jesus not all it can be because we limit our “living by every word of God” to the New Testament books only?
Jesus Used the Old Testament to Teach and Encourage
When Luke described the story of the two disciples on the way to Emmaus on the day of Christ’s resurrection, he referred to the books of Genesis through Malachi as “Scripture.”
And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
“Did not our heart burn within us while He talked with us on the road, and while He opened the Scriptures to us?”
Luke 24: 27, 32
Think of how deep the understanding about Jesus would be if more people were searching Him in the books of the Old Testament
Scripture is God’s word and it is what changes a sinful human being. It has power to sanctify us (grow in our experience with Christ). Jesus prayed to the Father:
Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.
Jesus is actually praying to God the Father to “sanctify” His followers through the books of the old testament. In addition, Jesus is referred to as the Word (John 1). He is the embodiment of God’s written word!
Jesus’ prayer demonstrates that growing in Christ and moving from sinful habits to sanctified habits happens through a right understanding of God and His word. This includes the old testament!
God’s word is powerful for those who come in contact with it. It will affect their thoughts and their attitudes.
But, did you notice that it is God The Father’s words that are truth. When Jesus prayed this prayer it included the Tanakh (old testament books) as well as when he inspired men of the new testament books to write His words.
For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.
It provides a light to direct the daily walk through life:
Your word is a lamp to my feet
and a light to my path.
But, the words must be mixed with a personal knowledge and experience with the Giver of the Word:
And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.
Eternal life is more than just memorizing words. It is having a personal relationship with the Giver of the Word and Jesus Christ. By doing so, you become to know Him! By studying Jesus (referred to as “The Word” in John 1), we can get a clear picture of God the Father:
If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; and from now on you know Him and have seen Him.”
I believe we can safely say, “Knowing Him is not limited to the words of the New Testament.”
Here is an interesting fact:
Scripture is used 53 times in the entire Bible, but only once in the Old Testament. The other 52 times are all used in the New Testament referring back to the Old Testament.
We can safely conclude the word “Scripture” as found in the both the old and new testament is referring only to the old testament. Jesus and all the disciples quoted it and used it to prove Jesus was the Messiah and to give hope.
Proof of Jesus in the Old Testament:
You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me.
Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning at this Scripture, preached Jesus to him.
Which word did Philip open? It was the books of the old testament!
The Old Testament Teaches us and Gives Us Hope:
For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.
And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.
2 Peter 1: 19-21
The prophetic word (reference to the old testament) should be heeded until the lights start to come on about Jesus!
Many of the problems with appreciating and following the books from Genesis to Malachi are the words “old” and “new”
The Old and New Covenant
In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
What is ready to vanish? Is it the books of the old testament? No! It is the old covenant!
Brethren, I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning. The old commandment is the word which you heard from the beginning.
1 John 2:7
There is a difference between concept of the “old covenant” and the “”old commandments.” While the “old covenant” is “vanishing away,” we must be careful that we don’t throw out the baby with the bath water!
Jesus confirms this:
“Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.
Some will reason incorrectly, “Well, Jesus fulfill the Law and the Prophets therefore it has vanished away.”
But listen to the remainder of the words and ask if Jesus has destroyed the law and prophets by fulfilling the requirements and the prophecies.
For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
The Naysayers will continue to teach, for example, that the ten commandments have been replaced by grace.
But again, let’s let Jesus tells us what He is talking about.
Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
Is there any doubt that our Lord expects us keep or obey the great 10 commandment law written by the finger of God? Which one of the laws would you feel comfortable breaking? Which one is the least of the commandments?
If we break one, we have broken them all
For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.
But, never forget that we cannot obey our way into eternal life. It is first the grace of God, the death of Jesus for our breaking of the law (aka sin), and then faith in Him and His word that gives eternal life to us from a life of sin and eternal death:
For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God—
But, this grace and faith does not make the need for the law to go away.
Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law.
This 10 commandment law was given by God Himself in the Old Testament. It has never gone away or nailed to the cross.
All your words are true; all your righteous laws are eternal.
We must be sure to not confuse the books of the old testament with the old covenant.
Paul said this about the old covenant:
But their minds were made dull, for to this day the same veil remains when the old covenant is read. It has not been removed, because only in Christ is it taken away. Even to this day when Moses is read, a veil covers their hearts. But whenever anyone turns to the Lord, the veil is taken away.
2 Corinthians 3: 14-16
There was a covenant with the people of God referred to as the old covenant and this “veil” blinds them unless they turn to the Lord their eyes would be opened.
When someone reads about the old covenant (not the old testament books) they cannot see spiritually, but when they insert Jesus into it, the veil is taken away. This happened to the two disciples on the way to Emmaus and the other disciples when they were meeting in fear and Jesus showed up. Jesus himself lifted the veil of understanding about Himself.
What is it we should see? Jesus was the point of the sacrificial system, the feast days, circumcision. All of these pointed to Jesus and demonstrated His character, God the Father’s character and how salvation works. They were all shadows of the actual work and being of Jesus.
These shadows had their end when Jesus died on the cross:
The law (sacrificial and ceremonial) is only a shadow of the good things that are coming—not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.
Notice that the context is the “sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year.” It is not talking about the 10 commandment law or even the old testament books rather the system of worship and teaching that came to an end with Jesus. This system was a teacher to introduce the work and being of Jesus:
Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor
Those sacrificial laws God gave to Moses was to teach them about Christ. When Christ came, they were no longer obligated to perform these sacrificial and ceremonial laws.
It also demonstrated that we were all sinners and could not save ourselves, nor work our way into God’s salvation. There has never been two methods of salvation i.e. By works in the old testament and grace/faith in the new testament. We are saved only by the grace God provides and faith (trust) in Him. God even supplies us the faith if we are willing.
The New Covenant and God’s Law
So we can see there are some things in the old testament books that came to an end, but not the old testament books themselves. The old covenant came to an end, but what is it compared to the new covenant. Let’s look at a couple of verses:
“For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.”
Hebrews 8:10 (Paul quotes Jeremiah 31:33)
Notice the new covenant still includes the law (law of morality contained in the 10 commandments), but it is written on the hearts. It cannot include those laws that passed away. Therefore, it must include the laws that remain i.e., the eternal law that we have had from the beginning
I write no new commandment to you, but an old commandment which you have had from the beginning.
1 John 2: 7
There was something wrong with the first covenant that required a new covenant. But, did God make a mistake and had to rewrite the covenant? Paul explains the problem was not with God, but with a people who would not keep their end of the agreement.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second. Because finding fault with them, He says:“Behold, the days are coming, says the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah— not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day when I took them by the hand to lead them out of the land of Egypt; because they did not continue in My covenant, and I disregarded them, says the Lord.
Hebrews 8: 7-9
So the old covenant had to be disregarded because it was made null and void by the people who would not continue in the Lord’s covenant.
Paul then tells us because of the failure on the part of the people, the Lord does something dramatic:
The New Covenant and Better Promises
But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, since the new covenant is established on better promises.
Hebrews 8:6 (NIV)
God did not make a mediocre promise and then a better promise. The problem with the first covenant was with the people.
For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them,
Hebrews 8: 7
Did you catch that? The second covenant (new covenant) would not have been needed if the first one was faultless. The agreement was not bad, but the fault was with the people. They disobeyed! Why? Because they were not living by trust and faith in the Lord even though they agreed to do everything the Lord asked.
And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the Lord commanded him.
And all the people answered together, and said, All that the Lord hath spoken we will do. And Moses returned the words of the people unto the Lord.
Exodus 19: 7-8
Exodus 19:8 above is their promise that went bad. They did not obey God and they broke their covenant often.
So God’s covenant with His people (those in Christ who are the real Israel) will follow and obey the Lord’s will because His laws are written upon their heart and their will be a relationship between God and His people:
For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord: I will put My laws in their mind and write them on their hearts; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people. None of them shall teach his neighbor, and none his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for all shall know Me, from the least of them to the greatest of them. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their lawless deeds I will remember no more.”
So you can see that both the old and new covenant dealt with obeying the will of God which are contained in His law. Not the ceremonial and sacrificial laws, but the law that remains forever written upon the hearts of people. It is the moral law contained in the 10 commandments.
In that He says, “A new covenant,” He has made the first obsolete. Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.
Hebrew 8: 7-13
The following chart should help see the difference between God’s word found in the old testament and the old and new covenants found therein.
Old Testament Books
|Jesus and His disciples used it to teach and encourage||God made an agreement with the people of Israel||God makes a new agreement. The old one vanishes when Jesus’ is revealed.|
|Is a light and perfect||Had faults because of the people. They made a promise they didn’t keep||God writes the law on the heart which perpetuates obedience to his law.|
|Testifies of Jesus||Based on poor promises of the people. They failed to believe God||Based on better promises because of Jesus|
|Has all wisdom, instruction, and revelation to make one secure in the Lord||God kept his part of the covenant. The people made a promise they couldn’t keep without God in their hearts. They rejected Him.||Through Christ, the person is born again. The attitude about sin changes. The person obeys God from a new heart and a desire to glorify Him.|
The grass withers and the flowers fall,
The people’s promise Obsolete. Vanished
Now what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away. Hebrews 8:13
|New Covenant is eternal
But in fact the ministry Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one. Hebrews 8: 6
All of scripture (including the old testament) was inspired by God. It is good for the Christian to base His or Her belief in Jesus and discover more about Him in its pages. It also contains important information about God’s plan of salvation. To ignore it or claim it is no longer valid is to miss not only guidance, but also encouragement and more information about Jesus.
The old agreement that the people made with God never worked because they made an empty promise and it is replaced by a covenant where Jesus becomes the mediator and puts God’s law in our heart. Note: if it is in the heart, a born-again person will obey the letter.
Referring back to beginning of this post What if I told my wife, “I can not keep the law regarding adultery, but it is written in my heart so that excuses me from keeping the letter of the law. Therefore, I am free to take my girlfriend out to supper and spend the night with her.”
I wouldn’t have a wife long if I said this.
Under the new covenant, that law is written on the heart, that means you will obey because your heart has been changed and you love God and your wife. So you obey the letter, but motivated by a born-again heart that desires to do the will of God.
There is so much confusion in God’s community about the old testament VS the old covenant. I hope this has helped in someway to demonstrate the value of the books of the old testament; the failure of God’s people who did not obey God; and the people under the new covenant who obey because the Lord has changed them.
Next time, we will look at fundamental belief #2, The Trinity. Until then, may the Lord bless and keep you and your family.