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IMPORTANCE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
Many times people overlook the Old Testament. In fact, some churches pride themselves as being New Testament churches. I believe churches ignore the Old Testament because it is harder to teach how the New Testament and the Old Testament work together to give us the total law that we have today. The Old Testament often seems to contradict the New Testament. The natural response is that the Old Testament is now longer relevant except for some of the interesting stories. Additionally, I am sure many pastors fear that if they mention the words “law” and “obedience” people will run away in droves. Thus, the Old Testament is rarely mentioned and New Testament verses that center on the Old Testament law and obedience are ignored. This lesson will attempt to show how the Old and New Testament work together and how both are relevant today.
I have heard it said that the Old Testament causes one to live under law and the New Testament says we are under grace. This statement used by itself is an oversimplification of scripture caused by not understanding the context of the whole Bible. To imply that God did not extend his grace in the Old Testament is just not accurate. We need to understand that the Old Testament was just a partial pouring out of God’s grace.
1. Prov 3:34…... He mocks proud mockers but gives grace to the humble.
2. Isa 26:10 tells us that even the wicked received grace, but they still do not become righteous.
3. We see that in most cases, New Testament grace refers to the total fulfillment of grace. Perhaps the following scripture will give us a better understanding of this concept.
a. John 1:17-18…... “For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.” We must keep in mind that Moses could only give us the law, but grace and a fuller understanding of the truth (upon which the Law was based) could only come through Jesus Christ.”
b. We see John refer to this fullness of grace in the previous verse. John 1:16….. “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another.”
c. The Law did not give us grace, but God’s grace gave us the Law.
What did Jesus say in the OLD Testament?
This statement always gets people’s attention. A person’s natural inclination is to reply that Jesus did not exist in the Old Testament. I like to use this trick to make a point in a theological discussion. I usually follow up with, “You believe in the Trinity, don’t you? (All Christians believe in the Trinity, but the Trinity and Trinity Doctrine are not the same.) To my surprise, I once had a person argue that Jesus never existed at all until his incarnate birth. Some think Jesus' pre-existence makes him God, but Satan and the angels also pre-existed the world. Nevertheless. the person I am discussing has been a lifelong Christian and attended church for quite a few years. He still did not understand the nature of Jesus nor the nature of God. We, of course studied the nature of God in a previous lesson.
As we have learned in our lesson about the nature of God, Jesus existed in Heaven and helped create the world and the universe. Most Christians believe that God the Father and God the Son are inseparable in a supernatural sense. We should remember that Jesus said he and the Father are “one”. Therefore, true Christians believe that the God of the Old Testament is the same God of the New Testament.
What did Jesus say in the NEW Testament?
Jesus realized the importance of the Old Testament. Jesus mentioned the Old Testament 24 times. It was from the Old Testament that he taught in the Temple. It is the same Old Testament upon which Jesus based his ministry. We can learn from the following scriptures.
1. MATT 5:17-20…... "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.
19 Anyone who breaks one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever practices and teaches these commands will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the Pharisees and the teachers of the law, you will certainly not enter the kingdom of heaven.
a. Jesus pointed out that he had the power to interpret or change the Law without actually contradicting scripture. Some people say that Old Testament law ended when Christ was Crucified, but it was in fact completed upon his death and resurrection. In other words, Jesus had the authority to update the law so that the law would be complete.
b. This fulfillment of the Old Testament is one reason Christians do not believe in the Mormon religion which teaches that Joseph Smith later gave us spiritual law in the early 1800s.
c. We should also notice that in verses 19 and 20 Jesus not only spoke about Old Testament laws, but he showed the importance of Old Testament Law by warning of punishment if we disobey them.
d. Some people might say that “until everything is accomplished” refers to the crucifixion of Jesus, but the context of “until heaven and earth disappear” sets the context earlier in the same sentence.
e. Another scripture to read is Luke 16:16-17...... This scripture also shows that the law and the kingdom of God are working together without losing the purpose of the law, "The Law and the Prophets were proclaimed until John. Since that time, the good news of the kingdom of God is being preached, and everyone is forcing his way into it. 17 It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear than for the least stroke of a pen to drop out of the Law.”
2. Matt 7:12…... So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.
a. The Law Jesus was talking about here is again the Old Testament.
b. Jesus gave us the Golden Rule as an easy way to understand the purpose of the Old Testament. Jesus then came to complete the Law by properly interpreting and refining the law to meet the needs of mankind until he returns.
c. The Law was not made to benefit God. God does not need the Law. Rather, the Law was given to benefit mankind. God’s law can never be bad or wrong.
Understanding the law.
There are different kinds of law:
1. Natural law such as our conscience which shows us right from wrong. Natural law also shows us the proper relationships between men and women and between parents and children.
2. Judicial law which deals with one man’s claim against another in either civil or criminal matters. One could say that all judicial law is based on moral law.
3. Moral law is the concept of right and wrong on a personal basis. It is influenced by conscience, but a person may go against their innate sense of right and wrong to establish a separate sense of right and wrong. For this reason, even an atheist can be a moral person by secular standards.
4. God’s laws are established and revealed by God for the good of mankind. It is upon these laws that all other laws should be established.
5. Ceremonial law is the Old Testament rites, practices, and ceremonies of daily life and worship.
Putting it all together
At this point you may be wondering why we don’t follow some of the ceremonial laws of the Old Testament such as wearing certain kinds of clothing, easting certain foods, or making animal sacrifices. We can look at the following scriptures to better understand.
1. Mark 7:19-23…... For it doesn't go into his heart but into his stomach, and then out of his body." (In saying this, Jesus declared all foods "clean.") 20 He went on: "What comes out of a man is what makes him 'unclean.' 21 For from within, out of men's hearts, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22 greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. 23 All these evils come from inside and make a man 'unclean.'"
a. Remember, only Jesus had the authority to change the Law of Moses.
b. This scripture shows that the laws concerning eating of kosher food are no longer in effect.
c. We see the apostle Paul explain this teaching in Rom 14:14…... As one who is in the Lord Jesus, I am fully convinced that no food is unclean in itself. But if anyone regards something as unclean, then for him it is unclean.
d. Another example of the change of food rules is show in Acts 10:11-15…... He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. 12 It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles of the earth and birds of the air. 13 Then a voice told him, "Get up, Peter. Kill and eat." 14 "Surely not, Lord!" Peter replied. "I have never eaten anything impure or unclean." 15 The voice spoke to him a second time, "Do not call anything impure that God has made clean."
2. Matt 23:25-26…... "Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26 Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean.
a. Here we see Christ emphasize the importance of our behavior over ceremonial cleanliness.
b. If you read the whole 23rd verse of Matthew you can even get a better understanding of Jesus caring about the inside of a person rather than outside appearances.
3. John 8:7-8…... When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her."
c. This verse about the woman caught in adultery and it shows Jesus’ mercy toward the woman.
d. This verse also shows a pattern that Jesus often supported an Old Testament law, but he changed the punishment. That is why we do not stone our unruly children as stated in Deuteronomy 21:21.
4. Matt 5:31-32…... "It has been said, 'Anyone who divorces his wife must give her a certificate of divorce.' 32 But I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, causes her to become an adulteress, and anyone who marries the divorced woman commits adultery.
e. This is a perfect example of how Jesus defined the true intent of God’s law.
f. How many people have figuratively crossed this New Testament verse out of their Bibles because it is stricter than the Old Testament?
We have learned that the Old Testament was endorsed by Jesus himself. He quoted from the Old Testament at least 24 times, and often criticized those who disobeyed the Old Testament laws. He even said those who disobey these laws would receive eternal punishment. Jesus made it very clear that he did not come to destroy the old laws but to fulfill that which God had always intended. Jesus said in Matt. 13:52…... "Therefore, every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old." It is important therefore that we do not disregard any of the old treasures unless the master himself has thrown them away.
It may be hard to accept that Jesus did in fact change some of the literal rules of the Law. The best way I can understand this is by using the example of a parent and a child. A small child is often told not to touch the stove. However, as the child gets older, the child is in fact told to do the opposite. Mankind, like a small child, has different needs as it matures, but the principle of love upon which the laws are based never changes. Therefore, we can proudly say we are under both the Old Testament as well as the New Testament. It is all part of the complete story, and Jesus said there will be no more changes until the Second Coming.
1. What was the purpose of the Old Testament?
2. What is the purpose of the Old Testament today?
3. What is the purpose of the New Testament?
4. Think of a law in the Old Testament that does not apply to us today and explain why it does not apply.
5. Explain how you think God has revealed his truth to us by using both the New and Old Testaments.
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