Originally Published in The Calhoun Times Saturday, October 17th
Last week I wrote about the Gospel and said that as Christians we must get it right. When the Judaizers came behind the Apostle Paul in Galatia, many new Christian believers were persuaded to add circumcision and law-keeping to the Gospel they had received. To set them straight again, Paul argued theology from the Old Testament. In Galatians chapter 3, Paul goes back to promises made to Abraham. While the Judaizers were talking about the Law, Paul went back to the promise. In Genesis 12, and again in Genesis 15, God promised Abraham that he would be the father of nations, that his descendants would be innumerable, and that through him all nations of the world would be blessed. Abraham lived hundreds of years before the Law was given to Moses. Before the Law, the temple and the high priests, Abraham believed God (Gen 15:6) and God counted it to him as righteousness. It is a matter of faith and not keeping the Law the makes one right with God.
When Jesus was asked about the greatest commandment, he quoted from the books of Moses. “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul, mind and strength” and “Love your neighbor as yourself” was not some clever answer Jesus made up on the spot. Those commandments are from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. We know that Jesus regularly took his turn reading from the scrolls daily in the Jewish synagogues. We have to keep in mind that any time Jesus is reading from or making reference to scripture he’s talking about what we would call the Old Testament. The Hebrew Bible contains more than the Law. The history of the nation of Israel, messianic prophecy, poetry and wisdom writings, in addition to the books of the Law, make up a significant portion of our modern Bible. We would really be missing out if we only read and study the New Testament. The Old and New Testaments complement each other; it’s not like throwing away last year’s phone book when the new one arrives.
In Acts chapter 8, Philip began with Isaiah as he explained to the Ethiopian eunuch that Jesus was the Messiah. The book of Hebrews makes a very clear case that Jesus is a better high priest than Aaron and his sons and that he presents a more perfect sacrifice than the blood of lambs and turtle doves. As a matter of fact, the temple, the high priest, the altar, the blood of the sacrifice; all of those things were really about Jesus. The children of Israel were given symbols and images of what was to come; Jesus is the real thing that the symbols alluded to. Jesus spoke of his upcoming crucifixion by saying “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of Man be lifted up.” That was a real event that took place in the history of Israel and also a picture of what was to come. The same is true of the Passover Lamb, Abraham’s sacrifice of Isaac, and hundreds of others. Paul used Abraham’s sons, Isaac and Ishmael, to symbolize two different covenants while explaining the difference between the Law and grace.
Alistair Begg says that it takes a whole Bible to make a whole Christian. The Bible tells one story, about how a holy God deals with sinful, fallen and broken people. At the center of that story is Jesus. He didn’t come into the world to save us from our sins as some sort of “plan B” when the old covenant didn’t work out. That was God’s plan all along. The purposed of the entire temple system was to help us understand who Jesus is and what he does for us. We didn’t need a list of rules to keep or a bunch of things to do; we needed an all-sufficient sacrifice. Our failure to keep the Law and the Commandments helps us understand that. We can learn a lot about God by reading the Old Testament. Why does he command that we honor our fathers and mothers? What does it say about God that he wants us to not murder each other?
The Bible we have today contains 66 books written by some 40 or so authors. And all of it works together in concert for a specific purpose. To get the Gospel right we must be students of God’s Word. Not just Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, and not just the part of the New Testament we like. We must read the Bible and hear it taught and preached. We must be people of the book. And we start by spending time with it.