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What the Bible says about Old Testament
(From Forerunner Commentary)

Deuteronomy 8:3

Some time ago, in his "A Moment of Hope" radio commentary, a local preacher spoke of the power of words and how, if we want our lives to be hopeful, we need to keep our speech positive. He then quoted Proverbs 18:21 as wisdom on the subject: "Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit."

So far, everything was fine—and then he went and spoiled it by saying (paraphrasing), "You can find that in the Jewish Testament of your Bible."

The Jewish Testament? What is that? There is no such thing! We could call the Old Testament "the Hebrew Testament" with some legitimacy because it was written in Hebrew, but what would make it Jewish? Was he trying to say that, if we read only the Old Testament, we would become followers of Judaism? Or, that the Jews somehow own the Old Testament? Or, that because the Old Testament is revered by Jews as their holy book, it is somehow inferior to "the Christian Testament?"

Certainly, the Bible never calls the Old Testament "the Jewish Testament." Paul calls it "the Holy Scriptures" in II Timothy 3:15. Jesus calls it "the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms" in Luke 24:44. In many places, the writers simply refer to it as "the word [of God or of the Lord]" or "the Scripture(s)." The only hint that the Old Testament "belongs" to the Jews is a misinterpretation of Romans 3:2, "to them were committed the oracles of God." This means only that the Jews are responsible for their accurate transmission throughout history, not that they apply only to Jews or that Jews exclusively possess them in some way.

No, this all stems from the mistaken idea that the Old Testament is the Old Covenant, "becoming obsolete and growing old . . . ready to vanish away" (Hebrews 8:13), while the New Testament is the New Covenant. Thus, to a "Christian" under the New Covenant, anything that appears in the Old Testament is of lesser value than what appears in the New Testament. This error has led to countless misunderstandings and misinterpretations of the message Jesus brought to mankind.

In fact, the New Testament cannot be understood without the foundation of the Old Testament—and not just in historical terms. Paul is not overstating things when he says the church is "built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ being the chief cornerstone" (Ephesians 2:20). After His resurrection, Jesus "beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, . . . expounded to [the disciples] in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself" (Luke 24:27). Later, "He opened their understanding, that they might comprehend the Scriptures" (verse 45). Which Scriptures? The Old Testament, of course, the only ones written at the time!

Just these few verses say that we New Covenant Christians cannot understand Jesus Christ, His doctrine, His church, and God's plan without the Old Testament. We can see this by how frequently the apostles quote from the writings of Moses, David, and the prophets to support and fill out their doctrinal teachings. There is hardly a page in the New Testament that does not have a quotation or allusion to the Old Testament on it. It is a vital part of New Covenant—New Testament—Christianity!

Lack of space does not permit an explanation of the differences between the Old Covenant and the New. However, let it suffice to say that the major problem in the Old Covenant was the people with whom God made it (see Hebrews 8:7-12; Romans 8:3). The New Covenant is modeled after the Old with its basic law, the Ten Commandments, retained in all its force and wisdom. In fact, Jesus makes it plain that He added intent to the law's scope so that it is now stricter under the New Covenant (Matthew 5:17-48)!

In the end, we must conclude that the Bible is a whole with two parts, which came as a result of the ministry of Jesus Christ and the languages in which the two parts were penned. The theology and the goal of the instruction in the two are the same. The same God who never changes rules, acts, and speaks in both. Those who believed and lived by faith in both eras will receive the same gift of eternal life (I Thessalonians 4:14-17; Hebrews 11:40).

Please be aware of this false notion of the Old Testament's inferiority to the New, as it colors a great deal of "Christian" biblical commentary. The Word of God is God's Word, whether spoken in 1400 BC or AD 60. Above all, remember our Savior's instruction, quoting from Deuteronomy 8:3, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God" (Matthew 4:4).

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
Essays on Bible Study

Luke 16:14-18

Jesus is again confronting the Pharisees. He had just given them the Parable of the Unjust Steward, which speaks about money; thus, this little section is introduced with the Pharisees described as being covetous. Does covetousness have anything to do with the commands of God? How about the tenth commandment?

The Pharisees were offended. Even though Jesus Himself did not say anything directly about covetousness, they were perceptive enough to pick up the drift of His parable. They justified their attitude of covetousness before men who would accept their rationalizations, but as Jesus says in verse 15, they could not escape the scrutiny of God, who judges the heart!

Jesus says that people were pressing into the Kingdom of God. Why? Because Jesus was preaching it, and people were believing the message and repenting. How deeply they believed it is not the point at this time. Crowds were following Jesus, and this enters into His explanation. Jesus warns the Pharisees that, just because people were pressing into the Kingdom of God due to Jesus' preaching of the gospel, they themselves would not pass blithely under the bar of judgment because God would judge them according to the standards given in His law.

Where are those standards given? In the Old Testament! Thus, He says that it is easier for heaven to pass away than for one tittle of the law to pass. Their covetousness would be judged by what was written in the Old Testament. In other words, He could perceive that they were quite sensitive to the standards written in the Old Testament.

To illustrate, He gives an additional principle that He pulls from the Pentateuch, from Genesis 2:24: "Whosoever puts away his wife, and marries another. . . ." Why does He bring that in? Because the Pharisees in actuality had a very cavalier attitude toward the law of God, especially in the area of marriage and divorce. They just brushed it off.

The point is this: Our Savior did not have a cavalier attitude towards the Old Testament. He had every opportunity here to tell these people, "A New Covenant is coming, so do not worry about your sins. We are just going to overlook them." But He did not. He upheld the law and judgment according to it.

John W. Ritenbaugh
The Covenants, Grace, and Law (Part Sixteen)

John 10:35

How clear! It was so clear that those who were challenging Him could not answer Him. "The Scripture cannot be broken" means God's Word is indestructible, no matter how fallible men may regard it. In this case, Jesus means that the Old Testament is inspired, infallible, and authoritative. The New Testament is every bit as authoritative and reliable as the Old, as the same God inspired it for the same overall purpose!

John W. Ritenbaugh
Is the Christian Required to Do Works? (Part One)

Revelation 11:3

This verse actually reads, "I will give to these witnesses of Me." He does not say that He merely possesses them, that is, that they are His witnesses. Instead, He says that they witness "of Me." They point everybody in the world to Jesus Christ and thus on to God the Father. It is their job to witness of Him.

The whole Old Testament points to Jesus Christ, and the New Testament tells His story. So the entire Bible is also a witness of Jesus Christ and therefore of God the Father. In a sense, everything comes down to witnessing of Jesus Christ. What are we called? "Christians." Our whole lives should be totally focused on showing or manifesting Jesus Christ in us. These Two Witnesses are pinnacles of that among men. They will witness of God for 3½ years, in the face of the entire world.

It is interesting how these Two Witnesses correlate with Jesus Christ Himself. We could say that, individually, they will be images or representations of Jesus Christ. God has called us all to be transformed into the image of Jesus Christ, and these Two Witnesses—these two prophets—will show the world in themselves what this means. Their witness will be so true, it will be as if they are two "Christs" walking the earth. Perhaps this is exaggerating things a bit, but it is indeed one of the ways in which a person witnesses, which is why these two prophets are so important.

Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part One)


 




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