THE REVELATION OF GOD - 7
The churches of Christ Greet You (Romans 16:16)
The Old and New Testaments
The Old and New Testaments
We cannot learn anything concerning God, salvation, or heaven outside of the Bible. The Bible answers every question that you can ask concerning your duty to God, the church, and your fellowman fully, clearly, and pointedly. In other words, the Bible is the only book in the world that ever did or ever will interpret the Bible. In order to appreciate these things it is necessary to divide the word of truth (2 Timothy 2:15), to see that the Bible is a harmonious and consistent book. When you open the Bible and find a book named Deuteronomy or Romans, you have a right to inquire: When was this book written? Who wrote it? Why was it written? For whom was it written? Was it intended for the Patriarchal age, the Jewish age, or the Christian age? Was it addressed to a Patriarch, a Jew, or a Christian? Is it addressed to the unconverted or the converted?
You may observe that God gave Abraham two promises (Gen. 12:1‑4). The development and fulfillment of the first included the Jews as a nation, the Levitical priesthood, and the most remarkable people in the world. The unfolding and accomplishment of the second embraces the Gospel of Jesus Christ or the good news of God manifested to the entire world. The development of the first promise belonged to the administration of the Law of Moses. The development of the second was "through the blood of the everlasting covenant;" in other words, the New Testament dedicated or sealed by the blood of Christ (Heb. 9:12).
The old covenant was intended for one nation, the Jews (Gen. 17:1‑14); the new covenant is intended for all nations and all ages (Matt. 28:18‑20). The old covenant was dedicated by the blood of animals (Heb. 9:19-20); the Gospel is sanctified by the "precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot” (1 Pet. 1:19). The old covenant was administered by a priesthood composed of frail men (Heb. 7:11); the new covenant is administered by the everlasting priest, Jesus the Christ (Heb. 7:28). The old covenant sacrifices were offered year by year continually (Heb. 10:1); the new covenant sacrifice was offered when Jesus gave himself a ransom for all (1 Tim. 2:6). Circumcision in the flesh made by hands (Eph. 2:11) was the distinctive feature of the first covenant; circumcision of the heart and character are distinctive features of the second covenant” (Rom. 2:29; Col. 2:11). We have affirmed that the Bible answers all legitimate questions concerning our deliverance from the thralldom of sin. It is the Word of God. It separates God's method of revealing Himself into the two Testaments, and you cannot confound them unless you do it at your peril. It is a dangerous thing to interfere with the book of God, or to mix things that He has made distinct.
Looking backward to that which was accomplished through the old covenant, or the law of Moses, the apostle Paul, with the Gospel in his heart and the light of heaven shining around his path, made a number of declarations concerning the first covenant that ought to attract the attention of every man who desires to be saved: (1). The law was only a shadow of good things to come: "Who serve unto the example and shadow of heavenly things, as Moses was admonished of God when he was about to make the tabernacle; for, See, saith he, that thou make all things according to the pattern shewed to thee in the mount” (Heb. 8:5). (2). It could not produce righteousness: "I do not frustrate the grace of God; for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain” (Gal. 2:21). (3). It could not produce perfection: "For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope did; by the which we draw nigh unto God” (Heb. 7:19). (4). It could not produce life: "Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law” (Gal. 3:21). (5). It could not give a good conscience: "Which was a figure for the time then present, in which were offered both gifts and sacrifices, that could not make him that did the service perfect, as pertaining to the conscience” (Heb. 9:9). (6). It could not justify the people: "By him all that believe are justified from all things, from which ye could not be justified by the law of Moses” (Acts 13:38-39).
(7). The law was ended when Christ died upon the cross: "For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth” (Rom. 10:4). (8). It is abolished or done away: "But if the ministration of death, written and engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not steadfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which glory was to be done away; how shall not the ministration of the Spirit be rather glorious? For if the ministration of condemnation be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness exceed in glory. For even that which was made glorious had no glory in this respect, by reason of the glory that excelleth. For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remaineth is glorious” (2 Cor. 3:7‑11). (9). It has been taken away: "He taketh away the first, that he may establish the second” (Heb. 10:9). (10). It was fulfilled by Jesus Christ: "Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am come not to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). (11). It was nailed to the Cross: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14). (12). We are not under the law: "For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace” (Rom. 6:14). We cannot seek for or obtain pardon under the law, for it is abolished. Therefore, in our attempts to divide the word of truth, to learn the way of salvation, we should make a careful discrimination between the Law of Moses and the Gospel of Christ.
What is the New Testament or Covenant? Where did it begin? When did it begin? What does it embrace? The Bible answers: "For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith 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 continued not in my covenant, and I regarded them not, saith the Lord. For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel, after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind and write them in their hearts; and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people: and they shall not teach every man his neighbor, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord; for all shall know me, from the least to the greatest. For I will be merciful to their unrighteousness, and their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more. In that he saith, a new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decayeth and waxeth old, is ready to vanish away” (Jer. 31:31‑34; Heb. 8:8‑13).
This is a significant passage. Please observe: (a) that God found fault with the old covenant; (b) He declared that he would make another; (c) that it was to be unlike the old one; (d) that he would write his law in the minds and hearts of the people, and not upon tables of stone; (e) that all should know the Lord, from the least unto the greatest; (f) that sins would be forgiven, and therefore remembered no more; (g) that the first covenant waxed old and passed away. If there is a doubt lingering in your mind in reference to the new covenant, this plain and comprehensive statement ought to destroy it forever: "But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant which was established upon better promises” (Heb. 8:6). Jesus Christ is the testator of the New Testament, the apostles are the witnesses, and the patrimony is eternal life.
"For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth” (Heb. 9:16-17). A testament is no more or less than a will. The New Testament is the will of Christ. No will or testament can be enforced before the death of the testator (the one who made it). Therefore, the New Testament was not enforced during, the natural life of Jesus. The cross is the line. The Law of Moses was in force until "the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom” (Mark 15:38). Jesus Christ observed the law and commanded His disciples to do likewise (Matt. 23:1‑3). During the three years of His ministry He was submitting the principles of His will to His chosen witnesses. When He died on the cross, He sealed forever the lessons that He taught them. When did they bear witness to His life, works and words? Not until the day of Pentecost. It was impossible for them to begin before that time. The law began at Mount Sinai, and the Gospel in the city of Jerusalem after Jesus went up on high (Isaiah 2:2-3).
The Gospel of Christ is deeper, more positive and more extensive in its demands than the Law of Moses. Do you ask for the proof? Here it is. The Law of Moses said: "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain” (Ex. 20:7). The New Testament says: “Let your communications be, Yea, yea; Nay, nay: for whatsoever is more than these cometh of evil” (Matt. 5:37). The Law of Moses said: "Thou shalt not kill (murder)” (Ex. 20:13). The New Testament says: "Whosoever hateth his brother is a murderer: and ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him” (1 John 3:15). The Law of Moses said: "Thou shalt not steal (Ex. 20:15). The New Testament says: "Let him that stole steal no more; but rather let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth” (Eph. 4:28). The Law of Moses said: "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor” (Ex. 20:16). The New Testament says: "But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ” (Eph. 4:15). The Law of Moses said: “Thou shalt not covet” (Ex. 20:17). The New Testament says: "Love worketh no ill to his neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law”(Rom. 13:10).
The Old Testament stands as a witness to the New. "But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and prophets; even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all, and upon all them that believe; for there is no difference” (Rom. 2: 21-22). The lessons of the Old Testament were written for our learning. "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). We read the Old Testament because it bears witness to the Gospel; but the terms of salvation to us, to the world, can only be found in the New Testament.
What does the New Testament contain? It divides itself into five departments: (1). Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. (2). The Acts of the Apostles. (3). Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, 1 and 2 Thessalonians, Philemon, Hebrews, James, 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2, and 3 John, and Jude. (4). 1 and 2 Timothy and Titus. (5). Revelation. The first division presents Jesus Christ as the Savior of men. The second embraces the plan of salvation as promulgated by the apostles in the unfolding of the Great Commission. The third is addressed to the church. The fourth is addressed to the preachers. The fifth is a book of prophecy. The first division tells us what to believe; the second tells us what to do in order to be saved from past sins; the, epistles teach us how to maintain our Christian characters; and the Revelation lifts us to Pisgah's heights and gives us a glimpse of the eternal home to which we are hastening. When we learn to "divide the word of truth," and become willing to preach the Gospel to please God and save men, the world will be brought to Christ; but not before. The world demands truth, and it can not be satisfied with less. God commands us to preach the whole truth, and we cannot be saved if we refuse.
Why do men misinterpret the teaching of the Bible? Because they are married to human systems that must be maintained, truth or no truth, obedience or no obedience. Why do men neglect the teaching of the apostles, and base their hope for salvation upon the fact that the dying thief received the blessing of Jesus before the New Testament was sealed by the death of the Testator? Because they would rather be saved like a thief than submit to such a humiliation as the "obedience of faith" demands! Why do men apply the promises of Jesus to the apostles (concerning the baptism of the Holy Spirit) to the wicked world? Because this is the only way in which they can apparently rule out baptism for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Why do men turn to the letters of the church to find the plan of salvation for persons who have never received Christ? Because they either do not know the truth, or they are not willing to obey it. Why do men claim that God sends them a direct assurance of salvation when they have never obeyed the Gospel? Because they are ignorant of the preaching of the apostles. What is the cause of this confusion, sectarianism, and doubting? Unwillingness on the part of the people to receive and obey the truth. The responsibility lies at your door and mine. Will you do your part toward the enlightenment of the world? Will you begin now?