Our Bible is divided into two sections: the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old is the story of God choosing to run His plan for salvation through Abraham’s descendants—the Jews—and present to the world through them the Jewish Messiah, our Savior, Jesus Christ, the Son of God. It is the history of God declaring them His people, explaining what that looks like and correcting them when they begin to look like something else. It also holds the mystery of how God intended to provide salvation in a uniquely personal way.
The New Testament is the story of that plan being fulfilled. We discover Jesus and read of all He did and how what He did makes that personal relationship possible. It then explains what that relationship looks like and how God’s promises and truths affect our lives every day. In there we are the Children of God.
But it can be confusing when we take our New Testament understanding and try to make it fit completely into the Old Testament. It isn’t intended to. Though what we learn in the New can clarify things in the Old, there are also things in the Old that help us understand the New. We are NT believers but the Old Testament provides the backstory for many of our NT beliefs.
Without the New the Old Testament is incomplete.
Without the Old the New Testament has no foundation.
One problem we run into, however, is, many of the words, commands and experiences fit one Testament and not the other. Some things in the Old don’t apply to us because we’re not under the Law, but much of it does apply because we are God’s people. And we can’t always take things from the New and make them apply to Old Testament people.
The word Testament actually means Covenant. There are several covenants that God made with people throughout the OT. He made one with David that gave a royal lineage fulfilled when Jesus was born as King of kings and Lord of lords. He made one with Moses giving the Law and the Sacrificial system that was fulfilled when Jesus died.
The overarching covenant was the one God made with Abraham—to make a nation from him, and through that nation provide the Savior.
Heb 11:8, 12 By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed by going out to a place which he was to receive for an inheritance; and he went out, not knowing where he was going…[And because Abraham was faithful, God promised] as many descendants AS THE STARS OF HEAVEN IN NUMBER, AND INNUMERABLE AS THE SAND WHICH IS BY THE SEASHORE.
The great testimony of Abraham’s life was not the people who came after him but his faith. The famous statement is: Abraham believed God and it was accounted to him as righteousness. Abraham became Father of the Faithful—those who believed in God and trusted Him for the outcome of their lives.
Abraham’s legacy actually covers both Covenants through men and women who would be distinguished by faith. The OT toward a completion. The NT toward the culmination. In both there is the sense God is working out a plan.
And though they couldn’t see where the plan was going, they anticipated a day when it would be fulfilled.
Heb 11:39-40 And all these, having gained approval through their faith, did not receive what was promised, because God had provided something better for us, so that apart from us they would not be completed.
You can imagine how they longed to see what was coming.
Jesus explained it this way: Luke 10:21-24 At that very time He rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, "I praise You, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that You have hidden these things from the wise and intelligent and have revealed them to infants. Yes, Father, for this way was well-pleasing in Your sight. All things have been handed over to Me by My Father, and no one knows who the Son is except the Father, and who the Father is except the Son, and anyone to whom the Son wills to reveal Him.” Turning to the disciples, He said privately, "Blessed are the eyes which see the things you see, for I say to you, that many prophets and kings wished to see the things which you see, and did not see them, and to hear the things which you hear, and did not hear them."
The fulfillment of the hope of all people of faith under the Old Covenant was standing right in front of them. Jesus answered the longing of every heart for an intimate, personal relationship with God.
That’s why, later, Paul would write: 1Cor 2:9-10 but just as it is written, "THINGS WHICH EYE HAS NOT SEEN AND EAR HAS NOT HEARD, AND which HAVE NOT ENTERED THE HEART OF MAN, ALL THAT GOD HAS PREPARED FOR THOSE WHO LOVE HIM." For to us God revealed them through the Spirit; for the Spirit searches all things, even the depths of God.
What Jesus was telling the disciples directly, and Paul told the Corinthians under inspiration is the same thing the Spirit says when He taps us on our hearts and tells us Jesus is the One. He is the promise of the New Covenant, the completer of the Old. It is our privilege to know Him and experience things OT people couldn’t even imagine. Jesus in us, the hope of God pouring His goodness into our lives.
You would think with that legacy all Jews would have lived leaning toward God in anticipation of what God was planning. But not everyone in the nation was a person of faith. They called themselves Jews but that was more birthright than spiritual connection to God.
Paul said: Rom 2:28 For he is not a Jew who is one outwardly, nor is circumcision that which is outward in the flesh. But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter; and his praise is not from men, but from God.
The distinction wasn’t outward but inward. What makes a person a person of God? Not outward appearance—things they do or don’t do—but inward surrender of their lives to God.
That rule applies in both Old and New Testaments: But the difference in the Old and New Covenants was the path to God. Under the Law and Sacrificial system, the people believed the way to God was through their efforts or works—what they did or didn’t do to gain God’s favor. Going through the motions of devotion wasn’t the same as loving God. Works were easier than devotion so you can see how the people gravitated toward the easier activity. Who needs faith when you believe works gain God’s approval?
You’d be surprised how many religions and even Christian denominations and movements still have works as a necessary part of salvation—either to get it or keep it.
David said: Ps 51:15-17 O Lord, open my lips, that my mouth may declare Your praise. For You do not delight in sacrifice, otherwise I would give it; You are not pleased with burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and a contrite heart, O God, You will not despise.
David knew without faith there are no actions that please God.
So after the Crucifixion, faith had a new object. Faith in God now passed through Jesus, who completed the work of the Old Covenant. The pathway now has a name.
Jeremiah was one of those Jesus referred to: Jer 31:31-33 "Behold, days are coming," declares the LORD, "when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah, not like the covenant which I made with their fathers in the day I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, My covenant which they broke, although I was a husband to them," declares the LORD. "But this is the covenant which I will make with the house of Israel after those days," declares the LORD, "I will put My law within them and on their heart I will write it; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.
Ezekiel was another: Ezek 36:24-28 "For I will take you from the nations, gather you from all the lands and bring you into your own land. Then I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your filthiness and from all your idols. Moreover, I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; and I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will be careful to observe My ordinances. You will live in the land that I gave to your forefathers; so you will be My people, and I will be your God.
Fortunately, how a person thought he was made right with God in the Old Covenant didn’t make the transition into the New Covenant. Same God. Same faith. But a new pathway.
In the New Covenant we are saved by grace through faith and that not of ourselves it is the gift of God, not of works, lest any should boast. (Eph 2:8-9) Do you hear the difference?
How would we boast in salvation? By thinking we had made it happen or by thinking we’re responsible to keep it. The work is already done. Jesus took the work part on Himself.
What’s the big deal?
· We can make works—things we do and don’t do to gain God’s favor—more important than faith.
· We can achieve works without faith.
· We can assume our works gain us righteousness before God.
· We can believe that by our works we can influence God.
· We can expect our works to be what gets us to Heaven. [Survey]
· We can carry a load of guilt for our failures to live up to what we believe are God’s expectations.
Why go through all of this? Because living on the fulfillment side of the cross brings joy.
- Where we can fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God. Heb 12:2
- Where Jesus promised us that what He taught was so that His joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full. Joh 15:11
- Where Paul prayed: Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.
- At that very time Jesus rejoiced greatly in the Holy Spirit, and said, Guys, you have no idea how blessed you really are.
Why go through all this? Because Easter is coming and we need to celebrate why Jesus did what He did.
Why go through all this? Because the truth can set us free.
- We live on the completed side of the Crucifixion—under the New Covenant.
- In the New Covenant, God saves us by grace through faith, and that not of ourselves it is the gift of God, not of works lest any should boast.
- Our works may demonstrate our faith but they are not more important to God than our faith.
- If we live out our Christian life to honor Him, to glorify Him and anticipate His goodness in our lives, our faith pleases God.
- Old Testament people of faith had no idea how incredible life fulfilled by a personal relationship with God would be.
- We are blessed.