The Old And New Testaments
One of the most basic divisions found within the Bible is the division between the Old and New Testaments (Covenants). Yet, this division is something unknown to many. Unfortunately, many do not respect Biblical context, and this has produced many false doctrines. There is a difference between the Old and New Testaments. Today we live under the New Testament, rather than the Old.
Since we are under the New Testament today, some may ask, “What purpose does the Old Testament serve?” The apostle Paul answered this question when he wrote, “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Rom. 15:4).
At times, we in the church of Christ have been accused of not believing in the Old Testament because we teach that we are subject to the New Testament today. To say that we don’t believe in the Old Testament is not true. In fact, when we teach that we are under the New Testament (Covenant) and not the Old, we are teaching what the Old Testament teaches! Please read Jeremiah 31:31-34 and see that Jeremiah prophesied of a day coming when God will “make a new covenant”. Several centuries later, Hebrews 8 records that this prophecy was fulfilled! Thus, we are under a New Testament today, just as the Old Testament said would happen!
When we read the New Testament, the end of the Old is a consistent theme. II Corinthians 3:7-16 speaks of the Old Testament, telling us that it has been “done away.” “Taken away” and “abolished” are other terms used in this text to let us know that we are not subject to the terms and conditions of the Old Testament today.
Galatians chapter 3 states in very clear terms that the Old Testament was a “schoolmaster” (tutor, trainer, guardian, servant) to bring folks in Old Testament days to Christ (Gal. 3:24). This is another purpose the Old Testament served. The term “schoolmaster” paints a word-picture of a servant that faithfully brings a student to his teacher. In this case, the Old Testament was “added” to the promises God made to Abraham “till the seed (Christ) should come” (Gal. 3:16-19, 24)! It led the Jews to Christ. The Old Testament has served its purpose, and we are subject to the New Testament today!
Another passage we can study is Colossians 2:14. In this passage, we see that the Old Law was nailed to the cross with Christ! If we wondered about the place of the Old Testament in our lives today, let us not wonder anymore. Its place is at the cross. At the death of Christ, His covenant came into effect (Heb. 9:15-17), and the Old was “done away.” It passed away (Heb. 8:13)! Can there be any question as to what God’s thoughts are concerning the Old Testament? Knowing this is true, who are we to say that the Old Testament is still binding upon men? To say such is to contradict the very Scriptures that were inspired of God (II Tim. 3:16-17; II Pet. 1:20-21).
In light of the passages we have studied, why would someone want to teach that the Old Covenant is still binding? Excluding those who are genuinely ignorant of the differences between the Old and New Covenants, the only reason I can think of is because there are folks trying to justify their “pet” doctrines. When they cannot justify them from the New Testament, they turn to the Old Testament. For example: Instrumental Music in worship, Observance of the Sabbath Day, and justifying divorces and remarriages for reasons other than fornication (Matt. 5:32, 19:9) are just a few reasons why folks try to say the Old Testament is still in force today.
Let us respect the Lord’s will, handle it accurately (II Tim. 2:15), and obey it completely. When we do, we will respect the fact that the Old Testament, while needed at one time, has been done away through the crucifixion of Christ. We now live under the New Testament and need to follow what Christ has said.
A Lack Of Information Or Application?
The Bible is a unique book, to be sure. While it is not a science book, it is scientifically accurate. Though it is not a geography book, it is geographically accurate. It is historically true and is obviously a spiritually-focused book. Within the pages of inspiration, we learn that God has given us “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (II Pet. 1:3). The inspired Scriptures are “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (II Tim. 3:16-17). The word Christ spoke ought to take first place in our lives because it is this word that will judge us one day (Jn. 12:48). Knowing these things are true, is it any wonder that Peter would, by inspiration, write to Christians and say, “If any man speak, let him speak as the oracles of God; if any man minister, let him do it as of the ability which God giveth: that God in all things may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom be praise and dominion forever and ever. Amen” (I Pet. 4:11)?
I cite the passages above to make it clear that God has provided all the information necessary for us to get from earth to Heaven! The Bible has been written; the word is true (Jn. 17:17); and the gospel will save us (Rom. 1:16). The question now is whether or not we will apply the information to our lives! James wrote that a man who hears and does is considered a “blessed man” (Jas. 1:25). He further writes that “faith without works is dead” (Jas. 2:17, 20, 26). Jesus said the ones who will see Heaven are those who “do the will of my father which is in Heaven” (Matt. 7:21). In other words, when it comes to pleasing God, we do not lack the information, but we often lack the application!
Throughout history, this fact is what has separated God’s children from the world! Many people have heard God’s word in various ways. In the book of Exodus, we see Pharaoh heard God’s word, but he “hardened his heart” (Ex. 7:14, 22, 8:15, 19, 32, 9:7, etc.) and was punished as a result of his pride. Others who knew the truth but refused to obey were many of the “chief rulers” in Christ’s day. They knew who Christ was, but refused to confess Him because they feared what the Pharisees would say (Jn. 12:42-43). Another person who knew the truth was Agrippa. He knew the truth, but would not confess Christ, nor be baptized (Acts 26:27-28). This list could be extended, but the point is that God did not leave them ignorant of the truth! Yet, they were condemned because they did not act upon what they knew!
What about us? We have the Bible at our fingertips. Yes, some know more than others, but is this really what is stopping us from being what God would have us to be? Is this really what is stopping us from obeying the Lord and living as He wants us to live? I suggest that it is not so much a matter of information, but it is a matter of application! We do not want to do those things Christ has said! Shame on us for being that way! Let us listen to the Lord, who tells us to be obedient to Him (Jn. 14:15; I Jn. 5:3) and prepare ourselves for Heaven by applying the information God has revealed! In so doing, we will be a blessed people! (Jas. 1:25)