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    “See to it no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8).

    « Questions About Islam | Seeking God's Power »
    Tuesday
    Mar202012

    Does the Old Testament Still Apply?

    Reader's Question: 

    "I hear a lot of people 'bash' christianity by quoting old testament such as Lev 20:10**, but most of them don't know about Hebrews 8:7*** which says the old testament/ covenant isn't very good and is to be replaced by a new one. So what is the purpose of the old testament?, or what is to be gained by reading/studying it? What (if any) parts of it still apply or has the whole thing been "replaced" by the new covenant/testament?"

     

    Response: I think a lot of Christians wonder the same thing, and many churches never take time to study the O.T. Last year and this year I read through most of it, and I was surprised by many things. I’m getting a little ahead of myself, though…

     

    The O.T. contains 39 books consisting of history, law, poetry/songs, and prophets all of which combine to give insight into the Israelite culture and their neighboring nations. This is important for we who are so far removed from that culture, geography, and time.

     

    It helps to put much of the Bible, its laws, recorded actions, recorded dialogues, etc. in context and gives us a better understanding of “why” certain things were said or done. The meanings behind words and actions become much deeper when we have this background.

     

    These books also tell the long story of God’s interactions with both the Israelites and their neighbors, revealing God’s character. This is where many people judge God to be immoral. They base their judgments on faulty understanding of the culture and history and just a few verses (like Lev. 20:10).

     

    I found in my reading that each different book tends to focus on a different aspect of God’s character along with overwhelmingly repetitive themes. Each book provides its own claims and evidence for God being: just, loving, merciful, a provider, holy (meaning set apart), unique, the only true God, able to save, able to destroy, able to create, ultimately in charge and in control, patient, does not change, and highly interactive with the affairs of humanity.

     

    All of these aspects and more are vital in understanding God properly. Many people focus on one or two aspects and never go much farther (One end of the spectrum are those who think of God as always wrathful/angry and just waiting to pounce on sinners. The other end views God as only merciful, loving, kind, patient, etc. He is however, all of these).

     

    The Bible’s claim is that within its many books, God has revealed Himself to people. This is important and a unique feature to Christianity. No other religion believes that their god has revealed themselves for humanity.

     

    They all try to get “up” to God through various means (meditation, good works, rituals, etc.), while Christianity believes that God came down (and not just with Jesus. Many O.T. stories have this consistent theme such as Moses and the burning bush)     

     

    Having and knowing the history and God’s character in the O.T. forms the basis for the New Testament/New Covenant. As early as Genesis, the O.T. contains promises and prophecies concerning the coming of Jesus (over 300; http://www.biblestudy.org/prophecy/old-testament-prophecies-jesus-fulfilled.html).

     

    Much of the writing in the gospels and epistles (letters) in the New Testament used these O.T. prophecies to prove to themselves and others that Jesus was the awaited Messiah (which is actually what Hebrews 8:7 is all about.

     

    Try reading from Hebrews 7-8 and it makes a bit more sense). This is helpful not only for “witnessing” to Jews (I’m being humorous, sort of) but explains why we “need Jesus” in the first place.

     

    One big mistake many people tend to make is thinking that Jesus’ coming/death/resurrection made the law obsolete,

    "Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17).

     

    In other words He completed it, He finished it.

     

    Does any part of it still apply? Yes and no. I discussed at length why the historical and prophetic books are still valid. The poetry/song books are also still valid because they reflect the same human emotions toward God, enemies, lovers, children, etc. that all people regardless of culture or time possess and express at one point or another, in addition to God’s responses to human emotions.

     

    The law books are a bit trickier because there are different sub-categories of laws. These categories are addressed in the New Testament in turn. Food laws appear to longer apply, laws pertaining to the temple (which interestingly includes tithing), sacrifices, and priests no longer apply (since Jesus was the final sacrifice, and the literal temple no longer exists.

     

    It was destroyed in 70 A.D. as Jesus predicted to His disciples, as God’s final sign of the N.T./New Covenant). The N.T. talks instead of our hearts and bodies being God’s temple/dwelling place (1 Corinthians 6:19-20), (for an interesting read, see note* below) bringing a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving (Hebrews 13:15), and every believer being part of a royal priesthood (1 Peter 2:9).

     

    On the other hand are laws such as

    “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” (Matt. 22:37-40). These are quoted by Jesus in Matthew, but found originally in Deuteronomy 6:5.


    In general, the laws pertaining to how people relate to God and others still apply, while “holiness” and “cleanliness” laws do not. Christians are “holy” (once again, “set apart” not “better-than-you”) only because God dwells in our hearts (the temple-thing again) which “should” dictate our actions and words to line up with the Bible.

     

    By this definition, a Christian is not one who was raised in the church, or attends a church, or names themselves as such, or even one who calls Jesus “Lord” and seeks to follow the Bible, if they do not love the Lord with all their hearts. 

     

    “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

    21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ 23 Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’  (Matt. 7:16-23)

     

    I’m working on a blog post about “fruits” by the way (See: What Makes Good Fruit), but Galatians 5:22-23 is a good start,

    “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. “

     

    *God never commanded or demanded a temple. 1 Chronicles 17 records David’s initial desire to build a temple for God, and God’s response through the prophet Nathan in verses 4-6,

    “Go and tell my servant David, “This is what the Lord says: You are not the one to build me a house to dwell in. I have not dwelt in a house from the day I brought Israel up out of Egypt to this day. I have moved from one tent site to another, from one dwelling place to another. Wherever I have moved with all the Israelites, did I ever say to any of their leaders whom I commanded to shepherd my people, “Why have you not built me a house of cedar?”
     

    There is more that God tells David, and He does say one of David’s sons will build a temple, but God still does not ask nor command this to be done. This is consistent with God’s unique character that He is and remain represented as different from other deities. In other words, most other big-time gods/goddesses had gorgeous temples built for them, but God does not need it or desire it.

     

    Skipping ahead to 1 Chronicles 28, David makes a royal announcement and proclamation which embellishes somewhat on God’s words from chapter 17. Here we read that David still has his heart set on seeing a temple built for God, but understands Solomon is the one to accomplish it. Still, David is more than ready to get the ball rolling “for Solomon” which ends chapter 28 and goes through 29. Certainly this was an act of zeal, sincerity, and love for God, but it cannot be correctly claimed as God’s work since God never asked it.

     

    **“If a man commits adultery with another man’s wife—with the wife of his neighbor—both the adulterer and the adulteress are to be put to death.” Lev. 20:10

     

    ***Hebrews 8:7-13

     7 For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another. 8 But God found fault with the people and said[a]:

       “The days are coming, declares the Lord,
       when I will make a new covenant
    with the people of Israel
       and with the people of Judah.
    9 It will not be like the covenant
       I made with their ancestors
    when I took them by the hand
       to lead them out of Egypt,
    because they did not remain faithful to my covenant,
       and I turned away from them,
                declares the Lord.
    10 This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel
       after that time, declares the Lord.
    I will put my laws in their minds
       and write them on their hearts.
    I will be their God,
       and they will be my people.
    11 No longer will they teach their neighbor,
       or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’
    because they will all know me,
       from the least of them to the greatest.
    12 For I will forgive their wickedness
       and will remember their sins no more.”[b]

     13 By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. “

     

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