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Friday, December 23, 2022

Abuse Of The Old Testament

There are many things practiced in the name of Christianity today that have no scriptural basis in the law of Christ, in the new covenant.  The Old Testament, the old covenant, at times is appealed to as the source of authority.  Does the Old Testament have the same authority for Christians today as the New Testament?  How should Christians today relate to and handle the Old Testament scriptures?  These are questions we all ought to be interested in for we are saved by truth, not error. 

God has commanded us to rightly divide the truth (2 Tim. 2:15) and Peter says that the scriptures can be twisted to our own destruction (2 Peter 3:16) thus we must be careful and not make assumptions or just give our opinion.  We can only rightly divide the word of truth by following what God has said about how to do that.  Only then are we on safe ground. 

That the Old Testament scriptures have value for us today there can be no doubt for Paul says, "For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope." (Rom.15:4 NAS)  We thus learn that we can receive instruction from the Old Testament scriptures and encouragement that combined with perseverance gives us hope. 

No better example can be given than what James said in illustrating this point.  He says, "Behold, we count those blessed who endured.  You have heard of the endurance of Job and have seen the outcome of the Lord's dealings that the Lord is full of compassion and is merciful." (James 5:11 NAS) 

Hebrews chapter 11 is another good illustration.  We are taught by the examples of Old Testament characters what faith is and what it means to have faith.  We are encouraged to persevere as we see what some of those men and women were willing to do and endure to be faithful to God.  We compare our trials with theirs and ours seem but little things and we are given the strength to go on and not give up.  The Bible speaks of these as being those "of whom the world was not worthy." (Heb. 11:38 NKJV) 

We are told to remember Lot's wife (Luke 17:32), told in so many words that we ought to learn from the fact that "anyone who has rejected Moses' law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses" (Heb. 10:28 NKJV) and consider that in relation to our treatment of the Son of God (Heb. 10:29) where the punishment will be worse.  This list could be extended but the point has been adequately made that there is much to learn from the Old Testament as the New Testament reveals lesson after lesson we ought to learn from the more distant past. 

Furthermore, much of what we learn about God, who he is, his character, his attributes, his expectations for man, and his purposes are found in the Old Testament.  We find in the Old Testament the history of man.  We find the history of God's chosen people.  We see his eternal purpose set forth both in historical development and in prophecy. 

And then there is the book of Psalms.  Who is there among God's people who have not gone to the book of Psalms time and again to find comfort and hope, especially in times of sadness and sorrow? 

Want to learn how to pray?  Read David in the Psalms to see prayer from the heart.  Learn how to praise God in prayer and how to petition him for his blessings.  Learn how to thank God.  All of this can be learned by close attention in reading the Psalms. 

Need wisdom?  Go to the book of Proverbs.  Many, many New Testaments that one can buy also include as an addition the books of Psalms and Proverbs.  They are books that are often consulted by men today and rightly so. 

I have said many good and true things in praise of the Old Testament scriptures.  I believe everything I have said has been scriptural and so much so that I do not believe anyone who calls himself a Christian would disagree with me to this point. 

However, we have now come to the time where we need to divide the word—the old from the new--and make a distinction.  The Bible is very clear that the Old Testament is not meant for us today as law.  We readily see this when it comes to animal sacrifices but we too often want to bring in from the Old Testament other things that should have been left there as well. 

The Hebrew writer says, "For the priesthood being changed, of necessity there is also a change of the law." (Heb. 7:12 NKJV)  Read in context the argument has been that Jesus is now our high priest and he is not of the tribe of Levi as were all the priests under the old Law of Moses.  Jesus was of the tribe of Judah. 

But our point is that the inspired writer tells us as clearly as words can make it that the law has changed.  There is now a new law.  The Law of Moses is gone, fulfilled, completed, and is now history.  There is now a new law, the law of Christ.  In Gal. 6:2 Paul says, "Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ." (NKJV) 

Everyone readily admits that Jesus gave man commandments to obey.  A commandment is nothing other than a law to be obeyed.  Disobey a law of God and you sin.  As the old King James translation puts it in 1 John 3:4, "Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law:  for sin is the transgression of the law."  In our day the law that is transgressed bringing sin is the law of Christ, not the Law of Moses. 

Hear God the Father speak from heaven on the Mount of Transfiguration when Peter wanted to make 3 tabernacles, one each for Moses, Elijah, and Christ.  "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  Hear Him!" (Matt. 17:5 NKJV)  Christ was not to be put on an equal plain with Moses and/or Elijah.  Neither was to be heard any longer as present-day authorities.  Henceforth Christ was the one to be heard and followed. 

In Hebrews 3 the Hebrew writer has been talking about Moses and Christ and how Christ is superior to Moses and then in verses 7 and 8 says, "Therefore, as the Holy Spirit says:  'Today, if you will hear His voice, Do not harden your hearts." (NKJV)  The day of hearing Moses is over as regards law to be followed.  Hear the voice of Christ which is the voice of God.  Hear it today.  Jesus says, "the word which you hear is not Mine but the Father's who sent Me." (John 14:24 NKJV) 

Paul says of himself in Gal. 2:19, "For I through the law died to the law that I might live to God." (NKJV)  He goes on to say "if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain." (Gal 2:21 NKJV)  And in Rom. 7:4 "Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another--to Him who was raised from the dead." (NKJV)  The law referred to in these passages is the Law of Moses. 

And, then, in Gal. 3:24-25 he makes it clear enough that an older elementary school student ought to be able to easily understand it.  He says, "Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith.  But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor." (NKJV)  The law (the Law of Moses) was our tutor; we are no longer under a tutor, thus no longer under the law.  (For that matter the Gentiles were never given the law anyway nor were they under it.  The law was for God's chosen people, the Jewish nation.) 

Part of the problem the Galatians were having was that they wanted at the very least an admixture of the old Law of Moses with Christ.  Paul called it a perversion of the gospel of Christ in chapter 1 verse 7.  Some were going so far as to want to go back to the Law of Moses for Paul says, "Tell me, you who desire to be under the law." (Gal. 4:21 NKJV)  The desire was wrong.  Remember, God said this is my beloved son, hear him, him not Moses (the Law of Moses). 

Paul goes so far as to say that being under the works of the law (reference to the Law of Moses) is a curse.  "For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse; for it is written, "Cursed is everyone who does not continue in all things which are written in the book of the law, to do them." (Gal. 3:10 NKJV)  He says, "Do not be entangled again with a yoke of bondage." (Gal. 5:1 NKJV) 

I could go on and on with proof texts for the book of Galatians and the book of Hebrews both deal extensively about the change of the law telling us clearly that we are not under the Law of Moses today.  The book of Romans also gives us much the same.  But, my main interest is making an application as to how all of this affects us today as Christians and believers. 

The idea seems to be prevalent today that the Old Testament gives us authority to worship in ways we please if we can find an example for our practice in the Old Testament.  But, does it? 

Paul says of certain Galatians, Gal. 5:4 (NKJV), "You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace."  They wanted to bring over into Christianity circumcision, a requirement under the old covenant.  "Indeed I, Paul, say to you that if you become circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing.  And I testify again to every man who becomes circumcised that he is a debtor to keep the whole law." (Gal. 5:2-3 NKJV) 

The only way these people could justify themselves, even in their own eyes, was by an appeal to the Old Testament scriptures, justification by Old Testament law.  It won't work.  Why not?  Because it is not a part of the law of Christ, not a part of the new covenant.  We do not have a problem with the issue of circumcision today but we often seek to do what that group did, the group who wanted it.  We attempt to justify our practice that cannot be found in the law of Christ, the New Testament, by an appeal to the Old Testament. 

We are given a choice of whose law and authority we will live by.  Will it be Moses' law or Christ's law?  We cannot mix them.  What Christ wanted from the old law to be observed today he brought with him and had it recorded in the pages of the New Testament.  We can go back to Moses or we can move forward to Christ.  That is our choice. 

There are things that seem so right to a man, how can they be wrong?  The writer of Proverbs says, "There is a way that seems right to a man, But its end is the way of death." (Prov. 16:25 NKJV)  God speaking in Isaiah 55:8-9 (NKJV) says, "'For My thoughts are not your thoughts, Nor are your ways My ways,' says the Lord.  'For as the heavens are higher than the earth, So are My ways higher than your ways, And My thoughts than your thoughts.'"  We greatly error when we think that because a thing pleases us it is automatically going to please God. 

We also ought to learn from this that we ought not to just accept without question the things that have been handed down to us from men who lived in the past but whose teachings have come to be accepted as a sort of a standard--it doesn't matter whether the man was Calvin, Luther, or the Pope, or whomever it might be.  Isaiah said in Isa. 2:22 (ESV), "Stop regarding man in whose nostrils is breath, for of what account is he?"  Good question.  I think Isaiah answered his own question, did he not? 

Nadab and Abihu in Leviticus 10 "offered profane fire before the LORD, which He had not commanded them" (verse 1) and the Bible says "so fire went out from the LORD and devoured them, and they died before the LORD." (Lev. 10:2 NKJV)  They had no authority from God to use profane fire or as some versions put it "strange fire." (NAS)  

What is the application?  To Nadab and Abihu worship was worship as long as it was directed to God and meant for his praise.  It seemed right to them.  Who could object to worshipping God?  Well, we found out.  God does not think as man thinks.  

What Nadab and Abihu did was no different than what we do today when we add to the worship things we cannot find in the law of Christ, the new covenant, the New Testament.  Col. 3:17 reads as follows, "And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him." (NKJV)  How does one do a thing in the name of the Lord Jesus about which the Lord Jesus spoke nothing? 

A careful reading of 1 Chron. 21:18-19 will show you that the phrase "in the name of the Lord" means by the Lord's authority.  The angel of the Lord had commanded Gad to go speak to David about building an altar and verse 19 says, "So David went up at the word of Gad, which he had spoken in the name of the Lord."  This clearly shows that "in the name of the Lord" means by the Lord's authority and that authority is expressed in his word, not outside it.  We are to do what we do "in the name of the Lord Jesus," by his authority found in his word.  Now reread Col. 3:17 and you will see this involves everything we do in religion and most assuredly in our worship.   

Nadab and Abihu were doing a thing in the name of God which God had spoken nothing about.  Nadab and Abihu were not condemned for doing a thing that was written or given but for what was not written or not given and doing it anyway because it pleased them.  Do you think for a single moment that Nadab and Abihu thought it would matter?  You know they didn't. 

Peter says, "If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God."  You will need an oracle of God to do that.  When you have to go outside the word of God for your practice it is because there is no oracle.  

The New Testament tells us exactly how far we are allowed to go.  We can go that far and no farther.  How far?  In 1 Cor. 4:6 Paul says, "not to exceed what is written" (NAS)--"not to go beyond what is written" (ESV).  John says, (2 John 1:9 NKJV), "Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God."  When we step outside what Christ has said, his written word, we step outside his doctrine and adopt the doctrine of man.  On the Day of Judgment you do not want to find yourself trying to explain to God why you did that. 

Today all kinds of things have been brought into the typical worship of churches for which man cannot find a New Testament book, chapter, and verse for and we all know that.  I am not telling anyone anything they do not know.  Most will readily admit it.  They say God will not care.  It makes no difference.  It is still worship to God they say.  It pleases him.  But what do you do with John 4:24 that says, in part, that worship must be in truth and then John 17:17 which says God's word is truth?  You then search the New Testament and cannot find a word about your practice, what then? 

Sometimes they say they did it in the Old Testament; Moses did it or David did it so it has to be okay. Instrumental music in worship is an example.  Which law did Moses and David live under?  Instrumental music was a command of worship under the Law of Moses (see 2 Chron. 29:25), that is to say during that era or under that dispensation of time.  Does one seek justification by an appeal to the Law of Moses?  God said to those with Jesus on the Mount of Transfiguration, "This is My Beloved Son. … Hear Him!" (Matt. 17:5 NKJV)  

(You are aware that the church we find in the New Testament existed for hundreds of years before man brought the instrument into worship.  This in itself tells you where it came from, God or man.) 

But, the things brought from the Old Testament over to us today go far beyond just instrumental music.  Things like the special robes and/or priestly attire worn by those who are considered to be somewhat in the church, the idea that there are two classes of brethren--one priests and then the rest of us, the ritualism we find often in the churches, and so on all from the days of the Law of Moses and none of which can be justified without an appeal to it.  Will we hear Moses or Christ? 

The title of this article was abusing the Old Testament.  How is that done?  I think we see now it is by seeking justification from it, especially in the realm of public worship.  That is not where you will find justification, not today. 

I close with the words of God the Father on the Mount of Transfiguration.  "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased.  Hear Him!" (Matt. 17:5)

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