Paul, a servant of Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures—Romans 1:1–2 (ESV)
When I was a kid, about half of the Bible stories that were taught in Sunday school or Vacation Bible School were Old Testament stories about the lives of Noah, Abraham, Joseph, David and others. However, I didn’t realize until I got older what an issue some people have with either studying or being taught the Old Testament. David Murray says, “Some surveys put the ratio of Old Testament to New Testament sermons at 1 to 10.”
I’m sure one of the reasons why people don’t want to hear from the Old Testament is because there’s “no Jesus”. But we see Paul here rightly identifies that the euaggelion of God, the good news of the Messiah, was promised by the prophets, who were all in the Old Testament.
Without getting into an exegetical study of the Messianic prophecies, I think the opinion we really should care about is what Jesus says:
“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. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”—Matthew 5:17-19 (ESV)
Seems simple enough to understand, but if it’s not enough to get the approval of Jesus, He even quoted the prophets and the Old Testament in several places in the gospels. Again, probably not the time or place to exhaustively review all of them, but I think Jesus (and Paul in Romans) referencing the Old Testament in the New Testament not only declares that it is not obsolete, but it points to some important themes.
God is not self-contradicting.
It would be easy for Jesus to preach, “Listen, you guys have had a couple thousand years here on your own, but you couldn’t get that right. Let’s just scrap the old covenant and roll with the new one.”
It would certainly be Christ’s right and authority to do so, but to do so would also mean to admit failure. It would be hypocritical for an unfailing God to admit failure. It would probably also mean God wouldn’t really be as worthy of our worship as He says He is.
Jesus told us that we were not only to continue following the law as it was explained in the old covenant, but by following the new covenant of loving God and loving others as yourself, that new covenant agrees perfectly with the law and gives everlasting life to all who place their faith in that new covenant.
God’s plan has been God’s plan all along.
If the assumption is that the new covenant was Plan B, again, how could an infallible God not see the ruin and futility that trying to follow the old covenant would entail? Again, if God claims to know everything and didn’t know that, then God would not be the worthy God that He claims to be.
The problem with that argument is that it equates the moral failure of mankind with the failure of God’s plan, as if God’s plan was for us all to be morally perfect creatures. Paul states later in Romans:
“For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.”—Romans 8:3–4 (ESV)
God’s plan all along was to give us the law so we could see that we could not uphold it within our own sinfulness no matter how hard we tried to be righteous. Look at King David, a man after God’s own heart, who was still an adulterer and a murderer. Even he could not uphold the law!
But what the law does show us is that despite trying to uphold it, we are still sinful and shameful and unworthy of mercy. Without faith in Jesus we cannot uphold the law, and that is God’s ultimate plan: to rescue His children through the blood of Christ and to give us the grace we do not deserve.
My prayers for today:
I want to remember that God does not contradict Himself. He is the same yesterday, today and tomorrow. A God who does not contradict Himself truly knows what is going on and is not surprised by anything.
I also want to remember that my shame, failures and sinfulness do not affect God’s plans. God is not surprised by them, and although I should always be in a position of repentance and striving to avoid sin, God promises me undeserved grace when I do.