The purpose of this article is to help us to understand the relationship of man today with the Old Testament.
1. To whom was the Old Testament given?
Folks, it was not given to everyone. It was not a universal covenant for all of humanity.
It was given specifically to the children of Israel. Read: Exodus 31:16-17; Deuteronomy 5:2-5; (on Fathers see Deuteronomy 4:37); Deuteronomy 5:15; Nehemiah 9:13-14.
2. Why was the Old Testament given?
a. It was given to give civil laws for Israel to live by as a nation. Read: Deuteronomy 22:8; Exodus 21:28-29; etc.
b. It was given to restrain men. Read Galatians 3:19, 22-24. Thayer on the word “tutor” says, “Among the Greeks and Romans the name was applied to trustworthy slaves who were charged with the duty of supervising the life and morals of boys belonging to the better class. The boys were not allowed so much as to step out of the house without them before arriving at the age of manhood.” The I.S.B.E. said of the word “tutor” this “lit. ‘child-leader’ a slave, to whom, in wealthy families the general oversight of a boy was committed. It was his duty to accompany his charge to and from school, never to lose sight of him in public, to prevent association with objectionable companions, to inoculate moral lessons at every opportunity, etc.” He protected the child.
c. It was given to educate. The word “tutor” itself may not mean in a strict sense “to teach” or a “teacher.” But the I.S.B.E. says that the “Tutor was to ‘inoculate’ moral lessons at every opportunity.” The Old Testament educated man about sin (Romans 7:7) and pointed the people to a coming Messiah (or Christ), See: John 5:39; Luke 24:25-26.
But, just as a child never was intended to remain under the ‘child-leader’ or ‘child-guide’ (the ‘tutor’) forever; Even so, it was never God’s intention that man remain under the Old Testament forever (Galatians 3:25).
In truth, the Old Testament spoke of a coming New Testament. Read Jeremiah 31:31-34 (cf. Hebrews 8:6-121, 13; Hebrews 10:3-4, 16-17). In times of old, one became an Israelite by birth, and later learned of God’s law (notice the covenant spoken of was made, God says “When I took them by hand to bring them out of Egypt. This would include what was engraved upon stones cf. 1 Kings 8:21). Jeremiah foretells of a time when things would be different.
Only those that have the law within them would be God’s people (cf. John 6:45). “Jer. 31:34 does not mean there will be no teaching done on the subject of the New. Every dispensation has required teaching. There is a basic distinction between the Old and the New in this regard. Under the Old, the Israelites came… by physical birth… later when old enough they had to be taught to know God and honor His Covenant” (Robert Taylor, Jr., Studies in Jeremiah and Lamentations). Such is not the way it is today.
3. Why was this New Testament needed?
a. Look at Galatians 3:19a. The Old Law was added (lit. ‘placed besides’). It was independent, separate and apart from the promise. The promise in context is the “seed promise” (Galatians 3:16-19). This promise is tied to Jesus (Genesis 12:1-3; 22:15, 18 cf. Acts 3:25-26). The Old Testament was never God’s ultimate system for man.
b. Read Hebrews 8:7-8. The fault was in them (cf. Romans 3:20, 23). The sin problem was never removed under the Old Testament system (Hebrews 10:1, 3). It was perfect for what it was intended, that is to bring men to Christ. But, it provided no true permanent remedy for sin.
c. Christ could never serve as our great High Priest under the previous system (Hebrews 7:12-14).
4. When did the covenant change?
a. Read Galatians 3:19. “Till” sets forth a time limit. It is connected with the “seed”; the reference is to Christ (Galatians 3:16). The “promise” is also mentioned (Gen. 22:18d cf. Acts 3:25-26).
While on earth Jesus lived under the Old Testament (Galatians 4:4). He was the fulfilling of the Old Testament (Matthew 5:17).
b. Read Ephesians 2:14-15. When He died, He abolished (lit. to set aside, to reduce to inactivity) the enmity [hostility, alienated relations… By figure of speech (metonymy) ‘the cause of enmity’ which is defined as ‘even the law of commandments.’].
c. Read also Colossians 2:14, 16. This mentions a yearly event – “Holy Day” (Feast Day A.S.V.); a monthly event – “new moon”; and a weekly event “the Sabbath.” Note the three frequencies are mentioned together in scripture in numerous places (1 Chronicles 23:31; 2 Chronicles 2:4; 8:13; 31:3; Nehemiah 10:33; Isaiah 1:13-14; Ezekiel 45:17; Hosea 2:11).
d. Also read Matthew 26:28. Jesus’ blood is connected with the New Testament.
e. Read Hebrews 9:16-17. The word “men” and “Testator” is not in the original. A. Clark’s commentary comments, “There is no proper reason why our translators should render diathaka by ‘testament’ here when in almost every other case they render it ‘covenant’…” Again, he records his comments, “For where there is a covenant, it is necessary that the death of the appointed (victim) should be exhibited, because a covenant is confirmed over dead (victims), since it is not at all valid while the appointed (victim) is alive” (vol. 6, page 747).
f. Further, look at Hebrews 9:18-19. First, Moses taught the people. Then, blood was shed and the covenant went into force (Exodus 24:1-8). Even so, Jesus set forth the basic principles of the New Testament, and then, ratified it with His own blood (Matthew 26:28).
5. What is our relationship to the Old Testament today?
As a legal system which we are obliged to follow, the Old Testament has been taken away. We are not today under the specifics of the Old Law.
Yet, there are principles that we should learn from the Old Testament system. For example: (1) patience (James 5:11); (2) The behavior of Biblically sound faith (Hebrews 11); (3) Warnings about falling short of the promised land (1 Corinthians 10; book of Hebrews; Jude 5); (4) How God views sin; (5) How man is tempted; (6) Man’s origin; (7) God’s design for the home; (8) Searching Old Testament prophecies can build one’s faith; (9) The type-ante type imagery may shed a better understanding of New Testament things (Hebrews 10:1; 1 Peter 3:21; 1 Peter 2:5, 9, etc.). (10) It is difficult to understand some references in the New Testament without understanding the Old Testament.
6. If something was authorized in times of old, wouldn’t it still be authorized today?
No, not necessarily. The Levitical priesthood, animal sacrifices, the burning of incense, the observance of new moons and Holy days were all a part of the system of old. None of these things are a part of the New Testament pattern.
God can and has changed what He requires of man. Moses was once told to strike a rock for water (Exodus 17:6); However, later, he was told to speak to the rock (Numbers 20:8, 11-12). This illustrates that in A-moral commandments God’s instructions can change.
It is from the New Testament we should find our authority today for what we do. This includes how we worship; what He requires of man in dealing with sin, etc.