Recently I had a discussion with a preaching brother about the “Old Testament.” This brother wanted to do more exploring both personally and congregationally of the First Testament believing that God has a Word yet for his people there. But this brother was explicitly told not to preach form the “Old Testament” anymore. This is but the latest incarnation of Marcionism within the Churches of Christ. This attitude finds expression through the following sampling of common terminology:
“We are New Testament Christians” (question where in the “NT” does anyone ever make such a claim?)
“We are not under the “Old Testament””
“The ‘Old Testament’ was abolished”
“The ‘Old Testament’ was removed”
“The ‘Old Testament’ was nailed to the cross”
There is just enough truth in these statements to be dangerous but none reflect the wholeness of the “NT” teaching on the matter. For example the actual “pattern” of the first century church is to appeal to the “authority” of the “Old Testament” to settle nearly all issues. All the NT writers: Matthew, Luke, John, Paul, James, and the Hebrews Preacher consistently use the Hebrew Scriptures as their scriptures … not the “NT!” The NT scriptures are written upon the template of the “Old” … they use the language, the images, the “atmosphere” of the “scriptures” … the writings as they are called.
Paul affirms explicitly what all the “NT” writers demonstrate by their actual practice. He declares, quite clearly, that far from being “nailed to the cross” or “abolished” or “removed” as some carelessly claim, rather he states that the “Old Testament” makes us wise unto “salvation” (that must mean the Hebrew Bible says something of continuing validity about that notion), that it is to be used for “teaching” (i.e. doctrine!) and even for “rebuking” (cf. 2 Tim 3.14-17). Paul clearly does not tell Timothy not to preach from the Old Testament!
We need to think and reflect deeply on what exactly is the relationship between the Newer Covenant and the Older Covenant. Does the Newer one imply that the older is now worthless and of no value? Does this stage of the Story imply that the previous ones were somehow less than spiritual or holy? Or is it the case that the previous Acts of the Drama actually provide the meaning for the one we are in now? Do the characters of the current Act simply appear contextless? Out of thin air so to speak?
If it were not for previous stages of the Drama explain how we could even respond to such questions as:
“Who is the Christ/Messiah?”
“What is the Son of Man?”
“Who is the Son of David?”
“What is the kingdom/reign of God?”
“Who is this Father of Jesus he prays to?”
“What in the world does it mean to be ‘Children of Abraham?’”
“What in the world is the ‘New heavens and new earth?’”
There are so many more to list. But the NT simply assumes the readers/listeners have a knowledge of these things. But each of these themes come from the Hebrew Bible, not the New Testament.
Perhaps one reason we have avoided this material is because we have reduced the Christian faith to polemics about elders and the fine points of ecclesiological structure (which to honest the NT itself says remarkably little about) rather than embracing the heartbeat of the Story itself.
In our next I will explore an analogy between new covenants and periods of engagements. Maybe it will help us embrace the biblical teaching that the Hebrew Bible is still God’s word and has inherent authority for our lives today.