Everything Old is New

Well, this saying has certainly been used to pump life into tired old products. But in the case of Scripture, I’ve always found that virtually everything we need for Christian living may be found in either the Old or the New Testament. As a philosophical point, I’ve always been wary of separating the Christian faith from its Jewish roots by building a wall of separation between what came to be called the Hebrew Scriptures and the New Testament.

For starters, this separation gives the impression that Christianity is separate and apart from Judaism, as contrasted with what it actually is: the fulfillment of biblical prophesies for the Messiah. As for what Jesus preached? This too, has its basis in what God had given to the Israelites through the prophets.

Christianity, as it developed, was at first virtually 100% Jewish. All of the apostles, and virtually all of Jesus’ disciples were Jews. The greatest evangelist in history, Paul, was of course a Jew. They thought as Jews, and were steeped in Scripture. Which, at the time, included only what we came to call the Hebrew Scriptures. An example? How about Romans 12, which includes Paul’s restatement of part of what Jesus preached during the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5):

19…never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.”

Where “it is written” is, Deuteronomy 32:35. Caring for one’s enemy, thereby heaping shame (“burning coals”) on his head? Proverbs 25:21-22.

Is it any wonder that these Jewish Christians, when they wrote for the record, wrote as Jews? Or that many key passages in the New Testament have roots in the Old? No. What is difficult to understand is how men and women who claimed to have been saved by the free gift of grace from God in Jesus Christ could have built up the walls, ever so quickly.

Yes, the principal reason given was that in spreading the good news of Jesus Christ to the nations, some traditionalist Jewish Christians were offended. Change comes slowly to some; never to others. One faction, let’s refer to them as the “circumcision” group (meaning that a Gentile would first need to become Jewish before he could become Christian) were stiff-necked, to borrow a phrase from Scripture. Perhaps it was in reaction to this group, who were not treated with what I would call Christian charity, that the Gentile-dominated church began to build the wall of separation.

Perhaps it was just old-fashioned tribalism: the Gentiles and Jews tended to come from differing ethnic groups; groups that had had very little to do with each other before Christ came with God’s new covenant. Perhaps the wall, which a few hundred years later came to be cemented in the form of the Bible, with its Old and New.

What is curious is that we don’t seem to consider the various covenants made by God with His people as a seamless whole. Culminating in what we now call the “New Covenant” of Jesus Christ. But this didn’t necessarily replace or negate the prior covenants. The Noahide covenant (Genesis 9), giving basic rules for right living. The Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 12, 13, 17, 22), blessing Abraham and his descendants by the flesh.

Then there is a seminal event for both Judaism and Christianity: Mt. Sinai (Exodus 34), where God seals His covenant with the Law. To be followed with His covenant with King David, 2 Samuel 7:8-16 — rather important for salvation history, considering David and Jesus are both from the root of Jesse).

Later came the first “new covenant” made with the prophet Jeremiah. Read this, and see if you still believe that there should be any separation, man-made, between the “Old” and “New” Testaments. From Jeremiah 31:

31 “Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33 But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the LORD,’ for they shall all know me,(I) from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.”

“[F]or they shall all know me,” “and I will remember their sin no more.” Pretty interesting statements to be made from the “vengeful” God of the Old Testament.

What am I saying, while standing on one foot? God is; has always been; always will be. It is men who have divided His Testaments, and attempted to create divisions in one seamless whole: God’s revelation of Himself to mankind, from creation to Incarnation to the return in glory of Jesus Christ at the end.

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