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The Gospel in the Old Testament

One of the earliest heresies that the church had to face was that of Marcion and his rejection of what we call the Old Testament today. Marcion went as far as to say that the God of the Old Testament was a wrathful and angry God and that the God of the New Testament was a God of love, acceptance, and peace. He went out of his way to emphasize the dissimilarities between the Hebrew Scriptures and the distinctly Christian Scriptures rather than to emphasize the unity between the whole of God’s word.

Such an error has not been unique to Marcion or the Marcionites. While Classic Dispensationalism does not outright reject the Old Testament as Marcion did, they do emphasize disparity between the Testaments, in particular in their view that Old Testament Israel was different from and not a precursor to the Christian Church…thus presenting Christ as having two distinct brides. This has arguably led to some churches identifying themselves as “New Testament Churches,” though I’m not exactly sure what that is supposed to mean. Most recently, the popular preacher, Andy Stanley, has taught that the church should “unhitch” itself from the Old Testament and that Christians are not required to obey the Ten Commandments. So much for God being the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow or that not an iota or a dot will fall away from the Law until the heavens and the earth pass away.

We, on the other hand, teach that the Bible is one, united book and that everything from Genesis through Revelation is perfectly consistent and that the New Testament but that it is impossible to really understand the New Testament without being well-grounded in the Old Testament (hence we give out full Bibles, not just New Testaments and Psalms when we evangelize people). Further, I would argue (as I have stated many times before) that the Gospel is found interwoven throughout all of the Old Testament, and again, the Gospel as seen in the New Testament doesn’t make much sense apart from seeing the Gospel in the Old Testament.

The Heidelberg Catechism puts this notion succinctly when it states (answer 19) that “God initially revealed it (the Gospel) in Paradise (this is a reference to Genesis 3:15), but afterwards proclaimed it through the holy Patriarchs (Adam, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc…) and prophets (Moses and the Prophets of old), as well as foreshadowing it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the Law. In other words, as you read the scriptures of the Old Testament, you should see Christ showing up everywhere. The 19th Century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, argued that the Bible was like a roadmap where every verse leads to Christ if you know how to read the map properly. Amen and Amen to that.

And to those who would look for ways to “unhitch” from the Old Testament or to deny the continuity of the Scriptures from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, repent. You are not only robbing yourself of the richness and the fulness of God’s Word, but you are leading people astray from the whole Gospel. You will be held accountable for this (James 3:1).

The Ever-Relevant Bible

“Indeed, there is not a man who is righteous on the earth who does good and does not sin.”

(Ecclesiastes 7:20)

Boy, this sounds an awful lot like the Apostle Paul when he writes:

“What then? Are we in a more prominent position? By all means, no! For both Jews and Greeks are already found guilty under sin, just as it is written: ‘No one is righteous, not even one; no one is understanding, no one searches diligently for God.’

(Romans 3:9-11)

Gee, it seems as if Solomon has a pretty good handle of the basics of the Gospel…Paul will go on and write:

For all have sinned and failed to reach the glory of God, but are justified freely in his grace through the redemption of Christ Jesus whom God sent as propitiation through faith in his blood, which is a demonstration of his righteousness through the passing over of sins that were done beforehand, in the clemency of God to demonstrate his righteousness in this time — to be just and justifier of him who has faith in Jesus.

(Romans 3:23-26)

Truly, Paul takes this further than does Solomon and leads us to Jesus Christ the Messiah, but Solomon understands the problem that is at the heart of the existence of man (see also 1 Kings 8:46 at the dedication of the Temple). We sin. We cannot, no matter how good we try and be, merit heaven. It just is not possible. 

And so Solomon makes it very clear to us that we will all fall short — we will sin and miss the mark of God’s perfection. This, of course, is not an excuse for failure to live with integrity nor is it a justification for our sin. It is a reminder of the reality that we need one to redeem us from our sins.

All too often, people think of the Gospel as only a New Testament thing, yet, it is impossible to understand the Gospel apart from the Old Testament. Contrary to those who suggest that we “unhitch” from the Old Testament, we must be assured that if we cast off the Old Testament as irrelevant or inapplicable, we enter into heresy and we render the work of Christ in the New Testament worthless. They are dangerous grounds on which folk such as that stand.

People sometimes ask me how a book that is several thousand years old can still be relevant to life. The answer is simple and is found here. No one does good without sin. No one. We all fall short of the glory of God. And because we all sin, no matter our culture, our upbringing, or our pedigree, we all share the same problem: “How are we reconciled to God?” The only answer is Jesus Christ. And the Bible is the only place that answer can be found. That makes the Bible the most relevant book that mankind has ever seen and a gift of God’s grace to fallen man. Too bad so many people despise and ignore this book (even some who profess to be Christians!).