The relevance of the Old Testament (Matthew 7:12)

Published on Tuesday, 05 December 2017 03:53
Jesus teaches his disciples that this attitude is not only a summary of his Sermon on the Mount. He also states that it is a summary of the message of the Old Testament scriptures. The phrase ‘the law and the prophets’ is another way of saying the Old Testament. 

There is a tendency today to regard the Old Testament as inferior to the New and therefore less suitable for believers of this era. It is the case that those who lived in Old Testament times had less light and inferior experiences compared to New Testament believers. Yet the admittance of this historical distinction does not mean that the Old Testament itself should be regarded as inferior by us. The inability of Israelites and others to understand the Old Testament does not mean it does not contain very important teaching – information and instruction that continues today. 

Paul makes it clear that the Old Testament is given by God for the help of New Testament believers: ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work’ (2. Tim. 3:16-17). Further Peter states that the Old Testament predictions of the Messiah were actually intended for New Testament believers: ‘Concerning this salvation, the prophets who prophesied about the grace that was to be yours searched and inquired carefully, inquiring what person or time the Spirit of Christ in them was indicating when he predicted the sufferings of Christ and the subsequent glories. It was revealed to them that they were serving not themselves but you, in the things that have now been announced to you through those who preached the good news to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven, things into which angels long to look’ (1 Pet. 1:10-12).  So the Old Testament has the same message for believers as the New Testament does. 

Lloyd-Jones once commented that the law was not meant to be praised, but practiced. Jesus did not give the Sermon on the Mount for us to comment on, but to carry out. From those comments by Lloyd-Jones we can see that the Old Testament is a very practical book, full of instruction. Jesus elsewhere says that the Law and the prophets can be summed up as loving God with all our heart, soul, mind and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves (Matt. 22:37-40). Since that twofold description of love summarises the Ten Commandments we can also see that the Decalogue is the basis for life. The Golden Rule is obviously one way of expressing love for our neighbours.

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