Rev. Anthony Martlew, L Th.
THE OLD AND THE NEW
I BELIEVE that I have found the reason why so many Christians know so little about the faith that they claim to confess: it is because they never went to school! In case the above statement puzzles you, let Paul answer,
Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ that we might be justified by faith. (Galatians 3:24)
This text is the key to our correct understanding of the Scriptures. Where is the law to be found? The answer is in the Old Testament. Now, perhaps, you will see the reason for the opening statement that many Christians have never gone to school. Anything before Matthew is a closed book to them.
"Ah, but," some will say "Verse 25 puts paid to your argument!"
"But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."
It is true, that after our final exams, when we said goodbye to Mr. Chips, there was nothing else that he could teach us. Certainly, we are no longer under him, but we are still guided by what he taught us, and his influence helps us through life's journey. We remember how he instilled discipline, a sense of fair play, and a team spirit. The above text that informs us that we are no longer under a schoolmaster is no answer if we did not attend school in the first place.
Most Christians will claim to be a child of God by faith in Jesus Christ, therefore they need not concern themselves with the law and the prophets. This answer, sadly, misses the point, for the truth of the matter is that the law was not done away with in Christ, apart from the ordinances, or rituals of worship. The following texts clarify the matter without a shadow of doubt:
Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled. Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 5:17-19)
Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid... yea, we establish the law. (Romans 3:31)
Having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; (Ephesians 2:15)
What did Paul really mean, when he wrote that the law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, and that we are no longer under a schoolmaster? It is of prime importance that we understand the answer, because our spiritual growth depends upon it.
Every thing that Jesus said during His earthly ministry was based upon the Scriptures of the day. Even as He spoke, the ordinances were operating. It was not until the veil of the Temple was rent asunder that the new order began. The New Testament does not contradict the Old, it sheds further light and understanding upon it. "You have heard it said" was a familiar saying of Jesus, who then went on to explain in greater detail, what was meant. For example,
Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in danger of the judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judgment: and whosoever shall say to his brother, Raca, shall be in danger of the council: but whosoever shall say, Thou fool, shall be in danger of hellfire. (Matthew 5:21-22)
Those who heard Him were grounded in the law and the prophets, and they were astonished at the wider interpretation that He put upon them. If they had had no knowledge of the Scriptures, they would not have begun to understand His teaching.
Today, those people who are not grounded in the Old Testament cannot fully comprehend the teaching of the New. Would they arrive at the theatre after the interval? Would they start to read a book at chapter ten? The purpose is to set the scene, to know who the characters are, and to know how they fit into the plot. Sadly, many Christians in their arrogance will say, "We believe in Jesus, what else is necessary?"
To such people, I would say, why did Jesus refer so often to the Old Scriptures? We think of that drama on the road to Emmaus, in Luke 24:27,
And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.
They understood exactly what He was saying. He proved to those disciples that He fulfilled all the prophecies of a coming Messiah. In other words, He was showing them His credentials. That was necessary, because even then there were false prophets who were doing Satan's work. How much more today we need to know His credentials, seeing that there are false shepherds and false Christs in the world. How we need to know the identity of nations and their origins. If we do not know these things, how may we correctly interpret current world events?
If we Christians have not done our groundwork, our faith will be built on shifting sand and we will be tossed about by every wind of change. It is to such people that Satan and his angels descend and fill their minds with spiritual garbage.
Paul understood only too clearly the need for the right relationship between the Old Testament and Christ's teaching. He brings out the point in Hebrews 5, where he is writing to the Judaean church, which was teaching an amalgam of truth and error. He castigates their teachers and reminds them that they needed to be instructed in the very basics of the faith. He concludes by stating that it is only those teachers who are conversant with the Scriptures who are able to interpret the truth correctly.
Small wonder that the faithful today are ignorant of the Scriptures, when the so-called teachers need to go to school themselves. Hopefully, this article has highlighted the need for each of us to conduct our own studies, thus enabling us to be
...of full age, even those who by reason of use have their senses exercised to discern both good and evil (Hebrews 5:14)
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