I’ve been thinking a lot about the relationship between the Old Testament and Jesus lately.
I’m a “one covenant” guy; in other words, I read the New Testament (especially Paul and the writer of Hebrews) to say that Jesus is the fulfillment of the one saving covenant that God made with Abraham. That covenant is the one saving covenant, and there is no other.
Everyone who lives by entrusting themselves to a god who saves those who don’t deserve to be saved is part of that covenant, whether under Jesus or under Moses (or even conceivably outside the Jewish/Christian stream–this is close to Pinnock’s reading of Romans 1.18ff.)
But if there is one saving covenant, one covenant by which everyone who believes becomes God’s son/daughter, then how do we understand the Old Testament?
OT LAW: Clearly it’s laws are not laws that are binding on us, and keeping those laws does not earn us favor from God. “Christ is the end of the law.” (Rom 10.4) The laws of the OT were a temporary measure, designed by God to guard and govern Israel as a nation, to meet the circumstances that they faced.
OT law CAN provide ethical guidance for us, but only if read in light of how Jesus redefined it. A basic guiding statement might be: Jesus showed us the purpose of the OT law. The purpose is more important than the particulars of the law itself, because laws tend to be bound by circumstances.
An example is what Jesus says about the purpose of the sixth commandment (“Thou shalt not kill”, Exod 20.13) in Matthew 5.21-26. God is/was trying to shape us/them into a particular kind of people who wouldn’t hold grudges, wouldn’t harbor anger and hatred and let them fester, etc.
That purpose is more important than the technical details of what does or doesn’t constitute killing. That purpose governs our conduct in all ancillary areas.
OT WISDOM: But what about OT wisdom? I actually started down this particular rabbit trail while working on a sermon about David and Solomon, when I realized that Solomon’s wisdom, while true and wise, doesn’t produce the same quality of life that Jesus’ wisdom does.
Solomon’s wisdom is about how the world works–the OLD world, the OLD way. Jesus’ wisdom is about how the Kingdom works.
Sometimes there’s crossover. Solomon says things that express the same kind of convictions as “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” or “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the sons and daughters of God.” But Solomon’s wisdom is generally worldly and limited, and is only dependable if it’s read through the lens of Jesus’ wisdom, Jesus’ life and ethics.