26 October 2008

Nothing New about the New Testament

Back in the 1990's (and earlier of course), before the internet was such a huge part of everyone's life, and before anyone and everyone had a web page they called "home," most people or ministries that had anything to say, did it via a periodic printed and mailed newsletter or magazine. I was one of those types that also ran an underground music magazine from about 1988 through 1990, and a smaller newsletter from 1991 through about 1998 before launching finally moving most everything to a web page.

Well, I was digging through a filing cabinet today and found folder after folders of these printed newsletters and magazines from other ministries from back in the day, I ran across one that brought back thoughts and understandings that I have only in recent years really started to grasp, so I wanted to share some thoughts on the topic.

The articles in question come from the pen of one Steve Schlissel of Messiah's Congregation in Brooklyn, NY. He published the "Messiah Mandate" in various forms for many years, and the articles I am speaking of appeared in the third and fourth letters of 1998. Part one was entitled "All I Really Need to Know I Learn in the Old Testament" and part two was...maybe you guessed it..."All I Really Need to Know I Learn in the New Testament." You can click the links to go read them yourself (yes, of course they are now on the web...lol)

For a bit less than a year back in 1994, my family and I attended Pastor Schlissel's church, and were truly blessed by his preaching. While he may be considered somewhat controversial nowadays, I still consider him one of the best teachers I have had the pleasure of sitting under in my Christian life.

The articles make a strong position for the proper understanding and place of the Old Testament (OT), and how it not only contains all we need to know to preach the gospel, but that without it, the New Testament (NT) makes little sense. In today's church, there are more and more teachers that have basically thrown out the OT and focus mainly on the NT, as if the gospel originated and find its substance there alone. Even the practice of Bible companies making and distributing the little NT Bibles is a great injustice to the Word of God.

How would we look on it if say someone took the last three chapters of Pilgrims Progress and released it on its own and expected people to fully grasp what is being said. The articles go into much more excellent detail on the importance of returning to a view that see the Bible as one complete story, and not two main divisions, one old and out dated, and the other new and exciting. As it has been put before, there is nothing new about the NT; it is simply a expounding and opening of the mysteries of the OT.

When Christ and the Apostles went from town to town preaching the gospel, and pointing to the importance of the Scriptures, what Scriptures were they speaking of? The letters of Paul, Peter, etc.? Of course not, they taught all things from the written word of God, which at that time consisted of the writings of the OT (along with other Jewish writings that we have since deemed non-canonical).

For instance, in Acts 8:26 and following, we find the story of Philip and the eunuch, and we find Philip expounding the gospel and Christ from Isaiah and other OT books. Then we have the common verse in 2 Timothy 3:16, that all Scripture is given by inspiration of God, etc. When 2 Timothy was written in the mid 60's, it is true much of the NT had already been pinned, but we can't think for a moment that there was any kind of coherent collection of writings that even closely resembled what we now call the NT. There were letters circulating, and while what is being said by Paul here to Timothy may possibly be addressing and acknowledging some of these writings, we have to see the thrust of what is being said is directed at that which was commonly known as being the Scripture, which of course is the OT.

The book of Acts finds the Apostles preaching often in the synagogues and elsewhere, expounding from the Scriptures...the OT...and thousands are coming to Christ. One of the most interesting of sayings was when Paul said:
...because of these things the Jews—having caught me in the temple—were endeavoring to kill me. Having obtained, therefore, help from God, till this day, I have stood witnessing both to small and to great, saying nothing besides the things that both the prophets and Moses spake of as about to come, that the Christ is to suffer, whether first by a rising from the dead, he is about to proclaim light to the people and to the nations. (Acts 26:21-23)
Paul said that all of his preaching, on Christ, and even resurrection, was what came from Moses and the prophets. Even Peter, in dealing with issues of the last days things taking place in his time, tells them to remember that what he is saying is from the words of the prophets (2 Peter 1:2). He was not saying they were preaching of revealing totally new issues, but they kept harking back to the prophets of old, and what they said would happen in those last days.

We should surely view the NT as nothing really new, but just the writings of the infant church that assist us in the more clear revealing and fulfilling of the things prophesied of old.

So, could YOU mimic the first century Christians and preach the gospel and the message of salvation to others without relying on the NT?