[Since this is a series, I want to remind my readers of what we are covering. Therefore, the beginning paragraph here is about the same as it was for the last post.]
One issue that Christians have wrestled with has been the role of the Old Testament in our theology and our walk with Jesus. Does the Old Testament have relevance to us? Are there principles that should guide us, or is it totally out of date? Matthew 13:52 gives us insight into this question: “Therefore every scribe instructed concerning the kingdom of heaven is like a householder who brings out of his treasure things new and old.” To me, the meaning of this verse is fairly obvious. A good Bible teacher uses both the New and Old Testaments. There are truths in both that apply to us in our daily lives. This is the third in a series of the New Testament use of the Old Testament.
One good rule of Bible interpretation is simply to avoid extremes. It is all too easy to get revelation and make it the whole truth and not just part of it. When trying to determine what the Bible teaches on any particular subject, it is always essential to include everything the Bible says on the subject. And since we are in the era of the New Covenant and not the Old, we have to let the New Testament be the interpreter for us of the Old.
In past times, it seems that many Christians completely ignored the OT and what it says. Today, some have gone to the other extreme and tried to get Christians to do things that God told the Jews to do. I have heard Christian ministers say that we have to keep the Passover and the other Jewish feasts. Scriptures in the OT like this are quoted. "Therefore you shall observe [Passover] throughout your generations as an everlasting ordinance." (Exodus 12:17) This minister emphasized the word, 'everlasting'. We have to keep it forever!, he said.
First of all, who was God speaking to when He said this? Was it not the Israelites? It was Israel, not the church, who was delivered from bondage in Egypt. He brought them out with the blood of lambs.
Jesus did a similar, and greater, thing for us. He was the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world. (John 1:29) Paul said, "Christ, our Passover, was sacrificed for us. Therefore let us keep the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth." (1 Cor. 5:7-8) We do, in a sense, keep the Passover and the Feast of Unleavened Bread. Christ redeemed from the world (Egypt is a type of the world) and from Satan's kingdom. We can celebrate by getting free and staying free from his bondage. We keep the Feast of Unleavened Bread by keeping free from 'malice and wickedness' by 'sincerity and truth'. We do this all year long not just once a year.
The original Passover, the deliverance from slavery in Egypt, teaches us about how Christ redeemed us from a greater slavery to sin and to Satan. So, our attitude toward the OT is not one of rejection. We do not ignore it. At the same time, we do not perform the same rituals which have been fulfilled in Christ. Instead, these things instruct us and teach us about Jesus and what He accomplished for us.
"So let no one judge you in food or in drink, or regarding a festival or a new moon or sabbaths, which are a shadow of things to come, but the substance is of Christ." (Colossians 2:16-17) So the OT feasts and sabbaths are just shadows, but with Jesus we have the reality. Why go back to the shadow? "Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth." (Col 3:2) When we go back to the Law of Moses, we are focusing on earthly things, not heavenly.
How do we read the OT when it comes to the feasts? We remember Romans 15:4, "For whatever things were written before were written for our learning." We need the Old Testament but we do not want to do whatever the Jews were supposed so do. (We are not talking about morality here which everyone is supposed to follow, but the Jewish rituals.)
I am glad that there is a renewed interest in, and teaching about, the Old Testament. In it we can learn about Christ and realize to a greater degree what He really means to us. The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New Testament. But the fact that we live after the cross makes all the difference in the world.
Jesus set us free from the bondage of sin and the bondage of the Law. They are both of the flesh. We are to walk in the spirit and not fulfill the desire of the flesh. (Gal. 5:16) We cannot do that by keeping the Law, which is of the flesh. This is not to suggest that we can sin because we are not under the Law anymore. "How can we who have died to sin [in Christ] live in it any longer." "Having been set free from sin" we can serve God freely without bondage of any kind. (Rom 6:2,18)
So let's realize how Jesus fulfills the Law and not fall into the trap of going back under it.