Old and New Testament?

These terms seem to imply that one has passed away, but that is not true.  Not one “jot or tittle” will disappear before it was all fulfilled. Well, we certainly don’t believe that all of the prophecies have been fulfilled. So, that means the Old Testament is still valid. That brings us to the terms Old and New Testament.  What many refer to as the Old Testament is called the Tanach by the Jewish People. 

Tanach is a word that means Torah (5 books of Moses), Nevi’im (Prophets) and Ketuvim (writings= “TNK”) that make up what is called the Old Testament. By calling the Gospels and Epistles the “new” Testament, it implies that everything before it has been “done away with” and that just isn’t true. All Scripture is profitable for teaching and instruction (Mt 13.52, Rom 15.4, 2 Tim 3.16). No portion of Scripture is more important than the other. However, all Scripture must be consistent.  Any contradiction comes from our lack of understanding. We must search it out, rehash it, inquire until it is resolved.

Some say that The Bible is hard to understand but in reality it is easy and not confusing. Why would God confuse us?  We are not as smart as he is so why would he give us a book that is hard to understand. God wrote the Bible for us, not a bunch of authors that were confused about things.  The problem is we try to do things our way. There are only 2 ways to understand Scripture, Gods way or the wrong way (our own way).

If someone spends most of his time in the Epistles and not the Tanach, they won’t understand the Epistles or the rest of the Bible. Lets go to Acts 21.15-26 to illustrate this fact. James (Ya’acov) and the elders of the Messianic community in Jerusalem meet with Paul and are told of what God was doing through him. The elders rejoice and tell Paul about the thousands of Jewish people who believe and follow the Torah (v20). The year is 59 CE, almost 30 years after Yeshua has gone. We have a problem. According to modern Christian doctrine, it is a sin for a believer to follow the Law, it is bondage and all that has been “done away with” since Yeshua. Following the Torah is seen as legalistic. If you tell a Christian that you keep the Sabbath they will tell you that you are getting into bondage. It’s just the way it is today. 

A lot of people love the Jewish people but they don’t like anything Jewish. By the way, the Torah isn’t Jewish anyway, it is Gods ways and Israel didn’t come up with the Scriptures. Lets look at a couple of terms found in the Epistles.

Works of the Law is “erga nomou” and it means a legalistic observance, that is, observing something to gain righteousness with God.

Another term you will find is under the law or “upo nomou” and it means a subjecting of oneself to a system that perverts the Torah into legalism. Paul’s problem in the epistles was not the Torah, but the use of it as a system of merit. That is the main theme of the Book of Galatians.  Here’s the problem. Did most Gentiles walk with God before they were saved? Probably not. But, the Jewish people have been observing the Sabbath, festivals and the commandments, then they are saved and told that all that has changed. But that is when they should really pick it up! Like Paul after his salvation, they begin to see the Messiah, the pictures, the meanings with understanding and knowledge, or “da’at” in Hebrew. We will come back to that term in later articles. Like signs in a city, they tell you how to walk. If you take down all the signs there would be major confusion.

That is exactly what has been done over the last 2000 years.  Keeping the commandments has nothing to do with salvation but because they have received the free gift of God, a person is called to observe them.  Let’s go back to Acts 21 and see a few things that may shock you. We know that Paul is coming out of a Nazarite vow (Acts 18.18, Num 6). In Acts 21.21 we are told that the elders have been told that Paul is teaching people to forsake Moses and not follow the Torah. They know it isn’t true but they want him to do something to disprove the accusation. They want him to pay the expenses of four other men coming out of a Nazarite vow so that all will know that Paul “walks orderly” (term for the Jewish Law) and keeps the Law (Torah). We have just shown you that believers in the first century, those that wrote the gospels and epistles, are instructed to follow the Torah and that it was not done away with. This is a major rethinking of what you have been reading.

Now, Num 6 gives the Law of the Nazarite and this is what Paul and the four others were coming out of.  When coming out of the vow you are instructed to shave your head. A Nazarite vow can be for life or a few days, but coming out you needed to do some things. Paying the expenses meant that Paul paid for the animal sacrifices of 5 people, including himself. That meant that he paid for 5 male lambs, 5 female lambs 5 baskets/oils and 5 rams.  We read in Acts 21 that he made these offerings. Remember, this is 30 years after Yeshua.  Why were they making these offerings? Who suggested it? We know from verse 18 that it was James, the Lord’s brother, the Nasi (head, president) of the elders and the congregational leader of all believers in Yeshua in Jerusalem.

Who wrote the epistles? James, Paul and the elders, the guys involved in this. In Acts 24.10-17 Paul says that he came to Jerusalem to present alms and offerings (sacrifices, korbanot). Now, remember you are saved by faith in Yeshua. These sacrifices or “korbanot” (to draw near) did not take away sin. Not one person you read about in the Bible ever had their sins taken away with a korban. Not Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Isaiah, Solomon, Paul or ours, never, and it never was intended to do that. What was the purpose? To give us instruction and to teach. Col 2.16 says that food, festivals and so on were pictures of things to come.

Ezekiel chapters 40-48 describe the Temple in the Messianic Kingdom and there are festivals and sacrifices in the Messianic Kingdom. This is after Yeshua returns in the second coming. Ezekiel 40-48 is the Temple of Yeshua the Messiah. It has never been built yet but the floor plan is ready.  The sacrifices will play the same role they have always played.

They don’t save anyone, but when a 15 year old in the Messianic Kingdom comes in and goes through the 12 steps of offering a sacrifice (called rightly dividing) they will understand Yeshua much more. You laid hands on it, confessed your sin, killed it, cut it up, salted it and flayed the skin. The priest caught the blood and ascended the altar for you. No one could approach him when carrying the blood. He would say “Do not touch me, for I have not yet ascended the altar.” Does this sound familiar (read John 20.17). Just learning these few things has increased that child’s understanding of Yeshua, the Temple and its services. Yeshua fulfilled everything. He was the priest bringing the blood and the animal. That child has learned that each sacrifice was an instruction, a part of learning so that you could respond in confidence (emunah, faith).

You see, believers in first century offered animal sacrifices like the others did. It did not take away from what Yeshua did nor did they do it for righteousness. They did it out of obedience (Eph 2.8-10),and for instruction.

The Messianic Kingdom will have a Temple. There will be people in their natural bodies who survived the Tribulation that will go into the Kingdom. They will have children and will need to decide whether Yeshua is Messiah or not and that he died for their sins, just like all believers have. What we have been saying is that we have blown it in many ways and have not seen a lot of things in the Scriptures.

There are many other verses that show that Jewish believers followed the Torah after Yeshua but hopefully you have seen the possibility of it at least. But, what about non-Jewish believers. The Jewish belief in the first century was that non-Jews could not enter into the Kingdom of God without doing something first. They had to become Jews.

All this would change in Acts 10 with Cornelius. He was what was called a “Godfearer” or a phoubemenoi in Greek. They were in the process of becoming a Jew. You will find a similar term in Greek called a sebemenoi or “devout one.”  They attended synagogues, kept the festivals and ate kosher (nothing unclean). They were considered second class citizens in the synagogue. They were called “strangers at the gate” (Ger ha Sha’ar) and Jews were not allowed to eat with them or even go into their house (part of the 18 edicts of Beit Shammai, a man-made tradition).

They may not be aware of all the Halakah or rules concerning the clean and unclean, foods and so on. By accident they could make someone unclean so that they could not enter the Temple. So, fences were built like “don’t eat with them” and so on. This was the case with Cornelius. But he has a vision to send for Peter.

Peter is in Joppa and has a vision of unclean animals three times. He doesn’t understand the vision until three men come for him. He shares the good news about the Messiah who he says has come in Yeshua and Cornelius is saved and filled with the Holy Spirit. But all this happens before Cornelius becomes a Jew and so their thinking on that point changes.

Gentiles don’t have to become Jews to be saved. Peter says that the vision has shown him not to call any man unclean.  When the Jewish believers hear this story they are astonished. Not only did Peter go into a non-Jewish house (Cornelius) but he got saved. When they heard what happened they were “silent” (Acts 11.1-18). But, they changed their doctrine concerning the Gentiles and salvation. 

In another case Paul has been arrested (Acts 21.40) and he begins to speak in Hebrew and the crowd quiets down (22.1). He begins to tell his whole story and how Yeshua saved him (22.2-21) and they listen. But when he tells them that he has been sent to the Gentiles they get very upset (22.22).  You see, faith in Yeshua was fine but taking the Kingdom of God to Gentiles upset them.

Believers had much favor with the Jews but the Gentiles was another story. The book of Acts shows how the Lord had to change this attitude in believers. One of the main problems in the first century was that there was a rift between traditional, orthodox and Hellenistic Jews. Stephens death in Acts 6 had more to do with him being a Hellenistic Jew than faith in Yeshua. The fact that the Basar (Good News) was being offered to Gentiles caused a lot of problems. This “wall of partition” between the two groups was being torn down.

Ephesians 2.11-14 says that this separation between Jew and Gentile due to man made traditions was being broken down. It wasn’t the Torah that was being torn down but the “fences” that have been erected that separated the two groups. Paul would come to a place and seek out Jewish believers and the God-fearers and he would preach to both. Jews were to remain Jews and follow the Torah and Gentile, or non-Jews, were to remain non-Jews and follow the Torah as it applied to them (1 Cor 7.17-19).

Gentiles did not have to become Jews for righteousness with God (theme of Galatians).  Current teaching on Gal 3.28 says that Jews should be like everyone else when they believe, but this verse merely says that each group, Jew and Gentile, male and female have the same status in the Kingdom but there are different roles. Acts 10 teaches us that. You see, the Bible as a whole does not say to NOT keep the commandments but it deals with people who feel that they gain or lose righteousness by them, no matter what “testament” you read from.

Many have approached it by condemning anything Jewish and that is how the Scriptures came to be called the Old and New Testament. Following the commandments is not bondage. If the Bible is truth and truth sets you free you cannot be in bondage by following the truth. The whole Bible flows together, it’s not old and new.

We are like pioneers rediscovering the roots of our faith and what was already there. The pioneers that settled this country didn’t discover anything new, it was already there and known by others who knew the truth of it all.  It is the same with us. You will have an identity crisis and will get hit right between the eyes when you find out you have been taught false teachings, but it will also be worth it.

It will mean certain things in your life will have to change. But, for the first time in your life you will know who you are and who you were meant to be as a believer. You will have battles with yourself over what is true or not and what you are going to do about it.  If it is major, family and friends won’t understand and you will feel like you are out on a limb and alone, but you really aren’t.  You are right where God wants you.  So consider the cost. Like Solomon said, “With much wisdom comes much grief” so study and test all things. When you are sure that God has shown you the truth, let him work it into your life.

Posted in Articles, Idioms, Phrases and Concepts, The Tanach, Understanding the New Testament

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