Thursday, April 19, 2007

The Old Law is not the same as the Old Testament

Last night as I was leaving campus I bemoaned to myself how I didn't want to go to church, but it actually turned out to be a good thing, I think.

It seemed to me that the class instructor was confusing the Mosaic Covenant with the Old Testament in toto. I was able to speak up and point out that the collection of books we refer to as the "Old Testament" is not equivalent to the "old covenant". I had tried making this point some months earlier, but I don't think anyone "got it" then. My comment spurred some conversation, and this time I got the impression that people got it. The teacher said he was going to have to do some research on it.

So late last night I put together a few notes and sent them to him to help start his research:

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Kent West

There were lots of covenants in the Old Testament; the Mosaic Covenant is merely the main focus of the OT.

Some Biblical covenants are between God and the Earth, such as when he stipulates that the Earth will never be flooded again.

Some covenants are between God and vegetation, such as when he stipulates grass to reproduce after its own kind.

There are covenants between God and nations, God and individuals, God and himself (Gen 1:26), God and Satan (Job 1), man and man, etc etc etc. A covenant that would make for a great 5-minute Wednesday evening topic, me thinks, in our porn-infested world, is the one that Job made with his eyes.

The covenant that God made with Adam and Eve, and with land-dwelling animals, to eat vegetation but not meat, was not only for them, but also for their descendants. After the Flood, when most parties to that agreement had perished, God established a new covenant with both humans and animals which morphed, modified, replaced that first covenant; the new covenant allowed eating of meat. There were also other stipulations to the covenant, including the rainbow:
And I, behold, I establish my covenant with you, and with your seed after you; .... And it shall come to pass, when I bring a cloud over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: 15And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh; and the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. 16And the bow shall be in the cloud; and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth. -- Gen 9:9ff

Note that if God is to be believed about the rainbow, this covenant is still in effect. It has not been nailed to the Cross.

There are quite a lot of other covenants, but I'll stop with just one more, the covenant God made with Abram.

Paul, in Galatians 3:17 writes, "What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise."

Here he makes a distinction between the covenant God made with Abram, and the covenant God made 430 years later with Moses. He also makes it clear that the Mosaic covenant did not nullify the Abrahamic covenant. He continues on to make the point that we are no longer under the Mosaic "tutor" (vs 24-25), but that we have become heirs according to the Abrahamic covenant (v 29).

Just as the original vegetarian-friendly covenant was morphed into or replaced by another carnivorian-friendly covenant, the Abrahamic covenant was morphed into the New Covenant of Jesus.

The point is that the Mosaic Covenant is not equal to the Old Testament; it is only a sub-part, although a dominant sub-part. So it is not correct to say that the "Old Testament" has been done away with; it's only the Mosaic Law portion of the OT that has been done away with. Other portions still stand, either in their original form (the Rainbow covenant) or in modified form.

At least that's how I understand things. But if I've learned anything in the past few years, it's that I'm a lot more ignorant of the things of God than when I was a teenager and had all the answers.


T. said...

We still hold that in marriage the 2 shall become 1 flesh.

some other ones we would do well to consider -
Be fruitful and multiply - fill the earth and have dominion over it (compare to population control theories...)
Love the Lord your God with all your heart, soul mind and strength
covenant of circumcision?

while we all still have a lot to learn I think your on the right track with this one... -Tracy

Caleb Madrigal said...

Very good points! This is a question I have been looking into a lot recently. People always seem to use "Old Testament" and "Old Law" interchangeably, which I don't think is correct.

Peter, in Acts 1, uses a prophecy that had apparently not been done away with to justify appointing a new apostle in place of Judas.

"All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work." (2 Tim 3:16,17)

I tend to think when it says "All Scripture," that includes the old testament. Of course, we must read with discernment. For instance, with a little thinking, we can realize that we don't have to sacrifice animals, since Jesus was the perfect sacrifice. However, I've heard many people actually say the New Testament should be the only source of "authority" for us today. I don't think this makes since, considering this passage.