“The Old Testament Lives”

 

Hello and welcome to “Key to the Kingdom.” My name is Bret McCasland. Many people, at the beginning of every year, make a resolution to read-through the entire Bible. They map out a plan, how many pages or chapters to read on a daily basis. For some however, their plan does not last very long. After a few days, weeks, or even months, reading through the Old Testament becomes a challenge and even burdensome. The first few books contain lots of big names, laws, and commands for the people. It becomes rather boring for some and before long the goal of making it to the very end seems impossible. In fact, many skip over the Old Testament. They think there isn't much value to it for today and they seek to find something easier to read, or more relevant. Well, in today's lesson on “Key to the Kingdom”, we will study what the apostle Paul had to say about the Old Testament, or the old Law, as we continue in our study of the letter of Galatians. Paul's words might surprise us. They might even renew a desire and love for the Old Testament. I hope you will join us for this study, as we notice how all the Bible has some valuable things to teach us. Please open your heart and your Bible now, as we study together.

 

>>LESSON 

For many years now, the Bible has been the best-selling book on the market. It is the most popular book ever written. And in the minds of many people, it is also the most important book ever written. When we open its pages and begin to study, we also notice it is a very unique and interesting book. It was written by 40 authors, over a period of some 1500 years. It is divided into 2 basic parts, the Old Testament and the New Testament. The Old Testament contains 39 of the books, or letters, out of the 66, and it also contains 78% of the entire text. Yes, the Old Testament makes up much more of the Bible than does the New Testament, and yet it seems most people spend far more time reading, and studying, and memorizing the New Testament than they do the Old Testament. It appears that far more lessons, and Bible studies, and sermons, and messages, come from the New Testament than from the Old Testament. And, have you ever wondered why? Well, many suggest the Old Testament is just too hard to read and understand. Others say the Old Testament does not apply to our lives anymore, because we are under a new law, the teachings of Jesus Christ. Some even state, the Old Testament is outdated and we don't need it anymore; we need something else. Yes in the minds of some, the Old Testament is like a few things most of us don't use any more. Perhaps you recognize some of these items and remember when they were a part of your everyday life. Oh, not so now, they probably have been discarded and, for most of us, new and updated things have taken their place. Well, the letter of Galatians, which is in the New Testament and written by the apostle Paul, was one of the very first New Testament letters written. It was new material for those who had long been attached to, and knew well, the old Law, or the Old Testament, and they did not know for sure how to receive this new communication from the apostle Paul. Well of course, he writes about the old Law in the letter of Galatians and he seems to make a case both for and against it. Now before we focus on the teaching of Galatians, I want us to remember and to reflect back on why Paul wrote this letter in the first place. You might remember, Paul writes to a group of churches in the region called Galatia. Some of them are located in places like Antioch, Iconium, Lystra, and Derbe. They are in Central Asia, and today this area is called Turkey. Here, you can see some of the ancient ruins of the church in Antioch. The churches are made up of both Jews and Gentiles who belong to the Christian faith. They have responded to the Good News of Jesus Christ, when Paul shared it with them on an earlier occasion. However, they are now being led astray by some false teachers, who say they still have to practice some of the Old Testament teachings even though they are now Christians; and whether they are Jew or non-Jew (Gentile), those commands and the old Law still apply. Well, Paul writes Galatians to address that matter. He is concerned that these new Christians will drift away from their faith. And, he even mentions in chapter 5 and verse 4 that if they go back to the teaching of the Old Testament, and apply that upon their lives or the lives of other people, then they will drift away from God's grace. Now in chapter 3, Paul focuses on the true Israel, and he identifies them as the true children of God. It is not necessarily those who make that claim based on their heritage, or the fact they might be descended from Abraham. It's not necessarily the Hebrew nation, or the Jews, but rather whoever puts their faith in God's Son Jesus Christ is now part of God's family. They are those who respond to the offering that God makes through His Son Jesus Christ, who lived upon this Earth then to go to the cross and die on our behalf. And so, one’s nationality no longer counts with God, when it comes to this salvation. Everyone can have access to it, both Jews and non-Jews alike. Well in verse 15, Paul addresses now what is to be done with the old Law. Let's keep in mind; the Law is what people faithfully followed. It was the guide for their life. The Law was read, and studied, and memorized on a regular basis. It was the focus of their worship, every time they came together on the Sabbath. Entire Jewish families based their lives on the teaching of the Law and, needless to say, it was of utmost importance. However, all of that changed with the coming of Jesus Christ. Jesus brought something new. He brought something different. He brought something better, and He replaced the old. What Jesus brought revolved around His sacrifice. By what Jesus did upon the cross, there was now no longer a need to keep the old Law. Its purpose was complete. Its purpose was to lead and guide a person until something better came along, and now that something better was here, or someone better was here, and that was Jesus Christ. And that is what Paul addresses here, in the 3rd chapter of Galatians beginning with verse 15.- Brothers, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ. What I mean is this: the Law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise. For if the inheritance depends on the Law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in His grace gave it to, Abraham through a promise.- I realize that's a very lengthy reading, and it might be confusing to some, but here is what Paul is saying. The Law came into effect some 430 years after God promised Abraham that a great nation would come from his offspring. Now by pointing that out, Paul makes it very plain that God's plan, for a nation and for people, would come from Abraham; and they would be His very own. And no matter what, no matter what kind of teaching, no matter what kind of law, no matter what kind of anything else might come about, nothing would ever take the place of that promise. In fact, God's great nation would reach its apex, or its zenith, it would reach its ultimate glory through the coming of that one person, Jesus Christ; and nothing would stop it. Now, let's go on. Paul reminds us, next, why the Law even came in the first place, and we see that here in verses 19 to 22. -What then was the purpose of the Law? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The Law was put into effect through angels by a mediator. A mediator, however, does not represent just one party; but God is one. Is the Law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law. But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.- Now again, that might be somewhat of a confusing passage of Scripture, but here's the point. The Law came about for one purpose, and that was because of transgressions. Now, that's a great big word for the little word sin. That's why the Law was in place. The Law served a very important purpose as it provided some guidance and direction for those who were living under the promise that God made to Abraham. Over time however, this Law became very restrictive. The Law contained some 613 individual laws; 365 of them were negative and 248 of them were positive. The negative laws said things like don't do this, don't do that, don't go here, don't go there, don't associate with these people. The positive law said; you can do this, you can go there, you can associate with these people. But, all 613 of them constituted a list of rules and regulations, a list of do's and don'ts; and no doubt it was hard to keep up with everything that these people were supposed to do or not do, and the Law became very oppressive and very restrictive. Now, let me ask you a question. How would you like to live under a system like that, to know, memorize, and to practice some 613 laws, each and every day? Oh, many people viewed the Law as a law keeping and legal system to perfectly keep, and if the person did not perfectly keep all of these Laws then they would be on the outside looking in. They would not become a part of God's family. They could not enjoy His blessings. And so, in reality, the Law did more to enslave people than it did to set people free. That's the way the people lived, under the constant fear of messing up, under the constant fear of never measuring up to the expectations and the demands of the Law. Yes, that's the way the people lived until the coming of Jesus Christ. And that's the way Paul concludes this next section; listen to these 3 verses, here in Galatians 3 beginning with verse 23. -Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the Law, locked up until faith should be revealed. So the Law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the Law.- Once again, Paul points out the role the Law played in people's lives, until the coming of Jesus Christ. And notice the various ways Paul describes the Law; it held people as prisoners, who were locked up in prison. The Law was in charge and in control of people's lives, they simply had no freedom. The Law also was a guardian, or a babysitter, carefully watching over a person's life, making sure they never got out of step or did anything wrong. However, when Jesus came all that changed. The Law no longer had that powerful and negative affect on people's lives. The Law had served its purpose. It's like that old phone, and that old car, and those old clothes we looked at a moment ago. They served a very important purpose. They were useful and necessary, but now we have other things which have taken their place; things that are more up-to-date, things which are more relevant to our lives today. Now let us understand, Paul still has great respect for the Law. It played a very important part in his life. In Romans chapter 7, he wrote that the Law is holy, and just, and good. It is something in which he takes great delight. He writes, in Galatians 1:14, that at one time he even lived in strict observance of the Law. He studied under one of the most famous and intelligent rabbis, or teachers, of the day, a man named Gamaliel. He learned the Law. He even wrote, in Philippians 3:6, that he was blameless in regards to keeping the Law. Yes, Paul had great respect for, and appreciation, of the Law, but when faith came, when Jesus came, and when he put his faith in Jesus Christ and became His follower, Paul's perspective changed. Yes, the Law had served its purpose, but now it was time for Jesus. It was time for people to put their faith in the Son of God, the sacrifice that He made by giving His life upon the cross. Yes, something new had come to replace that which was old. And here are some questions that we might ask today. What would Paul have us to do with the Law? What purpose, if any, does it serve in our lives? Should we keep the Law, or only certain parts of it? Well, since the Law, the Old Testament contains some 80% of the Bible surely there is a purpose for it somewhere. Well, if we look closely at Paul's writings, we notice some negative and positive uses of it. Remember, the Law was exclusively for the Jews. It was their guidebook. It was the rulebook by which they lived; and it was not for the non-Jews, or the Gentiles. Yet, with the coming of Jesus Christ, both Jews and non-Jews alike now had the opportunity to be right with God, without the Law. It is now by faith in Jesus Christ that all people have access to His salvation and to the amazing grace of God. Yes, Jesus took the place of the Law, and now people do not have to feel burdened down or oppressed by it any more. Having said all of that, Paul would certainly not have us to simply throw out the Old Testament altogether, and disregard it completely. There is still great value in its teachings and its examples. First of all keep in mind; the Law was the basis for the story of Jesus Christ. He knew and He kept the Law, Himself. He was raised in a period of time when the Law was highly esteemed. It was a part of His life. It was the center of His heritage and His lifestyle as a Jew. Without the Law today, we would not have a clear picture; we would not have a complete picture of God's Son, Jesus Christ. Now, the Law is also still important because we continue on the story of God's people in the world today. And even though the Law is not a determining factor for our salvation, it still gives us guidance and direction on how we are to live as God's people in the world today. And so, to neglect the Old Testament neglects our history. To neglect the Old Testament overlooks our heritage and what it looks like of how we got to where we are today. Yes, the Old Testament is still a very important part of our story. I am reminded of some great Old Testament passages of Scripture that mean a great deal to me. They are there not to be oppressive. They are there not to be a burden to us. They are there to inspire and to direct our lives, as we live as God's children in the world today. I think about the 10 Commandments, which we read in Exodus 20 and Deuteronomy chapter 5, how these are the basic commands for our relationship with God, and our relationship with people. I think about what God said in Leviticus 11:45 –"Therefore be holy because I am holy." I think about Deuteronomy 6:4-9, the instructions we have regarding teaching our children and how they are to respect God. Maybe my most favorite passage is Micah 6:8, where that Old Testament prophet states that we are to practice justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with God. Paul even records a statement found in the Law. He writes, in Galatians 5:14, the words of Leviticus chapter 19:18, and they are, -The entire Law is summed up in a single command: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’- Now, those are just a few examples that suggest the Law is for our good. It does not bring to us salvation, through Jesus Christ, however it does offer some great insight on how we are to live, as the children of God; to live with humility, to live with love, to live with kindness in respect for God and in respect for other people. Take a look at this short video clip and allow it to cause you to think about the importance and the great value the entire Bible gives to us, as it offers some boundaries and guidelines for us in the world today.

 

>>VIDEO CLIP 

Some of you may be wondering why I am standing in the middle of a highway. You may not think I'm very smart, and you may be right, but I want to make a point. Look at this highway. It's well marked. We've got white lines on both sides of the road. And then, we have a dotted white line here on this two-lane highway going up the hill. And then, there are 2 double yellow lines right here in the middle, warning us not to cross over into the other lane. Now, all of these lines are for a purpose. They are boundary lines. They give us some guidance on how we are to drive our automobile up and down the highway. The solid white lines say don't go beyond this line because there is danger. Don't cross the yellow line because you will meet oncoming traffic, and there may be problems. When I think about all of these lines on the highway, I'm reminded of the Bible. The Bible has been called the guidelines for life. It is our roadmap, if you will, on how we are to have not only a relationship with God but also a relationship with other people. In this Bible, we find some boundary markers, kind of like the boundary markers on the road. They give us guidance on how we live, some things we can do and not do. In fact, Psalm 119:105 states that, God's Word is a lamp unto our feet and a light unto our path. We may not like these boundary markers. We may not like the way that we’re supposed to drive on the road, or the way we are supposed to live, according to God's Word. And yet, there's something I want us to keep in mind. God's Word is always for our good, and for our blessing and benefit, just like these guideline boundary markers on the highway. My encouragement for us today is simply this, to pay close attention to the boundary markers that we have in God's Word, knowing that God gives them for our good and for our benefit. They will bring blessing to our lives as we follow closely what God's Word tells us. I encourage you, as you drive along the highway, think about those boundaries, stay in those boundaries; and then think about staying within the boundaries of God's Word.

 

Even though Paul wrote the letter of Galatians many years ago, his message is still very relevant to us today. In Galatians, he reminds us of two great truths. Truth number 1 is this: our salvation is not found in the observance of the Law. Our salvation is found through Jesus Christ alone. The 2nd great truth is, the Old Testament, however, is still very vital and very important. It reminds us of our roots and it gives us guidance on how we live in this world, in order to bring glory and praise to God. Yes it is true, the Old Testament lives on. It is for our good and for our instruction. It provides examples of what it looks like to be a part of God's people upon this Earth. I want to end with one more reading. It comes from Romans 15:4.

-Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.- Oh, may we always remember that all of the Bible is for our good and for our benefit. It gives us hope and salvation. Both the Old Testament and the New Testament serve an important role, not only in our eternal salvation but in how we are to live as God's people. I encourage you today to continue to be good students of the Book, the Bible, both the Old Testament and the New Testament; and to allow your studies to bring great blessing into your life.

 

>>CONCLUSION

Thank you for tuning in to today's program. I hope this message about the value and purpose of the Old Testament part of the Bible was beneficial. It is true that all the Bible plays an important role for our lives today. At “Key to the Kingdom”, we try to provide many opportunities to study and learn from God's Word. On our website, keytothekingdom.com, this lesson, along with many others, can be downloaded in a variety of formats, at no cost. Short inspirational video clips, along with 1 minute daily devotional thoughts, are also available. You can even enroll in a free Bible study. “Key to the Kingdom” can even be downloaded onto your smart phone as a free app, and you can have all these opportunities at your fingertips. Or, if you prefer, you can simply call the toll-free number on the screen and make a request for a Bible study. And remember, everything offered comes with no cost or obligation. Once again, I want to say thank you for finding our program and taking time to view this episode. Please join us again next time as we study the Bible on “Key to the Kingdom”.