The canonical Bible is composed of sixty-six books, constituting two testaments or covenants that God has made with mankind the Old Testament and the New Testament. (Note: We are not taking into consideration the period of Patriarchy [father rule] that preceded the Mosaical covenant that God made with the Hebrews/Israelites/ Jews.) A little boy, struggling with the difference between the two, said that he thought he had figured out why they were called the Old Testament and the New Testament. His “take” on the matter was that when you first buy a testament it is a new testament, and after you have had it for awhile, it is an old testament! Well, not exactly!
The reason the Old Testament is called “old” is because it governed the people of God before the coming of Christ and the inauguration of the Christian system. The writer of the book of Hebrews said, “God who at various times and in different ways spoke in time past to the fathers [Hebrew/Jewish ancestors, hf] by the prophets, has in these last days [the gospel age] spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, by whom also He made the worlds…” (Hebrews 1:1-2, emphasis mine, hf). Later, quoting from the prophet Jeremiah, the same writer affirmed: “In that, He says, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first [the Old Testament, hf] obsolete. Now, what is obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away” (Hebrews 8:13). Still later, the inspired penman declared of Christ: “‘Behold, I have come to do Your will, O God.’ He takes away the first [the Old Testament] that He may establish the second [the New Testament]” (Hebrews 10:9).
To summarize, the Old Testament guided God’s people before the coming of Christ and the establishment of the church, but now that Christ has come and His church has been established, we are guided by the New Testament. “Therefore the law [of Moses, hf] was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith [the gospel system of justification] has come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” [i.e., the Old Testament, hf]” (Galatians 3:24-25). “For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law [of Moses, hf] by the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who has been raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God” (Romans 7:4). We cannot be married to both Moses and Christ without being guilty of spiritual bigamy!
The writer of Hebrews states: “For if that first covenant [the Old Testament, hf] had been faultless, then no place would have been sought for a second [the New Testament, hf]” (Hebrews 8:7). The “fault” of the Old Covenant/Testament lay in the fact that the animal sacrifices offered under it could never take away the sins of those offering them. “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats could take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). It remained for the blood of Christ to be offered by which the new covenant was ratified.In instituting the Lord’s Supper, Christ affirmed: “For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:28). “And for this reason, He is the Mediator of the new covenant, by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions under the first [old, hf] covenant, that those who are called may receive the promise of the eternal inheritance” (Hebrews 9:15). Thus, “Jesus has become a surety of a better covenant” (Hebrews 7:22).
Because of a failure to grasp the above fundamental truths concerning the Old and New Testaments, many people are confused religiously. We do not go to the Old Testament to learn how to be saved, how to worship, or how the church is to be organized and how it is to function. We do not offer animal sacrifices as acts of worship, we do not burn incense, we do not make annual pilgrimages to Jerusalem to observe feasts and festivals that were only for the Jews while the law of Moses was in effect, we do not observe the Sabbath day (Saturday), and we do not use instrumental music in Christian worship! (The church in New Testament times did not use instrumental music in worship, and a later essay will explain why loyalchurches of Christ today do not use instrumental music in the worship of God, a matter vastly misunderstood by a great number of people).
The Old Testament foretold the coming of Christ to the world as the ultimate redeemer of all mankind. It spoke of the spiritual house He would build and the indestructible kingdom He would set up, all of which occurred with the marvelous events of Acts 2. The Old Testament predicted the establishment of the New Covenant (Jeremiah 31:31-34; cf. Hebrews 8:7-13). In short, the Old Testament was a prelude to and preparation for the New Testament, but of itself the Old Testament was incomplete, inadequate, and insufficient.
While the Old Testament contains many principles and lessons for Christians (Romans 15:4; I Corinthians 10:11), it is not the standard by which our standing with the Lord is determined today. As someone has rightly observed, “All of the Bible is God’s word, but not all of it is God’s word for us today!”
– Hugh Fulford