There is a lot of confusion in the religious world when it comes to the understanding of the scriptures and how to apply them. Few know how to rightly divide the Word of truth. (2 Tim 2:15) Few know what dispensation we are in today. Few know why we have two testaments instead of one.
In Paul’s discussion of the change of covenants, he uses both “Old Testament” and “New Testament”: Who also hath made us able ministers of the new testament; not of the letter, but of the spirit: for the letter kills, but the spirit gives life (2 Cor. 3:6). But their minds were blinded: for until this day remains the same veil untaken away in the reading of the old testament; which veil is done away in Christ (2 Cor. 3:14).
The Bible may be accurately divided into three periods of Bible history on the basis of these two testaments. These three periods of Bible history are:
1. The Patriarchal Age. The Patriarchal Age draws its name from the word “patriarch” (Heb. 7:4), the “fathers,” drawn especially from the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob.
2. The Mosaical Age. The Mosaical Age draws its name from Moses as the lawgiver. God called the descendants of Abraham, through Isaac and Jacob, into a covenant with him. He led the people out of Egyptian bondage and to Mt. Sinai where God revealed the Ten Commandments and other laws to Israel.
3. The Christian Age. The Christian Age draws its name from Christ as the lawgiver in this period of Bible history. Christ gave the Holy Spirit to the apostles and prophets of the first century who wrote the 27 books of the New Testament. This book is designed to govern all of mankind from the death of Christ until his second coming.
The Old Testament instituted a form of worship that foreshadowed the work of Jesus Christ. When one reads the worship instituted in the Tabernacle, he perceives that this worship foreshadowed the coming of him who is the true sacrifice for sin, Jesus Christ. For example, John the Baptist describes Jesus saying, “Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). The people immediately could understand how a one-year-old lamb without blemish was slain and its blood sprinkled on the altar as an atonement for sin. By John’s comparison of Jesus to the “lamb of God,” the common man would understand that Jesus is man’s offering for sin. Paul describes Jesus as “our Passover” (1 Cor. 5:7). Israelites would remember the institution of the Passover at the time of the tenth plague in Egypt when the firstborn were slain. Every house in Israel was told to slay a lamb and sprinkle its blood on the doorposts and lintels. When the Lord saw the blood, he would pass over that house so that its firstborn would not be killed. Christ is our Passover. His blood saves us from the judgment of death.
The types and shadows of the Old Testament are prophetical of the great atonement that was made in the New Testament. Consequently, Jesus could say about his work in fulfillment of the Old Testament, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). His coming was not to destroy the law and prophets but to fulfill them. Jesus’ death on the cross did not destroy the Old Testament, although it brought this period of Bible history to an end. Rather, his work was the fulfillment of God’s divine purpose and plan to save mankind through his Son.
The change of covenants was predicted in the pages of the Old Testament itself. Jeremiah wrote as follows: “Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah: Not according to the covenant that I made with their fathers in the day that I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt; which my covenant they brake, although I was an husband unto them, saith the Lord: But this shall be the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel; After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people. And they shall teach no more every man his neighbour, and every man his brother, saying, Know the Lord: for they shall all know me, from the least of them unto the greatest of them, saith the Lord: for I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more” (Jer. 31:31-34).
The writer of Hebrews quotes Jeremiah and applies it to the New Covenant that Christ established with his disciples (Heb. 8:7-13). He concludes by stating that the Old Covenant has passed away: “For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. . . . In that he says, A new covenant, he hath made the first old. Now that which decays and waxes old is ready to vanish away” (Heb. 8:7, 13).
The Old Testament is not binding today. Early Christians had trouble understanding the change in covenants, just as do many people today, thus the reason we have so many false doctrines and religions. Here are several Scriptures that teach that men are no longer living under the Old Testament:
1. Ephesians 2:14-17. Paul wrote, “For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; And that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: And came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh.” Notice that the “law of commandments” was “abolished in his flesh.”
2. Colossians 2:14-17. Speaking of this change of covenants, Paul wrote, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross; and having spoiled principalities and powers, he made a show of them openly, triumphing over them in it. Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holy day or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ.” The “handwriting of ordinances” was nailed to the cross. As a consequence, men are no longer obligated to observe the Jewish feast days (such as Passover, Pentecost, Tabernacles), the new moon feast, or the sabbath day.
3. Galatians 5:1-4. The book of Galatians argues extensively that men are saved, not by keeping the Law of Moses, but by faith in Christ Jesus. In developing this theme, Paul emphasizes that the Law served as a schoolmaster to bring men to Christ but, now that the faith of Christ has come, men are no longer under this schoolmaster (3:24-25). He then addresses those Judaizers who tried to impose the keeping of the Law of Moses on Gentile Christians, specifically as this applied to the law governing circumcision. He wrote, “Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free, and be not entangled again with the yoke of bondage. Behold, I Paul say unto you, that if you be circumcised, Christ shall profit you nothing. For I testify again to every man that is circumcised, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. Christ is become of no effect unto you, whosoever of you are justified by the law; you are fallen from grace (Gal. 5:1-4).
Not only is one not bound by the Law of Moses, Paul argues that those who impose the keeping of the Law of Moses on man are (a) obligated to keep all of the Law of Moses, not just a part of it, (b) Christ has become of no effect to such a person, and (c) he is fallen from grace.
4. In Hebrews 7:12, the writer argues that the Law must have changed in order for Christ to be priest. “For the priesthood being changed, there is made of necessity a change also of the law” (Heb. 7:12). The Old Testament mandates that the descendants of Levi be priests (Heb. 7:11). Since Christ is from the tribe of Judah, he could not be a priest unless the Law changed.
The change in Law came when Christ died on the cross. “And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance. For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator lives” (Heb. 9:15-17).
The necessity for a new covenant is also shown by the need for a better sacrifice than was offered under the Old Testament. The blood of bulls and goats cannot take away sin (Heb. 10:4); Consequently, a superior sacrifice for sin was needed, which need was filled in the sacrifice of the atoning blood of Christ.
Conclusion: What is recorded in the Old Testament is true, for the testimony of the Lord is sure (Ps. 19:7). There are valuable lessons to be learned from the study of its pages, as Paul indicated as follows: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). However, Christians are not bound by its teachings as a Law for the church. Christians live under the New Testament, under the authority of Christ.
The death of Christ buried the old law, and his resurrection made alive the new law. Inasmuch, when we are buried with Christ by baptism, we are raised out of the water to walk in the newness of life. (Rom 6:3,4) The body of Christ had to die on the cross before his body, the church, came into effect; which body we are added to once we die to our sins through repentance and have them washed away by baptism. (Acts 2:38 ff; Acts 22:16; Acts 2:47; 1 Cor 12:13,27)