What is the Bible’s Big Picture?

THE
BIBLE’S BIG PICTURE

Understanding the relationship that exists between the Old and the New Testament will add light years to your understanding of the Bible. Context is king in determining what the Bible means by what it says.

The first time Satan is mentioned in the Bible is right in the beginning of both the Old and the New Testaments (Gen.3 and Matt. 4). In both cases he is taking God’s word out of context. This practice is one of the leading causes of false doctrine, and division in the church.

And no wonder, for even Satan transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds (2 Cor. 11:14-15).

Sometime around the turn of the 20th century the enemy came in like a flood, and liberalism established a beach-head in many mainline denominational seminaries.

In the spiritual battle that ensued, the prevailing wind of doctrine was that since the church age began in Acts chapter two, everything prior to that is Old Testament law.

And, since “Christ fulfilled the law,” the Old Testament is practically obsolete, and serves only as history. This doctrine in effect, removes the entire New Testament from its context. In Matthew 5:17-19, Jesus Himself forewarned us,

Do not think that I came to abolish the law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill.

For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.

Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but who ever keeps and teaches {them,} he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

UNDERSTANDING THE RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN LAW AND GRACE IS ESSENTIAL TO UNDERSTANDING REDEMPTION, WHICH IS THE WHOLE POINT OF THE BIBLE!

The Old Testament is commonly referred to as “The law,” and the New Testament is known conceptually as “The Gospel of grace.” To be sure, grace is found in the Old Testament (Gen. 15:6 for example), and law in the New ( I will show you that in a moment).

But, the predominant themes respectively are, law in the Old, grace in the New, in that order and for good reason. Simply stated, it is because we have broken God’s law that we need His grace. Grace presupposes law.

The importance of understanding these two foundational Biblical principles and their relationship to each other, cannot be overstated.

Without the New Testament, the Old Testament would be incomplete, and without the Old Testament, the New Testament would be utterly incomprehensible. Each is a guide to properly understanding the other.

The Old Testament is the foundation upon which the New Testament is built, and the New Testament constantly refers back to the Old to establish its validity.

Through fulfilled prophecy, each continuously points back and forth to the other as proof positive of its divine authenticity and its perfect unity.

The very first verse in the New Testament forces you to this inescapable conclusion. Matthew 1:1 shows us two things. First, that God always keeps His promises, and secondly, that the Bible is one book!

This is the record of the genealogy of Jesus Christ the Son of David, the Son of Abraham (Matt. 1:1).

This verse says in effect, “If you are starting here, you have to go back to Genesis, brother!” Who would pick up any other book and start reading in the middle? Yet, people do that with the Bible, and wonder why they have trouble understanding it.

Starting in Matthew is like walking into a movie half-way through. It’s like thinking you are telling a good joke when all you can remember is the punch line.2

Without understanding the covenant promises that God made with Abraham and David, Matt. 1:1 would be utterly boring, yet to those who understand it in the context of the Old Testament, this verse explodes with excitement. This same principle holds true for more than 1200 verses in the New Testament.

What is the significance of Christ dying on Passover and being raised on First Fruits were it not for the book of Exodus?

What sense would John have made when he said of Jesus, “Behold the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world,” or when Jesus said, “This is the new covenant in My blood,” were it not for the doctrine of the blood atonement in Leviticus?

Most of us think of Matthew as the first book of the New Testament, and it is. Matthew is also the 40th book of the 66 that make up the Bible. The number 40 is significant since throughout Scripture, it represents the number of completion.

Furthermore, the Old Testament contains truths that are essential for a proper worldview that are found in no other source.

For example, only in the book of Genesis (which means origin) do we discover the origin of the universe, of man and his fall into sin, the doctrine of marriage and the family, the establishment of the nations, languages, and the prophetic significance of Israel!

Only in the Old Testament are we told of the rebellion in Heaven that turned Lucifer into Satan, and thus the origin of evil and the promise of a Savior.

“The Old Testament worldview is clearly distinct from other worldviews, such as polytheism, pantheism, gnosticism, deism, atheism, and naturalism. The New Testament does not provide another worldview but simply assumes the one taught in the Old Testament.” 1

According to Malachi 3:6 the Lord does not change. For God to change, He would either have to get better or worse and that is impossible, He is perfect. Likewise, according to the New Testament (written 1500 years after Sinai) God’s definition of sin has never changed either. 1 John 3:4 says,

Whosoever commits sin transgresses the law:
for sin is the transgression of the law. KJV

All what law is John referring to? The answer is found in the book written by the “Apostle to the Gentiles” to the Christians at Rome.

Since Romans was written after the church age began (in Acts chapter two), no one can claim we are teaching from the dispensation of the Old Testament.

The book of Romans is considered by theologians to be the greatest treatise on the doctrine of salvation by grace in all of Scripture. Martin Luther’s commentary on the book begins with these words:

This epistle is really the chief part of the New Testament
and the very purest Gospel.

So, what does the chief part of the New Testament and the very purest Gospel have to say about the law? Beginning in Romans 3:20 we read…

because by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight; for through the Law {comes} the knowledge of sin.

Do we then nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law (Rom. 3:31).

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet” (Rom. 7:7).

Romans 7:7 leaves no doubt that Paul is referring to the moral law as contained in the Ten Commandments. Therefore, we can paraphrase Romans 3:20 this way,

by the works of the law no one will be justified in His sight; for through the Ten Commandments comes the knowledge of sin!

Romans 3:31 proves beyond the shadow of the doubt that the moral law has not been abolished by the coming of Christ. And, Romans 7:7 shows us that sin is still defined (not by the letter, but by the spirit) of the Ten Commandments (Matt. 5:21-28).

The ability to define sin is the ability to define exactly why a person needs Jesus Christ (Matt. 1:21). Rather than telling a person he is a sinner, just define sin for him, and watch the Holy Spirit do what only He can!

MANY PEOPLE EQUATE LAW WITH
LEGALISM, AND SEE GRACE AS A WILDCARD
YOU CAN PLAY
ANYTIME YOU DON’T LIKE THE RULES!

In 1855, Charles Haddon Spurgeon, one of the finest minds in the history of the church, said,

There is no point upon which men make greater mistakes, than upon the relation that exists between the law and the Gospel.

Even though the Old Testament comprises 70% of the Bible, the word “law” appears more times in the New than in the Old Testament!

Satan’s campaign to distort the legitimate use of the law has been so successful, that many Christian leaders and their congregations are scared to death of the word. The fear of being labeled a “legalist” is a powerful weapon in the hands of the enemy.

Christian leaders can talk about holiness and obedience, as long as they do not use the word “law.” One wonders what it is we are supposed to obey, and what constitutes holiness?

Part of the reason for all the confusion is because the New Testament “appears” to contradict itself on this issue (see appendix one). The confusion is easily cleared up when we pay close attention to context.

Altogether, there are 613 laws that constitute Old Testament Judaism. To clarify our understanding of how the law applies to the church, we must define our terms. We must distinguish between the civil, the ceremonial, and the moral law.

a. The civil law, such as not driving your chariot over 35 mph through Jerusalem on the Sabbath when children are present.

b. The ceremonial law, which had to do with the Jewish religion of feasts, fasts, and the sacrificial system.

c. And, the moral law, as contained in the Ten Commandments.

• The civil law has no application for the 21st century Christians, since we are not citizens living under the government of ancient Israel.

• The ceremonial laws (which included the sacrificing of animals) were, and still are, prophetic road-signs pointing us to Christ. They were “fulfilled” legally, prophetically, spiritually, and literally, when Jesus, the sinless Lamb of God, was sacrificed, “once and for all” (Heb. 7:27; 9:12, 1 Pet. 3:18). As a result, we are no longer living under the dispensation of the Old Testament law.

• The moral law defines sin. The definition of sin (something God is still opposed to) has never changed.

In order to prove this point to “New Testament Christians,” we must refer to the book written by the “Apostle to the Gentiles” to the Christians at Rome.

SOMETHING OLD – SOMETHING NEW
SOMETHING BOLD – SOMETHING TRUE

So, how is it that we have come so far in losing the proper concept of the moral Law? Here is how it was done. Since we are saved by grace alone, and, since the New Testament says,

“Christ fulfilled the law.”

All law became equated with legalism. Legalism is heresy, heresy is false doctrine, and false doctrine is the work of the enemy.

The result of this misunderstanding leaves Christ between two thieves—antinomianism on one side, and legalism on the other. Both are equally deadly, and both are prevalent to one degree or another in the church.

Legalism is the idea that you can add anything to, or subtract anything from, your salvation by what you do or don’t do. This stands in direct opposition to God’s grace.

Antinomianism means no law. This is idea that there is no law whatsoever in the New Testament. All things are lawful as long as my conscience is clear and I live by love (as I define it). Nothing could be further from the truth. The fact is, law defines love (Rom. 13:8-10).

THE LAW OF LOVE

One of the most strategic pieces of spiritual real estate temporarily controlled by the enemy is the idea that law and love are opposing forces. Since love is the greatest gift, and God Himself is love, and since love endures forever, no one would dare be opposed to love, right? Therefore, whatever opposes love must be evil and done away with.

Unfortunately, this is how the law is perceived by many people. This understanding is completely erroneous. The moral law is divided into two “tables.” The first four are vertical, and teach us how to love God. The next six are horizontal, and teach us how to love our fellow man. Here is how Jesus summarized the Ten Commandments:

Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law? Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments (Matthew 22:36–40).’

Here, Jesus Christ uses the words law and love in the same breath! Rather than being mutually exclusive, law and love are mutually affinitive.

The law shows me how to express my love for God and for my neighbor in a tangible way. See for yourself:

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled {the} Law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, you shall not murder, you shall not steal, you shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “you shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; love therefore is the fulfillment of {the} Law” (Rom.13:8–10).

Thanks to the moral law, love can actually be weighed and measured against an objective standard. Without the guidelines of the law, love would be abstract and relative. In 1 Cor. 13, we see the effects of love, whereas the moral law defines it.

In His infinite wisdom, God tells us that “love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10b). If I truly love my neighbor, according to Romans 13, I will:

• Honor his marriage covenant, and mine, by not lusting after his wife.
• I will forgive him when he wrongs me, rather than committing murder.
• I will honor his property by not stealing it.
• I will tell him the truth (and what truth is) when I speak to him.
• I will rejoice in the blessings God has given him, rather than coveting his goods.

Isn’t that the kind of neighborhood in which you want to live? Can you even begin to imagine what would happen to our world if we all “kept the law” according to this standard?

As long as moral truth is considered relative, there is no chance for people to see their need of salvation. What would happen if the bricklayer abandoned the use of the square, the level, and the plumb? What if he decided that what is straight to you is not necessarily straight to him? His buildings would lack structural integrity, and would soon collapse as a result.

Do you see why the devil hates the law and wants to destroy it?

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