This is the fourth and final blog in this series which is looking at passages from the New Testament which help shape the way we read and interpret not only the Old Testament but all of our Scriptures. The first blog is The Scriptures Bear Witness to the Word of God and the previous blog is The Word Interprets the Scriptures.
The Bible consists of a collection of varied writings which bear witness to the Messiah. Jesus Himself taught this (John 5:37-47; Luke 24:25-46). There is an implication that the Old Testament is not about God’s commandments, but is about God’s Christ for Moses, Christ says, writes about the Christ. All of the Scriptures whether produced centuries before Jesus Christ was on earth (i.e., the Old Testament) or decades after His death and resurrection (aka, the New Testament) have the same focus. They aim to help us know God and the Messiah God sent into the world. As such, the main purpose of the Scriptures is not so much to be a medium for history, law and science but to open our eyes to the revelation which God is showing to us about God’s Trinitarian nature. The Scriptures present to us history and prophecy written with the inspired intention to reveal the Christ, the Son of God. The Scriptures are thus not past oriented but are both Christocentric and eschatologically oriented to the coming Kingdom of God. Those who put so much effort into the search for the historical Jesus while denying the revelation of the Kingdom to come completely misunderstand the message and power of God’s revelation. St. Paul himself makes it clear that the Jewish Scriptures were not written just to remember the past.
I want you to know, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same supernatural food and all drank the same supernatural drink. For they drank from the supernatural Rock which followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless with most of them God was not pleased; for they were overthrown in the wilderness.
Now these things are warnings for us, not to desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, “The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to dance.” We must not indulge in immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put the Lord to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents; nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as a warning, but they were written down for our instruction, upon whom the end of the ages has come. (1 Corinthians 10:1-11)
The actual events, St. Paul says were a warning to the ancient people, but were written down in Scripture not for the sake of those involved in the events, but for our sake. The scriptures are by nature forward looking. For the scriptures instruct us in the revelation of God and orient us toward the end times. The Scriptures serve to help us understand that this world will pass away, and in fact we live in a time which is giving birth to the end times. Just to know the history will do us little good if we don’t orient ourselves toward the coming Kingdom of God and live in movement toward that Kingdom. What we are looking to learn from the Scriptures determines how well we interpret them. St. Paul says:
That is why his faith was “reckoned to him as righteousness.” But the words, “it was reckoned to him,” were written not for his sake alone, but for ours also. It will be reckoned to us who believe in him that raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, who was put to death for our trespasses and raised for our justification. (Romans 4:22-25)
The words from Genesis 15:6 that God reckoned to Abraham as righteousness the faith which he placed in God, become not a record of a past event, but become lived in those who believe in Christ and who embrace the faith and faithfulness of Jesus the Son of God. Words originally penned about one man, Abraham, become a description of each believer who recognizes that Christ’s own faith and faithfulness leads to the salvation of us all.
For Christ did not please himself; but, as it is written, “The reproaches of those who reproached thee fell on me.” For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that by steadfastness and by the encouragement of the scriptures we might have hope. (Romans 15:3-4)
What was written in the Scriptures in the past is written to give us hope in the future and in what God is now accomplishing or is going to accomplish. This is the orientation of St. Paul and the New Testament and the Church which remains faithful to the Lord.
Brethren, I do not consider that I have made it my own; but one thing I do, forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 3:13-14)
The New Testament reminds us that there is a correct way to read and understand the Scriptures of the Jews. The Scriptures help point the way to coming Kingdom of God. St. Paul shows us that way when he takes passages from the Old Testament which are completely understandable in their own context and in a literal interpretation but then shows the literal reading of the text is inadequate for comprehending God’s intentions and revelation.
Do I say this on human authority? Does not the law say the same? For it is written in the law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it is treading out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned? Does he not speak entirely for our sake? It was written for our sake, because the plowman should plow in hope and the thresher thresh in hope of a share in the crop. If we have sown spiritual good among you, is it too much if we reap your material benefits? (1 Corinthians 9:8-11)
The Scriptures were written to give us hope – to orient us toward the Kingdom of God which is to come. They were written to reveal the Messiah and to help us make Christ central to our understanding of God’s will, plan for salvation and God’s self-revelation. The Scriptures serve God’s purposes and bear witness to the Word of God, namely to Jesus Christ the incarnate Word of God. The Scriptures bear witness to the Holy Trinity and to the call to love one another even as God loves us. The Scriptures are not geared toward the past Law written upon tablets of stone but toward the Living Word, Jesus Christ. St. Paul reminds us that God:
“… has made us competent to be ministers of a new covenant, not in a written code but in the Spirit; for the written code kills, but the Spirit gives life. Now if the dispensation of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such splendor that the Israelites could not look at Moses’ face because of its brightness, fading as this was, will not the dispensation of the Spirit be attended with greater splendor?” (2 Corinthians 3:6-8)
If we seek nothing but the written code about regulations and rituals, then we will find them to be lifeless, and even ending life. When we realize the written code is important in that it bears witness to the Christ, then the Scriptures become life giving and open us up to the Holy Spirit. The scriptures rightfully read orient our lives to the coming Kingdom of God, and in so doing guide in how to live now on earth.
All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17)