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Why do we have two Testaments?
|Created by Gerard de Vos|
Category: Bible related
Why was the Bible divided into two testaments? The main division between the two is this: the Old tells us the Saviour is coming, and the New tells us He has come, and what it means. Together they are quite a volume of information. Old does not mean that it can be discarded or ignored. We are told in the Old Testament not to let this book of the law (Genesis to Deuteronomy) depart from our mouths (Joshua 1:8). That means that we must read it, since God considers it important. In the New Testament in Romans 15:4 and 1 Corinthians 10:1-11 we are told that the history in the Old Testament is our teacher.
We learn from the history of the Israelites that they could not keep the Law. (God’s laws show us what holiness is, and without holiness we will not see the Lord - Hebrews 12:14b). No matter how hard they tried to keep outward rules, they failed. They needed a change of heart that would make it possible for them to live holy lives. That is why Jesus came. He died on the cross to obtain forgiveness for the sins of the whole world.
God planned the information that people would need about Him beforehand and inspired men to write it down as the Bible. He gave man an inquisitive nature so that he would not accept things without logic and explanations. That is why there is such an extensive Old Testament. It contains the history of the Jews, the Psalms, the Prophets and other writings. In it God’s nature, His requirements and man’s need of a Saviour, are explained. The narrative of the Jews, shows how God warned and advised them. We notice how they reacted to His warnings: there is a clear distinction between the godly and the ungodly. There is a large amount of prophetic material to impress on us the importance of living holy lives so that we can inherit the kingdom of God.
The Old Testament contains many types, shadows and events that help the readers to understand that the Messiah would come. He would be the most important “Man” and the greatest liberator of all times. (He was not like some worldly liberators like Fidel Castro who got rid of Batista, only to become a dictator himself.) Since Jesus, the Messiah, Creator, King and Redeemer was to change the history of the entire world, it was fitting that His coming was announced repeatedly long before the time. From Genesis to Malachi we find references to the coming of the great king. The tabernacle, the temple and the blood sacrifices were all types, testifying to the coming Redeemer and His work on man’s behalf.
The only remedy for sin is a renewal of the inner man. In the Old Testament men struggled with disobedience to God’s requirements, necessitating the work of the Saviour (Jeremiah 31:31-33). What we do say is that without the Old Testament we cannot really appreciate the miracle of salvation, the work of Jesus on the cross, and the value of salvation by grace. The character of God is displayed in the many events that take place in the Old Testament. We see His mercy, grace and compassion in various situations with different peoples and nations. More than in the New Testament, we have descriptions of God’s work in creation and preparing a people for His own (think of the rich variety of information in the psalms). God was demonstrating why He will be able to be the King of a big nation for millions of years. His commands are righteous, and He guarantees peace and happiness, if people obey Him. History has seen many tyrants, dictators, leaders and various types of governments. Most of them didn’t last because of sin. Where God reigns (during the time the Israelites were obedient) there was peace and prosperity. The historical narrative of life in Israel, where God revealed Himself, can be verified by archaeology and history. This is important, as it is the one distinguishing mark that separates the Bible from other religious books.
Without both of the Testaments, our knowledge of God and His eternal plan is deficient. The Old teaches us about the origin of everything: of the world, sin, the ancestors of Jesus, the workings of God among man, and the important message of the coming Redeemer. The New teaches us that God fulfilled His word by sending the Redeemer, and how it impacts our lives. With the help of the Holy Spirit we can gain much by a balanced treatment of both testaments. Jesus quoted from the Old Testament in His desert encounter with the devil. It shows us that we can do the same when the devil tries to entice us. In both the New Testament and the Old Testament we have many cases where the nation or individuals landed in trouble and called to God for help. These are examples we can use in prayer. God is always the same and doesn’t have favourites. He will help us as He helped them. Do not neglect the Old Testament, thinking it is old. It will never pass away (Psalm 119:89).