Monday 14 March 2016

The Continuity between the Old Testament and the New Testament

This is a very important blog post. It is interesting to me, as to which blog posts grab people's attention. However, my aim as a minister, one who is firmly and solidly committed to the teaching of the Westminster Standards, and as one who has taken vows to uphold this Reformed teaching, I am somewhat surprised how many flawed ideas exist on the understanding or practice of a continuity between the Old Testament and New Testament. The moral law continues, as does worship, God's unchanging character, giving to the LORD, and covenant loyalty is always expected of God's people.

I am preaching through the Book of Malachi in Sheffield Evangelical Presbyterian Church at the moment and I am struck by the continuity presented in this book between the Two Testaments . The administration may differ for example in worship, but the principles remain the same. Worship was regulated in the Old Testament but a reverent approach was demanded and the same is true in the New Testament. Worship is regulated as to how we are to approach the LORD and in the manner we are to do so. This idea is virtually never taught in the contemporary professing Evangelical church in the UK. It is as if people think they can approach the LORD in the way they please and with the aim to attract people. If it works, good, but is that the teaching of Scripture?

Let me highlight some verses in Malachi, then give a few citations from the Westminster Standards and then highlight five areas of continuity.

Malachi 1:6 "“A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If then I am a father, where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is my fear? says the LORD of hosts to you, O priests, who despise my name. But you say, ‘How have we despised your name?’".

Malachi 3:1 “Behold, I send my messenger [this is John the Baptist], and he will prepare the way before me. And the Lord whom you seek will suddenly come to his temple; and the messenger of the covenant [This is Jesus Christ our LORD] in whom you delight, behold, he is coming, says the LORD of hosts".

Malachi 3:6 "“For I the LORD do not change; therefore you, O children of Jacob, are not consumed".
This refers to God's character and the requirements for those approaching Him.

Malachi 3:7-8 "From the days of your fathers you have turned aside from my statutes and have not kept them. Return to me, and I will return to you, says the LORD of hosts. But you say, ‘How shall we return?’ Will man rob God? Yet you are robbing me. But you say, ‘How have we robbed you?’ In your tithes and contributions".

Malachi 4:5-6 “Behold, I will send you Elijah [Jesus states clearly in Matthew 11:13-15], that Elijah to come is John the Baptist] the prophet before the great and awesome day of the LORD comes. And he will turn the hearts of fathers to their children and the hearts of children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with a decree of utter destruction.”

Here are some citations in the Westminster Confession of Faith which underline this vital continuity between the OT and the NT.

Chapter 7 on God's Covenant with Man:
7.5. This covenant was differently administered in the time of the law, and in the time of the gospel: under the law, it was administered by promises, prophecies, sacrifices, circumcision, the paschal [Passover] lamb, and other types and ordinances delivered to the people of the Jews, all foreshadowing Christ to come; which were, for that time, sufficient and efficacious, through the operation of the Spirit, to instruct and build up the elect in faith in the promised Messiah, by whom they had full remission of sins, and eternal salvation; and is called the Old Testament.

7.6. Under the gospel, when Christ, the substance, was exhibited, the ordinances in which this covenant is dispensed are the preaching of the Word, and the administration of the sacraments of Baptism and the Lord's Supper: which, though fewer in number, and administered with more simplicity, and less outward glory; yet, in them, it is held forth in more fullness, evidence, and spiritual efficacy, to all nations, both Jews and Gentiles; and is called the New Testament. There are not therefore two covenants of grace,differing in substance, but one and the same, under various dispensations [administrations].

Chapter 11 on Justification:
11:6. The justification of believers under the Old Testament was, in all these respects, one and the same with the justification of believers under the New Testament.

Chapter 19 on The Law of God

19.5. The moral law does forever bind all, as well justified persons as others, to the obedience thereof; and that, not only in regard of the matter contained in it, but also in respect of the authority of God the Creator, who gave it: neither does Christ, in the Gospel, any way dissolve, but much strengthen this obligation.

Chapter 27, On the Sacraments (Baptism and the Lord's Supper)

27:5. The sacraments of the Old Testament in regard to the spiritual things thereby signified and exhibited, were, for substance, the same with those of the new.

There are many areas of continuity between the OT and the NT, though we have more light in the New Testament. Here are a few to mention.

1. Scripture regulates worship in the NT as it did in the OT.
2. Tithes and contributions are expected to be given by faith and faithfully and brought into the NT church.
3. The sacraments differ in the NT in their administration, but baptism and the Lord's Supper are foreshadowed in the OT. Children are included in God's covenants, hence the sign of baptism is to be applied to children but children in the new covenant are not to partake in the Lord's Supper, unless they have a credible profession of faith.
4. The ingredients of public worship are very similar in the NT, as in the OT: The reading and preaching of Scripture continue. The sacrifice in the NT is the finished work of Jesus upon the cross, instead of blood sacrifices in the Temple which pointed to Christ's sacrifice.

There will be more to discuss, but this has opened up a very important subject for all professing Christians to consider.

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