Is the Old Testament still relevant today?
What is the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament?
Knowing the differences between the Old Testament and New Testament is foundational. Your belief on this subject is the root of your entire walk with the Lord. This subject is vital. Everything about your walk with God hinges on this.
For nearly 20 years I have contemplated and thoroughly studied the differences between the Old Testament, and the New Testament.
Much of my former beliefs regarding this subject come from the teaching that I have heard on the subject over the years.
I used to believe that the Old Testament:
- is defined as the books of the Bible that was written before the coming of Christ.
- is passed away. It is no longer relevant today as it is replaced by the New Testament.
- is inferior to the New Testament.
- is about works. Whereas, the New Testament is about faith.
- is about animal sacrifices. The New Testament is not.
- The God of the Old Testament is angry and judgemental. Whereas the God of the New Testament is nice and forgiving.
Over the course of over 20 years of researching, and studying the Word of God, I have come to the conclusion that ALL the above points are false. Read on…
What is a Testament?
The word “testament” is synonymous with the word “covenant”, or “agreement”. When you get married, you make a “covenant/testament”. When you sign a lease, it is a “covenant/testament”.
A covenant, or testament, in simple words is an agreement.
The words “testament”, and “covenant” are synonymous, and are used interchangeably in this article.
Why is the Bible Divided?
In order to understand this answer, we must understand a little history of the Bible.
Most Christian leaders concur that the church as we find it in the Book of Acts is the “model church”. But not many people realize that the “model church” didn’t have the Bible as we know it. The books that we find in the [Old Testament] Bible today were printed on individual scrolls, usually hung on pins on the wall. So when Peter, Paul, James, or John wanted to read from the scriptures, they had to walk over to the wall pull the scroll off, and find the passage they are looking for.
It is quite probable that this was the procedure when Jesus read from the book of Isaiah. They didn’t have a “Bible” compiled as we do today. Each book was on separate and individual scrolls.
In addition, many Christian leaders do not realize that all of the church services in the first few hundred years from the time of Christ, through the Book of Acts, and onward had only the Old Testament as their text. The books that we have today in the section called the “New Testament” was not even considered to be scripture until many years later. They probably were not even written in the time of the Book of Acts.
At the time, the New Testament writings as we know it, was considered to be personal letters, and journals, not the “Word of the Lord” as we understand it today.
In fact, Paul, in one of his letters makes it clear that at least a limited part of his writings are not the word of God as he said, “I say this, not the Lord” (1 Cor. 7:6,12,25; 2 Cor. 11:17)
Therefore, the “model church” from the time of the apostles, onwards for a considerable period of time used the Old Testament as their sole text, because the New Testament as we know it wasn’t compiled and accepted as “holy scripture” until much later.
So then, how did we get from individual scrolls hanging on a wall to a convenient compilation in a single book?
For the first 1500 years following the book of Acts there were numerous attempts to gather and identify certain scrolls as “holy scripture”. This is what we call the biblical canon. The “canon” of scripture is simply the books that made the cut, and got placed in the Bible. These books were chosen as designated as canonical by numerous councils throughout the centuries.
At first glance at a Bible’s table of contents one would think that there are only two testaments in the Bible, the Old Testament (covenant), and the New Testament (covenant). But that is not true. There are many testaments/covenants in the Bible.
For instance, there is the Adamic covenant, the Noahic covenant, the Abrahamic covenant, the Mosaic covenant, and the Davidic covenant, His covenant with Isaac, His covenant with Jacob, etc… etc…
So then why is the Bible divided into only two covenants – the old covenant, and the new covenant? The person, or group or persons responsible for this division is unknown. However, the decision to divide the Bible into two parts is probably based upon one verse in Hebrews (8:13).
But nowhere did God ever say to divide the Bible in this way. Lumping all of the pre-Christ books that contain multiple covenants under one label – Old Covenant – is confusing, and deceptive.
It’s like taking every American book that has ever been written since America was born, and labelling them all the “Constitution”.
Most of the scriptures that fall under the “Old Covenant” label have little, if not nothing to do with the Old Covenant referred to in Hebrews 8:13.
To make it even more confusing, there are multiple covenants all under the “Old Testament” label.
So then why did someone decide to lump all pre-Christ books under “Old Testament”?
God didn’t divide it that way – man did. It is a human error at best, deceptive at worst.
Therefore, technically speaking, the Old Testament as spoken of in Hebrews, chapter 8 is not to be confused with the Adamic covenant, Noahic covenant, Abrahamic covenant, Isaacic covenant, Jacobic covenant, Davidic covenant, etc… etc… It doesn’t say, Old Testaments, rather Old Testament, signifying only one testament/covenant.
If you went back to Peter, Paul, James, and John in the Book of Acts, and objected to their scripture readings as being “Old Testament” they would certainly consider you to be a heretic! Yet that is what we do today!
The fact of the matter is that every significant teaching and concept found in the New Testament is also found in the Old Testament. Every scripture reference that is made in the New Testament is from the Old Testament. The teachings of faith, grace, and love is Old Testament teachings.
Case in point: In Acts, chapter 17 we read about Paul who went to Berea to preach the gospel to the men of Berea. According to the scriptures, the men of Berea was very honorable and diligent. They didn’t believe a word that Paul said without first searching the scriptures to see if it lines up.
They didn’t believe “Paul’s gospel” until they first studied the scriptures to see if what Paul was saying is in fact true to the scriptures.
What scriptures did they use for reference? What scriptures did they use to test Paul to see if what he was saying was true?
There is only one possibility: The Old Testament!
Yes, that’s right. The Bereans tested the New Testament gospel (Paul’s message) to see if it lined up with the Old Testament. It did. They accepted Paul as authentic. And history is made.
Note: The Lord never rebuked the Bereans for doing what they did. It was considered honorable, and diligent. They were considered to be the “upper crust” of the spiritual community. They didn’t accept what Paul said without first testing it with the Old Testament. But today we accept every word of Paul as the inerrant “Word of God” – in spite of the fact that Paul admitted that at least some of what he said was his word, not God’s word.
Bringing Clarity to the Differences Between Old Testament and New Testament
Hebrews 8 quotes Jeremiah 31:31-34 as proof that Jeremiah was prophesying about the coming of the New Testament. It is in this passage that we find the most clear and defining differences:
31 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:
32 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:
33 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.
34 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 KJV
The Bottom Line Difference
Jeremiah tells us what the difference is between Old Testament, and New Testament.
Plainly said, the difference is the format, not the data.
Put it this way: Suppose you have a music CD of “Artist A”. And you also have the same album on your MP3 player. The CD is the “old” format. MP3 is the “new” format. It is the same music. It is exactly the same lyrics. Perhaps the MP3 format is clearer, but it is exactly the same.
Likewise, the Old Testament format is tablets of stone. Whereas the New Testament format is the tablets of your heart.
3 [Forasmuch as ye are] manifestly declared to be the epistle of Christ ministered by us, written not with ink, but with the Spirit of the living God; not in tables of stone, but in fleshy tables of the heart. …
7 But if the ministration of death, written [and] engraven in stones, was glorious, so that the children of Israel could not stedfastly behold the face of Moses for the glory of his countenance; which [glory] was to be done away: 8 How shall not the ministration of the spirit be rather glorious? – 2Cr 3:3, 7-8 KJV
Paul confirms the difference between the Old Testament and New Testament.
The Old Testament is God’s law written on the tablets of stone.
The New Testament is God’s law written on the tablets of your heart.
It is the same data… the same law – God’s law. The only difference is that instead of having the law written on stone, it is written on your heart.
Another way to look at it is that the only difference is the location of the law, and not the law itself. Instead of God’s law being located on stone, God’s law is on your heart.
Once again, it is the same law – different location.
Likewise it is the same data, different format.
Clearly, according to Jeremiah, the difference between the Old Testament and the New Testament is format, not data.
God said, “I will put My law in their inward parts (heart).”
In the original Hebrew manuscripts, God literally said, “I will put the TORAH in their inward parts”
This is absolutely contrary to what most preachers preach today. They say that the Torah is passed away now that the New Testament is come. Absolutely not!
The Torah is by definition the first five books of Moses, aka the law as given by God through Moses.
Therefore, according the Jeremiah, the New Testament is God’s covenant to write the law of Moses on our hearts.
Jesus said that on judgement day many will come to Him saying, “Lord, Lord! Have we not prophesied in Your name, and cast out evil spirits in Your name, and performed many mighty miracles in Your name.”
Jesus promised He will turn to them and say, “DEPART from Me! You worker of iniquity. I never knew you!”
The word, “iniquity” here means without-law, or contrary to the law.
What law? God’s law – The Torah, of course!
Jesus said that He will reject many people in spite of the fact that they emphatically profess Him as Lord, and prophesy, and do great miracles!
It takes much more than “faith” in Jesus, and professing Him as Lord. Jesus made it clear. He will reject many.
Why? Because they do not keep the Torah! They are Torah-less. They are without God’s law. They are law-less.
It is amazing how many people read Jesus’ words, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” – Mat 5:17
… yet they still teach that Jesus abolished the Torah. Absolutely not. How can someone read this verse and teach that the law (Torah) is no longer to be followed? They are blind guides.
It is the same blindness that comes upon people when the read the verse where Jesus said that no man will know the day or the hour of His return, yet people still fall into deception, believing “prophets” who predict the coming of the Lord. Same difference.
Furthermore, Jesus said that the law will never pass away until heaven and earth passes away.
“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.” – Mat 5:18
Heaven and earth has not passed away yet, therefore we can rest assured the law (Torah) is still in effect.
If the Old Testament passed away, as some believe, then God’s Word is a lie because it is written:
And I will establish my covenant between me and thee and thy seed after thee in their generations for an everlasting covenant, to be a God unto thee, and to thy seed after thee. – Gen 17:7
Although my house [be] not so with God; yet he hath made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all [things], and sure: for [this is] all my salvation, and all [my] desire, although he make [it] not to grow. – 2Sa 23:5
Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, [even] the sure mercies of David. – Isa 55:3
[1Ch 16:17] – And hath confirmed the same to Jacob for a law, [and] to Israel [for] an everlasting covenant,
[Psa 105:8-10] He hath remembered his covenant for ever, the word [which] he commanded to a thousand generations. 9 Which [covenant] he made with Abraham, and his oath unto Isaac; 10 And confirmed the same unto Jacob for a law, [and] to Israel [for] an everlasting covenant
[Psa 119:89] – Forever, O LORD, Your word is settled in heaven.
The Torah was considered to be the Word of the Lord when Psalm 119:89 was written. And God Himself confirms that this Word (Torah) has never changed, and will never change!
His Word (Torah) has never been abolished, and will never be abolished.
The Old Covenant != The Torah
This is a common mistake. The Old Testament is not the law.
The law is not a testament. The law is not a covenant. The law is the law, which is unchangeable.
The Old Testament involved the law, but did not change the law. The Old Testament was the law written on stone.
Likewise, the New Testament involved the law, but did not change the law. The New Testament is the law written on your heart.
So the Old/New Testaments were not the law, but rather the covenant of where the law would be written.
Did God make a Mistake?
Some people say that God made the Old Covenant, and after thousands of years, God finally found out that it didn’t work. Therefore, He had to scrap it, and make a New Covenant.
This, of course, is entirely wrong – more than wrong, it is heresy! It is blasphemy! It is an insult to God.
God never made a mistake. The Old Covenant was a perfect covenant. It was the people that made a mistake.
For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah: – Hbr 8:8
The Old Testament is holy, and true. The law is holy and faultless.
Wherefore the law [is] holy, and the commandment holy, and just, and good. – Rom 7:12
So why then, did God make two covenants?
Timing. There was an appointed time for Christ to come. And until that time, the law (Torah) was written on tablets of stone. And that law was the written copy of the Word of God that is forever settled in heaven.
The law was our teacher to bring us to Christ because it is Jesus! Jesus is the personification of the law.
In other words, Jesus was the word/law/commandment/Torah made flesh. He was the personification of the Word/Law/Commandment/Torah. That is why He said that He came to fulfil it (obey it, live it, breathe it, be it) not abolish it.
But when Christ died, and rose again, that signified the transformation from the tablets to the heart. The Torah, which once was on the tablets now is written on our hearts.
Works vs. Faith
I used to think that the Old Testament is all about works, whereas the New Testament is all about faith. It may seem like that on the surface. But consider this…
The whole idea about faith is Old Testament. In fact, it is the Old Testament that says, “The just shall live by faith” – not the new! The New Testament just quotes the Old Testament in this regard.
Therefore the concept of salvation by faith, not by works is Old Testament theology.
I used to think that the Old Testament is all about animal sacrifice, and the New Testament says that God is not looking for animal sacrifice.
Not true! The Old Testament is the Testament that says,
16 For thou desirest not sacrifice; else would I give [it]: thou delightest not in burnt offering. – Psa 51:16
6 For I desired mercy, and not sacrifice; and the knowledge of God more than burnt offerings. – Hsa 6:6
22 And Samuel said, Hath the LORD [as great] delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey [is] better than sacrifice, [and] to hearken than the fat of rams. – 1Sa 15:22
We see that
- faith is an Old Testament teaching, not New Testament.
- Jesus is the personification of the Old Testament.
- the Old Testament teaches animal sacrifice is not primarily what God is looking for.
- The Torah is in full effect, not annulled, not done away with.
The Old Testament is simply God’s covenant to write His law (Torah) on tablets of stone.
The New Testament is God’s covenant to write His law (Torah) on our hearts.
Is it any wonder why Jesus’ own flesh and blood (the Jews) don’t accept Christianity? If every Christian believed and practised what is taught here, the Jews would pour into the kingdom!
Likewise, is it any wonder why Muslims don’t accept Christ? They view us as law-less. And right they are! Whenever you give a so called, “Christian” a law to follow they cry “legalism!”. Shame on them.
If every Christian knew the truth about the Old Testament vs the New Testament the walls would come down, millions would pour into the kingdom, Christ would be exalted, integrity would come back to the church, and God will once more grace us with power, and revival.