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The Essential Testament - Arrival Series [6-14-20]

Updated: Jun 22, 2020

How's this for irony? After a nearly two year series on the Gospel of John, we're going to revisit his gospel to look at how essential the Old Testament is to our understanding of Jesus and salvation. The Old Testament shapes our worldview. It informs the language we use to talk about faith and our place in the world. Here's the source of our confidence in the Old Testament and why it's so important to our faith. These are the words of Jesus:

If you believed Moses, you would have believed me, for he wrote of me. - John 5:46
You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me. - John 5:39

The word "Scriptures" refers here to the Jewish Scriptures. That's what we call the Old Testament, which of course wasn't the Old Testament 2000 years ago. The Jewish Scriptures were, specifically, the Torah, or the five books of Moses, and more generally also included the writings, the poetry, and the prophets.

In more recent times, the Jewish Scriptures have also been called the Old Covenant. We call it that because we believe that the Jewish Messiah has come…that is, Jesus Christ…and by his death and resurrection has inaugurated a New Testament…a New Covenant. Thus Jeremiah 31:31:

Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah.

So the writings that Jesus authorized through his apostles are included in our Bibles because they summarize the completion of what was promised in the Old Covenant - the New Covenant.

What do you think was the decisive moment in the New Covenant? Right…that Jesus, the Jewish Messiah, died for sinners so that both Jews and Gentiles, who believe in him would become heirs of the Old Testament promises. Jesus taught this when he said:

"I tell you, many will come from east and west and recline at table with

Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven, while the sons of the kingdom will be thrown into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.”

- Matthew 8:11-12

In other words, Gentiles who believe in Jesus the Messiah are included in the blessings of Abraham. And Jews who don't believe in Jesus are excluded from the blessings of Abraham.

In other, other words, any Jew or Gentile will be an heir of Abraham's blessing if he or she believes in Jesus, the Messiah. So Paul says, in Galatians 3:7 & 29,

"Know then that it is those of faith who are the sons of Abraham…if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise."

So the entire Old Testament is precious to Christians, because all Christians are counted by God as true Jews; meaning beneficiaries of all the promises made to the covenant people. The Old Testament is precious to Christians because it's a book about God's work with Israel in preparation for the Messiah who would come not only to save Israel but to save the world

from the power and punishment of sin. Amen?

Here's what God promised to Abraham:

"And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” - Genesis 12:2-3

Next, let's look at what Paul makes of that, in Galatians 3:8:

And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you shall all the nations be blessed."

So we Christians don't reject the Old Testament because we have the New Testament, thinking the New Testament overwrites the old. Or makes the Old Testament unnecessary. No, no, no, that's not correct at all. We embrace the Old Testament as the Word of God in preparation for Jesus. The Old Testament illuminates the meaning of Jesus and his work. Why would you ever let go of something that sheds light on the work of Christ?

Now back to John 5:39. Jesus says, "You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me." All of God's Word tells the story…paints the picture of…who Jesus is and what he does.

But wait, there's more. In John 5:46, Jesus says, "For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me." How clear is that? Moses bears witness to Jesus. So it's a good thing to learn from, and study, and seek to understand the Old Testament. Old Testament in one hand - New Testament in the other. That's what Jesus is saying in verse 46. And then, in verse 39, that the Scriptures witness about Jesus. How good is that?

Think for a moment about what it means to say the Scriptures "witness" about Jesus. What does the word "witness" imply? From a legal perspective, we know what a witness does. In John 1:34, John the Baptist says, "And I have seen and have borne witness that this is the Son of God." In John 3:11, Jesus says, "Truly, truly, I say to you, we speak of what we know, and bear witness to what we have seen, but you do not receive our testimony." John 3:32 says, "He bears witness to what he has seen and heard, yet no one receives his testimony." And finally, John 19:35 says, "He who saw it has borne witness - his testimony is true, and he knows that he is telling the truth - that you also may believe."

In all these cases, the Biblical understanding of "witness" aligns with ours. A witness is someone who has seen something and can witness to what he or she saw. A witness gives first-hand testimony. He was there. She saw what happened. A witness doesn't argue that something happened. A witness says, "I know it happened. I saw it."

Keeping that in mind, what does it mean when John calls the Old Testament Scriptures a witness to Jesus? Since words written down on something can't see, it makes sense that Scriptures is shorthand for "God-Who-Inspired-the-Scriptures." Here's the really important piece we need to understand and remember. God saw Jesus and knew Jesus long before Jesus was on the earth. He saw him as His Son in heaven eternally. Remember what John 1:1-3 says:

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.

God knew what His Son would be when he broke into our world. And so, because the Father knew the Son and saw the Son and knew what the Son would do, throughout the Old Testament, the Father could witness.

Where does this lead us? Exactly to the place where Jesus says about the Scriptures that they bear witness about me. Jesus means that God knew Jesus perfectly and fully…face-to-face…and that God inspired these Scriptures, the Old Testament, to reveal Jesus. So if we were there 2,000 years ago, Jesus is saying that God said things and did things in the Scriptures which, if we had understood them, would have given us a glimpse of Jesus. They would have prepared us to recognize him and receive him when he came. God is the witness. That's the power of the Old Testament.

Once we understand the power of the Old Testament, we can clearly see one of the most astonishing statements about God's Word. It's in John 12:37-41:

Though he had done so many signs before them, they still did not believe in him, so that the word spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: “Lord, who has believed what he heard from us, and to whom has the arm of the Lord been revealed?” Therefore they could not believe. For again Isaiah said, “He has blinded their eyes and hardened their heart, lest they see with their eyes, and understand with their heart, and turn, and I would heal them.” Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

Hold this passage in your mind as we look at what Isaiah said a few verses earlier, in verse 3:

"Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!"

Do you feel the weight of it? Now switch back to John 12:41:

Isaiah said these things because he saw his glory and spoke of him.

We just need to let that sit there for a moment. This is astounding. Isaiah is witnessing to the glory of Jesus Christ because when he saw the glory of God revealed from heaven, he was seeing the glory of Jesus. That is the profoundest thing to say about the Old Testament witness to Jesus. What John 12 is saying is, where God is revealed in the Old Testament, Jesus is revealed. If you see God at work, you see Jesus at work.

Here's something you might want to write down:


Make no mistake. The Old Testament is filled with details of who Jesus Christ is and what he did on the cross. It is a beautiful thing. Here's but a sample:

  • John 13:18 - "I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, 'He who ate my bread has lifted his heal against me.'" = Psalm 41:9 - "Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted his heel against me."

  • John 15:25 - "But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: 'They hated me without a cause.'" = Psalm 35:19-20 - "Let not those who rejoice over me who are wrongfully my foes, and let not those who wink the eye who hate me without cause. For they do not speak peace."

  • John 17:12 - "While I was with them, I kept them in your name, which you have given me. I have guarded them, and not one of them has been lost except the son of destruction, that the Scriptures might be fulfilled." = Psalm 109:8 - "May his days be few; may another take his office!"

  • John 19:28 - "After this, Jesus, knowing that all was now finished, said {to fulfill the Scripture}, 'I thirst.'" = Psalm 69:21 - "They gave me poison for food, and for my thirst they gave me sour wine to drink."

  • John 19:36 - "For these things took place that the Scripture might be fulfilled: 'Not one of his bones will be broken.'" = Psalm 34:20 - "He keeps all his bones; not one of them is broken."

  • John 19:37 - "And again another Scripture says, 'They will look on him whom they have pierced.'" = Zechariah 12:10 - "And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look upon me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn."

  • John 20:9 - "For as yet they did not understand the Scripture, that he must rise from the dead." = Psalm 16:10 - "For you will not abandon my soul to Sheol, or let your holy one see corruption."

What do we see here? Only this…the whole Old Testament revelation of God is a revelation of Jesus. Here's something else you might want to write down:

If we know God as He really is in the Old Testament, we know Jesus.

Here's the joy and beauty in all this. Embrace the Scriptures. All of them. Both Old Testament and New Testament. In them, you come to know God for who He truly is. And as you do that, you come to know Jesus for who he truly is. For all of the Bible bears witness to Jesus and speaks of him.

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