Christ’s view on the Authority of the Old Testament

Jesus lived a life of humility, born of a woman, and born under the law (Gal 4:4). He lived His life in obedience to Scripture. He trusted the Old Testament Scriptures to be the Word of God, and therefore authoritative in all manners of life. He obviously knew the Scriptures very well, and could call vast portions to memory at a moment’s notice. He believed the prophecies of the Old Testament, that they were going to be fulfilled, and then went on to fulfill every prophecy concerning Himself. Before the first words even left the lips of Jesus Christ, He had fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. In every single act accomplished and in every single word spoken, Jesus Christ was constantly concerned about fulfilling, not destroying, the law and the prophets. He did not hide this fact either. He made it aware to His followers (Matt 5:17), to the religious Jews (Luke 4:21), and to His disciples (John 15:25).

Jesus never disputed the Old Testament. His teachings were completely based from Scripture. His teachings were already found in the Old Testament, but many times He clarified the applications to focus on the heart, rather than on the outward appearance. Jesus expected the religious leaders to know the Scriptures very well and to be applying them to their hearts. When the Jewish leaders and various other Jews would challenge Him with questions, Jesus would rebuke them for their lack of Scriptural knowledge. In seven separate occurrences in the Gospels, Jesus replied to such questions by saying, “Have you not read?” and then went on to allow Scripture to speak for itself. This shows that Jesus believed in the authority and the truthfulness of the Old Testament and that it can and should be applied to one’s own daily life.

Jesus believed in the purity of the Scriptures, and that they needed no addition, nor subtraction. He warned against those who added to and subtracted from the Scriptures, and rebuked those who did. Jesus exposed the Pharisees and other teachers of religious law of holding their own customs and laws above God’s law found in the Old Testament. The Pharisees and other teachers accused Jesus’ disciples of breaking tradition by not washing their hands before eating. However, Jesus replied very sternly to them by quoting Isaiah and saying, “Well hath Esaias prophesied of you hypocrites, as it is written, ‘This people honoureth me with their lips, but their heart is far from me. Howbeit in vain do they worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men’” (Mark 7:6-7). Jesus showed the dangers of upholding that which was not commanded by God, and gave Scripture the authority above any manmade tradition.

Jesus also believed in the power of the Scriptures. He put a high standard in believing and knowing the Scriptures. When Jesus recounts the story of the rich man and Lazarus in Luke 16, the rich man in hell begs Abraham to send Lazarus to his family to warn them of the torments of hell. Abraham replies and says that they can listen to Moses and the Prophets, speaking of the Old Testament Scriptures. The rich man is not satisfied with this, and tries to explain that if only his brothers will witness someone from the dead, that they will believe. Abraham, disagrees, and tells the rich man that if his brothers will not believe Moses and the Prophets then they will not be changed by even someone who has been raised from the dead. Jesus, in telling this story, shows just how important the Old Testament Scriptures really are. They are more important than any sign, miracle, or wonder Jesus ever performed. This is exemplified in Jesus’ own life on earth. Before His ministry began He entered into the wilderness to fast and to be tempted by the devil (Matt 4:1). Even though He was impoverished physically, He had internalized the Scriptures and had allowed them to be his nourishment (Matt 4:4). When Satan tempted Him in a number of ways, His reaction was to always use Scripture. He knew them well, and how to apply them. He rebuked Satan with the Scriptures even when Satan himself had used them against Him. Jesus allowed the power of the Word of God to sustain Him in His physical weakness.

Jesus quoted from twenty-four different Old Testament books. He took the Scriptures to mean what they said. He believed the Old Testament to be historically accurate and factual. He affirmed the creation, the flood, Abraham, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, Lot and his wife, Isaac and Jacob, God’s provision of Manna, the brass serpent lifted by Moses, Jonah and the great fish, Isaiah, and Daniel. He trusted the Scriptures as fact.

Jesus showed the authority and validity of both the Scriptures and His resurrection by explaining how He fulfilled everything that the Scriptures had said about Him (Luke 24:25). In fact, Jesus had expected anyone who had read to Old Testament to have expected for Him to have had to suffer and die and rise again from the dead three days later. Jesus had been in the Scriptures from the very beginning, and He explained it to the two people walking to Emmaus and then later to His disciples. He had been in the Word of God since the beginning because He was the Word of God which became flesh and dwelt among us (John 1:1,14). Jesus was the Word and the giver of the Word, and for Jesus not to believe in the authority of Scripture would be for Him not to believe in His own authority as God and LORD.

Jesus desired for all to know the Scriptures and to view them as authoritative because faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God (Rom 10:17). The people who challenged Jesus were those who did not have a sufficient knowledge of the Scriptures and therefore insufficient faith; and He properly rebuked them for it. It was His understanding of the authority of Scripture that made Him stand out among teachers “as one having authority” (Matt 7:29). It was the fulfillment of these authoritative Scriptures that proved He was God.

Woe to you, Chicago! Woe to you, L.A.!


20
Then he began to denounce the cities where most of his mighty works had been done, because they did not repent. 21 “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. 22 But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Tyre and Sidon than for you. 23 And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day. 24 But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Sodom than for you.”

Powerful words of Jesus Christ. Jesus had done many signs and wonders among the people of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum. Yet these people were unrepentant and they were not changed by Jesus Christ’s declaration of “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand!” Jesus says to the people of these unrepentant cities that if the same mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, two pagan cities that they would have been well aware of, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes.

Jesus goes on by saying that it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgement for that reason. This is a mind blowing statement. This assumes two things:

  1. There are different degrees of punishment1
  2. God knows not only all things in the past, present, and future reality. But God also knows all things possible in the past, present, and future.

Let me begin with number one. As Jesus said in Matthew 11:22, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the day of judgment. This infers that there are different degrees of punishment at the judgment. It seems to be linked to the amount of revelation revealed to and the response of the individual to what has been revealed unto him. So the more truth we have been exposed to the more we are held accountable in the eyes of Christ at the judgment. The ultimate destination is the same for all unbelievers, but the amount of punishment is seemingly determined by how much truth they were exposed to.

Along with this understanding comes with the understanding that God owes salvation to no one. Yes, Jesus Christ died for all mankind, but only those who humble themselves, repent, and believe who He is (the LORD and Savior of all mankind) are given gift of salvation. God owes this gift to no one. This is why missions is so important. The only way people will be exposed to the truth of the Gospel is if we tell them. As Paul put it in Romans, “How will they hear without a preacher? How shall they preach except they be sent?”2 Understanding this aspect helps us understand this whole discussion.

Jesus even goes on to tell them them that because they would not repent that is shall be more tolerable for the land of Sodom in the day of judgment than for them. It was well known that Sodom was a land and of people of gross sin and immorality. Yet, Jesus says that if Sodom had seen the mighty works that these unrepentant cities had seen, Sodom would still be around because even they would have repented. This to me seems very powerful.

This brings us to number two. Not only does God know all realities past, present, and future. He knows all possible realities past, present, and future. This to me is phenomenal. God knows that if Sodom would have had the same things preached and had the same mighty works done in it, they would have not been unrepentant as were Chorazin, Betsaida, and Capernaum. Does this mean that God does not judge Sodom? No. He still judges them based upon reality. But this passage does seem to infer that he keeps in account all possible realities. Sodom finds themselves utterly demolished here on earth, and its inhabitants in hell. But perhaps the degree of their punishment is influenced by the possible realities.

One again, this brings back to understanding that God owes salvation to no one. So God is not doing any kind of injustice by judging Sodom for their sin even in light of the reality of not having these mighty works done within it. He judges them fairly based upon their reality of living in sin and immorality.

This helps us understand the role of missions in the world. If we do not tell the lost world about God, they will die and go to hell because they are natural born sinners. Without the hearing of the Word, then there can be no faith in the Gospel. For faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God. There cannot hear the word except it be preached, for God has chosen preaching as his method for spreading the Gospel across this world to all peoples of all cultures of all countries. It is the duty of mankind to tell the world of God’s Gospel. If we do not then the lost die without hope of the Gospel of Christ and go to an eternal hell. If we preach to them the gospel, then they are now accountable to Gospel and they are given the opportunity to accept God’s message and experience life and salvation from hell. They will be given the privilege of an eternal, personal relationship with the Creator of the universe. We must go out and tell those who have not heard!

It is not the responsibility of the preacher/missionary to make sure that everyone he proclaims the Gospel to believes. Jesus Himself did mighty works and preached His word, and yet people still were unrepentant. Those who reject the message will be held more accountable and therefore will be punished more severely. It is not the fault of the preacher. The preacher is to do all that he can to encourage them to repent and believe, but ultimately it is a decision that every individual in this world has to make for himself.

So to bring things back home, how does this relate to us? Well, I look around me and I look to our history (Anglo-Saxon) and I see the Gospel presented fairly consistently. There were some high points and some low points in our history, but overall the Gospel can be found. There are thousands upon thousands of recourses such as books and websites which explain the gospel. There are thousands upon thousands of churches which proclaim the Gospel every week. And perhaps you can hear God say, “

“Woe to you, Chicago! Woe to you, Los Angeles! For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Calcutta and Beijing, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I tell you, it will be more bearable on the day of judgment for Lima and Beijing than for you. And you, New York, will you be exalted to heaven? You will be brought down to Hades. For if the mighty works done in you had been done in Bangkok, it would have remained until this day. But I tell you that it will be more tolerable on the day of judgment for the land of Bangkok than for you.”


1. I believe that it can also be assumed through other passages that there are differing degrees of reward as well. (Rev. 22:12; 2 Tim. 4:7-8; 1 Cor. 3:12).

 

2. Rom.10:14-15

Staying Focused on Eternity

As I look to recent “heroes of the faith” (I speak of those God has used mightily in this world. I am not idolizing people here, just admiring their willingness to serve with purity of heart.) there is usually an obvious similarity between them all. They seem to have a healthy understanding of their future home in heaven. Paul understood this and expressed his feelings for desiring to be with Christ. Remember his words in Philippians?

For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (Philippians 1:21)

More recently we can see this same understanding from Jim Elliot, missionary to the Auca Indians when he said,

He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

Throughout the centuries martyrs who were not willing to back down from their faith in God or their stand on the inspired Word of God have understood that to die is not really a loss, but a gain. Books have been written of these people. Probably most famously is Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. Another good source, and fairly recent, is a book put together by D.C. talk of stories of people who were willing to die for their faith called Jesus Freaks (there are also additional additions).

There are scores of people that have lived that way and their memories and testimonies stand as examples to us to keep things in the right perspective. Having a proper understanding of our duty to the Kingdom of God versus the Kingdom of the World will radically change how we see many aspects of our life on this earth.

First of all, and probably most importantly, it affects how we see the people all around us. When we understand that our life on this earth is “a vapor” (James 4:14), we will see people destined for one place or another, for heaven or for hell. This will cause us to live life with an urgency which compels us to be active witnesses for God’s kingdom. We will not be focused on everyone’s day to day well-being but be interested in their eternal destination. When we come to grips with the reality that most often than not the people around us at any given moment are more than likely on their way to hell, it will make the Christian life become very meaningful and realistic. God left us on this earth for a purpose. We are to spread the Good News. We are to warn people of their coming destruction. We are to pull people out of the fire (Jude 23). We are mere strangers on this earth. We are ambassador’s for Christ’s kingdom (2 Cor 5:20; Eph 6:20). We should be as passionate as Paul was when telling the lost of their condition. Think about what he said to the Philippians,

For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things. But our citizenship is in heaven, and from it we await a Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ, who will transform our lowly body to be like his glorious body by the power that enables him even to subject all things to himself.” (Philippians 3:18-21)

Paul was passionate about making sure others knew that this is the only chance we get to warn others about their eternal destination. He thought about the lost with tears. He had an urgency in which we need to grab a hold of and embody ourselves.

Recently I watched a video made of Rich Mullins where he discussed his understanding of how short life is. His philosophy of death really shows through in his songs such as “Elijah,” where he says “it won’t break my heart to say goodbye.” He had a longing to be in heaven. He had a desire to be with Jesus. And God took him up in a dramatic way.

Our view of Christ’s kingdom changes how we feel about gaining material wealth. When our hearts are set on things above, our desire for the things on this earth diminishes. In fact, the more “things” one has the less likely he is to go to the mission field. There are more things to give up. Everything we have is given by God, anyway. He owns it all.

When we realize how short our life is, the beatitudes will become possibilities in our lives. We will understand our destitution before God. We will weep. We can be meek and merciful. We will have a hunger and thirst for righteousness. We will desire to make peace, and will bless God when we are persecuted. We must have the right perspective of who we are on this earth, especially when things are going well for us.

There are those that shine bright for God when their faith is tested. They are those who understand the role of eternity here on earth. They understand their place in the Kingdom of God and in the Kingdom of man.

Paul_Schneider

 

Paul Schneider was one of those people. He was a pastor during the early Nazi rule in Germany. He spoke out against the Nazi’s and was imprisoned for his stand against the government. He had no backing from anyone. He stood fast in his faith and let the word of God, specifically Esther, drive his faith in God. People urged him to stop what he was doing and think of his family. His reply is was this:

My primary responsibility is to prepare my family for eternal life – not to insure their material well-being.”

Paul Schneider understood that his citizenship is in heaven. He was eventually taken to a concentration camp and was murdered via lethal injection. His life, as well as many others like him urge us to be daily aware of the fact that as Christians, our true home is in heaven. Let us live like it.