The Thirteenth Sunday after Trinity, 2017

The Epistle – Galatians 3:16-22

The Gospel – Luke 10:23-37

Article 7 – Of the Old Testament

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.

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If someone were to express interest in becoming a Christian, or was just interested in what the Christian faith teaches, the question arises, “If I give this person a Bible to read, where should I advise him to begin?”

 

If you tell him to begin at the beginning and start reading from Genesis chapter 1, verse 1….

we all know that for so many that have taken this approach, they get through Genesis, usually fairly easily.  They move into Exodus and the story continues. 

 

But they will get further into Exodus and will come across, “Exodus 28:23-27

 

[23] And you shall make for the breastpiece two rings of gold, and put the two rings on the two edges of the breastpiece. [24] And you shall put the two cords of gold in the two rings at the edges of the breastpiece. [25] The two ends of the two cords you shall attach to the two settings of filigree, and so attach it in front to the shoulder pieces of the ephod. [26] You shall make two rings of gold, and put them at the two ends of the breastpiece, on its inside edge next to the ephod. [27] And you shall make two rings of gold, and attach them in front to the lower part of the two shoulder pieces of the ephod, at its seam above the skillfully woven band of the ephod…..” (ESV)

 

And they either give up, get bogged down or if they are very persistent, they will move forward.

 

Then into Leviticus….and it's laws for burnt offerings.  Laws for grain offerings.

 

On the other hand, if you tell them as many recommend, to begin with the Gospel of John because we all love John’s Gospel, it begins…..

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. [2] He was in the beginning with God. [3] All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. [4] In him was life, and the life was the light of men. [5] The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” (ESV)

 

Without any concept of who Jesus is, or who the Word is…and not knowing it's the same person, John’s Gospel is maybe not the best place to drop a new reader either…they might just remain in darkness themselves.

 

 

 

Starting in the New Testament with Matthew will definitely read more easily from the start, but …who is Jesus?  Why is he born to a virgin?

 

Later on, why is He disliked by so many and why do they nail him to a cross?

 

So it's not as easy as just saying, “Pick it up and read it.”

 

That is not the way to do it. The need for close supervision and assistance to understand why this book was written, or better, why this bunch of books were written and collected into one book is vital.

 

Why there is something called the Old Testament and why another part called the New Testament.

But there is something similar in the experience of the Christian. 

The Old Testament is quite foreign to many Christians.

 

Just its name seems to be daunting.  The Old Testament.  It sounds old and not interesting. It sounds like a bunch of complicated reading about a bunch of men and women who lived under a mean God.

 

Isn’t it just a bunch of stories like Noah’s Ark and Daniel in the Lion’s Den, and King David….whatever he did….oh yes, he killed Goliath with his sling shot….and oh, there are those beautiful Psalms like the 23rd Psalm. 

 

That is about the sum and substance of what many Christians know. 

 

Yet, it is vital that we do know something more about the Old Testament, because without it we cannot know what the New Testament is talking about.

Why did Jesus come and die?  The answer is in the OT.

 

Why is there sin in the world? Or maybe more simply, why do bad things happen in the world and why are there so many bad people?

The answer is in the OT.

 

Isn't the Old Testament where we read about the mean angry God and the New Testament where Jesus comes and is much nicer?

 

The answer even to that is found in the Old Testament.

 

As the Article says, the Old Testament is not contrary to the New.  The Old Testament is completely compatible with the New Testament and both Old and New are where we find the message of everlasting life…offered to mankind by Christ.

 

Yes, Christ….in the Old Testament!!  Jesus Christ is talked about and even encountered in some ways in the Old Testament.

From the very beginning of the Christian Church, she has been the keeper of both Testaments as one Bible.

 

As usual, however, there arises someone who takes issue with the Church and brings with him a heresy which he attempts to spread….not willing to do harm, but to try to take what he sees as a problem and fix it.

 

This article is not addressing Marcion, who he is a late 1st and early 2nd century figure who wanted to make a distinction between the God of wrath in the Old Testament and a God of love in the New.

 

 

 

This Article is addressing a recurring theme in the Church by some who hold Marcion’s views…and the Anabaptists did just this in the 16th century.

 

But Marcion is not ruled out here either…at least his heresy. 

And thanks to Marcion, he got the Church to think about this and to develop an answer.

 

This Article is a modern yet short answer to him and anyone who holds this erroneous view. Needless to say, Marcion’s ideas were condemned by the early Church.  Sadly the error never totally dies.

 

The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New. 

Christ is seen, though more obscurely in the Old Testament but the one Jesus called Father is the same Father who created the world and everything in it.

 

This Article addresses the lingering notion that the Old Testament is somehow inferior or less than Christian or irrelevant to how we live and believe as Christians today.

 

Some desire to shrug off the Old Testament because that is where you find all of those old outdated ceremonies and things Moses had his people do.

 

Don't mix certain fabrics together.  Don't eat certain things like pork and shellfish.

 

Those are the ceremonial laws spoken of in the Article as well.

 

But it says, although the Law given from God by Moses as touching Ceremonies and Rites, do not bind Christian men, nor the Civil precepts thereof, ought of necessity to be received in any commonwealth; yet notwithstanding, no Christian man whatsoever is free from obedience to the Commandments which are called Moral.

 

In short, the Ceremonies and Rites are done away with, but when it comes to moral behavior, the Commands of God stand.

 

 

 

But all of those Rites and Ceremonies, though seemingly outdated and sort of strange to us, had great and significant meaning to those who lived in the Old Testament period…as well as those who lived at the time of Jesus.

 

And more importantly we have the words of Jesus himself regarding the validity and worth of all of the Old Testament.

 

Recall a favorite passage from the New Testament.  In Luke 24:13-35

 

Jesus has risen from the dead but not many are aware of it yet.  Two of His followers were on their way to a village called Emmaus and as they were walking, Jesus himself drew near and went with them.

But their eyes were kept from recognizing him. They were still upset at what had happened to Jesus.

 

But Jesus says to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! [26] Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” [27] And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, (i.e. The OT) he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.

 

Jesus stays with the two men for a while to eat with them.  When he was at table with them, he took the bread and blessed and broke it and gave it to them.

[31] And their eyes were opened, and they recognized him.

And he vanished from their sight. [32] They said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?”

 

The major theme of the Old Testament is Christ.  All of what Moses wrote and the Prophets wrote…is about Him.

 

People were raised up in the Old Testament who foreshadowed Christ or symbolized Christ.  Moses leads his people.  Christ leads his people.

 

Daniel in the Lion’s Den is an image and a foreshadowing of Christ’s death, burial and resurrection…as Daniel is placed in the den and then emerges from the den alive and unharmed.

Noah’s Ark symbolizes baptism and salvation through water….and Christ of course is whom we are baptized into and saved by.

 

Knowing the Old Testament helps us understand today’s Epistle lesson from Paul.

 

Knowing who Abraham was helps us understand what Paul means when he says, “Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring.”

 

Abraham was the Father of the nations God would save.  We as distant adopted members of Abraham’s family are now grafted into that same saving work God began in him.

 

Recall briefly the symbolism we find when Abraham goes to sacrifice his “only son?”  Who else do we know of who has an Only Son?

 

And yet before the knife penetrates Isaac’s body, the angel of the Lord calls out and stops Abraham. A substitute sacrifice is then supplied by God in the form of a ram caught in the thicket. 

 

God provides a substitute and a sacrifice for us in the form of that self-same Only Son, Jesus Christ.

 

But to Paul’s point here today…

“Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring.”

 

The promise that is God would cause Him to be the beginning of a long line of people who would find salvation. 

 

Paul goes on to clarify by saying, “It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ.

 

So Christ is the offspring of Abraham.  A greater Abraham (Jesus Christ) who would also father a people…which would be the Church.

 

Then Paul says, “This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, (after Abraham) does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, (with Abraham)

so as to make the promise void. [18] For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

 

[19] Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come (Christ) to whom the promise had been made…”

 

And Paul closes by explaining that even though God made a covenant with Abraham, He, 430 years later, gave the Law.  There were no laws given to Abraham.  He was told by God that God would make him a father of many nations….God would save people through Abraham and his see who is Christ.

 

Abraham believes God.

 

But Paul is explaining the same verse by saying that it is not the seed of Abraham in the sense of his offspring of many children, but more through the one Seed, who is Christ….the many would be saved.

 

So do we live by the Covenant made with Abraham, which is by faith?  And we find salvation by faith? 

 

Yes. 

 

Simply trusting in Christ as the offspring of Abraham, did the giving of the Law, the 10 Commandments change that covenant made with Abraham??

No.

Do we obey the Law in hopes that our obedience to it will save us?

 

No.

 

Paul says that actually the Law is not contrary to the promise made to Abraham. 

 

“Certainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then righteousness would indeed be by the law. [22] But the Scripture imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.” (ESV)

 

 

 

Luther says when all things are properly understood, the promise to Abraham of faith on the one hand and the law on the other, then we walk safely between them both.

 

“…in the heaven of the promise, and in the earth of the law. In spirit [we] walk in the paradise of grace and peace: in the flesh [we] walk in the earth of works and of the cross.”[1][2]

 

The Old Testament is not a work of darkness and confusion nor does it show us a different God.

 

It is the same God who worketh in both the Old and the New.

 

St. Augustine said, “The Old Testament is in the New Testament revealed, the New is in the Old concealed.

 

From Genesis to Revelation, the entire Bible is about God’s unfolding plan to save mankind through Christ Jesus alone.

 

In the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Ghost, Amen.



[1] Luther, M. (1997). Commentary on Galatians (p. 293). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.

[2] Luther, M. (1997). Commentary on Galatians (pp. 292–293). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.