Seeing the New in Light of the Old

I’ve talked quite a bit about typology in my posts. I gave an overview of how it works a couple weeks back and I’ve talked about many instances of how typology helps us understand the sacraments. In all of these cases, we’re looking at the Old Testament and using it to help us understand what is happening in the New Testament. In the church, we typically emphasize the Gospels and rightly so. The life of Christ is all important for our salvation. Everything God does is focused in and through the work of Christ. Without this, nothing else really matters.

While the Gospels are the center point of Christian life, they cannot really be understood outside of the Old Testament. All of the major salvation words you can think of, such as atonement, justification, propitiation and all of the rest, are all explained to us in the Old Testament. All of the time God is dealing with the patriarchs of old, the Israelites moving into the Promised Land, living in the Promised Land, or returning to the Promised Land, He is teaching them about salvation.

Every page of the Old Testament is a lesson God is giving His people. Every lesson there is meant to help us understand what God is doing through the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus. Jesus offers forgiveness for sins, but we only fully understand sin in light of the Old Testament. Jesus offers everlasting life, but we only understand the meaning of death in light of the Old Testament. Jesus purifies us and makes us clean, but we only understand uncleanness through the Old Testament. Jesus builds us together as one people, but we only understand division because of what happened in the Old Testament. Jesus sets us free from spiritual slavery/idolatry, but we only know what that means because we look through the Old Testament and see how that unfolds. The New Testament was never meant to be read without the Old Testament.

That’s why, when we get to some of the most basic ideas in the church, such as salvation, grace, forgiveness, life, the sacraments, worship, and so on, we can’t confine our reading to just the New Testament, as if these things just suddenly appeared when Christ was born. They’ve been there all along. Everything God does through Christ had its foundation laid in the Old Testament. It was all explained to the people so they would be ready for Christ’s work when He arrived. God wants us to see the full depth and richness of what He is doing on our behalf and the gifts He offers to us. In order to see that, we must truly understand our position and what is at stake. The work of Christ isn’t the beginning of God’s mercy, but the continuation and completion of it.

The more you read the Old Testament, the more you’ll appreciate the New Testament. The more you see what happens when you run away from God, the more you’ll appreciate when you hear God calling you back. The more you see what happens when you try and stand on your own, the more you’ll appreciate when God is there to defend you against your enemies. You more you see God fulfilling His wondrous promises for other people, the more you’ll appreciate when He does the same thing for you.

When you find all of those references and quotes from the Old Testament in your reading of the New Testament, go back and look them up. See what Jesus or the apostles are talking about. Where does that come from and why did they think it was important? Read through the daily lives of the Old Testament people and see what God did for them. Read the prophecies and acts of God’s mercy. Read what sin does to people and what God does about it. It will put everything Jesus does into a new perspective and give you a greater understanding of how wonderful the work of Christ is and why He did it for you.

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