At first glance, this blog entry may appear strictly educational. However, it is deeply spiritual, liberating, and thought-provoking. Once we understand the differences between the Old and New Testaments and why the Bible is divided into old and new, we will understand Jesus’ mission. It opens our eyes to the weight of what Jesus did for us on the cross of Calvary and why his death, burial, and resurrection was/is so very important. If I were to go into each and every facet of this topic, it could easily be novel-length. Therefore, I will endeavor to explain the very basics.
NOTE: Before we proceed, allow me to clarify that ‘the law’ which will be referenced in this blog entry, is pertaining to the Mosaic Law. Please do not mistake this for the judicial and civil laws of the land today.
The Old Testament = Law
“Remember ye the law of Moses my servant, which I commanded unto him in Horeb for all Israel, with the statutes and judgments.” ~Malachi 4.4
The entire Bible is composed of 66 books. There are 39 books in the Old Testament and 27 books in the New Testament. Think of the Old Testament as the old covenant or contract; and the New Testament as the new covenant or contract. The parties involved in this contract of the law (old covenant) were God and Israel. The old covenant contains 613 laws which were given by God to Moses to share with the Jewish people of that time; thus, it is also referenced as the ‘Mosaic Law’ or ‘Mitzvot’.
Time and space does not allow me to list all 613 Mosaic Laws, but I’ve listed a sampling of some below:
-To tithe cattle (give a tenth of your cattle)
-Circumcise male offspring
-Fast on Yom Kippur
-Not to boil meat with milk
-To release debts in the seventh year
-Not to covet what belongs to another
-Men are not to remove the entire beard
-A menstruating woman shall be put apart 7 days
-A Nazarite shall not eat fresh grapes
-To love the stranger
Again, there are only 10 laws listed above – which leaves an additional 603 laws which the ancient people of Israel had to adhere to, or else, face severe consequences. If a law was broken or sin was committed, there was required an animal sacrifice. However, some of the laws, if broken, resulted in being put to death.
So… what was the purpose of the Mosaic Law? Galatians 3:24-25 states: “Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster [guardian/tutor] to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.” You see, the law had many strict, moral standards which no person could keep perfectly – no matter how hard they tried. This proved to them that mere humans were/are incapable, on their own, of living up to God’s standards which He commanded. This proved to them their dire need of a Savior to save them from the horrendous consequences of disobeying the law.
Until the Savior (Jesus Christ) came, there had to be some type of moral standard to keep order on the earth, thus, the law. Romans 7:7 says, “What shall we say then? Is the law sin? God forbid. Nay, I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet.” Sin existed before the law – but the law pointed out sin. The law was designed to expose mankind’s sin, inadequacies, and how hopelessly depraved and lost we’d be without a Savior. Thereby, the law opened all of our eyes to understand our need for Jesus Christ – the Savior.
No one could keep all 613 laws perfectly. The Bible says, “For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God” (Romans 3:23). Even if an individual kept 99% of the law and only broke 1% – that individual would be considered guilty of breaking the entire law. James 2:10 states: “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.” And if a person was found guilty, he or she would have been severely punished. This is why there were so many sacrifices offered up in the Old Testament times. The Bible plainly states that almost all things were cleansed with blood (sacrifices) by the law; and that “without the shedding of blood, is no remission” – no forgiveness of sin (Hebrews 9:22). But, even the blood of animal sacrifices offered in Old Testament times had not the power to take away sins eternally nor cleanse the conscience (see Hebrews 10). Again, that is why a Savior’s blood was needed so desperately.
Even though there were many upright, Godly individuals living under the old covenant – they could never find the completeness and victory that we are now afforded through Jesus’ blood. We read in Genesis 15:6 where Abram (later known as Abraham) was counted/regarded as righteous by God because he believed in the Lord. However, as Gill’s Exposition says, it was not by his act of faith “…but the object of it; and not the promise he believed, but what was promised, and his faith received, even Christ and his righteousness this was imputed to him without works…”
The Temple and the Veil
“Jesus, when he had cried again with a loud voice, yielded up the ghost. And, behold, the veil of the temple was rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” ~Matthew 27:50-51
The old covenant laws regarding the Temple and the priesthood were numerous. Commandments relating to the Temple cannot be observed nowadays, because the physical Temple does not exist any longer. When the Temple (also referenced as the Tabernacle) was in existence, it had 3 parts to it – the outer court, the inner court, and the Holy of Holies (also referenced as the Holiest of all). No one could enter the Holy of Holies except the High Priest; and even he only entered once a year on Yom Kippur (the day of atonement) with great reverence.
The Holy of Holies was where the Ark of the Covenant was kept. Without going into an exhaustive study – basically, the Ark of the Covenant was a rectangular box made of acacia wood and covered with gold. Of course, it was more ornate than a simple box – but what was inside of it was considered more precious than gold. It contained items revered by God’s children (tablets/laws given to Moses, etc.). The golden lid of this box is referenced as the ‘mercy seat’. Here, God’s presence rested upon it as a visible cloud. This is where he bestowed mercy to the people, under the law, when blood was sprinkled upon it. The High Priest would sprinkle the blood of the animal sacrifice upon it when he entered on Yom Kippur (the day of atonement). This is very symbolic of what would later happen when Jesus’ blood would purchase mercy and forgiveness of sin.
The Ark of the Covenant (inside the Holy of Holies) was concealed behind a thick curtain (also known as a veil). When Jesus later came to earth and died – this thick curtain (veil) was torn from the top to the bottom. This is highly significant! As we read in Hebrews 10:19-20, “Having therefore, brethren, boldness to enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way, which be hath consecrated for us, through the, veil, that is to say, his flesh.”
In his message, The Rent Veil, Charles Spurgeon so accurately stated:
“No human hands could have torn that sacred covering; and it could not have been divided in the midst by any accidental cause; yet, strange to say, on the instant when the holy person of Jesus was rent by death, the great veil which concealed the holiest of all was “rent in twain from the top to the bottom.” What did it mean? It meant much more than I can tell you now… Did not the miracle also mean that from that hour the whole system of types, and shadows, and ceremonies had come to an end? The ordinances of an earthly priesthood were rent with that veil. In token of the death of the ceremonial law, the soul of it quitted its sacred shrine, and left its bodily tabernacle as a dead thing. The legal dispensation is over… the rending of the veil chiefly meant that the way into the holiest, which was not before made manifest, was now laid open to all believers… Now, you see what it is to have the veil taken away. Solemnly note that this avails only for believers: those who refuse Jesus refuse the only way of access to God. God is not approachable, except through the rending of the veil by the death of Jesus. There was one typical way to the mercy-seat of old, and that was through the turning aside of the veil; there was no other. And there is now no other way for any of you to come into fellowship with God, except through the rent veil, even the death of Jesus Christ, whom God has set forth to be the propitiation for sin… Jesus is the great Priest, and we are the sub-priests under Him, and since He bids us come near to God, and He Himself leads the way, let us follow Him into the inner sanctuary. Because He lives, we shall live also.”
The New Testament = Grace
“For sin shall not have dominion over you: for ye are not under the law, but under grace. What then? shall we sin, because we are not under the law, but under grace? God forbid!” ~Romans 6:14-15
Gordon J. Wenham says, “The underlying principles of the Law [found in the Old Testament], not specific application, should bind the Christian [living under the New Testament].” In other words, there are still some basic, moral principles under the Law such as ‘love God‘ and ‘not to blaspheme‘ which still apply principally – but, many of the specific applications of the Law (ceremonies, etc.) are not observed under the New Covenant. This is better explained in Hebrews 9:11-28.
Nonetheless, we must understand that grace given through Jesus does not negate the moral and biblical standards by which we should live; for now, God writes his laws on our hearts under the New Covenant. “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, saith the Lord; I will put my laws into their mind, and write them in their hearts: and I will be to them a God, and they shall be to me a people” Hebrews 8:10. And remember, the Gentiles are engrafted in with the Jews, wherein, salvation is available to both; and redeemed Gentiles are ‘spiritual Israel’ and ‘spiritual Jews’ inwardly (see Romans 10:12 and Romans 2:28-29). Therefore, the above-mentioned scripture is applicable to all Believers.
Also, by and through Jesus’ blood, we (all true Christians) are now the temples where God’s Spirit abides and we are a royal priesthood (see 1st Corinthians 6:19, 1st Peter 2:9). Let us make our temples (bodies) a place where Christ can abide peacefully. Again, this is nothing we have done in and of ourselves; it is a gift of God. We have no right to boast or to become proud and arrogant. It was Jesus that kept the Law perfectly in our place.
Technically, Jesus and his disciples were still under the old covenant law during his life on earth. The new covenant was not completely enacted or available until after Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection. Therefore, Jesus said, “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled” Matthew 5:17-18. You see, Jesus was the one who met all of the requirements – who fulfilled and satisfied the law; for he was without sin (1st Peter 2:22). And remember – he did all of this in our stead (in our place) as we who are redeemed are ‘in Christ’.
“There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus hath made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh: That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit” Romans 8:1-4.
As Christians, we are redeemed from the curse of the law (see Galatians 3:13) and seen as justified in the eyes of a holy God. However, the ungodly have no such testimony unless they come under the Lordship of Christ, being cleansed by his blood, and turn from their wicked ways. Simply being a moral person is not enough – for we are not saved from sin and Hell by good works, but by Jesus’ blood. He is the only way to God. 1st Peter 3:18 so plainly states: “For Christ also hath once suffered for sins, the just for the unjust, that he might bring us to God, being put to death in the flesh, but quickened by the Spirit…” Oh, what a Savior! May the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.