Rabbi Schneider - Is the Old Testament Irrelevant?
We are in part number two of an extended series entitled Discovering How the Old and New Testaments Connect. This entire series is available through our web site or through the 800 number at the end of the broadcast. Beloved, the fact is that many of us tend to view the God of the Hebrew Bible, or Old Testament, as a different God than the one that we see revealed in the New Testament, which is called in Hebrew the Brit hadasha. Some of us tend to view the God of the Old Testament as a harsh lawgiver that seemed uncompassionate and mercilessly punished people for their sin, while at the same time viewing the God of the New Testament as a gracious and loving and forgiving God. And it seems, beloved, to some that these two Gods are to entirely different people. Of course, this leads to a scratching of the head.
Well, what we are doing is we are showing you how the God of the Hebrew Bible, the God of the Old Testament is the same person that we see revealed in the New Testament and how the two fit together, how the Old and New Testament fit together like a hand in a glove. The fact is that because of anti-Semitism beginning around the year 300, church teaching influenced believers to have a prejudice against anything Jewish, which cast a negative light on our understanding of the Hebrew Bible. You see, the Jewish people living in the Roman empire during those days, beloved, they were different. And whenever you have a people that don't conform, they often times are misunderstood and disliked. And that was the case with the Jewish people living in the Roman empire in the year 300. They didn't dress the same way as the people that lived around them, they didn't eat the same foods, they were committed to their God. And this was a thorn in the flesh to the rest of the empire.
So when Constantine made Christianity the state religion in the 300's, he carried with his interpretation of the Christian Scriptures, beloved, an anti-Jewish mindset, and this influenced Christian theology, and it's still having impact today. I'm going to give you an example of this now, and I'm going to be going to the book of John, the gospel of John. We're going to be looking now at John chapter 1, verse 16 and 17. Now, I'm going to be referencing today the King James version of the Bible. But let me say in the onset I'm not picking on the King James version. It's a great version of the Bible. But it's like any version, beloved. No version is perfect. Because what we're doing is we're taking ancient manuscripts, and we're translating into our modern languages, and you can't help reading some of your own theology into your interpretation.
And so this particular analogy taken from the King James will show you how there was an anti-Jewish mindset and a bias towards the Hebrew Bible that has been brought into the church and has caused us to have this misunderstanding of who God is in the Hebrew Bible. Now, as we go to the gospel of John, chapter number 1, verse 16 and 17, here's what we read. And of his fullness we have all received, and grace for grace. So how many graces there? The author is saying and of his fullness we have all received grace, listen now, for grace. How many graces? Two graces. Grace we've received from the Lord's fullness, the translator is saying there, we've received from the Lord's fullness grace, there's the first grace, for grace. There's the second grace. It's like the Lord gives you one thing, that's the first grace. And now he's going to exchange that and give you something else. There's the second grace.
So let me read it again. The gospel of John, King James version, chapter 1, verse 16 and 17. And of his fullness we have all received, grace for grace. Now we're going to continue on with the 17th verse. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Let me read the 17th verse again. King James version. For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. So we're going to go back to verse 16. We're going to read 16 and 17 together now. And of his fullness we have all received, and grace for grace, for the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. Now, let's think about that. When you use the word but as is used here in verse number 17, what does the word but generally mean? In other words, if your boss calls you into his office next week and says to you, you know, you did a really good job on this, but, do you think they're going to follow up with another compliment? No. But sets up a contrast.
You know, the sky was really clear, but it was raining. But sets up two opposites. You don't say, you know, you really did a good job last week, but you really did a good job on this one. It's a difference. And so what we're seeing here in John chapter 1 verse 17 is that the translator is contrasting or setting an opposite up between the law which was given by Moses and the grace he says that was revealed through Jesus. It makes it sound like the law of the Lord, beloved, is opposite the grace of God. It's kind of like if somebody says to you, you know, your dress looks really nice, but. They're not about to say your shoes look good, too. They're going to say your dress looks really nice, but did you know that there was a small spot on the back of your blouse or the back of your sweater? It's an opposite. So what we have here is the translator having this anti-Jewish mentality, this bias against the God of the Hebrew Bible by pitting Jesus against the law. Are you hearing what I'm saying? For of his fullness we've all received grace for grace, for the law was given by Moses, but grace came through Jesus.
And so there's this anti-law mentality that's been built into the church, which causes us to believe that the God of the Hebrew Bible was this harsh lawgiver. But you know what's an unbelievable thing, beloved? John was actually saying the exact opposite of what many of us have been taught. In other words, the translators of the King James version of the Bible in this particular instance... now, let me say again, I'm not picking on the King James, because we could go over to the New American Standard, the New International version, or any other version, and we could find examples there where maybe the translators just got a little nuance off because of the fact that we're translating documents that were written 2,000 years ago. So don't misunderstand. I'm not picking on the King James. Neither am I saying, beloved, that we can't rely on our modern translations of the Bible. Because I believe that we can. I'm just talking about a little, small point here to illustrate what I'm teaching today.
You see, what John was actually saying was this. That the law, listen to this, the law, rather than being in conflict with the grace of God, the law, rather than being opposite the grace of God, what John was really saying, beloved, was that it was a manifestation of the grace of God. Rather than saying now the law is opposite God's grace, what John was actually saying was that the law was a manifestation of God's grace. Remember what he began to say. For of his fullness we have all received grace for grace. Two graces. What was the first grace? The first grace, beloved, was the law. Then the second grace, beloved, was much fuller. It was God himself incarnate. But the law wasn't in contrast to the grace that was revealed in Yeshua. Beloved, but the law was a preliminary administration of God's grace. That's why he says grace upon grace, or grace for grace we've all received. The law itself, beloved, was a manifestation of the grace of God. But then we really came to understand the grace of God when Jesus came and revealed it to us in much, much, much more of a full scale.
This is why the Bible tells us in the book of Hebrews that long ago, in Hebrews chapter 1 it says God spoke to us through the fathers and the prophets in many portions and in many ways. In other words, during the time of the Hebrew Bible, God would speak to us through prophets and through fathers in different portions and in different ways, but then it goes on to say in the book of Hebrews chapter 1, but in these last days, he's spoken to us through his Son, through whom he created the world and who is the exact representation of his nature. That's why Jesus said if you've seen me, you've seen the Father. So it's kind of like the sun. There's a beam that comes down from the sun, and a beam is like the Father or the prophet revealed in Hebrews 1. But if you look at the full sun, that's like Jesus. And if you think about the King James version, beloved, that was the bedrock of Christian Scripture for hundreds and hundreds of years.
So it was the place that people were forming their theology from. And so for years, people read that and they said you know what? The law was the Old Testament. Well, we're all done with that. It has no relevance anymore because that was a bad thing. But now Jesus came, and he's the grace of God. But you see, nothing could be further from the truth. The law itself, beloved, was a manifestation of God's grace. That's why the Lord said to Israel, look at this law I've given you today, and no other nation on earth has such a holy law as this law that I'm giving you. It's setting you apart and it's lifting you above the peoples of the earth. We have to understand, beloved, that when the Lord gave Israel the law, Israel was living, beloved, in a society, they didn't have policemen, they didn't have a fair system of justice. The world was barbaric.
And so the God of Israel comes to his people, and he says listen, if somebody comes and steals your camel, you don't have the right the go burn down that person's house and murder their wife and children. But we're going to have a fair system of justice. An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. So the law, beloved, as opposed to being something harsh, in reality it elevated the children of Israel above the barbaric world that they were living in. And so we're seeing today as we begin to dig a little bit deeper that the law, rather than being in contrast to the New Testament, beloved, was actually a preliminary manifestation of God's grace.
See, the book of Galatians teaches us that now that Yeshua came, now that Jesus has come, we no longer have the same relationship to the law as we once did. But Paul tells us the law is holy, righteous, spiritual and good, and that it's good when used lawfully. And what I mean by this is this. That before Yeshua came, Israel was kept, the Scripture tells us in Galatians, under the law, that the law had them in custody, that the law was a tutor for them, that the law held them together, that the purpose of the law, beloved, listen very carefully, is that it was a temporary administrative covenant to hold the Abrahamic covenant, which is the foundational covenant, in place until the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant came, who is Yeshua.
I know that sounds complicated. We're talking about the purpose of the law. We're talking about how the Old and New Testaments connect. We're talking about how the law is not against the revelation that we find in Jesus, but it was actually a preliminary manifestation of God's grace preparing us to receive Jesus. Listen to what I said again. The law as revealed in the Hebrew Bible, rather than being opposed to the person of Jesus, was actually a temporary administrative covenant to hold Israel in place until the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant could come. And the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant, beloved, is Jesus. What is the Abrahamic covenant? The Lord said to Abraham, listen, through your seed, God said to Abraham, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed.
The book of Galatians tells us that the seed that the Lord was referring to when he made that covenant with Abraham, the seed, the writer of Galatians, Paul, tells us, is Jesus. Paul goes the Lord didn't say seeds, the Lord didn't say to Abraham through your seeds all the nations of the earth will be blessed, but the Lord said singular seed. Through your seed, Abraham, all the nations of the earth shall be blessed. And what is the seed? The seed, beloved, is a person. It's the person of Jesus. So the foundational covenant, beloved, is the Abrahamic covenant. Because God said through your seed, Abraham, I'm going to bless all the peoples on the face of the earth.
Galatians chapter 3 tells us that through Abraham, Paul was speaking to the Gentiles, through Abraham, through the fulfillment of the covenant God made with Abraham, Jesus, the blessing of Abraham has become yours. And so what the Lord was doing is he was holding Israel together as a people through the law until the fulfillment of the Abrahamic covenant came, who is Jesus. Now that Jesus has come, we're no longer under the law, beloved, but the law still has application for our life today. Again, Paul says in Romans chapter 7 that the law is holy, spiritual, righteous, and good. And Paul said the law is good when it's used lawfully.
You see, beloved, you need to hear this. Listen carefully. The law is a self-disclosure of who God is. We're not under the law, but you have to understand, beloved, that in giving the law, God was revealing who he is. If you think even of the 10 Commandments, the beginning of the law, what does the Lord say? I am God, and there is no other. You shall have no other gods before me. And then he begins to give us the bedrock of Western civilization through the law in the 10 Commandments. The 10 Commandments have become yadid, beloved ones, the bedrock of Western morality. It's the bedrock of the moral code in Western civilization, that we shouldn't steal, that we shouldn't murder, that we shouldn't commit adultery, that we shouldn't covet. All these things, beloved, are the bedrock of civilization, keeping us together as a moral people. It's the code that this country was founded on.
You see, the law is holy, spiritual, and righteous and good. It's not about legalism. It's about understanding that there's a self-revelation of who God is and of right and wrong in the law. And I believe that through applying the principles of the law to our life, not out of legalism, but out of a spiritual opportunity to grow in our relationship with God, that our walk with Yeshua can be strengthened. So for example, when the Lord says I am God and there is no other, you shall have no other gods before me, isn't that the same thing that Paul taught us in the New Testament when he said cast down every thought that exalts itself above the knowledge of God? It's the same thing. Just think about it.
If we would practice the first and the second commandment continually and have no other gods before God, if we cast down every idol in our life, idols of money, idols of fame, idols of success, idols of beauty, and all those things, if we would cast down every idol and have no other god before the true invisible God, the God and Father of Yeshua, the Messiah, wouldn't we ascend in spiritual strength and ascend in victory, ascend in freedom, and grow in God's grace? So the law, Paul says, is good when used lawfully. Summing up my comments here, beloved, the law is not contrary to the grace of God. It's part of the plan of God. The Scripture also teaches that the law became a tutor to lead us to the knowledge of God.
So for example, when the Lord tells us you should not do these things, and then we ask ourself if we've ever lied, if we've ever had an immoral thought, if we've ever done any, and then we say yes, I have, then it prepares us, yadid, to receive the grace, we know this, that's in Yeshua, Messiah. So I hope you see that it was tragic when we had the error that I just pointed out to you in that early version of the Bible that tended to pit Christians against the law, when in reality the law, beloved, is a gracious manifestation of the Lord in our life. And it comes to us through the same person that Yeshua comes to us from. Also in comparing the law, beloved, with the revelation that we see revealed to us in Messiah Yeshua, remember, Yeshua brought things to the next level.
Even as the law, beloved, pulled the Israelites out of barbarianism so the Lord said if somebody steals your camel, you don't have the right to go burn down their house and murder the man's wife and children, but we're going to have a fair system of justice, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, even as the law, beloved, lifted Israel out of barbarianism up several, several levels higher, so when Yeshua came, he took us from the law into God's grace way, way, way, way higher so that Yeshua said you've heard it said, but I say unto you that if you look after a woman to lust after her, you've committed adultery.
So Yeshua, beloved, brings everything up to the next level. As the law brought Israel out of barbarianism up, so Yeshua's revelation brings us up from the law to the next level of walking in God's grace. And the grace of God is seen so much more fully and it's revealed so much more clearly in Yeshua because he's the exact representation of God's nature. So that when we look at the law and compare it to the fullness of God's grace that's revealed in Yeshua, we're really looking, beloved, at two different approaches to the way we handle people in life. See, the law says an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth. Again, it was God pulling Israel out of barbarianism. But Yeshua said I say to you forgive those that persecute you. And if someone steals your shirt, you know what? Let him steal your shoes, too, Yeshua says.
So Yeshua's taking us to the next level, and Yeshua's saying listen, if somebody does evil or harm to you, I say to you forgive them. For if you don't forgive them, neither will you experience the forgiveness that I want to give you. And so Yeshua's saying now I'm calling you to a higher level than the Mosaic law. I'm calling you to walk with me in forgiveness and grace. And we have the choice, yadid, beloved ones, we can either hold people to the Mosaic law conceptually, or we can give them the grace that Yeshua extended us and he's calling us to extend to other people. You see, some of us, when we do something wrong, we want the Lord to forgive us. But when someone does something wrong to us, we want to hold them under the principle of law and say to them you did this to me, and now because you did this to me, you owe me. We want vengeance.
So we have kind of a double nature. We want the grace and the fullness of forgiveness and the fullness of God's grace that's extended to us in Yeshua on the one hand, but then when someone does something to us, rather than offering them forgiveness and grace like we want from Yeshua and like Yeshua offers to us, instead, what we do is we hold an IOU over them, and we say to them, you did this to me, and now you're going to pay. You did this to me, and now I want you to hurt and I want you to suffer because you made me hurt and you made me suffer. So we kind of live by two different standards. We want to hold others that have hurt us under the principle of the law, making them pay, an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth, but for ourselves, we want grace and mercy.
But you know what? The Lord says to us, yadid, we can't have it both ways. Because the Lord said by what standard you measure, it's going to be measured back to you. And the Lord said if you forgive others, so also your heavenly Father will forgive you. And so we need to recognize that God has called us out of the principle of living by the law to a higher grace in Jesus and that he wants us to practice, beloved, asking him to heal our hearts so that we can be like Yeshua, who was on the cross looking at those who spit on him, pierced him, pulled out his beard, and yet he said "Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do".