The Old Testament summary in this section is presented to explain the transition from the covenant of salvation in the Old Testament which is now moot, to the New Testament covenant of salvation which is valid for all mankind until the Lord returns, or the end of time comes. Thus, some of the following explanation of the Old Testament and the Law, as well as the encapsulated summary of how the New Covenant written in the New Testament came about by need that follows, will most likely draw the ire of the diehard Old Covenant fans and some Jews. To all, please understand there is no ill will or malice intended, but the Word says what it says.
By the transgression of God’s Word and His will by Adam in disobedience (unbelief), all of mankind was disconnected from the will of God and “lost.” See, Romans 5:14-17. This “lost” condition continued for all until the “Law” was given to Moses for the “Jews”. The Jews were, and are often called, the initial “chosen” people of God. More specifically, the Jews were a nation of people determined by lineage (ancestry) only. To be a Jew, a person had to born a bloodline descendant from (grand)parent stock who also descended from the Jewish patriarch named Abram (Abraham). At that time, “non-Jews” were referred to by many names including Gentiles, Romans, Greeks, etc. Any non-Jew trying to become a Jew by adopting Jewish religious beliefs or practices was treated by the Jews as someone having a law or religion unto themselves. For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Romans 2:14.
With respect to the “Law”, it was given to the Jews and included the “Ten Commandments” (e.g., Exodus 20:12-17) which partially comprises the first five (5) books of the Old Testament of the Bible. But note, human history suggests the “eye for an eye” Code of Hammurabi and perhaps other forms of man’s law, are more ancient and predate the Ten Commandments. Even so, no authority can trump the force of the Law and the Ten Commandments as statements of the Father’s supreme will which makes Him God for all mankind.
Adherence to the Law given to the Jews was the means of reconciliation to God needed for “salvation” in Old Testament times. Any violation of the letter of the Law was and is a sin and a transgression of God’s will. At that time then, salvation was only available for the Jews as a group to whom the Law was given, and non-Jews had no hope of salvation as...being aliens from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers from the covenants of promise, having no hope, and without God in the world: Ephesians 2:12. Speaking in the context of salvation, Jesus said to a non-Jew: Ye worship ye know not what: we know what we worship: for salvation is of the Jews. John 4:22. (“Salvation” means the saving of the soul (life) from the lake of fire commonly called “hell” as a form of “second death” of the soul after the flesh dies. Revelation 21:8 and 20:14.)
As strict observance and adherence to the letter of the Law was required, the administration of a number of ceremonial practices and “sacrifices” for a variety of different purposes was also required. Hence, the Old Covenant for salvation was, by definition, a doctrine of works–most of which were performed by the priests for the benefit of all Jews as a nation. The highest order of the sacrificial works was the annual sin forgiving “atonement” sacrifice of a special animal during the “Passover Ceremony” (the “Passover’). The “Passover” commemorated the use of animal blood as a sign of obedience and allegiance to God in early Old Testament times. See, Exodus Chapter 12 of the Old Testament.
The Passover atonement ceremony was conducted inside the Jewish temple and was performed by the high priest. The sacrifice itself was for the sins of all Jews. More specifically, the sins of all the Jewish people were deemed to be “placed on” the sacrificial “sinless animal” prior to slaughter. The Passover animal was the surrogate for sinful man before it was killed. The blood of the sacrificial animal was then let and some collected before the animal bled to death. (No doubt, the most important factor of the atonement sacrifice was the blood. Blood gives life to the physical body of all creatures (i.e., living souls), because everybody cannot live without blood, and yet blood can live without the body. Today, we know this to be true as human blood donations frequently give life to others even though the heart of the donor may have stopped some time prior.)
The priest alone would then carry the collected animal blood past a huge “veil” (i.e., a curtain) separating the “most holy place” and the priest from the rest of the temple. When inside the most holy place, the priest placed the collected blood on the sacred sacrificial altar. According to the Law as per the will of God, the blood was an acceptable offering for the sins and transgressions of all Jews as a nation of people to whom salvation was promised.
Because animals can only follow the will of their flesh and are incapable of choosing to live by the will of God because they lack a will of man as discussed in the previous Module 3, using an animal as the surrogate for man during the Old Testament atonement could not “take away” sins to render someone sinless. For these reasons, and considering only the Jews could be saved by the Old Covenant Law during Old Testament times, the Old Covenant was “faulty” as to all of mankind when considered as a whole. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. Hebrews 8:7. As a consequence, the Old Testament atonement sacrifice was done year to calendar year continually without a foreseeable end. But in those sacrifices there is a remembrance again made of sins every year. For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins. Hebrews 10:3-4. (Here we begin to see a place where man can be considered sinless by God, but this must occur after the acceptable blood sacrifice in order to uphold the Law.)
What about the supreme law–God’s will? Of course, the performance of the sacrifices was supposed to evidence the Jews’ remorse for their sins. Over time, however, the Jews grew less “sorry” for their sins and more reliant on justifying the flesh, even as we do today if we continue in our repeated sinful conduct. Some say the Jews treated the atonement sacrifice as a form of “license payment” made annually for the “right” to sin, albeit contrary to the “spirit” of the Law as the will of God on which the Law was based. Nevertheless, the letter of the Law as the Word of God that established the provision for the atonement sacrifice and forgiveness of sins was no less forceful under any circumstance.
For example, contrary to the original will of God, and yet not contrary to the letter of the Law as written since it lacked a prohibition against it, the Jews created additional laws of their own. These new laws were not "of God", but were created as "sub-laws" by the Jews to suit themselves and their chosen lifestyles. Here again, we start to see where mankind has a propensity to live by the will of his flesh instead of the will of God. They did so not to be more restrictive of themselves, but to loosen up God’s Law (and preferably His will) in order to live more freely by the will of their own fleshly desires which allowed them to more loosely govern themselves as a nation. This is a good example of man’s desire for self-governance by enacting any number of laws to govern himself, and yet he cannot alter the will of God. In short, while the “additional” laws were not forbidden by the letter of the Law, man’s desire to justify his flesh and choosing the will of the flesh started man’s “interpretations” of God’s Word contrary to the original intent of His will.
Consider: Wherefore they are no more twain, but one flesh. What therefore God hath joined together, let not man put asunder. They say unto him, Why did Moses then command to give a writing of divorcement, and to put her away? He saith unto them, Moses because of the hardness of your hearts suffered you to put away your wives: but from the beginning it was not so. Matthew 19:6-8. (Divorce is not part of God's will. Here we find transgression of the will of God although technically not sin, because no Law was broken.)
At the same time the Jews were becoming less than remorseful for their sins, and considering the nature of the Old Covenant is a “doctrine of works” (mentioned previously), the Jewish prophets and holy men were moved by the Holy Ghost to foretell of the coming of the Christ–the Messiah as their deliverer under a New Covenant. Knowing this first, that no prophecy of the scripture is of any private interpretation. For the prophecy came not in old time by the will of man: but holy men of God spake as they were moved by the Holy Ghost. 2 Peter 1:20-21. As proven in the next module, Jesus was/is that Messiah–the Christ.
[For the sake of completeness, under the Old Testament the Jewish patriarch Abraham honored another higher priest named Melchisedec, who had no discernible lineage whatsoever! For this Melchisedec, king of Salem, priest of the most high God, who met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings, and blessed him; To whom also Abraham gave a tenth part of all; first being by interpretation King of righteousness, and after that also King of Salem, which is, King of peace; Without father, without mother, without descent, having neither beginning of days, nor end of life; but made like unto the Son of God; abideth a priest continually. Now consider how great this man was, unto whom even the patriarch Abraham gave the tenth of the spoils. Hebrews 7:1-4.
While a detailed discussion of Melchisedec as an “archetype” of the Holy Ghost dwelling with man is outside the scope of this study, the mere mention of an authority “higher” than Abraham and a “highest” priest other than Abraham demonstrates God’s plan for reconciliation through a “Highest” Priest. Not surprisingly then, Jesus is also a “High (Highest) Priest” on the order of, i.e., as having the same level of authority as Melchisedec. Whither the forerunner is for us entered, even Jesus, made an high priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Hebrews 6:20; see also Hebrews 7:15, 17 and 21. So also Christ glorified not himself to be made an high priest; but he that said unto him, Thou art my Son, to day have I begotten thee. As he saith also in another place, Thou art a priest for ever after the order of Melchisedec. Hebrews 5:5-6. ]
LIFE IN CHRIST MATTERS and the LORD'S PORTER are trademarks of Life in Christ Matters. Life in Christ Matters is a 501(c)(3) non-profit entity. Your contributions are very much appreciated and completely tax deductible, but please consult your tax advisor.
©2020 Life in Christ Matters, All Rights Reserved.