By Randall Terry
Published November 1, 1993
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Was Moses Really All That Bad?
“Is that in the New Testament?”
“When did Jesus Himself do that?”
If I hear these questions one more time, I’m going to scream.
These two questions crop up thousands of times a day in conversations, Bible studies and churches all over America. The theological presuppositions undergirding these questions are error at best and poisonous heresy at worst.
When someone asks the question, “Did Jesus ever do that,” they are simply implying that if Jesus did not do “that,” then we aren’t called to do it either. As I intend to show, this is folly. Jesus never got married and never had any children. Do they intend to forbid us to marry, as Paul warned some would? (see Tim. 4:3).
A Christian who asks, “Is that in the New Testament?” is implying that biblical truth from Genesis to Malachi, especially the Pentateuch (Genesis-Deuteronomy), is not binding on us today. This is serious error. As Gary North poignantly asks: Where in the New Testament is bestiality condemned or prohibited? Certainly the New Testament-only crowd would not say bestiality is now acceptable.
For discussion purposes, I want to break down the questions into two areas: 1) The person of Christ and the nature of God; 2) The Old Testament and the New Testament.
Are You Nicer Than Jesus?
When studying the person of Jesus Christ, we must rightly divide the Word of Truth. Christ’s words were not always nice or kind as we might like. Sometimes they were downright harsh. Frankly, most Christians today are attempting to be nicer than Jesus. If Christ were in many of our churches or communities today and said some of His more seemingly unkind words, we would probably grab Him, take Him aside, and rebuke Him. “Jesus! You can’t talk like that here! We’re Christians!” Friend, give up trying to be nicer than Jesus.
A far greater problem arises with those who believe that Jesus is fully understood and revealed in the Gospels. That is not accurate. Jesus is revealed from Genesis to Revelation, and the entire Bible must be studied to understand Christ. It is generally agreed that Christ appeared in the Old Testament – occurrences commonly called “Theophonies.” And obviously, the Lord is recorded as appearing in the books of Acts and Revelation.
God is Father, Son and Holy Spirit. One God, three persons. Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and forever (Heb. 13:8). There is no shadow of turning with God the Father (James 1:17).
This means that Christ was present in the Godhead when He made the decision to destroy Sodom and Gomorrah and its inhabitants by fire and brimstone (Gen. 19:24). It means that God – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – commanded Moses and then Joshua to obliterate the reprobate tribes of Canaan.
Millions of Christians have fallen into the theological trap, or at least the theo-emotional trap, that believes that we had one God in the Old Testament and another new God in the New Testament. They see God in the Old Testament as being severe, bordering on mean and unforgiving. Then Jesus comes and saves the day. He gets God the Father to calm down and stop killing people. Ananias and Sapphira were temporarily relapses (Acts 5:1-11). And Herod being eaten by worms, well … (Acts 12:23).
“Two Gods” is an incorrect, heretical view of God. This dichotomy of thought aids and abets another crippling disease in recent separatist Christianity – theologians call it antinomianism.
We’re not under the Law (Or near it, or in favor of it, or …)
You must have heard the annoying question – perhaps you’ve asked it: Is that in the New Testament?” Perhaps you’ve quoted a scripture in Deuteronomy or the Proverbs that demands justice, or calls God’s people to action, and someone responded with the throwaway line that supposedly ends all debate and relieves us of all responsibility: “That’s in the Old Testament.”
Millions of misled or deceived Christians discard truth and duty out of hand, solely because they are found between Genesis and Malachi, rather than Matthew and Revelation. (This is a tremendously useful theology for the pew potato who really doesn’t want to act anyway.) The majority of scriptures outlining how a culture should order itself are in the Old Testament. The majority of scriptures demanding we pursue and secure “social” justice and righteousness in society are in the Old Testament. In fact, most of the Bible is in the Old Testament.
I am not in anyway teaching that we can earn righteousness or right standing with God by works of the Law, for “by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified in His sight” (Rom. 3:20). Righteousness is a gift of God (Rom. 5:17) which comes to us through faith in Christ (Eph.2:8,9). And I am certainly not suggesting that we return to full Mosaic Law, i.e., animal sacrifices, the Aaronic priesthood, the Levites, etc. Jesus’ death was the perfect blood sacrifice able to atone for the sins of the world. Moreover, He has made all believers into a royal priesthood. Christ’s death brought an end to the types and shadows.
However, the phrase “we are not under the Law” (Rom. 6:14-15) has been stretched to the biblical breaking point. Young Christians and unstudied older Christians flippantly dismiss sacred truth with that smug answer, not knowing what it means.
We are not under the Law as a means of obtaining salvation, and as Christians, we are not under the curse even though we are still bound by the moral dictates of the Law, i.e., the Ten Commandments. Jesus said, “Do not think that I come to abolish the Law, or the Prophets: I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill” (Matt. 5:17). Paul said, “Do we nullify the Law through faith? May it never be! On the contrary, we establish the Law” (Rom. 3:31).
Those self-assured Christians who throw out the Law and smugly declare that they only “preach grace” are fools. I believe one major reason we have so few real, lasting conversions is because we don’t preach the Law before we preach grace.
People in sin need a Savior. How does someone know he is in sin? “I would not have come to know sin except through the Law” (Rom. 7:7). What brings men to Christ is the Law, the schoolmaster. “Wherefore the Law was our schoolmaster to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24).
“But wait!” you might venture. “Once you are saved, we no longer need the Law. We’re under the New Covenant.” True, we are under a glorious New Covenant sealed in Divine blood. But part of the New Covenant is the promise of God to write the Law on our hearts. “After those days, saith the Lord, I will put my Law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people” (Jer. 31:33). Why would we try and dismiss what God wants to write on our hearts?
If you don’t know the Law, if you are not a student of the Old Testament, you will flounder at best, ever being an out-of-balance Christian without sure moorings. Your doctrine will be poorer, you will be in much need of reproof and correction, and you will not be properly equipped for the Lord’s work. In the great fields of labor that lie before us, you will be at best a second rate worker in the field.
Check Your Pockets
Friend have you been robbed? Have the theological escapists of the New Testament-only crowd robbed you of your “equipment”? The whole Bible is the Sword of the Spirit. We don’t want to go into battle with three-quarters of our sword broken off!
The theological challenge before us is not to throw the baby out with the bath water. Obviously, portions of the Pentateuch are no longer practiced today because Christ has come. Obviously, our justification before God is through faith – although faith without works is dead (James 2:26). Obviously, certain portions of the Law have been superseded by New Testament revelation and teaching. For example, there are New Testament reasons why we don’t stone adulterers and Sabbath-breakers. (I would encourage you to dig them out for yourself.)
We must studiously examine the Scriptures in the fear of the Lord. We must reject the simplistic notion that if it’s in the Old Testament, it’s not for today. We must reject the concept that God changed in nature between the Old and New Testaments. We must study and live the whole Bible, applying the clear meaning of biblical Law when we can – such as calling for the execution of murderers. We must apply the principles of biblical Law when the specific Law no longer has direct application – such as Mosaic codes to protect people on the second floor from falling through the ceiling. Or consider the principle of separating – quarantining – those with a deadly disease (Those with tuberculosis have always been quarantined. Why haven’t we protected innocent people from AIDS carriers in some manner?)
In the light of the whole counsel of God, we will be equipped for service and battle in our culture, and we will be able to provide biblical solutions to all of man’s problems (economic problems, political problems, educational problems, medical problems, judicial problems, restitution problems) because the Bible addresses them all – flawlessly.
Speaking of political problems, we need to look intently into the Word of God concerning the role and limited sphere of civil government in the Bible. The Bible teaches that civil government should have a very limited role. It should not be the ever expanding, messianic provider/healer that the Marxist/Socialists have created in much of Europe, Canada and now America.
I’ll take the standards, warnings and solutions God gave to Moses or King David, King Solomon or the Prophets, over anything that Bill Clinton, Ted Kennedy or a pagan Supreme Court could ever offer.
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