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30Nov/150

The New Testament: Core Issues

The last prophets of the Old Testament:

“For indeed, the day is coming, burning like a furnace, when all the arrogant and everyone who commits wickedness will become stubble. The coming day will consume them,” says the LORD of Hosts, “not leaving them root or branches. But for you who fear My name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings, and you will go out and playfully jump like calves from the stall. You will trample the wicked, for they will be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day I am preparing,” says the LORD of Hosts.  (Mal 4:1-3, HCSB)

The LORD will roar from Zion and raise His voice from Jerusalem; heaven and earth will shake. But the LORD will be a refuge for His people, a stronghold for the Israelites. 17 Then you will know that I am Yahweh your God, who dwells in Zion, My holy mountain. Jerusalem will be holy, and foreigners will never overrun it again. (Joel 3:16-17, HCSB)

I have come to gather all nations and languages; they will come and see My glory. 19 I will establish a sign among them, and I will send survivors from them to the nations — to Tarshish, Put, Lud (who are archers), Tubal, Javan, and the islands far away — who have not heard of My fame or seen My glory. And they will proclaim My glory among the nations.  (Isa 66:18-19, HCSB)

New Testament: Core Issues
The Old Testament is a cliffhanger story—it was going somewhere and left off. Today we will look at some core issues and hangups when it comes to the Bible’s teaching.

Required Reading:

the big picture

Key Read: The Big Picture – Tommy Nelson
Also Recommended: From Creation to the Cross

Recommended Reading:
Best Resource:
New Testament Survey – Tenney

Brief Reads:
Walk Through the Bible – Lesslie Newbigin
Walk Through the New Testament – Wilkinson

Detailed Reading:
The New Testament: It’s Background and Message – Lea and Black
A Popular Survey of the New Testament – Norman Geisler

 

The Roadmap for Our Time Together:

  • A Basic Outline of the New Testament
  • The Old Testament’s Relationship to the New
  • The Importance of Context
  • Major Theme’s in Jesus Ministry
  • Major Theme’s of the Church Age

 

 

The Old In the New

Why is the New Testament all about the Old? Why do they quote it ALL the time?

  • Jesus was the Jewish Messiah.

      o He was the second Moses, the deliverer they were waiting for.

      o He was the godly ruler who would lead the nation with impeccable integrity.

  • He was the blessing promised to Abraham who would bless all peoples.
  • He was the return of the glory of God: the Shekinah Glory. Ezekiel 9-11
    Ezekiel chapter 11:23-25 And the Glory of the Lord went up from the midst of the city and stood on the mountain which is on the east side of the city.
  • Jesus was the final sacrifice for sin – not for one sin, or one year’s sins, but all sins for all time for all people.

The God of the Old Testament is the same as the God of the New:

  • · Morality has not changed. God’s values are the same then, now and forever.
  • · The Law still outlines key moral boundaries, as well as wise behaviors and meaningful traditions we can follow.

Outside of the words of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, no one was making up anything new! It’s all from the Old!

  • What God was doing was fulfilling the Old Testament, so when the Christians of the first century needed advice on anything, they simply looked at the character of God and His commands in the Old Testament, and they applied them to the new situation.
  • When you read the letters, all that the church leaders are doing, is applying the words of the Old Testament and the words of Jesus to specific situations that people are asking about. They aren’t much different than the sermons we preach—except that we believe these letters have the authority of God in their instruction.

“Don’t assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill.” (Matt 5:17, HCSB)

The New Testament was still being written—the Bible of the early church was the Old Testament.

the bible jesus read

 

Fulfillment of Prophecy:

perspectiveSan_Gabriel_Mountains_2011

When God revealed the future to the prophets, they were looking ahead and describing a landscape based on their limited perspective. Instead of being given a map, or even two viewpoints, they were limited to one. Because of this limitation, their description of events often combines multiple events into one, or describes those events as if they happen at the same time. They simply cannot see the valley between two mountains peaks.

Understanding this allows you to see how their prophecy is fulfilled multiple times—or fulfilled without every detail their described coming true, because a future event will include the other details. Here are some key examples where this dynamic is crucial to understand:

Prophecies of the Messiah 
Often Jesus is described as a coming king who immediately takes the throne and begins to rule. These prophecies miss the suffering servant phase of the Messiah’s role, or combine this role as if Jesus would do both at the same time. We now know that God planned for these to be separate events—Jesus first task was to rescue us from spiritual oppression before the physical kingdom comes.

Jesus’ virgin birth is also the fulfillment of a prophecy that happened twice. When Isaiah 7:14 speaks of virgin, it was first a sign that marked how quickly God would change the political situation of the kingdom of Israel. A maiden in the king’s household would have a child and before the child was weaned, the enemy of Israel would go away. Jesus is a grander fulfillment of this prophecy and his birth was truly through the body of a virgin.

Judgment:
Judgment is often described as a single event, though there are three events that happen at this time:

1. All of mankind is gathered and they are sorted before God’s throne into believers and non-believers. (Called the Book of Life, Sorting of the sheep and goats)

2. Non-believers are shown their works—that nothing they have done makes them worthy of heaven or restores their relationship with God. This judgment helps them fully-understand why they are separated. (Book of deeds)

3. Believers will stand before the Bema seat to be praised and rewarded for their faithful deeds to serve God in this life. A proud Father will praise His kids, even though we could not have done any of it without Him.

The Arrival of the Holy Spirit:
When the Holy Spirit’s coming is described, it is often the New Testament event and the heavenly one seen as one. That’s why it is fulfilled in Acts, but not to the extent that Joel described it:
28 ​​​​​​​After all of this ​​​​​​I will pour out my Spirit on all kinds of people. ​​​​​​Your sons and daughters will prophesy. ​​​​​​Your elderly will have revelatory dreams; ​​​​​​your young men will see prophetic visions. 29 ​​​​​​​Even on male and female servants ​​​​​​I will pour out my Spirit in those days. (Joel 2:28-29, NET)

 

The New Covenant: Grace Takes Center Stage

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“Behold, the days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the Lord. But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, ‘Know the Lord,’ for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the Lord. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more.” (Jeremiah 31:31- 34).

"And likewise the cup after they had eaten, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’" Luke 22:20 (ESV)

And he said to them, “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many. Mark 14:24 ESV

14 The Word became flesh and took up residence among us. We observed His glory, the glory as the One and Only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth 16 Indeed, we have all received grace after grace from His fullness, 17 for the law was given through Moses, grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. (John 1:14-17, HCSB)

 

Jesus does not come as one who is calling us back to the old way of life or the true meaning of the Law, though He does do that in His ministry. Rather, God sends His Son, the ultimate messenger to reveal the “mystery” that He has long been building up to in the history of the world—the covenant that would bring all His previous plans and promises to a crescendo. Jesus’ life will fulfill the covenant He made with Abraham to bless all the world through his offspring. It will reveal the goal of the Mosaic covenant and Jewish Law—ending the era of the Jewish nation’s special privileged role. And it reveals the person to fulfill the Davidic covenant by reigning as king: Jesus.

 

God, in his wisdom, has chosen to reveal the fullness of his plan in stages—emphasizing the full extent of key traits at certain times. In the Old Testament, the emphasis was on key traits: God’s justice, His loyal love and enduring promises (covenant), the importance of corporate (group) obedience, the evils of rejecting God’s leadership (sin). In the New Testament, Jesus shifts the emphasis onto grace, individual decisions, and His desire to all people’s with His full plan of salvation. All of these values exist in BOTH testaments, they did not appear new or go away, but they are not emphasized the same in each stage of history.

Just to illustrate – moments of grace in the Old Testament:

  • · God promises a savior on the same day sin enters the world.
  • · God saves Noah’s entire family (and the earth’s creatures), though Noah is the one who is noted for faith and obedience.
  • · God saves and uses the most sinful people for His purposes when they turn their lives around: Rahab, Manasseh, and Naaman for example.

Moments of discipline in the New Testament:

  • · God takes the lives of Ananias and Sapphira when they lie to the church about their giving.
  • · Paul speaks of God sending sickness and death upon the Corinthian church for their disobedient behavior. (1 Corinthians 11)
  • · Believers are warned that they will be judged before God’s throne—but in a way that recognizes their service to God for thanks, not in a way that affects them getting into heaven.

 

 

The New Covenant: Israel Rejects Jesus

Jesus ministry attracted people of all kinds, and most loved Him and followed Him. The Jewish leadership however, were the exception. They refused to accept Jesus’ leadership at every turn. They were the ones who ultimately rejected Jesus and killed Him. Their rejection is the reason God’s new covenant is so different from the old. Jesus created a movement, rather than a nation when He created the new covenant.

33 “Listen to another parable: There was a man, a landowner, who planted a vineyard, put a fence around it, dug a winepress in it, and built a watchtower. He leased it to tenant farmers and went away. 34 When the grape harvest drew near, he sent his slaves to the farmers to collect his fruit. 35 But the farmers took his slaves, beat one, killed another, and stoned a third. 36 Again, he sent other slaves, more than the first group, and they did the same to them. 37 Finally, he sent his son to them. ‘They will respect my son,’ he said. 38 “But when the tenant farmers saw the son, they said among themselves, ‘This is the heir. Come, let’s kill him and take his inheritance! ’ 39 So they seized him, threw him out of the vineyard, and killed him. 40 Therefore, when the owner of the vineyard comes, what will he do to those farmers? ” 41 “He will completely destroy those terrible men,” they told Him, “and lease his vineyard to other farmers who will give him his produce at the harvest.” 42 Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone. This came from the Lord and is wonderful in our eyes? 43 Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a nation producing its fruit. (Matt 21:33-43, HCSB)

10 He was in the world, and the world was created through Him, yet the world did not recognize Him. 11 He came to His own, and His own people did not receive Him. 12 But to all who did receive Him, He gave them the right to be children of God, to those who believe in His name, 13 who were born, not of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man, but of God. (John 1:10-13, HCSB)

But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent (not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. Therefore he is the mediator of a new covenant, so that those who are called may receive the promised eternal inheritance, since a death has occurred that redeems them from the transgressions committed under the first covenant. Hebrews 9:11-15

communion

What Changed???

The Old Covenant The New Covenant
   
Signs: Circumcision and Special Days/Festivals Signs: Baptism and Communion
   
Guidelines: Legal requirements
with legal enforcement/consequences
Guidelines: Same Morality,
relational consequences only
   
A national affair: Government enforced standards, legal consequences, and a bloodline that must be preserved. Jews and converts only! A movement within beyond national boundaries: Community enforced boundaries – exclusion, not consequences. Jews & Gentiles—men and women—slaves and free people—rich and poor.
   
Ceremonies that prepared people to see the significance of Jesus death: sacrifice, Passover, etc. Ceremonies that Jesus’ death made irrelevant: sacrifice, worship at the temple, etc.
   

Acts shows the New Covenant in action, often taking the disciples and church by surprise. The bulk of Paul’s letters spend their arguments defining the New Covenant. It was introduced at the end of Jesus’ ministry and foretold in the Old Testament, but it’s final shape has been the task of the Holy Spirit as it transforms lives throughout the centuries. At the center of the tension in the church we see in Scripture are three controversies that the people of the church are struggling to adapt to:

(1) leaving the Jewish traditions behind,
(2) managing the tension of diverse people in the church, and
(3) understanding the full impact of Jesus’ work on the cross.

Hebrews is a letter written to Jews who are tempted to return to Judaism.

Ephesians is a book written to challenge churches to unite and treat people equally in the church. The lesson to be learned: #unityishard

Galatians is a fast, pointed article that challenges believers to stop relying upon their own performance as good people to make them right with God.

Romans is an extensive explanation of Jesus work on the cross and what the New Covenant changed.

 

Modern Culture Rejects Paul:

There is a movement that does not think that Jesus took the Jewishness and nationalism out of the new covenant. They wish to preserve the practice of most of the Law’s ceremonial and legal obligations: Sabbath days, ceremonies, dietary restrictions, etc. In order to do this, they argue that Paul is an illegitimate apostle. They reject all his writings, sometimes even rejecting all or part of Acts, since Luke was Paul’s associate, and that removes enough specific arguments that the Jewish Law has changed to allow them to justify their beliefs.

There’s a lot that can be said of this argument…too much to share in this lesson. In brief, I would argue that (1) there’s no substantial reason to reject Paul—no one writes against Him or shows any evidence from the time of the early church that he is illegitimate, (2) Jesus makes it clear He is breaking from the Jews in every gospel, and (3) we don’t get to pick and choose what we accept from the Bible, we must respect and trust 2,000 years of steadfast faith where the Holy Spirit has confirmed we are on the right track.


 

The Importance of Context:

Knowing the traditions and culture of the Bible is crucial to understanding the meaning of the text. God always speaks to people in a way that uses manmade traditions to make His point come alive.

If Jesus came to America today, instead of talking about being living water in the context of a well that never runs dry—Jesus might instead hold up an Evian bottle that would never need refilling, or speak in terms of an endless supply of coffee or soda. He would present the truth in a compelling way—and we must know history well enough to understand why He uses the objects, stories, and locations He chooses.

Biblical concepts are usually built on secular ideas. Covenant is a borrowed concept. The temple that the Jews build is modeled using elements of worship centers in the Middle East.

For the New Testament, you can look for meaning in three key areas:

1. Historical events

2. Roman infrastructure and society

3. Jewish Traditions

Here are some key examples to help you see the importance of knowing context:

 

Historical Backgrounds in the New Testament:

Caligula, emperor of Rome from 37-41 ad demanded to be worshipped as a god, and when pressed for freedom from the Jews, ordered his legate to erect his statue in the temple in Jerusalem. The legate delayed the order and He died before the army carried out this order. When Jesus speaks of the abomination of desolation in the temple, it was a VERY real possibility. (Matthew 24:15)

Claudius 41-54 expelled Jews from Rome during his reign because of riots that had taken place at the “instigation of one Chrestus.” which probably can be connected to Paul's comments about the expulsion of Priscilla and Aquila, though a direct reference to Christ and Christians cannot be proven.

Nero 54-68 is suspected to have set a fire in Rome in 64 that destroyed a large part of the city in order to make room for his new Golden House which covered 125 acres, had three rows of columns one mile long, and contained a statue of Nero 120 feet high. He accused Christians of the fire and tortured many of them, which is where Paul and Peter are said to have perished.

At the time Revelation was written, Caesar was holding games where he would have a choir of 24 sing praises to him during speeches. This is probably why John recorded the 24 elders around God’s throne—it was an attack on Caesar’s status.

 

Jewish & Cultural Backgrounds:

Yoke
“My yoke is easy” – Matthew 11:30
Wooden oxen yokes were typically made to lash two animals together. Due to the time and investment in training the oxen and purchasing the yoke, this pair usually worked together at all times. The animals were measured and the yoke was hand carved to be a precise fit for the specific animals. Jesus, being a carpenter, probably made many yokes for people. When Jesus uses this phrase, he is probably repeating a phrase he said many of times, essentially, I make good fitting yokes. Jesus calls us to team up with Him in a role He has custom made for us in life. Any other plan is to wear a yoke that is not designed for us.

Prayer Shawl
The Jewish prayer shawl was a very significant cultural symbol in Jesus time. The Old Testament commanded Jews to make tassels on the edge of their garments that would serve as reminders of God’s commands (Numbers 15 and Deuteronomy 22). At the time of Jesus these most often appeared on the edges of a prayer shawl, which was a very common garment for Rabbis. When the lady with a bleeding disease snuck up and touched the corner of Jesus robe, she wasn’t just leaning on some simple hope she had made up, but she was depending on the truth of this prophecy, and she was touching Jesus’ prayer shawl:

2 But for you who fear my name, the sun of righteousness shall rise with healing in its wings [tassels]. ~ Malachi 4:2

Jewish education:
Because there was limited access to written documents, all Jewish boys and many girls started memorizing the Torah (first five books of the Bible) and had often memorized it all by the age of ten. The best students continued their studies and eventually became Rabbi’s who taught the rest of the community. The rest typically learned a family trade/business. By the age of fourteen they often had the entire Old Testament memorized. Does that sound crazy? Many Jews today have committed all or parts of it to memory. Technology has eliminated the need for this, but we are still capable of doing it. Think about it: who did Jesus impress at the age of twelve? Who did He call to become Rabbi’s?

The Synagogue became the central organizational unit of a community when the Jews were sent out of the land. Since they could no longer worship at the temple, they began worshipping at the synagogue and using it as the center of their communities. The synagogue was school during the week. It preserved the text of their Bible. When they returned to the land and rebuilt the temple, they brought the synagogue back with them. The Pharisees established a regulation system to coordinate the efforts of the synagogues. They earned their status and influence because they were the regional managers of the synagogue network.

Location Matters:
When Jesus makes the statement, “the gates of hell will not stand against it” where is He? He’s at Caesarea Philippi, aka, the gates of hell. The temple of Pan, the goat god who guarded the entrance to hell.

When Paul mentions women being saved during childbirth to Timothy, (1 Timothy 2:15) he is referring to the temple of Artemis in the city where Timothy is at. Artemis was the god Greek women prayed to in order to be saved while giving birth to their children. He was not making a statement about how a woman was saved spiritually, he was challenging the women to avoid praying to the wrong God in their desperation during labor.

Keywords are Important:
When you hear the emphasis on “Jesus is Lord” in the New Testament, you must remember that the Jews used this word for God’s name and the Romans used this phrase for Caesar. When Christians were executed later in the century, they would be pardoned if they were willing to confess that “Caesar is Lord.” It meant God to the Jews and King to the Romans.

 

Major Themes in Jesus’ Ministry

Shekinah Glory
When Israel finally falls under the judgment that will expel them from the land God had given them, the cloud of light and fire that had been with them since their journey out of Egypt left the temple in Jerusalem (Ezekiel 9-10). It was said that the city festivals did not need light during that time—the light of God provided illumination throughout the city.

Look at all the places where Jesus is the presence of God:

  • · When Jesus is young, a star guides wise men to His home.
  • · The heavens open and the Holy Spirit descends upon Jesus at His baptism and a voice speaks from heaven.
  • · Jesus is transfigured in a cloud on a mountaintop, and a voice speaks from heaven.
  • · During one of the feasts, Jesus gets up and publically declares, “I am the light of the world.” (John 8)

Jesus is tempted by the devil—just like Adam and Eve. He is the perfect man.

Good Works Religions Falls Short - Jesus raises the bar of works-based religion far out of reach for anyone hoping to get into heaven on merit. He destroys this religious paradigm for those who wish to get favor with God through their own actions.

Jesus is God - Jesus confronts people with his identity as God’s Son at every opportunity. He hides nothing. He never allows anyone to consider Him simply a good teacher. Consider Jesus and the man who is lowered through the roof in Mark 2. Jesus deliberately sets up a confrontation with the religious leaders.

Parables are rich in meaning, but hard to understand - Jesus tells parables filled with meaning. Make sure and use a study Bible so that you understand exactly the point He is trying to make!

Jesus as the ultimate disciplier - Jesus trains men to carry on the work He begins—where else in the Bible is this mentioned? Learn from Jesus’ model for leadership.

No instant Christian maturity - Jesus is ok with varying levels of commitment. He puts up with crazy antics of the disciples! He wants loyal followers who won’t give up, not people who have it all together. He understood and modeled a ministry where you don’t kick people out for their mistakes, but you challenge them to learn from them, and you give them LOTS of time to grow.

 

Major Themes of the Church:

Persecution – Jesus was not the first to die for the faith, nor is He a minority. Millions have died for Christianity, and continue to do so. Jesus had many things to say specifically to them…and He calls us to a loyalty like they have.

Racial Reconciliation – Jesus and the Holy Spirit build a multi-racial, multi-economic, and multi-gender church where we are to treat everyone without bias.

Our unity affects our witness in the world. Our love is what sets us apart from everyone else in this world. We must seek to hold unity high and prove to the world that our love is far better than anything they can boast of.

Global Outreach – We are not just to go to the lost, we are to go to the end of the earth—making it a priority to get the message to every people group on the earth.

The Church is a movement. Like God, we must take the message of Jesus and communicate it through a compelling use of cultural context. Church should not be about forcing people into a rigid mold, but about building a mold from their culture that communicates all of the story and values of God.

Human Frailty – if the disciples didn’t get it with Jesus right in front of them, we are in danger of messing up God’s message. We can all be blinded to the truth—some are blinded so badly that they see the enemy in the truth. We must ask for God’s Spirit, rely on His power, and give Him the credit.

pentecost5

The Holy Spirit is God in Us – Still today we struggle with the desire to have been here when Jesus walked the earth, but Jesus Himself told us that the Holy Spirit was better, stronger, and would do more through us. We fail to rely on Him, have faith that He will work in and through us, and we quench Him with our sinful actions. We must look back to the way that He worked in the early church and the way He gave the followers of Jesus courage, wisdom, and even a miracle or two when they needed it. We should expect Him to be just as dynamic in our lives and the gathering of our church, if we will let Him.

 

Homework:

Read through Mark’s Gospel in 1-2 sittings

Listen to the Unforgiveable Sin and Firing Israel’s Leaders by Tommy Nelson

Listen to Forgiveness by Mark Bailey

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