Contrasting The Old & New Testaments

By Sean P. Cavender

Bible students recognize the two major divisions of the Bible as the Old Testament and New Testament. Christians believe all 66 books are inspired and are God’s words which were written and recorded for us. However, there are stark differences between these two testaments. Which one is binding upon us today? Are there aspects of the Old Testament that we should continue to keep and practice today?

The Purpose of the Old Testament

Moses is recognized as the great lawgiver under the old covenant, thus, the Old Testament is often referred to as the Law of Moses. We need to consider the purpose, design, and weaknesses of the Old Testament in greater detail. While there are many benefits from reading and studying the Old Testament, we must realize the need for the new covenant which would be enacted by Jesus Christ.

There are a several reasons we are no longer under the old covenant. Moses’ law, divinely given by God, has been fulfilled and completed. Its purposes and design were limited. Notice several points for consideration.

1. The old covenant was a shadow of the true spiritual blessings that were to come later. “... since there are those who offer the gifts according to the Law; who serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things, just as Moses was warned by God when he was about to erect the tabernacle...” (Hebrews 8:4-5, NASB)

2. The old covenant promised a new covenant. “... Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant...” (Hebrews 8:8; Jeremiah 31:31, NASB)

3. The old covenant was not intended to be a permanent law. “When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear,” (Hebrews 8:13, NASB).

4. The old covenant was a tutor to lead us to Christ. “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor.” (Galatians 3:24-25, NASB)

5. The old covenant could not take away sins. “Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins? But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year. For it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins,” (Hebrews 10:2-4, NASB)

6. The old covenant has been done away with. “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross,” (Colossians 2:14, NKJV)

The Authority of the New Testament

While Moses was the lawgiver and mediator of the old covenant, Christians believe that Christ is the Son of God and fulfillment of the Old Testament. The old covenant served as a tutor and schoolmaster to bring us to Christ. Jesus came to fulfill the law of Moses—“Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17). Jesus’ purpose was not to tear down, destroy, or invalidate the law; Christ came to fulfill, or complete the law.

The apostle Paul affirms this same truth as well, “For Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to everyone who believes,” (Romans 10:4). Paul uses the phrase “end of the law” to describe Jesus as the goal, or end objective of the law. Jesus came and completed the law of Moses and fulfilled the prophets, therefore we are no longer under that law —“Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor,” (Galatians 3:24-25). We are not under the law of Moses, but we are under the law of Christ (Galatians 6:2).

So what does all of this mean?

We are under a new covenant. Even the old covenant prophets, like Jeremiah, stated plainly of God’s promise to bring a new covenant into effect. “For finding fault with them, He says, ‘Behold, days are coming, says the Lord, when I will effect a new covenant...When He said, ‘A new covenant,’ He has made the first obsolete...” (Hebrews 8:8, 13).

The new covenant was made effective because of Christ’s blood. The new covenant was first proclaimed on the day of Pentecost, in Jerusalem (Luke 24:47; Acts 2:1-47). When Jesus died, He nailed the old law to the cross, putting it to an end, “having wiped out the handwriting of requirements that was against us, which was contrary to us. And He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross,” (Colossians 2:14).

We are no longer under the authority of the Old Testament. Dietary restrictions, circumcision, keeping the Sabbath day (7th day of the week) as a non-work day and day of worship, temple worship, and animal sacrifices are no longer required since we are now under the law of Christ. The Ten Commandments are no longer binding upon us. We must obey Christ under the New Testament.

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