“Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose.
“I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. But I warn you– unless your righteousness is better than the righteousness of the teachers of religious law and the Pharisees, you will never enter the Kingdom of Heaven!” (Matthew 5:17-20 NLT)
Recently a well-known evangelical preacher has stated that we need to “unhitch” the New Testament from the Old Testament. We know how the early church fathers would have responded to that statement: they would have branded this man as a heretic and driven him out of the church. We know that because that is the way they responded to the popular and well-loved preacher Marcion, who made the same proposal in the first half of the second century A.D.
Why did they react so strongly? Because they understood correctly that the two testaments are complementary. Each one is incomplete without the other. Who is “the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ?” He is the transcendent Creator of the universe, the all-powerful, all-wise, and all-loving King who has established the terms of all existence. Why was it necessary for Jesus to become incarnate, die, and rise again? Because humans, as a result of their first parents’ refusal to adhere to those terms of existence, have become estranged from their Father, and in a variety of ways have become death-dealing. Without the Old Testament we do not know what the questions are that the New Testament is providing answers to. As a result, we misinterpret the answers.
A church that does not know the Old Testament, that is, much of the North American evangelical church, is likely to see God as a nice old fellow who exists to answer our prayers, to take care of us, to make it so we don’t have to be accountable for our behavior, and get us to heaven. In short, our religion is about manipulating divine power in order to gain our own ends. Friends that is rank paganism, the world view that the Old Testament is at great pains to dismantle. The Old Testament idea that God, the Holy One, has graciously satisfied his own ineradicable justice in order to make us like himself, a process both difficult and painful, is deeply distasteful to far too many evangelicals. If we are to correct the incipient paganism of modern, evangelical Christianity, we do not need to “unhitch” from the Old Testament, we need to teach it.
(Editor's note: for this and other blogs written by Dr. Oswalt you can visit his blog site HERE.)