It strikes me that the relationship between the Old Testament and the New Testament is one of the most important challenges in our understanding of the Bible.
I would like to jot down a few thoughts on ways in which it is possible to misunderstand the relationship between the two testaments.
1. Making too much of the difference between the two testaments.
Marcion was a 2nd-century teacher who completely rejected the Old Testament, and regarded its god as a tyrant. Moreover, he recognised a NT canon of only 9 books – part of the Gospel of Luke, and ten of Paul’s epistles. It is possible to detect some of this kind of thinking in the recent writings of Brian MacLaren, for whom there is so much development of thought about God in the Bible that the earlier writings cease to be normative in any meaningful way. But this not only eliminates the OT, but re-writes the NT. There is too much grace in the OT, and too much law in the NT, for this to work. It is far too simplistic to say that the God of the OT is a god of wrath, and the god of the NT is a god of love. Jesus and the OT.
(b) Prosperity Gospel
The modern ‘prosperity gospel’, or ‘health and wealth’ gospel, errs in a different way. Rather than minimising the work of grace in the OT, it maximises the ‘now’ of the redemptive message of the NT, leaving little room for the ‘not yet’. In other words, these teaches want to bring forward into the present life all of the blessings and benefits of the life to come. One of the things they forget is that the NT is an account not only a renewal, but of decline. In Acts, 3,000 people were converted in a day. In Revelation, five out of seven churches were in serious spiritual decline.
1. Making too little of the difference between the OT and the NT
It seems incredible to me that large swathes of the Christian church continue to be pre-occupied with priestcraft, altars, and sacrifices, and all the paraphernalia of temple worship. But not only is there no whisper of any of this in the record of the establishment of the Christian church as recorded in the NT, but all of this is explicitly and systematically de-bunked in the Epistle to the Hebrews.
(b) Christian Zionism
Similar mistake, different outcome. Proponents of Christian Zionism notice the promises of God to the Jewish people concerning the land, and insist that these must be interpreted literally. But the NT, while by no means replacing the OT promises with a completely different set, nevertheless insist that these OT promises are gloriously fulfilled in Christ. God’s people are no longer primarily the Jews, but followers of Jesus Christ, both Jews and Gentiles. God’s temple is no longer a building made with human hands, but the community of the redeemed.
I have posted from time to time and in more detail (with discussion of the relevant Scripture passages) on the topics mentioned above – please use the ‘categories’ list to find these.