Friday, September 9, 2016

Beware of Separating Jesus from the Old Testament

* A devotional for our church bulletin.

Last week we looked at the very first words of 1 Peter 1.1: “Peter, an apostle of Jesus Christ…”  We saw how this speaks to the fact that Peter’s words are not merely one more religious opinion in the church.  Rather, Peter is an authoritative spokesman for Christ Jesus.  This challenges those who wish to posit some sort of division between Christ and his apostles. 

Our passage today (1 Peter 1.10-12) challenges another false notion—the alleged separation between Jesus and the Old Testament.  There are some who make a sharp division between the teaching of Jesus and the perceived “harshness” of the Old Testament.  Peter speaks of how the same Spirit of Christ was operative in the Old Testament prophets and in the apostolic preachers.  The words of Paul Copan and Matthew Flannagan from their book Did God Really Command Genocide? Coming to Terms with the Justice of God are also helpful in answering the charge of radical dichotomy between Jesus and the Old Testament:

We must be careful not to appeal to Jesus’s authority selectively.  In Old Testament prophetic fashion, Jesus regularly engages in denouncements and threats of judgments—both temporal and final.  He routinely pronounces temporal judgment on Jerusalem; this judgment would come by Rome in AD 70.  He also assumes Sodom, Tyre, and Sidon had been divinely and violently judged, which serves as a springboard for condemning his unbelieving contemporaries in Bethsaida, Chorazin, and Capernaum (Matt. 11:21-24; cf. 10:15).  Notice these warnings of judgment immediately precede Jesus’s own self-description as gentle and humble in heart (11:28-30)!  Jesus likewise takes for granted divine and violent judgment in Noah’s day (Matt. 24:37-39).  And in a symbolic act, an enraged Jesus makes a whip to drive out moneychangers from the temple and prevents people from even entering the temple (John 2:15; cf. Mark 11:15-17).  Does this not have a touch of the kind of “violence” Seibert and Enns would consider un-Christlike?  What of Jesus’s indictment of stumbling blocks who should have a millstone tied around their neck to be drowned (Matt. 18:6)?  He threatens the “wretched” vine-growers (Israel’s leaders) with temporal judgment (Matt. 21:41; Mark 12:9).  Jesus likewise declares he will “make war” on the Nicolaitans “with the sword of My mouth,” and he will throw the false prophetess “Jezebel” onto a “bed of sickness” and bring “pestilence” upon her followers (Rev. 2:16, 20-23 NASB).  Jesus clearly believes in the appropriateness of temporal divine punishment and the Mosaic death penalty (Matt. 15:4).  (p. 42)

Jesus affirmed the Old Testament Scriptures (Matthew 5.17) and acted in accordance with the character of his heavenly Father revealed in those Scriptures.  Beware of those who would create an imaginary division between the Old Testament and the teaching of Christ.

* Also see the Question and Answer from William Craig Jesus and the God of the Old Testament.