What’s external and physical in the Old becomes internal and spiritual in the New.
The Epistle to the Hebrews underscores the issue we covered last time on the nature of the Bible. The 66 “books” penned by 40 scribes over hundreds of years are really components of a single message … a message describing two agreements or covenants, but consistent in design and intent from Genesis through Revelation. You’ll hear liberal scholars (oxymoron?) talk about the differences between the God of the Old Testament and the God of the new. Nonsense. It’s simply a matter of which side of the cross you’re on. We used prophecy as both an example and an authentication of the Bible’s singularity of purpose and its supernatural origin.
Now I’d like to demonstrate that every event and requirement commanded by the Lord in the Old Covenant has its fulfillment in the New. They all began as external and physical acts and became internal and spiritual principles. In addition to being real requirements given for sound purpose, they were also symbolic; models meant to teach us lessons about God and His incredible plan for us. Hebrews 10:1; the law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves.
And just as it is with prophecy, understanding the context of the old dramatically increases comprehension of the new. Let’s try a few examples.
How about the Tabernacle?
Designed by God for use in the wilderness, its construction was described down to the last detail. He even supernaturally gifted several craftsmen to achieve the quality He required. Many estimates of its value in today’s currency have been attempted so I won’t go into that here, but let’s just say it was way overbuilt. The later Temple in Jerusalem was a permanent structure based on the same design and was one of the seven wonders of the ancient world. Books have been written describing the way in which the Tabernacle pointed to the Lord Jesus, but seven times the New Testament declares that YOU are the temple of God. Just as He spared no expense or effort in making the Tabernacle and later Temple perfectly suited to His purpose, He has spared no expense or effort in making you perfect in His sight. Before the cross, to visit God you had to go to His house in Jerusalem. Now you look inside yourself and find Him there. That which was external and physical has become internal and spiritual. Get the idea?
Let’s take circumcision.
It was ordained as an identifying mark signifying that a covenant existed between the Jewish man and his God. Modern medicine has long recognized the health benefits, even pointing to a lower incidence of cervical cancer among Orthodox Jewish women that can only be attributed to the circumcision of their husbands. As an external and physical sign, its significance is obvious. But what about gentile Christians, did God change His plan? Romans 2:28-29: A man is not a Jew if he is only one outwardly, nor is circumcision merely outward and physical. No, a man is a Jew if he is one inwardly; and circumcision is circumcision of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the written code. Such a man’s praise is not from men, but from God. And Ephes. 1:13: And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Having believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. The mark again indicates a covenant with God.
Is That Kosher?
There are of course way too many for us to take each example but let’s share one more. Much has been made about the way the Lord seemed in an almost off-handed way to negate a law that is still at the very center of Jewish life. I’m talking about the dietary restrictions. Set aside for the moment the argument about how much of the current system was actually ordained by the Lord. The fact is that the Book of Leviticus lists in detail food that can or can not be eaten. Again modern medicine has confirmed the obvious health benefits from following this diet today, but in ancient times the advantages were even more remarkable. At a time when the average life span among Egyptian royalty was in the mid ’30s Hebrew slaves were living 70-80 years. Joseph died at 110.
What’s the difference?
The primary difference? Diet. Certain animals and fish were parasite ridden because of their eating habits. Others could not be safely cooked or preserved. The Lord promised that if the Israelites followed His diet and avoided them, He would bring upon them none of the diseases of the Egyptians. (Ex 15:26.) In Mark 7:19 (NIV), Jesus declared all foods clean and later on the Lord gave Peter a vision of the same idea. Why the sudden change? That which was external and physical had become internal and spiritual. Over and over God’s Word is described as the spiritual diet of the New Testament believer. It’s called our daily bread, our milk and meat, and so on. Just as contaminated food in their time led to physical death, so false doctrine brings spiritual death today.
The list of examples goes on and on. It’s one more reason why we’re admonished to keep the “whole counsel of God.” In so doing we mine rich veins of spiritual treasure.