What has the Old Testament to do with the Gospel? Why is it even included in the Bible? How did Jesus, Peter and Paul preach the Gospel?
JESUS CHRIST never read the New Testament! Yet He preached the Gospel. He quoted from Scripture! John the Baptist preached the Gospel of the Kingdom of God. The Apostle Peter on the day of Pentecost in 31 A.D. preached a sermon of salvation that brought three thousand people to repentance — he quoted many scriptures, yet not one was from the New Testament. After his conversion, the Apostle Paul preached the Gospel of Jesus Christ — yet through most of his ministry he did not have access to any of what we recognize as the New Testament today — in fact, he himself was responsible for writing fourteen books of it! The only Bible that Jesus and Peter and Paul were conversant with and preached from was what we regard today as the Old Testament!
Old Testament Useless?
The Bible is a consistent best seller year after year! It has been translated into nearly every language and dialect used by mankind! Yet this most translated and consistent best seller is the least read and studied of any of the best sellers! And even those who do read and study the Bible consistently ignore the largest part of it — the Old Testament. Somehow the term "Old" Testament as opposed to the "New" Testament has made most people feel that it is not necessary to read the Old — almost as if it had nothing to do with the New, or as if it were a completely useless part of the Bible. Yet, consistently, millions upon millions of copies of the Bible, including the Old Testament, are reproduced and sold. The Bible has 66 books in the King James Version. Comparing it to a novel or a textbook, if each of these books were just a long chapter — wouldn't it seem strange to begin reading a book at chapter 40? There are 39 books in the Old Testament and the book of Matthew beginning the New Testament is the 40th book of the Bible — comparable to the 40th chapter of a textbook or novel! Are those first 39 chapters of God's book unnecessary — or did God have a reason for inspiring them?
How Did the Apostles Preach the Gospel?
How did Jesus Christ preach the Gospel? To what authority did He appeal? Where did He get His ideas of love and grace — of forgiveness and salvation — of the message of the Kingdom of God? When Peter preached about grace and salvation, upon what authority did he base his statements? When the Apostle Paul expounded and proclaimed to the Gentiles about the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, from what books did he preach?
New Testament Answers!
Certainly the "Golden Rule" is accepted as summing up the basic teachings of Jesus Christ — of New Testament theology. "Therefore all things whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them" (Matt. 7:12). But how many of you read the last part, of this verse — or heard the last part of this verse explained and expounded — the last part of this verse which, in the words of Jesus Christ, explains where He got the idea of the Golden Rule? The LAST PART of this verse reads, "for THIS [the Golden Rule] IS THE LAW AND THE PROPHETS!" (Matt. 7:12). Jesus Christ was NOT doing away with the Old Testament! His very life and Gospel message was an explanation of the Old Testament — a clarification, a magnification. When the Pharisees and Sadducees would ask Him a trick question, He would consistently ask them, "Have you not read...?" (Matt. 12:3, 5, etc) He was more conversant with the Old Testament than the ablest of scribes! Yes, the Gospel of Jesus Christ is a Gospel of love — but what kind or love? Let Jesus Christ Himself explain this to you — when a hypocritical lawyer of the Pharisees asked Him a question to tempt Him, asking which was the greatest commandment, Jesus Christ answered him saying, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart and with all thy soul and with all thy might... Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thy self [this is the great commandment of love that Jesus Christ gave — the "new" commandment, see I John 2:7-8]. On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets" (Matt. 22:37-40). And Jesus quoted His answer from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19: 18! When Christ was tempted by Satan the Devil, He pointed out the over-all precept, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4 — also Luke 4:4). But this was not an idea that Jesus Christ thought up independent of the Old Testament — this was not changed, New Testament theology. This tool that Jesus Christ used to resist Satan the Devil was taken directly from the pen of Moses and is quoted from Deuteronomy 8:3!
The Apostle Peter plainly showed that the whole purpose of the writing of the prophets of the Old Testament was for the use of those who are called to the Gospel of Jesus Christ! (I Pet. 1:10-12). In closing off his second epistle he warned all those who were followers of Jesus Christ that they should watch out for individuals who twisted the meaning of the epistles of Paul — but comparing this deceitful use of Paul's epistles to the practice of those who also deceitfully use the other scriptures, the Old Testament! (II Pet. 3:1516). The very authority of Paul's writings, Peter showed, rested on the Old Testament! The source of the Gospel that Paul preached, is recorded for us in the book of Acts! "And when they had appointed him a day, there came many to him into his lodging; to whom he [Paul] expounded and testified the kingdom of God, persuading them concerning Jesus, [the Gospel] both out of the law of Moses, and out of the prophets, from morning till evening" (Acts 28:23). This historic statement regarding the teaching of the Apostle Paul was recorded at the very end of his ministry — long after he had turned from the Jews and begun to concentrate on the Gentiles.
Paul Commanded Old Testament Preaching
Paul was the apostle in charge of carrying the Gospel to the Gentiles. As an apostle he held a very high office and was also responsible for the training of many men under him. These evangelists and elders were responsible for carrying the same Gospel message to the local churches that Paul raised up, after his departure. Paul's personal instruction to the Evangelist Timothy is preserved for us to this day so that we will be able to tell how the Apostle Paul instructed the Evangelist Timothy, and all of those elders under him, to conduct their preaching, and from whence to get their information. Using all of the power of his office, Paul said, "I charge ye therefore before God, and the Lord Jesus Christ, who shall judge the quick and the dead at his appearing and his kingdom; PREACH THE WORD"! (II Tim. 4:1-2) The expression "the word" is the common reference to the Old Testament — The Holy Scriptures. Just a few verses before this Paul had instructed Timothy, "Study to show thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth (II Tim. 2:15). Urging and ex-honing Timothy to study the Old Testament in order to preach Christ! Is this the kind of instruction being given in the theological seminaries today? Or has the prophecy of Paul which he gave to Timothy in this same book already come to pass — "For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth ["Thy word is truth" — John 17: 17], and shall be turned [from the Gospel truths of the Old Testament] unto fables [the teaching of men having turned a deaf ear to the Word of God and thought up their own theology!] (II Tim. 4:3-4). No, Paul did not think up a new "Pauline theology" — he didn't disagree with Moses, or any of the prophets, or Jesus Christ — his instruction was, again to Timothy, "And that from a child you have known the holy scriptures which ARE ABLE TO MAKE THEE WISE UNTO SALVATION THROUGH FAITH which is in Christ Jesus. ALL SCRIPTURE [all of the Bible that today's Christians regard as the Old Testament] is given by inspiration of God [not the ideas of men about God, but the writings of holy men inspired by the Holy Spirit prior to the time of Jesus Christ, see II Peter 1:21] and IS PROFITABLE [Paul under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit and using the full authority of his apostleship states in a letter of instruction to a fellow minister, in the fulfillment of his duty in the ministry that the Old Testament IS PROFITABLE] for DOCTRINE [the doctrines of the Apostle Paul were not "Pauline theology" at all, but the same basic truths that were preached by Noah, a preacher of righteousness, by Abraham, by Moses, by Elijah, by John the Baptist, and by Jesus Christ — and their source was the Old Testament!], for REPROOF, for CORRECTION, for INSTRUCTION IN RIGHTEOUSNESS [there is a way to be righteous, and that way is described in the Old Testament]" (II Tim. 3:15-16). And this quote, you will notice, is just directly prior to the first verse of chapter four in which Paul tells Timothy what to preach!
Lay Members Urged to Read Old Testament
The Apostle Paul had, no doctrines contrary to any single verse written from Genesis to Malachi. He never urged any — even of his Gentile converts — to ignore the Old Testament. In fact the historic record of his preaching to Gentiles at Berea, tells us that he was highly pleased by those citizens of Berea who checked up by daily Old Testament Bible reading on the things that he proclaimed to them — the Gospel of Jesus Christ! "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and SEARCHED THE SCRIPTURES DAILY, whether those things were so" (Acts 17:11). There is one reference in the New Testament of Paul in his preaching referring to one of the poets. You know how common it is for ministers to quote from Shakespeare, Tennyson, Shelley and Keats. When Paul was speaking to the Athenians on Mars Hill he said, "For in him we live, and move, and have our being; as certain also of your own poets have said" (Acts 17:28). But his use of poets' clever sayings is nil in comparison to the dozens and dozens of times, in the book of Acts, and in the many epistles which he wrote, in which he quoted word for word and used as his authority the Old Testament scriptures. In his letter to the Gentile Corinthians the Apostle Paul commanded that church to be familiar with the Old Testament — "Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come" (I Cor. 10:11).
Shall We Desert the New Testament?
Since the examples of Jesus Christ, the Apostle Peter and the Apostle Paul show that their theology, ministry and Gospel were derived directly from the Old Testament, shall we assume that we should do away with the New Testament and not read it? God forbid! No, since the New Testament is just as much a part of God's Word as the Old (II Pet. 3:15-16) then we should read and study it with equal diligence. Once we understand that the New Testament is Holy Scripture just as much as the Old Testament is, then we must apply the very statement that Jesus Christ made to Satan the Devil when He was resisting him in the temptation on the Mount, and agree that we must live by EVERY WORD OF GOD — both the Old and the New Testaments. It is only by the Spirit of God that any man is able to understand either the Old or the New Testament. There were preachers in Jesus Christ's day — the Sadducees and Pharisees, and many other splits and denominations, but they did not understand the scriptures of the Old Testament — any more than most of the ministers of today understand the New! When Paul instructed Timothy to study the Old Testament, the Holy Scriptures, he explained to him that these Holy Scriptures contained the wisdom that would bring him to salvation, but only through the FAITH OF JESUS CHRIST! (II Tim. 3:15).
New Testament Example
Is there then an example in the New Testament of an individual,' ordained by God to preach the Gospel of the Kingdom of God, who used as the sole basis for his preaching the Old Testament? YES! The eighth chapter of the book of Acts, beginning verse 26, portrays the history of how Philip brought the Gospel of God to an Ethiopian eunuch. In verse 28 it is explained that the eunuch was reading out of the book of Isaiah. "And the eunuch answered Philip, and said, I pray thee, of whom speaketh the prophet this? Of himself, or of some other man? Then Philip opened his mouth, and began at the same scripture, and PREACHED UNTO HIM JESUS!" Acts 8:34-35). Surely God was working with this Ethiopian eunuch, and causing him to read in this particular verse in Isaiah. However there are more than three hundred specific prophecies regarding Jesus Christ recorded in the Old Testament — both concerning His first coming, as the humble carpenter of Nazareth to be sacrificed for the sins of the world, and regarding His second coming to be King of kings and Lord of lords ruling over the entire earth in the Kingdom of God — soon to come!
Philip's Gospel Message
Let's turn to the scripture that he was reading from in the book of Isaiah, and see just how Philip could preach Jesus Christ, Him crucified and the Gospel of the Kingdom of God — of salvation — from the Old Testament! Isaiah 53:7 was the scripture that the Ethiopian eunuch was reading: "He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth: he is brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb, so he openeth not his mouth" (Isa. 53:7). In answer to the Ethiopian's question Philip, began to explain that this referred to the Son of God, sent by the Almighty Father in heaven to become a human being, to live a perfect life, and then to be sacrificed for the sins of mankind. Beginning at the very verse the eunuch was reading, he went on to explain how all the verses of Isaiah 53 applied to Jesus Christ — but Isaiah 53 is not the only chapter in the Old Testament that applies to Jesus Christ, many more were needed for Philip to explain completely the Gospel of Jesus Christ to the eunuch-out of the Old Testament. As any commentary will explain, and as I am sure Philip explained, he would have either turned to or explained to the Ethiopian eunuch about Genesis 3:15. This prophecy regarding Jesus Christ, the seed of the woman, Eve, was to redeem mankind from his sin! This would show how the Savior of mankind was expected from the very beginning — from the time immediately after Adam and Eve committed the first sin of mankind in disobeying their God and His instructions in the Garden of Eden. He explained Genesis 12, and Genesis 15, and Genesis 22 about the promise that the God of heaven and earth had made to Abraham, the father of all the Israelites — of how He had promised him a particular Seed that would be the joy, the glory, and the solace of all mankind — of how He was prophesied so many centuries ago! That this Seed would fulfill the promise of eternal inheritance of the whole earth, made to Abraham. Since it was on everybody's mind at that particular time, Philip mentioned the 70 weeks' prophecy of Daniel 9, verses 24 through 27, which had everybody expecting that the Messiah would appear. He pointed out how other verses in The Old Testament explained that this Messiah when He came at first — in His first coming — would NOT be the King of kings and Lord of lords, to restore a mighty kingdom to Israel — but would be a humble man, Who would be persecuted and despised by all mankind (referring again to Isaiah 53), Who would be sacrificed, sold as a slave, rejected, Who would speak in parables, Who would suffer, Who would be betrayed by a friend, Who would be dead three days and three nights — and be RESURRECTED! Explaining these things Philip showed that since this same Jesus was now alive He would fulfill the prophecies in the future which portray Him as King of kings and Lord of lords — at His second coming, to establish the Kingdom of God on earth forever! Using the book of Zechariah, Philip read, "Then he answered and spake unto me, saying, This is the word of the Lord unto Zerubbabel, saying, Not by might, nor by power, but by my spirit, saith the Lord of hosts" (Zech. 4:6). Then Philip would pause and explain again to the Ethiopian eunuch that the Savior of mankind did not come first as a conquering hero and king to restore a physical kingdom to a physical Israel — not by any physical strength or might, but by the very power of the Holy Spirit this Savior came with the strength to overcome the physical pull of human nature, and live a perfect life by the strength of that Spirit. That He would cry, "Grace, grace unto it" (Zech. 4:7) regarding Jerusalem, and Israel, and the whole world! Philip would turn over quickly (or quote from memory) to chapter 9 of Zechariah and read in verse 9 — "Rejoice greatly, O daughter of Zion; shout, O daughter of Jerusalem: behold, thy King cometh unto thee: he is just, and having salvation; lowly, and riding upon an ass, and upon a colt the foal of an ass" (Zech. 9:9). Philip would explain to this Ethiopian that despite the fact that this Being had been God. in heaven, that yet He had emptied Himself of being God and become JUST A MAN (Phil. 2:5, 6, 7), a lowly man, not regarding Himself as any great Being, not trying to take over the kingdoms of the earth, but living an example — an example of perfection, living according to the laws of God, and pleasing the Creator of heaven and earth in everything that He did. He would point out to the eunuch that, just as Herod had been told (Matt. 2:5-6) that the Savior was to be born in Bethlehem, that He was eventually to be Ruler in all Israel and that He had really existed from everlasting, that He had been God from the beginning — Micah 5:2!
More from the Book of Zechariah
Philip would again refer to the book of Zechariah and explain to the Ethiopian eunuch how it had been prophesied long ago that the One Who would come and fulfill the prophecies of the Messiah in His first coming would be sold for 30 pieces of silver — the price of a slave — (Zech. 11:12-13). It had been prophesied long ago that Jesus Christ would not be accepted by the multitudes but rejected completely, that it was no mistake that the Son of God had been rejected of mankind — "The stone which the builders refused is become the head stone of the corner. This is the Lord's doing; it is marvelous in our eyes" (Ps. 118:22-23). Going back to the book of Zechariah Philip would explain how it had long ago been prophesied that this Messiah would bring grace to mankind, forgiveness for their sins — unmerited though it might be, and sacrifice Himself completely for their sins! "And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, THE SPIRIT OF GRACE and of supplications" (Zech. 12: 10): Philip would explain to the Ethiopian eunuch that there was a new covenant, that this Individual brought — "Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, that I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel, and with the house of Judah... I will put my law in their inward parts, and write it in their hearts; and will be their God, and they shall be my people" (Jer. 31:31-33). He would show the eunuch — before Paul had a chance to write in the book of Ephesians (Eph. 6:10-17) — how Jesus Christ, the Captain of our salvation, was to have righteousness as a breastplate, salvation as a helmet and zeal as a cloak! (Isa. 59:16-17) Philip would turn to Psalm 22 and read the first verse — the last words of Jesus Christ on the stake as He suffered death for the sins of mankind! "My God, my God, why halt thou forsaken me?" (Ps. 22:1). He would turn to verse 16 and show how Jesus Christ had had His hands and feet pierced with spikes, to verse 17 and show how Christ had hung in desperation on that stake, in humility and ignominy! He would turn to verse 18 and explain how the Roman soldiers had even gambled and cast lots to see who would be the owner of the fine cloak that Jesus wore. In explaining all these things that had been prophesied so long ago, and only fulfilled recently in the Person of Jesus Christ, Philip would mention Psalm 41 verse 9 which explains, "Yea, mine own familiar friend, in whom I trusted, which did eat of my bread, hath lifted up his heel against me." Recounting again for the Ethiopian eunuch he would explain how that when Jesus hung on the cross He was offered gall to drink when He said that He was thirsty — but he would explain patiently to the eunuch that this had been prophesied, that Christ had expected it — "They gave me also gall for my meat; and in my thirst they gave me vinegar to drink (Ps. 69:21). Just as Peter did on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:27-28) Philip would explain to the Ethiopian eunuch about the prophecy in the book of Psalms regarding the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, "For thou wilt not leave my soul in hell; neither wilt thou suffer thine Holy One to see corruption" (Ps. 16:10). He would point out the assurance of Job, when he said, "For I know that my redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter day upon the earth" (Job 19:25).
The Purpose of the Gospel
In explaining these things — and many more we do not have room to refer to here — Philip would point out to the Ethiopian eunuch that this was not the end but only the BEGINNING of a great plan of salvation that God Almighty had envisioned for mankind. Turning back to Zechariah 9 he would show him that even though the King would come as a lowly individual riding upon the colt of an ass at first, that He would also come in a SECOND COMING as King of kings and Lord of lords to rule the entire earth — "And I will cut off the chariot from Ephraim, and the horse from Jerusalem, and the battle bow shall be cut off: and he shall speak peace unto the heathen: and his dominion shall be from sea even to sea, and from the river even to the ends of the earth" (Zeck. 9:10). (To understand these scriptures better write for the article, "Why the Jews Reject Jesus") There are so many books and chapters that he could refer to in prophecies regarding the second coming of Jesus Christ that it is difficult to tell which of these chapters and verses Philip may have referred to in explaining the Gospel of the Kingdom to the Ethiopian eunuch. Surely he turned to Zechariah 14 and explained that when Jesus Christ returned again He would put His feet on the very Mount of Olives (Zech. 14:4) — that He would be Lord and King over all the earth (verse 9) and that at that time He would require all nations on the surface of the earth to keep His Holy Days in remembrance of the plan of the salvation of mankind! (Verses 16-19) The AIM AND PURPOSE OF THIS GOSPEL (good news) he would point out to the eunuch is the establishment of the Kingdom of God!
Today's Good News Also
Mankind has suffered so long under the rule of fellow man, that it is certainly good news — and particularly in this age when mankind is about to destroy himself from off the face of the earth — to know that the same One Who had the compassion, love and mercy to sacrifice Himself, for the sins of mankind on this earth, some 1900 years ago, is going to return to this earth in a very short time to establish His rule of peace, His Kingdom of joy and enforce the laws that govern happiness, health and prosperity! (see the entire chapter, Isa. 11). We lack space to explain how even all of the sacrifices of the Levitical priest-hood (especially Lev. 1-6) picture and typify the many ways in which Jesus Christ was a sacrifice for mankind. We do not have room to explain how Moses, the author of the first five books of the Bible, anticipated the coming of Jesus Christ when he was inspired to write, "I will raise them up a Prophet [Jesus] from among their brethren, like unto thee [Moses], and will put my words in his mouth; and he shall speak unto them all that I shall command him" (Deut. 18:18). Moses even knew that there would come some individuals who would have the gall to preach in the name of God and claim that they were His prophets, and yet speak lies in His name — "But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die" (Deut. 18:20).
False Prophets of Both Testaments
God knew there would be scoffers, individuals who would agree to take some of the Word of God but not all of it! God knew that the great majority of mankind until the coming of His Son as King of kings and Lord of lords, would not accept the principle that Jesus Christ resisted Satan the Devil with: "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by EVERY WORD that proceedeth out of the mouth of God" (Matt. 4:4). God knew this — that's why He prophesied through His servant John that He was allowing Satan the Devil to deceive this whole world (Rev. 12:9). But that time is nearly over now — the prophecies which Philip preached to the Ethiopian eunuch about the second coming of Jesus Christ are just about to be fulfilled! They're going to be fulfilled in your lifetime and mine! The same Jesus Christ who walked this earth 1900 years ago as the humble son of a carpenter of Nazareth is going to return in the clouds in glory and in power and in majesty. He is going to ask where your talent is! He is going to ask what you have done with the information that has been given to you. He is going to ask whether you believe the Gospel of the Kingdom of God — both Old and New Testaments — He is going to ask you if you have been living by EVERY WORD OF GOD! What will YOUR answer be?
What YOU Can Do
Exercise the wisdom and nobility of the Bereans mentioned by the Apostle Paul in Acts 17. Read over these many verses that have been quoted in this article, and ask the living God, Creator of heaven and earth, to help you see that He has not written one scripture in vain, that not one word He has uttered or inspired for mankind to write down will be allowed to drop to the ground unfulfilled or unheeded, but that every word that He has inspired from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22 will be required especially at the hand of all those who claim to be Christians. Search these Scriptures whether these things be so!