A Question I Was Asked:

"What Place Does the New Testament Occupy in the Full Biblical Revelation?"

The Question:

"Do you define the Old Testament in light of the New Testament? or do you define the New Testament in light of the Old Testament? I was told that most Christians start reading the Bible from the wrong place; they read the New Testament first. In this way problems will occur due to a lack of the correct foundation. What do you say?"

UK Apologetics Reply:

This is the question often proposed by the Hebrew Roots Movement people. These people do not accept the differences between the Old Covenant and New Covenant which are accepted by the great majority of Christians - to say nothing of the writers of the New Testament - but propose a sort of 'continuous covenant' schema in which we should place both those two major covenants (old and new, that is) on the same footing. Of course, all truly serious students of the Bible know this simply cannot be done! If it could be done (which it can't), then Jesus, Paul the Apostle (in numerous statements) and the writer of the Book of Hebrews (who was probably not Paul) were all in error.

This is substantially the same error as Armstrongism, or Galatianism; the basic idea is that we continue to keep the law and that the coming of Jesus - important event though that certainly was - changes nothing; law-keeping remains the only way to please God and to receive salvation. This, of course, is entirely unbiblical and stands the New Testament on it's head, but most of the adherents of this view are only interested in the Old Testament, being only too happy to reduce Jesus to being no more than 'a bit part player.' These people simply have never understood that everything is fulfilled in Christ; their primary focus is Israel and the Law. There are so many Scriptures to quote to show that this view is erroneous that it is hard to know where to start, but let us look at Galatians 3:

15. Brothers and sisters, let me take an example from everyday life. Just as no one can set aside or add to a human covenant that has been duly established, so it is in this case.
16. The promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. Scripture does not say “and to seeds,” meaning many people, but “and to your seed,” meaning one person, who is Christ.
17. What I mean is this: The law, introduced 430 years later, does not set aside the covenant previously established by God and thus do away with the promise.
18. For if the inheritance depends on the law, then it no longer depends on the promise; but God in his grace gave it to Abraham through a promise.
19. Why, then, was the law given at all? It was added because of transgressions until the Seed to whom the promise referred had come. The law was given through angels and entrusted to a mediator.
20. A mediator, however, implies more than one party; but God is one.
21. Is the law, therefore, opposed to the promises of God? Absolutely not! For if a law had been given that could impart life, then righteousness would certainly have come by the law.
22. But Scripture has locked up everything under the control of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.
23. Before the coming of this faith, we were held in custody under the law, locked up until the faith that was to come would be revealed.
24. So the law was our guardian until Christ came that we might be justified by faith.
25. Now that this faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian.
26. So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,
27. for all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.
28. There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.
29. If you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise.

In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul was able to tell the Gentile Corinthians that,

1. For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers and sisters, that our ancestors were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea.
2. They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea.
3. They all ate the same spiritual food
4. and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ.

So, suddenly, the believers of Corinth (never having had any knowledge of Old Testament laws and being non-Israelite in descent) become the spiritual successors of Old Testament Israel! They were all one in Christ without regard to national ancestry or knowledge of the 600 plus laws of the Old Covenant!
Paul goes on to state,

6. Now these things occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did.


11. These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come.

So we see that God is now working out His purposes through the Church of Christ and Israel become mere (though very important) examples to the church today; Christians now become spiritual Jews (Romans 2:28-29). Paul then mentions (albeit in a somewhat sarcastic tone) that, being under the grace of Christ, the law know longer has any hold over him:

23. “I have the right to do anything,” you say—but not everything is beneficial. “I have the right to do anything”—but not everything is constructive.
24. No one should seek their own good, but the good of others.

At Galatia, many of the people wanted to turn back to observance of the law. What did Paul tell them?

1. You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified.
2. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by believing what you heard?
3. Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh?
4. Have you experienced so much in vain—if it really was in vain?
5. So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?
6. So also Abraham “believed God, and it was credited to him as righteousness.”
7. Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.
8. Scripture foresaw that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, and announced the gospel in advance to Abraham: “All nations will be blessed through you.”
9. So those who rely on faith are blessed along with Abraham, the man of faith.
10. For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.”
11. Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”
12. The law is not based on faith; on the contrary, it says, “The person who does these things will live by them.”
13. Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: “Cursed is everyone who is hung on a pole.”
14. He redeemed us in order that the blessing given to Abraham might come to the Gentiles through Christ Jesus, so that by faith we might receive the promise of the Spirit. (Galatians 1:1-14).

Now such words should be clear enough for anyone but - just in case - he makes another clear point on this topic in chapter 5 of Galatians:

1. It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

The writer of Hebrews hammers away at the greatness of Christ compared to the law and in chapter eight he refers back to Jeremiah's promise of a New Covenant, stating this:

7. For if there had been nothing wrong with that first covenant, no place would have been sought for another.
8. But God found fault with the people and said: “The days are coming, declares the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the people of Israel and with the people of Judah.
9. It will not be like the covenant I made with their ancestors when I took them by the hand to lead them out of Egypt, because they did not remain faithful to my covenant, and I turned away from them, declares the Lord.
10. This is the covenant I will establish with the people of Israel after that time, declares the Lord. I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.
11. No longer will they teach their neighbor, or say to one another, ‘Know the Lord,’ because they will all know me, from the least of them to the greatest.
12. For I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.”
13. By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete; and what is obsolete and outdated will soon disappear. (Hebrews 8:8-13).

Here the laws of the Old Covenant are plainly called "obsolete" - yet the Hebrew Roots Movement now tell us that we should do a major about-turn and start observing these laws again!! Can we not all see their blindness and the terrible damage they are doing?

The questioner had been told that a believer's true foundation is the Old Testament but Who/What should be our true foundation? Let us check this out:

16 So this is what the Sovereign LORD says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who relies on it will never be stricken with panic." (Isaiah 28:16).

33. As it is written: “See, I lay in Zion a stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall, and the one who believes in him will never be put to shame.” (Romans 9:33).

2. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation,
3. now that you have tasted that the Lord is good.
4. As you come to him, the living Stone—rejected by humans but chosen by God and precious to him—
5. you also, like living stones, are being built into a spiritual house to be a holy priesthood, offering spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ.
6. For in Scripture it says: “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a chosen and precious cornerstone, and the one who trusts in him will never be put to shame.”
7. Now to you who believe, this stone is precious. But to those who do not believe, “The stone the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”
8. and, “A stone that causes people to stumble and a rock that makes them fall.” They stumble because they disobey the message—which is also what they were destined for.
9. But you are a chosen people, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God’s special possession, that you may declare the praises of him who called you out of darkness into his wonderful light.
10. Once you were not a people, but now you are the people of God; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. (1 Peter 2:2-10).

Okay, so I think those Scriptures reveal - without a shadow of a doubt - that Christ Alone is a believer's 'true foundation'! Note also that Christians are now God's 'holy nation.' This is the message of the New Covenant which resolves all things in and through Christ.

So the answer to the question is that we define the entire biblical revelation through the New Covenant which reveals the work of Jesus of Nazareth Who is the Saviour of the World; only through Jesus may we properly understand the meaning and true place of the Old Covenant (and testament), something (as we have seen) clearly understood by the New Testament writers. Revelation is progressive, everything in the biblical revelation pivots on Christ and is only truly fulfilled in Him. I hate to say this, but I simply have to: frankly, those who do not comprehend this fact are spiritually blind. All one can do is to pray that God would open their eyes to a fuller and deeper knowledge of Christ. Having stated all of that, I would still say that most Christians should have a greater knowledge of the Old Testament than many of them now seem to have - nevertheless - the most vital and essential part of the biblical revelation for the believer in Christ is the New Covenant, which is especially outlined in the New Testament.
Robin A. Brace. December 8th 2010.