Sunday, July 16, 2017

Jesus and the Older Testament, the Word of God

Jesus and Torah, the Word of God

Jesus tells his co-religionists in John chapter 5: “Examine the scriptures; in them you trust that you have eternal life; and even they testify concerning me. Yet you will not come to me, that you might have life everlasting.” - John 5.39,40.

Jesus tells them that belief in the Sacred Scriptures proceeds faith in Him (See  “So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.” - Romans 10.17.

Jesus hits on this theme several times in the Gospels:

In the parable of Dives and Lazarus (Luke 16.19-31), Jesus concludes by saying, “Abraham said to him, If they will not hear Moses and the prophets, neither will they believe even if a man should rise from the dead.” - Luke 16.31.

In his debate with his co-religionists in John chapter 5, Jesus says:

“For if you had believed in Moses, you would also have believed in me; for Moses wrote concerning me. If you do not believe his writings, how then can you believe my words?” - John 5.46,47.

It is important for Christians to not take these passages above as condemnation of the Jews, as often very tragically has been done. Rather, Jesus’s words are an admonition for all to believe the Word of God. Saint Paul tells Timothy, in the classic text on the inspiration of the Scriptures:

“knowing that you have learned from your childhood the holy scriptures which are able to make you wise to salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. All scripture written by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and for instruction in righteousness; So that God’s people may become complete, thoroughly perfected for every good work.” - 2 Timothy 3.15-17.

Remember, in the passage above, Paul is only referring to the Older Testament. The Older Testament was THE Bible for the first Christians.

Jesus makes parallel statements about the eternal nature of the Word of God, both in the Older Testament and in His teaching.

In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus says, “Do not suppose that I have come to weaken the law or the prophets; I have not come to weaken, but to fulfil. For truly I say to you, Until heaven and earth pass away, not even one yoth [Yoth is the smallest letter in Aramaic and Hebrew.] or a dash shall pass away from the law until all of it is fulfilled.” - Matthew 5.17,18.
But Jesus also makes the same claim for His own teaching: "Even heaven and earth will pass away, but my words shall not pass away." - Matthew 24.35.

The disciple of Christ must be dedicated to studying the whole Scripture, "Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth." - 2 Timothy 2.15 KJV.  Again, the passage just quoted refers to the Older Testament.

Finally, the one who studies the Word of God must not only read and study it, but do it.

“While he was on the way, a man came running and fell on his knees and asked him, saying, O good Teacher, what shall I do to inherit life eternal? Jesus said to him, Why do you call me good? There is no one who is good except the one God. You know the commandments? Do not commit adultery, Do not steal, Do not murder, Do not bear false witness, Do not oppress, Honor your father and mother....” - Mark 10.17-19.

We should not assume that Jesus is merely being rhetorical or ironic here; He is in fact telling the young man that these are the requirements for everlasting life. He will of course, go on tell the young man that he must sell all of his possessions and give the proceeds to the poor, in order to be perfect; but we must not kid ourselves that obedience to the commandments is optional. Jesus warns us "It is not everyone who merely says to me, My Lord, my Lord, who will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven." - Matthew 7.21; (see also Psalm 62.12; Matthew 16.27; John 5.29; Romans 2.6-11; James 2.14-26; Revelation 20.12 & 21.14) .

Jesus admonished His disciples to obey the Word, both written (the Scriptures) and Living (Himself). He is the Word made flesh:

"So the Word became flesh and blood, and lived for awhile among us, abounding in blessing and truth, and we saw the honor God had given Him, such as an only son receives from his father." - John 1.14 Goodspeed.  

Unless otherwise indicated, the Bible passages above are from the Lamsa translation of the Peshitta Scriptures.

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