The mystery of [God's] will … which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment — to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ Ephesians As the New Testament indicates, Jesus inaugurated the new covenant in his first coming, he continues to reveal the new covenant through the worldwide church today, and the full judgments and blessings of the new covenant age will come when Christ returns in glory as king over all.
Having explored the fulfillment of the new covenant in Christ, we're now in a position to turn to the second main topic of our lesson: our modern application of Scripture based on the unfolding character of the new covenant epoch. As we'll see in later lessons, there are many things to be said about the application of Scripture to people living in the new covenant age.
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Among these are countless cultural and personal considerations. But at this point, we want to see how the New Testament teaching about the three stages of the new covenant guides us in applying the Bible to our lives today. These aspects of application are rather general, but they provide us with indispensable perspectives on how we are to use the Scriptures in our lives today.
Everyone who's watched a play in a theater knows that where you sit affects your perspective on the performance. The same character and actions can look very different from different angles. And the best way to take in the whole presentation is to see it more than once from different seats. In many ways, this is how Jesus and the New Testament authors taught the Christian church to apply the Scriptures in the new covenant age. By examining Scripture from different vantage points, we're more equipped to apply the Bible to our lives.
Imagine a faithful follower of Christ reading the Scriptures on a stage whose backdrop divides into three large panels. From one side of the audience, we see that the Christian reads the Bible against the backdrop of Christ's inauguration of the new covenant. From the middle of the audience we see that the Christian reads the Bible against the backdrop of Christ's continuation of the new covenant.
And from the opposite side of the audience, we see him reading the Bible against the backdrop of Christ's consummation of the new covenant. In one way or another, followers of Christ are to apply the Scriptures to the modern world by studying the Bible with all three of these perspectives in mind. In other words, when studying the Bible, believers need to relate every Scripture to what Christ has already accomplished in the inauguration of the new covenant and consider everything Christ accomplished for us in his earthly ministry.
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But we also have to view the teachings of Scripture in light of the continuation of the new covenant age and search for the significance of Scripture in our lives today. Additionally, it's important that we view the Scriptures through the lens of what Christ will accomplish in the consummation of our age and live in readiness for Christ's wondrous return in glory. There are many ways we could explore these three perspectives on new covenant applications, but we'll touch on just two important points. First, we'll summarize some general guidelines for application in the new covenant age.
And second, we'll offer an example of application that illustrates these strategies. Let's begin with some general guidelines.
Appropriately connecting the original meaning of a biblical document to contemporary audiences in ways that impact their concepts, behaviors and emotions. As this definition points out, every application of Scripture involves appropriately connecting original meaning to contemporary audiences.
First, we need to determine the original meaning of a biblical passage by identifying the ways biblical authors sought to impact the concepts, behaviors, and emotions of their original audiences. Then, we can apply this original meaning to contemporary audiences by determining how a biblical passage should impact the concepts, behaviors and emotions of people today. As we've seen in other lessons, it's important to keep epochal developments in mind when we apply the Scriptures because originally every passage of Scripture was written for people living in a different stage of biblical faith than our own.
So, at this point in our lesson, let's focus on the ways epochal developments connect the original audiences of Scripture with contemporary audiences living in the new covenant age. To see what we have in mind, we'll look briefly in two directions. First, we'll make some general comments about new covenant applications of Old Testament passages. Then second, we'll do the same with New Testament passages. Let's begin with the Old Testament.
As we have seen in a preceding lesson, the Old Testament refers to six major covenants in biblical history, but the writing of Old Testament books took place in only two of these covenant ages: the covenant epochs of Moses and David. Every Old Testament passage was designed to address the needs of God's people living either in the covenant epoch of Moses or during the covenant epoch of David. As such, Old Testament passages originally conveyed to God's people sets of concepts, behaviors and emotions that were appropriate for the theological developments of these two covenant epochs.
For this reason, it's necessary to build bridges of meaning from Old Testament passages to the new covenant epoch. As followers of Christ, we know that the only infallible guide in this process is the New Testament. So, it's essential to look for ways New Testament authors applied the Old Testament to all three stages of the new covenant. For instance, the New Testament gives us many examples of the ways Christ fulfilled Old Testament teachings in his first coming. It also draws attention to the ways Christ continues to fulfill Old Testament teachings during the continuation period.
In addition, the New Testament points to the ways Christ will fulfill Old Testament teachings in the consummation of the new covenant. One of the most important biblical themes is the theme of the kingdom of God, and yet that particular phrase only occurs in the New Testament. Well, we see it everywhere in the Old Testament, especially in the Psalms regarding this acclamation, "the Lord reigns.
And so, something that talks about Yahweh's reign over his people and over the nations is now embodied in terms of Christ the Messiah, the son of David, who has arrived on the stage in Israel. As Acts 1 tells us, he will return in the same way that he left, and there will still be that final vindication as the people of God are tested in the final deception and rebellion when Satan is released, but also when Christ comes and is victorious over all of Satan's schemes at the end.
Greg Perry]. One of the most fascinating things to see is the way the gospel has portrayed Jesus in light of Old Testament themes. We see this in a number of different places.
One of the main places we see it is we see Jesus portrayed really in the place of Moses. He in some ways is a second Moses coming to lead a new second and greater exodus. A number of examples of that come to mind when we think about Jesus as the second Moses.
One, of course, is the idea of him going right into the wilderness after his water experience. So, when he's baptized in the Jordan River, in one sense, this going through the water is just like the Israelites going through the Red Sea and from there immediately going into the desert. In the desert he experiences temptations just like the Israelites, but he is the faithful Son, whereas Israel was the disobedient son. In that desert experience, Jesus emerges as the triumphant leader of a new exodus whereby he comes and then delivers a new law on the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 when Jesus is portrayed there as the new lawgiver.
Michael J. With this basic pattern for applying Old Testament passages in mind, let's turn to the application of New Testament passages to the new covenant age. At first glance, it may appear that there's no need to consider epochal developments when Christians apply the New Testament because the New Testament was written in the epoch of the new covenant.
But it's important to keep in mind that the entire New Testament was composed during the inaugural stage of the new covenant.
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Today, we no longer live in that stage. Rather, we live in the continuation of the new covenant age. So, we need to keep this epochal distinction in mind when we apply the New Testament to our lives. New Testament books came from the hands of the foundational leaders of the church and were initially written for people living during the inauguration of the new covenant epoch. What these authors wrote has many implications for us as we live in the continuation of the new covenant age.
So, even though we live thousands of years after these works were written, they have unquestionable authority for us. Consider just a few of the differences between our lives today and the times in which the New Testament was written.
For instance, unlike today, appeals for guidance could be made directly to individual apostles and prophets who were living at that time. We see this in the book of Philemon. Moreover, widespread issues could be decided by the interactions of the church's foundational leaders, as in the Jerusalem Council in Acts But in our day, we don't have these foundational authorities living among us.
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So, we have to rely on the New Testament's summations of their teachings to help guide us. In addition to this, the New Testament contains many examples of miraculous and supernatural events. Jesus and his apostles and prophets were especially gifted to perform such feats to establish their authority. While this was true then, authority today is established only by the standard of the New Testament itself. If we forget this distinction, we'll often have false expectations for our day.
To be sure, God continues to work miracles in the church during the continuation of the new covenant, but we should not be disappointed to discover that in this age such events do not occur with as much frequency as they did when Christ and the apostles lived on the earth. Moreover, New Testament authors devoted themselves primarily to doctrinal and practical issues that were particularly important for the inauguration of the new covenant.
For instance, hardly any issue received more attention in the New Testament than the expansion of God's kingdom from its Jewish roots to the Gentile world. Controversy after controversy addressed in the New Testament dealt with how followers of Christ were to observe or not observe Old Testament practices and additional Jewish traditions. While it's true that these teachings have implications for the church today, the Christian church has gone beyond many of these foundational controversies.
As the gospel continues to spread throughout the world, we face different sorts of issues.
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I sometimes wish that I could go back to the apostolic age and witness the preaching ministry of the apostles and the miracles that they performed and everything that they introduced into the life of the church. And of course, so many of the experiences of the early church are very similar to the experiences we have in the world today.
I mean, in many places in the world the church is persecuted community, and we're holding onto the same gospel that the first believers held onto. But there's also a sense in which that ministry of the apostles was unique in a unique period in church history, and we build on their foundation by reading the Scriptures that those apostles produced.
But the office of the apostle is not a continuing office in the life of the church. That's a unique foundational ministry that they were given and now we build on their foundation in the church today. Philip Ryken]. For this reason, when we apply the New Testament to the modern world, it's crucial to understand that the original meaning is based firmly in the inauguration stage of the new covenant era.
With that original meaning in hand, we can then apply it to our own time by taking into account further developments within the new covenant age. Having seen the general guidelines for application of the new covenant in both the Old and New Testaments, let's look at an example in Scripture that illustrates these principles.