In this writing, I will address question #5.
The question as written is: “Why does Paul quote the “old testament” at all if it is not authoritative?”
I stated that I think the full intent of this question is more along the lines of “Christians think that you don’t have to obey the precepts of the Old Testament anymore. What do you think about this?”
I have had this question posed to me many times but have never written about it. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.
From my past experiences, usually when this type of question is asked, it is asked as a method to get a Christian to say that the “Old Testament” is still valid. This is usually because the person asking the question wants to continue doing something that the “Old Testament” authorized that is no longer effectual in the “New Testament”.
To understand fully, the concepts in place in my answer, we must look at the various laws, sets of laws, and covenants. These are also called the dispensations. If we simply look to the dictionary for the meaning of this word, we find that it means “an act or instance of dispensing” or “a certain order, system, or arrangement”.
In other words, to use it applied toward God, a dispensation is the method by which God deals with man and dispenses the knowledge of His will.
Malachi 3:6 says “I am the Lord, I do not change”. This is true. The character of God never changes. However, the way he deals with man has changed. Furthermore, the way He deals with certain groups or individuals also changed.
There are three dispensations described in scripture:
1. The Patriarchal Dispensation
2. The Mosaic Dispensation
3. The Christian Dispensation
Let’s look at each.
The Patriarchal Dispensation
This started with Adam and continued until Christ died on the cross. In this method, God spoke directly to the heads of families to instruct them in matters of righteousness. We see that God spoke to Adam, to Cain (Genesis 4:6-15), to Noah (Genesis 7:1), to Job (Job 38:1), and even though Abraham was the father of the Jews, he still lived and died under the Patriarchal system. We also see that He used this method through the prophets to call nations back to Him even though they were not Jewish nations (Jonah 1:2, Nahum 1:1, Daniel 4:28)
Everyone on earth lived under this method of guidance until Mt. Sinai. At Mt. Sinai, God finished separating out the Hebrews to be His chosen people and gave them their own covenant (dispensation).
The Mosaic Dispensation
God started talking about a special group of people in Genesis 12 when he was speaking to Abraham. Even though he started then, it took almost 500 years for that nation to grow. After God rescued His people from Egypt, He gave them a different law. That law was unique to that group of people. We usually call it the Law of Moses, but Moses was only the messenger.
In Exodus 20:2 we see that this law was given specifically to those whom God brought “out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery.” Since this law was given to the Children of Israel, no other nation was subject to it. That isn’t to say that they were not subject to any law, just not that one.
The Mosaic Dispensation runs from Sinai until Christ died on the cross. The method of delivery was first through Moses, then through the law given, then through the Levitical priest and the judges and kings.
The Christian Dispensation
Everything changed with Jesus. He came, died, was buried, raised and established His church. All men were now placed under his law. There was no more need for sacrifices in the Temple. The Levitical priesthood was no longer needed because the universal High Priest was now Christ (Hebrews 4:14). Christ is the lone mediator between man and God. It is Him that I should look toward, and His law I should follow.
The law of Moses could never fully take away sin. It only set those sins aside until Jesus came. And when he came, he became the ultimate and perfect sacrifice that cleanses sin from the beginning of time and into the future.
The coming of this new dispensation also covered all men, not just Jews. Thank God for this! Without this, I have no hope because I am not Jewish.
Now, I have some questions.
- There were people who were under the Patriarchal Dispensation who were placed under the law of Moses at Sinai. Do you think they felt that the Patriarchal law they were used to still applied?
- Do you think they rejected the Mosaic law to keep the Patriarchal system?
- How can a law that never applied to me (since I’m not Jewish) be authoritative to me?
- If I stick to a law that was given only to a certain group of people that were ordained by God, am I not usurping God’s authority by basically telling Him that I expect Him to accept me regardless of my station?
- By keeping ANY law outside of the one that Christ ordained, am I not belittling His coming and His sacrifice by telling Him that the law He brought was so insufficient that I must also keep another?
- By keeping ANY law outside of the one that Christ ordained, am I not rejecting Christ as my ONLY Lord and Master?
So, is the Mosaic Law still authoritative? In the sense that it never applied to me, I was never under it, and I am not meant to follow all of it’s laws, ceremonies, sacrifices, mandates, and conditions, the answer is “no”, it is not authoritative. But, it is still vastly important. It teaches me right from wrong. It explains how God works in people’s lives. It shows me a glimpse into the nature of God. It shows me how we got here and why Christ had to die. It helps me understand the nature of sin and why God dislikes it. It helps give background on why Christ and the Pharisees were at odds and it helps me understand Christ’s answers to the Pharisees . Most importantly, it helps me understand what is a sin and what is not a sin. In these respects, yes, it is authoritative. These are the reasons that Paul quotes the Old Testament.
Now, I’ll move back to answering the other questions.