Why are there two Testiments in the Bible?
The Bible consists of two parts: The Old Testament, and the New Testament.
This is best explained in the book of Hebrews:
“In the case of a will, it is necessary to prove the death of the one who made it, because a will is in force only when somebody has died; it never takes effect while the one who made it is living. This is why even the first covenant was not put into effect without blood. When Moses had proclaimed every commandment of the law to all the people, he took the blood of calves, together with water, scarlet wool and branches of hyssop, and sprinkled the scroll and all the people. He said, “This is the blood of the covenant, which God has commanded you to keep.” In the same way, he sprinkled with the blood both the tabernacle and everything used in its ceremonies. In fact, the law requires that nearly everything be cleansed with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness.” (Heb 9:16-22 NIV)
While I was still quite young, my dad once matter-of-factly told me: “One day, all this will be yours.” I looked with fascination as he showed me all of his belongings, everything he owned. Had he worked so hard just for me? The thought nearly blew me away.
I didn’t receive the fulfillment of this promise, however, until he passed away. It wasn’t much, really, especially after splitting the estate between the siblings, and of course after giving the government their share, but it was enough to make me realize that I mattered to my father. I guess that up until the day his will came into effect, I had never fully grasped what all of this meant.
I have had to experience the deaths of many family members over the years. Grandmothers, grandfathers, uncles, aunts . . . And I was very close to some of them. But none of them ever gave me the same promise my dad gave. I was special to him!
The same is true with our Heavenly Father. On the same day we wandered away from Him, He, too, gave us a promise. He said: “I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and hers; he will crush your head, and you will strike his heel.” (Gen 3:15 NIV) That promise gave birth to hope. Hope that one day the enemy who deceives us, the enemy we accept as authority in our lives, will be crushed. Deliverance would be forthcoming!
This is where the first testament or will comes into place, the one we call the Old Testament. Just like any will, it can’t come into effect unless someone dies. The first will was put into effect with the blood of calves.
It’s a testament based on rules and regulations. The only problem is, as humans, we either take everything too literally, or we take it too liberally. We have to learn from experience that we cannot save ourselves! The purpose of the law was never to make us legalistic, in the way the Pharisees enforced it. No, instead, all through the Old Testament there is a clear indication that the law had everything to do with love:
“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:5 NIV)
“Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Lev 19:18 NIV. See also Matt 22:37-40)
Even in the Old Testament God’s desire was love:
“I will put my dwelling place among you, and I will not abhor you. I will walk among you and be your God, and you will be my people.” (Lev 26:11-13 NIV)
He wanted the return of the relationship that was lost with mankind in the Garden of Eden! (See Gen 3)
Did the sacrifices of calves and lambs take away the sins of humanity?
“Those sacrifices are an annual reminder of sins, because it is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins.” (Heb 10:3-4 NIV)
Not at all! Why were these sacrifices necessary, then?
“The law is only a shadow of the good things that are coming – not the realities themselves. For this reason it can never, by the same sacrifices repeated endlessly year after year, make perfect those who draw near to worship.” (Heb 10:1-2 NIV)
The law was a shadow of what was yet to come. It was not the fulfillment of the promise, it was an encouragement that the promise would one day be fulfilled! (See 1 Cor 13:12 NIV)
“So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith.” (Gal 3:24 NIV)
The law was never meant to be a way for us to show off! The law was never written so that we could be justified by our own actions! This is completely impossible! The Old Testament was pointing directly to the New Testament and its realization in Jesus Himself!
“The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.” (Heb 10:15-18 NIV. See also Jer 31:33-34)
Notice that in this text, all the actions are done by God Himself. It is “I will”. Not “you will” or “If you obey”!
Now here comes the crucial part: “Day after day every priest stands and performs his religious duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins. But when this priest (Jesus the Christ) had offered for all time one sacrifice for sins, he sat down at the right hand of God. Since that time he waits for his enemies to be made his footstool, because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy.” (Heb 10:11-14 NIV)
The New Testament is clearly the fulfillment of the Old Testament. Jesus Himself died for us and put the New Testament into full effect. We are now “perfect forever”, not because of our efforts, but because Jesus paid the price of our redemption once and for all! We may not feel like we are “perfect”, but in God’s eyes we truly are! Jesus is a constant reminder of that very fact, and He is right now, “at the right hand of God.”
The New Testament message is clear: We are forgiven because Jesus willingly died for us, so that we could taste eternity with Him (See John 3:16). He paid for our freedom with his very own blood!
We always have the right to accept or reject any testament. If we so choose, we can forfeit the promises written in a will. Or we can fully accept them and taste the love that comes from Jesus Himself.
“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13 NIV)
How will you respond to the testament God has given to you?