How many of you have ever began studying the Bible with good intentions and enthusiasm, only to become confused and discouraged? Wondering how what you read fits into the "Big Picture?" Feeling overwhelmed with how you will ever grasp the concept of God's Plan; just wanting to give up because you feel the task of understanding Scriptures is too much for you? You are not alone. Most people today don't have a "working knowledge" of Scriptures or how they fit together. The sad part is they reflect the very thoughts and heart of God. They are endless in their depth (you can learn forever), yet God has made His Plan of Redemption easy enough for every person in this room to understand. Most of us just don't want to take the time.
Some here can give great detail in every twist, turn, event, and character of television, book and movie series, but we can't seem to fit two Books of the Bible together and make sense of them. It is all about what is important to you.
Is this God's Word or not? If you believe it is, then you will make the effort to learn what these pages say about how to please God and what these pages say about the meaning of your life. And I'm telling you, as you grow in your knowledge and you see the incredible way God's Word fits together, and you see the awesome story it tells as you see God's personality, power and plans revealed—you will not have any more trouble staying in Its pages. Biblical illiteracy hurts our understanding of Who God really is, who we really are, it allows us to be misled by others, and it greatly handicaps our ability to share Christ with the world. So, this is our chance to turn it around.
For the next several weeks we are going to start from ground zero, and take a look at the Bible as a whole, from a distance—learning how it all fits together as a one Story. There will be no intense study of any one area. The goal is to grasp the theme, structure, and Story well enough that, when you begin reading the awesome details for yourself you will see how and why, what you are reading is important in God's overall Story.
The Bibleman's Creed. It is God's entire revealed Plan for: Who He is. How it all got here. What He wants from me. Why I am even alive. Where this world is heading. How it will all end. What waits after the end. As mentioned before, it was written miraculously: Over a time span of 1500 to 1600 years (Quran 23), by 40 different people of all walks of life (1 man), in three languages, on three continents, but with an awesome, consistent, unified message. It is made up of 66 different Books, but these are not full-sized books as you would compare to those on a book shelf. Reading the entire Bible, front to back is about the word equivalence of reading seven or eight novels, not sixty-six. [Anyone ever read the Narnia series? Seven books. Harry Potter? Seven books. Game of Thrones? Five out, two coming. The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings? Just short of same number of words. So, in reality it is easily readable and understandable.] [And how many of you read a series such as these, and were actually sad there was not more? (You may get that way with Scriptures)]
The first place to begin our study of the Big Picture, is in understanding the main division of Scriptures: The Old and the New Testaments (39 Books OT / 27 Books NT). Some may wonder why there is a division at all. Some may question why we even read the Old Testament, thinking it's not for us. Some often ask why God seems totally different in the Old and New Testaments. In order to understand, we must first understand the word "Testament". There are a total of seven different Covenants between God and men in the Bible, but, we have these two main Covenants or contracts as the basis for the division of Scriptures Old and New.
What is the Old Testament Covenant: The Old Testament was centered around the Hebrew people, and the Covenant God made with them. God gave the Ten Commandments to Moses in Exodus 20, and in the next three chapters of Exodus, other rules and regulations were given to the Hebrews to go along with them telling how they would live, worship, and conduct themselves in order to separate themselves from the world and live as God wanted. When they would break these commands, God had a system of sacrifice and atonement for them to follow, so their sins may be covered. Read the moment the Covenant was given: Exodus 24:3,6-8. Notice God sprinkled half the blood of the sacrifice on the altar (representing Himself), and half on the people—why? Because this showed that both parties were joined steadfast to this Covenant under the penalty of blood, or death, if broken (what a foreshadowing) which is why sacrifices were regularly made. Think back on the articles placed in the Tabernacle, and later, the temple. The Ark placed in the Tabernacle was called the "Ark of the Covenant." The Ten Commandments placed into that Ark were called, "The Tablets of the Covenant." God's entire relationship with the Hebrew people in the Old Testament centered around this contract. See how Jeremiah reiterates this Covenant to the Hebrew people in his writings: Jeremiah 11:1-4. Basically this Covenant said: "You are my creation, and my people..." "Listen and obey what I tell you, and you will continue to be blessed as my children, and I will continue to be your God..." "Rebel against Me and My Commandments, and the penalty will be death..."
What purpose did the Old Covenant serve? 1) It separated these people from the rest of the world, and made them especially devoted to Him because it was in His plans to build a nation from these people and from that nation, to bring a Savior into the world. Genesis 18:17-18. 2) It showed God's Holiness, and His standard of perfect love for one another and for Himself that we are called to live by repeatedly God tells the Israelites in Leviticus to, "Be Holy, because I am Holy!" (Leviticus 11:44, 20:7) 3) It revealed the true state of men's hearts and minds, showing our inability to love as commanded and revealing our truly self-centered and evil hearts. Romans 7:7-12. 4) It gave a physical, outward form of Law and restraint; until the heart could be cleansed, and the choice for Holiness and love could be natural. Galatians 3:19, 23-25. The Law was "added" because of sin to give direction until Christ could take that sin away. [paidagogos]
The Old Covenant between God and His people, which was binding to bring death if broken, showed our rebellion against God, and proved why we could never be with Him because we broke that Covenant, meaning death and separation. But the New Testament, or the New Covenant started with Jesus Christ. This is why, and when, the New Testament divided from the Old. Read Jesus' own Words about how He begins a New Covenant when He sits down to eat the last Passover He will have with His disciples. He takes the cup of wine and says: Luke 22:20: Jesus says the New Covenant will be brought with His Blood. Think back to what we just read in the sealing of the Old Covenant. They sealed it with the sprinkling of blood to show that if broken, the penalty would be the shedding of Blood, or death. See how the two Covenants, or Testaments, fit beautifully together. God knew we would choose to defy Him, because He knew our hearts before He gave the Law, but He gave the Law anyway because His justice and Holiness required it; because We couldn't be near Him without it. (We would only hurt and destroy perfection); and, because He had to show us how fallen and depraved we were. But He would never accept that He'd lost us to sin. He already had the ultimate Plan—if it required death and Blood to fulfill the penalty for our behavior—then that is what would be given: His. God did not make a New Covenant by changing the rules. He started a New Covenant by fulfilling the requirements of the rules: Hebrews 9:13-15; Matthew 5:17-22. Jesus fulfilled His own requirements for punishment because He loved us so much. And here was the result: Romans 7:1-4. Christ died in our place, so legally we are dead. Since we died, the Law cannot punish us anymore, and we are free to be with Christ. Not a doing away with the Law, but a meeting of Its requirements (like having already served the sentence). So the New Covenant says “I (God) have let my Son die to fulfill your punishment requirements of the Old Covenant, now, just tell me that you want me, and you accept that death as your own. And I will see you as Holy and sinless as if untouched by sin, like my Son who died for you, and, even more than that, since you are now dead to the Law, any sins you may slip into from here on out will not be held against you because you’ve already fulfilled the punishment for it. (Through Christ’s death!) How awesome and amazing is our God? Now, you know why the major division occurs in Scriptures.
The next major question about this division might very well be: "Well, if Old Testament Scriptures don't apply to me today, why is it so important to study and learn them?" The Old Testament tells of our origin, and what God's perfect plan was for mankind. The OT gives the entire story of Jesus coming to seek and save us: (How else look for and recognize Him when come?) in amazing detail, with the personal feelings and heart of Jesus revealed (Psalm 22, etc.), showing the certainty of God's existence through the prophecy fulfillment in supernatural ways. Remember, the disciples only had the OT, and Jesus showed them all of the proofs for who He was from the Scriptures of their day: Luke 24:44-48. The OT gives continued prophecies about Jesus—which are still in our future concerning His Return and His Kingdom here on earth. [And if all those prophecies of His first coming came true—wow—what excitement can we have reading the rest of them!] The OT, has foreshadowed every major event that happened in God's Plan so far, through God's Feasts given to His people. Even occurring on the same dates flawlessly (Passover, Unleavened Bread, First Fruits, Pentecost). What about the last three to come? Every story of the OT shows God's heart, His priorities, His power, His character and the truth of His Words, helping to build our faith and understanding of Him.
Summary: OT Scriptures give the Promise of the Messiah. The foundation for understanding the Messiah. The proof of the Messiah. And the clues to His return. The OT starts with perfection and harmony between God and men taken away—the NT ends with perfection and harmony restored. The OT shows our hopelessness in sin through the Law—the NT shows our hopefulness from sin through Grace and Mercy. The OT tells of the Messiah to come—the NT tells the story of His coming.
This is the purpose and theme of all these pages [God’s heart]—next we will see the awesome Story unfold.
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