Welcome to the Gateway Throwdown here on Superbowl Sunday. For those new to Gateway, we started doing this on Superbowl Sunday years ago, when this would be a low attendance Sunday–people would miss church because of the Superbowl. Even though the game doesn’t start until 5pm! But we decided to have a little fun with it, and make it a Sunday you don’t want to miss, and you want to invite friends too–because we follow the Creator of fun and laughter and humor, so it’s okay to enjoy church today. But we’re also talking about a serious subject—a competition of sorts that you see in the Bible. In the bible there’s always been this rivalry, this tension, between the Old Testament and the New Testament. And I guess it’s fair that the Rookie gets to start in the red zone, why read the New Testament, and I’m starting from my own 1 yard line, but hey, did Tom Brady complain that Tampa Bay was horrible, no he just started winning.
So I’m gonna win you over as to why you should read the Old Testament. First, the Old Testament is the history of God’s interaction with humanity spanning thousands of years. If you only read the New Testament, you’ll miss The Great Love Story of God – like reading the last chapter of a book without understanding the whole story. [Like being a Cowboys fan only in the Dak era, there was Roger Staubach, Troy Aikman, and even Tony Romo before him]
To read only the NT is like only watching the scene from Star Wars 4, A New Hope, where Luke and Hans Solo destroy the Death Star and set Princess Leia free, saving the world—but you have no idea the arch of the whole story.
The OT is like Star Wars 1-3—It’s both the Greatest Love Story and Heroes Journey every told. In fact, all other stories mirror God’s great Story in the OT. It starts with Gen 1 where humanity is created in God’s Image to be able to love and relate to God and co-rule creation with God. God created mankind in his own image…male and female he created them. God blessed them and said…Rule over [all creation].” (Gen 1:27-28). God enjoys walking in love giving us stewardship over his creation. Without the OT we don’t understand why we are even created, or what went wrong.
Genesis 3 tells us what went wrong. God’s love gets rejected. “…they hid from the Lord… But the Lord God called to the man, “Where are you?” (Gen 3:8-9) God creates us with Free Will so that we can love God, but we turn from God, reject his will and ways, and relationship is broken, and now we live under the curse of the knowledge of Good (we see traces of all of God’s good gifts) but also Evil (we live in a world where God’s loving will and ways are rejected). Without the Old Testament, we don’t know who we are, why we’re here, or what’s wrong (why we are in a battle between good and evil and how do we overcome evil?).
But the Story goes on, in Genesis 12, God sets in motion a plan to win back and restore all people who use their Free Will to be restored to God. Genesis 12 God calls Abraham his friend because Abraham loves and trusts God, and God says through Abraham and Sarah, he will create a nation and tells them: “all peoples on earth will be blessed through you.” (Genesis 12:3) Without the OT we don’t understand why Israel was created—to preserve God’s Word and to reveal the coming of the Savior of the World to rescue God’s beloved—people from all nations will be blessed.
Without the OT, we don’t understand God’s Identity. He’s not different in the OT from the NT, he’s the same. He tells Moses: “Yahweh! The Lord! The God of compassion and mercy!
I am slow to anger and filled with unfailing love and faithfulness. 7 I lavish unfailing love to a thousand generations. I forgive iniquity, rebellion, and sin.But I do not excuse the guilty. (Exodus 34:6-7). Without the OT, we don’t know God’s character—Yahweh, the I AM, the infinite, eternal God, who is not an angry, punishing God, he’s filled with unfailing love, lavishing love on all, forgiving our rebellion and sin. That’s who He is—and He is also Just. We accuse God of injustice due to the Evils he allows for a time, but He will bring all to Justice. The OT gives us the full character of God.
See, the last chapter the story in the NT makes no sense without the OT. In Revelation we see how God did this: See, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has triumphed…Then I saw a Lamb, looking as if it had been slain… with your blood you purchased for God persons from every tribe and language and people and nation. (Rev 5:5-6, 9). Without the OT we don’t understand all these NT references, the Lion of Judah, the Root of David, the final sacrificial Lamb (all references to the Old Testament Messiah to come) who paid to purchase people back to God from all the nations. Without the OT, we don’t understand Jesus’ parables about the King who threw a Wedding feast for his son—all were invited, but some rejected the invitation. Then in Revelation Let us rejoice and be glad and give him glory! For the wedding of the Lamb has come, and his bride has made herself ready…. “Look, God’s home is now among his people! He will live with them…He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there will be no more death or sorrow or crying or pain… No longer will there be a curse upon anything.” (Rev 19:7, 21:3-4, 22:3). Without the OT, we don’t understand the Great Love Story of God, who we are, why we are here, what’s wrong, or how it’s going to be set right.
This just seems like a no brainer to me. Yes, we have an Old Testament, and without an old we cannot have a new. In fact Jesus’ insertion into this space and at this specific time brought three major changes that I personally think are very important:
- I really like food:
In the OT, food was clean/unclean In the NT, all food can be consumed
- Animal sacrifice is not my jam:
In the OT, animals were sacrificed In the NT, there are no animal sacrifices
- God knew I liked college football more than NFL football:
In the OT, people worshiped on Saturdays In the NT, worship shifted to Sundays
In all sincerity, I know these aren’t good reasons to choose the NT over the OT, and they aren’t 100% accurate, but you get my point, with Jesus everything is better, and the OT may point to Jesus, but in the NT we see him personified.
Since I’m on a roll taking things out of context, let’s do one more…
II Corinthians 5:17 – Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!
But in all seriousness…. we are compelled to know Christ and him resurrected, we are compelled in Acts 2 to share the good news of Jesus throughout the world, and we are encouraged in John 3:16 that because of God’s love for the world, he sent his son, Jesus, into the world so that all of humanity could know who he is. All of that…I mean every last bit of it is from the New Testament.
In fact, if we just do a basic search of where to start reading the Bible, over and over and over again, websites, blogs, theologians and pastors all begin by telling people to start with the first four books of the NEW testament. Why? Because it’s the crucible of the good news of Jesus Christ.
John 1 gives the clearest picture of the grand nature of Jesus.
1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome[a] it.
John 1:14 – The Word (in the OT) became flesh (in the NT), and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only Son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.
John 1:17 – 18 – 17 For the law was given through Moses (in the OT); grace and truth came through Jesus Christ (In the NT). 18 No one has ever seen God (in the OT), but the one and only Son, who is himself God and[b] is in closest relationship with the Father, has made him known (in the NT).
It would be wrong to not appreciate the Old Testament, its tradition and promise of a coming hope, but I would be lying to downplay the life and freedom that emanates from the New Testament. You see, if we are able to know the heart of God from the Old Testament and through the lens of prophets and ancient figures, then we are able to see the heart of God through his son Jesus, and through the lens of those who walked with him.
Jesus is great—Jesus is the penultimate hero of God’s story, the demonstration of God’s great love for us—a love that will lay down his life for the one He loves. But without the OT, we don’t who Jesus is. Jesus is just another human turned Legend, like Tony Dorsett or Emmitt Smith.
But the OT tells us Who Jesus is. When Jesus says to be baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit—are there 3 gods, who is God? But God told Moses, “The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength.” (Deut 6:4-5). There’s only One God, worship God alone. But then the mystery of God as Trinity is only revealed in the OT. “But as for you, Bethlehem…From you One will come forth for Me to be ruler in Israel. His times of coming forth are from long ago, From the days of eternity.” (Micah 5:2). A ruler who has existed from days of eternity will come from Bethlehem, and be born a son Isaiah foretold: “There will be a time in the future when Galilee of the Gentiles…will be filled with glory… For a child is born to us, a son is given…he will be called: Wonderful Counselor,[d] Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.7 His government and its peace will never end. (Isaiah 9: 1, 6-7). What? God will become a child, a son, who will bring peace and rule forever? See, without the OT, we don’t understand the incarnation of Jesus. He did not reveal all there is to understand of the infinite, eternal God, He was like God’s arm reaching into Humanity Isaiah said: Who has believed our message? To whom has the Lord revealed his powerful arm?… he was pierced for our rebellion, crushed for our sins. He was beaten so we could be whole. He was whipped so we could be healed. 6 All of us, like sheep, have strayed away. We have left God’s paths to follow our own.Yet the Lord laid on him the sins of us all. (Isaiah 53:1, 5-6). Without the OT, we don’t know who Jesus is, or why we should believe all he claimed about being the Son of God, Messiah, Savior of the world—we have no reason to believe except God foretold it through the OT prophets, by his Holy Spirit. Jesus asks the Pharisees a question revealing the Trinity, “Then why does David, speaking under the inspiration of the Spirit, call the Messiah ‘my Lord’? (Matthew 22:43). Riddle me this Batman, Jesus says, The OT says the Holy Spirit inspired prophets like David to reveal the Messiah will be the Lord. Father, Son, Spirit are revealed in the OT, Jesus points to the importance of the OT.
People write off the Old Testament because there are confusing things in it. The OT is chocked full of lust, deceit, murder, revenge, betrayal all set in the midst of this great love story—it’s like Desperate Housewives meets the Sopranos at times. Without a doubt, the OT takes more work to understand than the NT. Some of its history, some of its poetry or songs, there are laments, prayers, commands or principles of God—there’s description that is not always God’s prescription – and it takes study and work to understand how to interpret different genres of literature through which God’s communicated. But if you take the time, there’s a goldmine of lessons, and a blessing that Jesus himself promises.
Jesus did not come to do away with the OT, he fulfilled it’s meaning and purpose: 17 “Don’t misunderstand why I have come. I did not come to abolish the law of Moses or the writings of the prophets. No, I came to accomplish their purpose. 18 I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not even the smallest detail of God’s law will disappear until its purpose is achieved. (Matthew 5:17-18). Jesus says the OT is God’s Word given to us just as much as the NT. Heaven and earth will pass away, but God’s Word will last. And you will be blessed if you read it—OT and NT—and put it into practice, Jesus continues in Matthew 5 about the OT: 19 So if you ignore the least commandment and teach others to do the same, you will be called the least in the Kingdom of Heaven. But anyone who obeys God’s laws and teaches them will be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. (Matthew 5:19-20). Jesus says Read the OT, teach it, obey its timeless principles, and you will become a truly Great One, blessed in the Kingdom that lasts forever. AMEN!
When I say the number 283…what would you guess that represents? I know I know, most of you are thinking that’s how many Near Death Experiences are in John’s book Imagine Heaven, but you would be wrong, and it also isn’t how old John is. 283 is the amount of direct references the New Testament has to the Old Testament. The NT may be where we introduce people to the perfect image of God through his son, Jesus. But the OT, for all of its ups and downs, beauty and misunderstanding, tension and God-reflective narrative, cannot be separated from the NT.
Augustine is famously quoted for saying, ““The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed.”
Jesus was known for his referencing of what was written “before.” For example, he said in Matthew 4:4, “It is written, “ ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” That’s a direct reference to Deuteronomy 8:3 – “that he might make you know that cman does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every word1 that comes from the mouth of the Lord.”
This is more than a mere reference between the New and the Old, it also points us to the heart behind Jesus’ teaching, that EVERY word matters, and that the words categorized as new or old, all reflect the heart of God in one form or fashion.
Did you know that tonight’s halftime show artist, Rihanna, and her famous song “This Is What You Came For” was actually written by Taylor Swift?
That Whitney Houston’s “I will always love you” was written by Dolly Parton?
Eddie’s guitar solo on Stranger Things was written by Metallica?
Garth Brook’s “Friends in low places” was written by Dewayne Blackwell and Earl Bud Lee?
These songs may have been made famous by one artist, but they first resided in the heart of another.
God’s heart for humanity that was birthed in the OT, made its way incarnate through Jesus in the NT, and still beats fervently for you and I today.