By Jim Huskins
The Christian faction I grew up in refers to itself as a “New Testament Church.” That term is code for claiming to be “unsullied” by the “burden” of the “Old Testament.” Pop Theology lauds the superiority of “grace” over “law.” We are told that divine assurances given to the Patriarchs were revoked when Jesus died and that the Sinai covenant was a stopgap intended to be canceled by Paul. Supposedly, God now ignores His promises to redeem Israel, and He transferred His focus to something they call the “Gentile Church.” Popular teachers claim that “Gentile Christians” were never intended to keep “The Law of Moses.” Some insist that the Prophets could not “see” the Church.
None of these claims hold up in the full light of scripture. It would be impossible to hold convictions that fly in the face of what the Bible teaches without first pretending that the book is divided into two sections: the “good stuff,” and the “old, mean-spirited, irrelevant” part. Replacement Theology owes its existence to the fantasy that God’s Word is a house divided against itself.
The terms “Old Testament” and “New Testament” are not found in the text of the Bible. They have been forced onto God’s Word by fallible humans. Specifically, that division is the legacy of a Second Century, heretic named Marcion of Sinope. Marcion devoted his life to proclaiming a strict separation between the “old god” and the “new god.” According to Marcion, YHVH was bloodthirsty, evil, and ruthless. No amount of human devotion could appease him. He was never satisfied until people were destroyed or dispersed.
The new god, however, is a benevolent, loving savior who came to oppose and offset the mean god. Marcion taught that creation is a trap by the old god to force the universe into physical, rather than spiritual, form. He said that Jesus is unrelated to, and came to free us from, the old god. He claimed that Jesus was not Jewish and did not have a physical body. He said that Hebrew Scriptures have no authority over Christians. Marcion’s heresies present an almost one-to-one correspondence with Modern Church theology. The promotion of his lies would have been impossible had he not taken the brilliant, tactical step of dividing the Bible into artificial sections which he labeled “old testament” and “new testament.”
But God’s Word is not divided! It is one story from beginning to end. It is impossible to understand the last fourth without first understanding the first three-fourths. One key for understanding the Gospel accounts is found in the book just before Matthew—Malachi.
This powerful, prophetic proclamation was written about 100 years after Judah’s return from captivity. That return, led by Ezra and Nehemiah, was accompanied by great expectations. The returnees planned to rebuild the Temple and their lives and then see the fulfillment of the great prophecies. Messiah would appear. He would reunite Judah and Israel, rule over the nations and establish universal peace and justice. That might have happened had the people who repopulated Judea not proven to be as rebellious as their ancestors. Instead of utopia, they experienced poverty, injustice, and corruption.
Malachi indicts Judah for several specific sins. He does this through a series of disputes between God and the people. God proclaims His love for His covenant people despite their rebellion. He accuses the people of defiling the new Temple by presenting inferior sacrifices. The Priesthood is complicit in this defilement. God blasts Judean men for turning against Him and their wives through a wave of divorce and remarriage to Canaanite women who import their pagan gods.
The people deny these charges. Beginning in 2:17, they accuse God of injustice. He replies that they have failed to bring Him their tithe to support the Temple and the Priests. Beginning in 3:13, the people claim that serving God is useless. They say that He allows wicked people to prosper and does nothing about it.
God responds to these disputes by saying that He will send a messenger who will appear as a purifying fire. He will remove all vestiges of idolatry and those who practice it. Only God’s faithful will remain to see His plan completed. This remnant is made up of people who fear God and devote themselves to serving Him and encouraging others to do the same.
Many church leaders love to invoke Malachi 3:10 and its instruction to bring in the full tithe. Seldom do they mention the call in 4:4 to “remember the Law of my servant Moses.” They teach that tithing “opens the windows of heaven,” but they do not point out that God does not change and that our job is to keep His statutes. Malachi wraps up his prophecy with an ode to the Law and the Prophets. They remind us of the history of God’s gracious outreach to His children. They point us to the glorious resolution He will bring in the end. The wicked can only dread the Day of the Lord, but the Faithful will greet that Day with joy and thanksgiving.
The links between Malachi and the Gospels are stunning. Malachi gives us the context for the genealogy of our Savior, the role of John the Immerser and the work of Messiah. Malachi 4:2 is one of the most glorious passages in scripture. “But unto you that fear My name shall the Sun of righteousness arise with healing in His wings.” In Matthew, the book that immediately follows, we learn who the Sun of Righteousness is and how His healing is applied. More importantly, all the Gospels and the Epistles teach that Jesus fulfills the promises made to Israel.
Obedient Heart Fellowship believes that the entire Bible is both true and relevant. We accept salvation by grace through faith in Jesus, and we attempt to love and serve Him by keeping his commandments. See Revelation 14:12. email@example.com
Jim & Beverly Huskins are members of Obedient Heart Fellowship in McDowell County. You can read more good Christian news from Jim HERE.