Many Christians have been taught almost exclusively about God and the Messiah from the New Covenant writings. This is like reading the sequel to a book without reading the first book.
By the way, there won’t be a video today because I am not home.
The New Covenant, in Hebrew called the B’rit Chadashah, starts with the 4 Gospels: Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John, and then has letters written by Shaul (Paul), James, Luke, and John. The letters written by Shaul make up nearly 2/3 of the entire B’rit Chadashah.
The letters written by the Apostles (known as the Epistles) were written to new Messianic congregations throughout the Middle East and parts of Asia. They were addressed to specific congregations to help them overcome specific problems they were having. As such, unlike the Gospels and Revelation, these letters are about God, Messiah and the Torah but are not from God or from Messiah. They are from the leaders of the Messianic Movement (mostly from Shaul), reminding and leading these troubled congregations back into proper worship and social behavior.
This is important to know: their inclusion as scripture and God inspired writings was a decision made by Gentiles who had been taught that Christianity (which is what the Messianic movement of the First Century had become) was separate and unique from Judaism.
The Gospels are absolutely necessary for us to have because they complete the story God began with creation, and the promise to Abraham that his seed would be a blessing to the entire world. After all, what better blessing could there be than the Messiah who provides forgiveness of sin and the opportunity to be with God for all eternity?
The Old Covenant, known in Hebrew as the Tanakh, is also absolutely necessary for everyone to know because it is God’s story of creation, and in the Torah (the first 5 books) God gives us his instructions regarding how we are to worship him, and how we are to treat each other. It is the ultimate User’s Manual for salvation.
In the Tanakh we have the story of creation, how God chose a righteous man and made a nation of priests from him, whose purpose was to bring to the entire world God’s instructions, which he gave in the Torah. The Tanakh also tells us of how God saved his people from slavery and attack, over and over, so that they would survive to fulfill their purpose. Even when they sinned and abandoned their God, causing him to punish them with dispersion throughout the globe, he always maintained a remnant. That remnant eventually was returned to their homeland, Israel, waiting for the Messiah God promised throughout the Tanakh.
This is now where the New Covenant, the B’rit Chadashah comes in. The Gospels are each an eyewitness account of the beginning of the ministry of the Messiah, Yeshua (Jesus), of his teachings, and his eventual death by crucifixion. That death was a sacrifice he allowed in order to replace the need to bring an animal to the Temple that was in Jerusalem.
Here is a good example of why it is so important to know the Tanakh if you want to really understand the Gospels. In the Tanakh we learn the sacrificial system is a 5-Step process:
- You have to sin (not that I encourage it, but there can be no forgiveness of sin without a sin, right?);
- You have to recognize that you have sinned and “own” it;
- You have to repent of having committed that sin;
- You then bring an animal specified in the Torah to the location where God has placed his name, which from the time of King David was in Jerusalem; and
- You then ask forgiveness of that sin by means of the blood of the sacrifice.
Because you know the Tanakh, you can now see that when Yeshua sacrificed himself, he did NOT replace the entire sacrificial process, but only the need to bring an animal to the Temple where God had placed his name. And that was essential because within a single lifetime after Yeshua’s work was done, the Temple in Jerusalem was destroyed, and remains that way today. No Temple, no chance for forgiveness under the Torah, but through Yeshua, that forgiveness is made possible.
Back to the main message: Revelation is also needed so that we can understand what will happen in the End Days, called the Acharit HaYamim. As for the rest of the New Covenant, I really don’t think it is necessary to know in order to understand God’s plan of salvation.
I know that many are thinking I just blasphemed, but I don’t think I have. There has been so much misquoting, misunderstanding, and wrongful teaching from the Epistles that have led people to sin when they think they are being righteous, that I really think all we need from the New Covenant is the Gospels (I would even consider leaving John out, altogether) and Revelation.
All we need to know is that God is in charge and created us to worship him, but gave us free will to chose whether or not we will. He provided the instructions we need (in the Torah) to live as he wants us to live and a Messiah so that when we screwed up (as he knew we would), we could still make it right.
The letters that Shaul and the other Apostles wrote help us to understand some of the issues that the new Believers faced as they converted from their paganistic lifestyle to one that was righteous, but are not direct commandments from God. They are men telling other men how they should act based on what they know of God, which was (by the way) solely from the Tanakh. There was no New Covenant when the New Covenant stories were happening.
So, to finish this, we all need to know the Tanakh to be able to understand the New Covenant. We cannot know what Yeshua meant when he taught from the Tanakh unless we know the Tanakh.
For the record, and to be “fair”, there are parts of the Tanakh I would question whether or not we really need them, but that’s for another message.
Look…I am not saying to throw away the entire middle of your New Covenant Bibles. I am saying that what you need to do is make sure you read the entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. But in the New Covenant you should concentrate on the Gospels and Revelation.
Once you know the Tanakh, when you read Shaul’s letters you will correctly understand the issues that Shaul wrote about to his fledging congregations, and how they did not change any of the instructions or requirements that God gave us but only helped these newly converting Believers to slowly work their way into proper worship.
After all, if you want to talk about a paradigm shift, think of what is was like for someone following the decadent, sexually uninhibited and gluttonous Roman lifestyle to become a righteous person! Really, who could make that change cold turkey?
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Until next time, L’hitraot and Baruch HaShem!