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The Best New Testament Dictionary is…

…the Old Testament. As a follow-up to yesterday’s post, let me give a few examples of how the Old Testament acts as a dictionary for the New Testament.

Say “prophet” to most people today and they will think of a fortune teller, someone who predicts the future. However if we turn to the Old Testament we find that while a prophet sometimes told the future, his main task to explain and apply God’s Word to people (Deut. 18:15-22). As it is often put, he was to be a forth-teller more than a fore-teller.

Thus, when Christ is presented in the New Testament as THE prophet (John 6:16; Acts 7:37), we should not be looking for new revelations and predictions of the future (although there are some of these), but explanations and applications of God’s existing Word.

“Priest” makes most people think of Roman Catholic priests. In the past, with less media scrutiny, they were thought of as some kind of detached, perfectly holy, super-spiritual order of beings. Today, with the never-ending media revelations, many people hear the word “priest” and think “hypocrite” or “abuser.”

However, Old Testament priests were to be ordinary men who could sympathize and identify with sinners. They were not dressed in pompous royal clothing, but rather in white linen, often spattered with the blood of sacrifices. They were to be filled with love for needy souls (Heb. 5:1-2).

If we want to present Christ as a sympathetic and trustworthy high priest (Heb. 4:14-16), then we need to turn people away from their ideas of modern priesthood and toward the Old Testament description and portrayal of priesthood.

For most people a “King” is someone who is above the law. They can do what they like without consequence. They live lives of unbridled luxury. They often oppress the innocent and befriend the evil.

The Old Testament, though, presents the king as someone under God’s authority, someone who was answerable to God, someone who was accountable for the way they related to God and the people, and someone who was to represent God to the people (Deut. 17:14-20; 2 Sam. 23:1-5). That view of kingship will transform our view of Christ’s kingship (Phil. 2:9-11).

A couple of years ago, a student and I filmed some “man-on-the-street” interviews on the streets of Grand Rapids. We asked passers-by: “What is a covenant?” You would have thought in such a Dutch Reformed city that at least some people would have some idea of what a covenant was. However, what we found was large-scale ignorance. The closest most people came was the idea of a contract or a deal. “If you do this, then I’ll do that.” That’s what most people think of – some kind of commercial bargain or contract.

However if we go to the Old Testament we find that a covenant is a relationship, initiated and imposed by a superior, with life or death consequences.

Biblical Covenants are always initiated by God, and bestow benefits upon needy and undeserving sinners, who can never repay, but who are encouraged to respond with thankful obedience. That gives a whole new understanding to Christ’s word, “This is the new covenant in my blood.”

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Preparing to preach Old Testament Narrative
Some helpful thoughts from Peter Mead as he prepares to preach on Ruth. And here’s part two.

Pastors leaving their flocks
Mark Jones with some tough love from the Puritans.

God is up to something
For those with disabilities, it’s the worst of times and the best of times.

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You’ll need the Gospel after this.

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The Old Testament: A Dictionary of Christian Vocabulary

Since coming to North America, I’ve realized more and more that the USA and the UK are, as George Bernard Shaw allegedly said, “Two nations divided by a common language.”

But sometimes it feels like I’m learning a foreign language. More than once I’ve been asked, “So, what language do they speak in England?” or “What is your first language?” Sometimes it’s just spelling: not colour, but color. Sometimes it’s a matter of emphasis: not gar-age, but gar-age. Sometimes it’s pronunciation: not tom-ah-to, but tom-ay-to. But sometimes it’s a completely new word I’ve had to learn for the same thing: not trousers, but pants; not biscuits, but cookies; not pavement, but sidewalk, etc.

Confusing conversations
I could persist in using my old vocabulary, but it doesn’t get me very far, and can result in some confusing conversations. So, I must learn this nation’s vocabulary to improve both my understanding and my ability to communicate (without losing my valuable accent, hopefully!).

This is also true for all of us when we try to understand and communicate the Gospel. How do we understand the theological words, phrases and concepts of the New Testament? Do we consult, Merriam Webster’s, OED, etc? If so, we will import 21st century Western meaning into ancient Eastern words, confusing ourselves and others.

So, how do we understand the theological words, phrases and concepts of the New Testament? Where do we turn?

The first question
While we may get some light from Greek lexicons, our main dictionary should be the Old Testament. When we come to a word, phrase, or concept in the New Testament, our first question should be, “What does the Old Testament say about this?” Remember, the New Testament was originally written by Jews, and much of it was written to Jews. It assumes a knowledge of the Old Testament, and builds upon it. Therefore, we must always read the New Testament with the dictionary of the Old Testament in our hand.

Tomorrow I’ll give some examples of how we can use the Old Testament as a dictionary of Christian vocabulary.

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Proactively addressing stressful money issues with your family
Have you ever had a family member or close friend come to you repeatedly needing just one more, “temporary loan”? If so, you may want to use this letter as a template.

Some basic thoughts on manhood: singleness
Rarely addressed subject: Are single men real men?

Three leadership traits that never go out of style
“None of the leadership lessons that I have learned, unlearned, or relearned ever since have left as indelible an impact as the ones I learnt as a child. Three, in particular, stand out.”

A Strange Grief
A father mourns for his daughter recently departed to college. And here a Mom anticipates the same with a son.

6 things I do to be consistently happy
Happiness => Creativity and productivity.

What Todd Akin should have said about Abortion and Rape
This is a really tough one, but Trevin does about as well as is possible.

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