Previous article in this series: August 2013, p. 446.
The History of the Concept Worldview
The worldview that had been embraced by the Old Testament saints, and that was unfolded in God’s revelation as recorded for us in the Old Testament Scriptures, was brought into a clearer light with the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ in the fullness of time.
The New Testament clearly reveals the church as the continuation and fulfillment of Old Testament Israel, the one body of Jesus Christ, the true seed of Abraham (). For that reason the worldview we derive from the New Testament is not new. Rather, the glorious light of the gospel more clearly reveals the foundational principles already established in the Old Testament.
The gospel comes into focus in the incarnate Son of God, our Lord Jesus Christ.
It is especially the Epistle to the Hebrews that extols the riches of Christ’s coming and His work as the fulfillment of all the types and shadows of the Old Testament. By accomplishing salvation for those given Him by the Father (; ) through the one sacrifice of His own body, He prepared for us “a new and living way” ( ).
This way is new because it ushers us into the covenant fellowship of God Himself in a way that was closed to God’s people in the Old Testament. Throughout the Old Testament the testimony to God’s people was that the way into the holiest place was closed. The veil stood between them and the glory of God’s fellowship in the holy of holies of the temple. But at the moment salvation was accomplished by the perfect sacrifice of Jesus Christ, the veil was torn from top to bottom to symbolize that the way into God’s covenant fellowship is now open for all who are in Christ Jesus.1
This is also the living way, as contrasted to the way of the law in the Old Testament, which law was “the ministration of death” or “the ministration of condemnation” (). For that law established by God through Moses could only serve to show that the way of holiness required by God, the only way into fellowship with God, was closed to our works. The law only exposed our guilt. “Therefore by the deeds of the law there shall no flesh be justified in his sight: for by the law is the knowledge of sin” ( ).
During the Old Testament, when—according to—the law served as the schoolmaster to lead God’s people to Christ, that law spelled out every detail of life, condemning everyone who failed to perform every single work of the law. If you failed in one thing, you stood condemned. And therefore everyone stood condemned! In that way the law pointed them to their need for Christ, their Messiah, who alone could perform the whole law in perfect obedience to God, and doing so on their behalf would free them from the curse of the law, being made a curse for them ( ).
“But now the righteousness of God without the law is manifested, being witnessed by the law and the prophets; Even the righteousness of God which is by faith of Jesus Christ unto all and upon all them that believe” (a). The law, therefore, “was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster” ( ). The law pointed to the coming Messiah as the realization of God’s covenant, the One who alone could give life to us by reconciling us unto God and establishing us as new creatures, adopted children of our heavenly Father. In that fellowship with God is life. In that fellowship with God, as partakers of His covenant life, there is also the understanding of what it is to live in the full assurance of faith.
But that also points to the distinct difference from the Old Testament, which Christ ushered in by His fulfillment of the Old Testament law and the prophets.explains what was involved in that work of Christ by which we have been forgiven and given life in God’s covenant fellowship.
He has forgiven us, “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”
Those ordinances, mind you, were against us! Ordinances, as such, always are. They stand as a reminder of our failure by nature to walk in obedience to God. But from that point of view, ordinances also condemn us.
You must understand that I speak of those ordinances as understood properly in the light of Scripture. If you look at the law superficially, as did the Pharisees for example; if you do not penetrate to the spiritual essence of the law, which is our calling to love God, then you might never see any condemnation in the law. You might even be able to add ordinance upon ordinance and think you are a fine Christian because you obey them all. Then you deceive yourself, and the truth is not in you.
Every one of those ordinances of the Old Testament law, all being bathed in blood as it were, pointed to the fact that every one of us deserved to die because of our failure to obey “all things which are written in the book of the law to do them” (). But Christ has now blotted out the handwriting of those ordinances. He took it out of the way, nailing it to His cross.
Which means that you and I have been acquitted of our guilt and set free—free to serve the Lord our God with all our heart and soul and mind, in love—love that, as Colossians 3:14 states it, is the bond of perfectness. And to establish that truth, at the moment Christ accomplished that blotting out of those ordinances, the veil of the temple was torn in two from the top to the bottom, in order that all for whom Christ died might understand that their sins were forgiven and that they were set free from all the burden and yoke of the law.
No longer in bondage, we have been given the joy of Christ’s life, the freedom of living in loving fellowship with God, in His covenant! What astounding treasures are ours in Christ Jesus!
That brings to the fore a very important truth when it comes to the Reformed worldview in light of New Testament teaching. Not only is the Christian life to be one of holiness, as was emphasized in the Old Testament. But the Christian life is to be a matter of living out of biblical principles, guided by loving thankfulness for the life that God has given us in His own fellowship and divine family.
The Christian life, therefore, that life that has its focus on Christ, is a life of perfect balance, avoiding the errors that are as prevalent in our day as they were in the lifetime of the apostles.
The apostle Paul in particular had often to address in his epistles the errors that were devastating to a biblical worldview.
Those errors by which our adversary the devil would constantly attempt to knock us off the balance beam of biblical Christianity or the Reformed faith are legalism on the one hand and on the other hand—what is far more prevalent in the evangelical church world today—a form of antinomianism, with its total disregard of God’s precepts and the antithesis, and with its failure to live in true thankfulness to God and to integrate biblical truth into godly living.
It is interesting, however, that in Paul’s experience in the early New Testament church it was not antinomianism that brought the greatest threat to the church, but rather legalism. That legalism came to expression by either an improper application of Old Testament law or the intrusion of new laws and ordinances that had no biblical foundation.
While there were those antinomians who lived out in its most vile form the attitude, “Let us sin that grace may abound,” Paul addressed that error inwhen he responded, “God forbid. How shall we, that are dead to sin, live any longer therein?” The one who is truly a partaker of Christ cannot live in sin with the attitude, “It doesn’t really matter; God will save me anyway.” That’s impossible! The man who doesn’t care how he lives is a man who has not known Christ! The man who lives in blatant disregard of God’s Word is one who expresses his hatred of God!
But what we find in Paul’s epistles is the need to confront the failure to live with a Christ-centered focus, which failure comes to expression in legalism. That error is addressed especially in the epistles to the churches in Galatia and in Colosse.
Legalism would rob us of the riches of Christ’s work and subject us once again not merely to the Old Testament law, but to human additions to that law as well.
Among the Colossians, that legalism took the specific form of a compulsory return to the dietary laws of the Old Testament, as well as observance of certain feast days or other special days even added to those days observed in the Old Testament. Those Old Testament laws had served a good purpose in their time—even though that purpose was often subverted and corrupted by the unbelieving in Israel.
But again, those laws were just a shadow. Christ has come as the fulfillment. And because He must have the preeminence, He has abolished those ordinances that were against us.
Yet there were those in Colosse, as there are those in the church today, who would subject us to the shadows again either by restoring those Old Testament ordinances or by establishing new ordinances without any divine basis or establishment. They would subject Christ’s bride to ordinances after the commandments and doctrines of men, thus bringing that glorious bride into slavery.
That legalism would rob us of the treasures of Christ by making our religion one of externals and placing the focus on what we do rather than on who we are—children of the kingdom of our Father.
1 The word new in Hebrews 10:20 is from a Greek word, prosphatos, used only once in the Bible, and alludes to Christ’s sacrifice as ushering in this way. For the word speaks of something freshly killed.