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1. The Statement of the Issue.

Whoever gives some serious and adequate thought to the question of the “value” of Old Testament Revelation for the believer in the New Dispensation, will find that he will be necessitated to first give account to himself of many related problems. In so doing he will discover that the question involves the conception of all history. For it concerns the entire work of God from beginning to end; the work of God in Jesus Christ in the unfolding of His council and the establishment of His tabernacle with man.

And, most emphatically, a proper treatment of the subject requires an answer to the question of the proper, divinely arranged relationship between the Old and New Testaments or Covenants. To see this relationship one must see the genius of Old Testament revelation.

Various questions arise when we thus look at our subject under consideration. First of all there is the term Old Testament revelation.” And again here we will needs have to define each term separately again. What is “revelation”? What is the Old Testament in distinction from the New Testament? And then again: Is “New Testament” identical with “new dispensation”? What is the difference between “Dispensation” and “Covenant” if there be any? And only after we have a rather clear picture of this all in our mind, will we be able to give an answer to the question of the “value” of the Old Testament revelation for us who live in the new dispensation.

We purpose to write two articles on this subject. In the first article we will attempt to gain this “clear picture”, and in the second we purpose to discuss the matter of the “value” that Old Testament revelation has for us upon whom the end of the ages has come.

Let us consider these terms, which we just enumerated, one by one.

We begin with the term “revelation”. To ascertain an answer to the question what revelation is, we will call attention to two matters. 1. To the usage of the term in Scripture. 2. To the conception which we must form from this all.

The terms employed in Scripture are in the Old Testament: “Galah,” “Raah” and “Yadah.” “Galah” means: to uncover. Gen. 35:7; I Sam. 2:27; 3:21 and Hosea 7:1. The second, “Raah” means: to see, and in Niphal: to be seen, to appear unto. Gen. 12:7; 17:1; 18:1. The third word “Yadah” means: to know, and in the intensive forms of the verb: to make known, to teach.

In the New Testament there are, among other words employed, especially two that merit our attention. The first of these is the verb “apokaluptein,” with the corresponding substantive: “apokalupsis.” (Compare our English: apocalypse). It means: to take the cover off, to remove that which hides an object from the eyes. Thus we have some clear examples of this usage of this verb in Rom. 1:17, 18 and in Rom. 8:18. The former referring to the taking away of that which covered the wrath of God and the latter bringing into view the glory of the new heavens and earth. And this actual uncovering is referred by the use of the substantive in I Peter 1:13 which speaks of the revelation (apokalupseoos—uncovering) of Jesus Christ in the day of His coming. However “apokaluptein” may also refer to the taking away of the covering of our minds eye. Of this we have a striking example in Eph. 1:18. Here it has the resultant meaning of illumination. There is also the word “phaneroun.” It refers to the actual bringing into view, the manifestation of the thing itself. A clear case of this we have in John 17:6 and Col. 1:26.

In a general way we see in these Scripture passages the following.

  1. That in all revelation there is a subject that reveals. Much of the modern psychology to the contrary is even the case among men. But it is always the case with God’s revelation. God is always in the nominative case.
  2. Closely related to the former is that God always reveals an object. One may say that God reveals Himself. Never in the sense of “seeing God immediately, but in and through all the works of His hands. Revelation is always self-revelation.
  3. And also that revelation presupposes someone to whom God reveals. It also must have the dative case. This is man and angels, created for the very purpose of receiving this revelation.

The above does not purport to be an exhaustive statement. It only intends to be used as a working basis in our discussion.

When we turn, with what we have thus far observed, to the question of the “Old Testament revelation” we find it quite relevant to the subject. Before we ask what must be understood by Old Testament revelation we do well and ask just what is meant by Old Testament. The term in our subject evidently does not refer to the Covenant of friendship with Adam. The Old Covenant would then be that with the first Adam, while the New Testament would be that in the Second Adam. Applied to our subject we would have a discussion of the value of God’s covenant with Adam for us his posterity under the Protevangel. Gen. 3:15. And then the discussion would needs center about Rom. 5:12-18.

Old Testament—refers to covenant of God during the time between the Protevangel and the coming of Christ in the flesh and His meritorious labors and His exaltation on God’s right hand after He had brought about the cleansing of the sins of His own. Thus speaking of the Old Testament we must not be confused, neither identify it with the “Law and the Prophets” the “Scriptures.” In the Scriptures we never read of the Old Testament” in the sense of the Scriptures. To be sure they do reveal to us the Old Covenant. But in our subject “Old Testament” is not at all the same as the “Scriptures.” In fact Jesus speaking of the Scriptures has many names of them, but He never calls them the Old Testament. When He contrasts the Old and New Covenants it touches the relationship of guilty man to God. It becomes a question of His flesh and blood. Matt. 26:28; I Cor. 11:25 and Heb. 9:20ff. Christ’s blood is the basis of the New Testament. And the Old Testament was also founded on blood. Ex. 24:6-8.

Thus understanding the question our thoughts are without doubt led to look for the differences of the “two covenants” Gal. 4:24. Sinai, Jerusalem which is earthly on the one hand. And Sarah, Jerusalem, the heavenly city of the living God, the new covenant, in the Mediator, Jesus, whose blood speaketh better things than Abel, (Heb. 12:24) on the other.

Around the “Old Covenant” are many laws and ordinances. Temple ordinances they are. The ordinances governing the feast days, the Old Testament lunar calendar. Of this calendar Paul is speaking in Gal. 4:10. Then there were the laws regarding cleanliness, the stranger, the eunuch; ordinances of the priesthood according to Aaron’s house. The whole ritual of the ceremonial law!

In and through this ritual God revealed the Christ, who had been promised to the fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. God came to Israel at Mt. Sinai and uncovered before their eyes the CHRIST! He spoke in it to Israel of “better things to come.”

We believe that what we have thus far written is sufficient to give us a clear picture of what we understand, nay, what the Scriptures would have us understand with Old and New Testament.

A few remarks may also be in order as to the term “dispensation” in our subject.

Although the terms “Old and New Testaments” and “Old and New Dispensations” are closely and inseparably connected, yet they must never be confused or identified. To do this would be disastrous for the correct understanding of our subject.

Therefore just a word about the meaning of the term “dispensation” as employed in Scripture.

The Greek term for dispensation is “oikonomia.” The word literally means: the governing of a house, that is, of its affairs. Thus it is employed of the stewardship, the administration amongst men. Concretely conceived it then refers to: a steward. Thus it is used in Luke 16:2 where the unjust steward is told to render an account of his stewardship.

In a figurative sense it also is used in referring to the office of the apostles. They have received a dispensation, an administration of the grace of the New Covenant in Christ Jesus. Through them the knowledge of Christ and the blessings in Him must become the conscious possession of the believers. Eph. 3:2; Col. 1:25; I Cor. 9:17.

But it also is used of God’s management, arrangement of, realization of the entire work of salvation, the establishment of the covenants old and new. As such it is closely allied in meaning to the council and purpose of God. For it is really God’s wise providence. Possibly we may call it His special providence, although I’m somewhat afraid of this latter term. But when I employ it I mean all God’s providence which is really one causing all things to really and effectually work for the good and eternal salvation of the elect.

Thus the term is used in Eph. 1:10. It here refers to that arrangement of the successive events of time, all leading to the fullness of times, in which God will reunite all things under one head, even Christ.

There is thus understood really no “Old” dispensation! It is called old not because it is old in itself, but because of its relation to the “covenant” that it supervises and controls. And it is “new” because of its supervision, its arrangement of the “new” Covenant in Christ Jesus.

We now live in the New Covenant. We now live in the arrangement of God’s wise purpose according to which in His dispensation He works all things according to the council of His will. Eph. 1:11.

We now live in the new dispensation. Christ has nailed the ordinances of the Old Covenant to the cross! And that under the dispensation of God.

The issue before which we are now faced is:

  1. Not what value do the Old Testament Scriptures have for the church in the New Testament dispensation. That is certainly an allied question, but is really not the question.
  2. But what value do the Old Testament ordinances now have for us today. Do the ordinances that were nailed to the cross have any value for us, now that they have been nailed to the cross? To this question we hope to give some attention in the next article.