Rev. Heys is a minister emeritus in the Protestant Reformed Churches.
Thus far we have presented the two testaments which bring us the good and better revelation of God’s covenant, which assures us that we will be brought to the new Jerusalem, where we will enjoy far more richly the blessedness which the Old Testament saints enjoyed, and which we today experience.
The Old Testament brought the saints, from Adam to those who died before our Savior came into our flesh and earned for us the intimate covenant fellowship with God, that which David presented in Psalm 25:14. There he told us that God’s secret is with us; and that means that we have a most wonderful, indescribably beautiful and precious fellowship with Him, which He realized by becoming one of us through a virgin birth, and by a descension into hell that we might be brought up into heaven.
At this time we present how we are to use the Old Testament and New Testament in order to enjoy that covenant blessedness already in this life. We must use both the Old Testament and the New Testament, because our covenant God has only one covenant, has revealed it very beautifully in the Old Testament, from the days of Adam onward to the coming of Christ into our flesh, and reveals it more richly in the New Testament, from the day of Christ’s birth, death, resurrection, and His ascension into heaven.
To go back briefly to what was already written, let us remember that a covenant is a will and testament wherein one declares how he wants his earthly goods distributed after his death. Man writes upon a piece of paper what he wants done with his earthly possessions, and he signs the document. That document is his will and testament or covenant. It declares now what he cannot say after his death.
In the Old Testament our covenant God made known to us that He has such a covenant or testament. Both the Hebrew and the Greek words in Scripture that are translated as covenant can also correctly be translated as testament, as already pointed out in the preceding sections of this set of articles. But the New Testament is richer and clearer because many of the things presented in the Old Testament were fulfilled, and that before the New Testament was written. Now, then, we have a richer and more comforting evidence that, because Christ died for us, we will enjoy fully that covenant fellowship which is promised us in the Old Testament. We have more and richer proof that Satan’s head is going to be crushed and that we are going to have our crushed heel restored to its health and strength, so that we will be able to walk the street of gold in that new Jerusalem.
Today those two testaments or covenants which present to us the same promises of God’s covenant—even though one is richer than the other—assure us that what Jesus said, and is recorded in John 14:1-3, will surely happen. Places are being prepared for us, so that we may enjoy the covenant blessings in God’s house of many mansions. Now that we have this picture in full color and see more beauty than the black and white picture of God’s covenant in the Old Testament, we understand more clearly that secret of the Lord which is the showing forth of His covenant.
There are three reasons why we were given both of these wills or testaments. They, the Old and New Testaments, were given us so that we might know that God has drawn up this will, this testament. We could never know what is in God’s mind or what He wills until He speaks, or uses men to write unto us. And He wrote these truths about His covenant in order that we might know that He eternally made such a covenant. But that is not enough. He also wrote the truth about that covenant in order that we might believe that it will be fulfilled and that it is His promise to us—in other words, to work faith in us in regard to that covenant. In the third place, but by no means with lesser significance, He gave us the Old Testament and the New Testament so that we may become a thankful people that praises God from Whom all blessings flow.
All this the saints from Adam onward had realized in them from the day Adam fell and was born again, until Christ came and blotted out our guilt. Today the elect from various nations, tongues, and tribes have this wrought in them and know what will happen again to the true church, namely, that God will bring them to His house of many mansions which is pictured in Revelation 21, 22.
This, however, does not mean that we should brush aside the Old Testament and cease having sermons based on Old Testament passages, or cease discussing its passages in the home or in a society. As surely as we must read and study the New Testament passages, we must read and study the Old Testament passages, and explain New Testament passages by means of Old Testament verses and revelations. Did not Peter on the day of Pentecost, and thus in the New Testament dispensation, refer the church to what the prophet Joel had written? Even though the New Testament is a better covenant with better promises it depends upon the Old Testament.
Therefore all the truths in the Old Testament must be explained by reference to Christ. Remember that Paul says in I Corinthians 1:23, 24, “But we preach Christ, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness: but unto them which are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power and wisdom of God.” Still more, John begins his gospel narrative with the words, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” That certainly means that Christ is in the Old Testament and referred to in Genesis 1:1, when we are told that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.” A triune God did this, and Christ in His divine nature was there. He is the Word Who with the Father and the Spirit created all things. He was also there in the types and shadows, when God shed the blood of the creature whose skin covered naked and guilty Adam and Eve. There already we have God’s promises, His covenant promise, of bringing fallen man back to intimate fellowship with Him to enjoy the secret, the sweet communion of His covenant. He spoke these words so that Adam and Eve, hearing them, might know that He intended to bring forth covenant seed, whom He would cause to hate Satan and sin. But also here already He revealed that He would come into our flesh to die for our sins and blot out our guilt.
What God did at that time already clearly reveals that Christ and His cross are not in the Old Testament concealed but revealed. This warns us also to expect Christ in every sermon today whether based on an Old Testament passage or a New Testament passage.
It is not enough merely to have His name mentioned. Unitarians who deny that God is a triune God do that. Many false doctrines today use His name but corrupt the truth of God’s covenant which teaches that salvation is God’s work from beginning to end, and does not depend upon man’s will. And it is amazing and shameful that we hear many, who deny Christ as God and as our Savior, curse and swear and use His name in vain.
The truth of the matter is that we must in our sermons present Christ as the one through Whom God fulfills all His covenant promises. He must be presented as the one Who does not simply remove our punishment. Deeper and more wonderful is the truth that He removes our sinful natures so that we delight in sweet communion with God, in the ability to serve and glorify Him. If we only want removal of our aches and pains and death, we do not want Christ. In every Old Testament sermon Christ must be presented as the one Who brings this covenant blessedness to us.
Last, but by no means least, every sermon and all study in the Old Testament as well as in the New Testament must present the cross of Christ. It is simply an undeniable fact that when the cross is not presented, the Christ who is presented is not the Christ Who saves us and brings to us all the covenant blessings. Leave the cross of Christ out of an explanation of what God declares in that protevangel of Genesis 3:15 and you leave out all that which is promised in that mother-promise. Leave out that cross and you leave out that whole wonderful covenant established by our gracious God. Then you take away that which is so essential for God’s covenant promises to be fulfilled. We are guilty and deserve everlasting hell-fire! Then without the cross there is no room to speak of a resurrection and life everlasting in the new Jerusalem.
This also means that then there is no grace of God. There is absolutely no grace of God apart from that cross. God has no grace for those for whom Christ did not die. Christ crucified, according to I Corinthians 1:23, is for the unbelieving Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks foolishness. Does the holy God deal with such in His grace? These things, stumbling into sin and folly, the unbelievers do every step of their way. Does the holy God for one split second give grace to those who call His Son a fool and want nothing to do with Him but to call Him a criminal who deserved to be hanged on the cross? No, God’s covenant is very particular, and so is His grace. Christ died only for those whom the Father had given Him as His sheep. And all the blessings come through that cross. God’s grace comes only upon those whose sins were blotted out by it. There is then nothing common about that grace. Does the holy God commit the sin of letting sins that have not been blotted out by that cross; be ignored? Does He give those who intend to sin, and want only to sin, some gifts in grace? Will He, in His grace, give them material things that will help them to sin? Is He holy, if He overlooks sins which that cross has not blotted out?
Jesus said, “I lay down My life for the sheep” (John 10:15). For them only can grace be used in their treatment. And does God not say in Genesis 3:15 that instead of giving grace to some He is going to punish with a crushed head?
Then, too, we deny the cross when we present salvation as man’s blessing only if and when he fulfills a condition. Then the cross alone is not enough. Man must also do something. Still more, then the spiritually dead man is viewed by God as one who has a little spiritual life. No, all our salvation rests upon what Christ did and upon His cross. How important the truth about that cross is!
The Lord willing we will next time conclude this comforting and powerful truth of God’s wonderful covenant.