“Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures. … Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27,45)
It goes without saying that the study of Biblical Christianity cannot be completed without the prophets. Why? Because Christianity fulfils itself in the ancient promises and prophesies given through God’s Old Testament servants. It was the Spirit of Christ that spoke in the prophets by which building materials in the form of God’s Words would be used in the new community of Christ. This community would be realized after the cross.
This is why Peter said,
“As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful searches and inquiries, seeking to know what person of time the Spirit of Christ *within them* was indicating as He [the Spirit of Christ] predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow.
“It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit sent from heaven – things into which the angels long to look.” (1Pet1:10-12)
The main point is that if you want to better understand Biblical Christianity, you have to study the prophets. There is no short cut. There is nothing more important to the believer than to know what the Scriptures actually teach. Jesus Christ is the heart theme of the entire Bible.
This brings up a crucial issue with regard to studying the Scriptures Hebraically. To appreciate many things that are taught in the New Testament, you have to become acquainted with the ancient ways of God’s people. You need to become acquainted with the Hebraic thought forms that undergird the New Testament writings.
The apostles were Hebrew men. The prophets were Hebrews. Jesus was a Hebrew. (I’ll use Hebrew in the place of Jew, since the term Jew or Jewish has varied meanings. Even Israel today is leaning more towards the use of Hebrew.)
In this Bible study I want to challenge you to think about how you would be able to share the gospel of Jesus Christ with someone if all you had were the Old Testament Scriptures. The purpose of the challenge is to get you familiar with how the early Jewish believers could see Jesus in all the former writings.
Let me give you an early church picture.
Here is the scene…
It is 45 A.D. Pentecost was 12 years ago. The primitive church is still made up almost entirely of Jewish peoples, but it is causing no small stir everywhere. The synagogues in Judea are being pulled to and fro with a strange new message.
A sect of Jews called the Nazarenes are preaching that the man crucified under the rule of Pilate was the Messiah of Israel, and that He has resurrected from the dead. And they are preaching that this Man was the Son of God, and that He was also God manifest in the flesh. It is a disturbing message.
To make matters worse, something dreadful has just happened in Jerusalem. A young Jewish man named Stephen has been stoned. He was one of these new preachers. You would think that would slow things down a bit, but these preachers can’t be stopped. They are scattering everywhere, and everywhere they go they keep preaching Jesus as the Messiah. They are even saying that we must worship Him.
You find them boldly speaking in the synagogues debating from Moses that Jesus is ‘the’ prophet. Thoughts are racing through the minds of the peoples. “Who are these Jews?” “Where did they get the right to preach this message?” “Did the prophets teach any such thing?”
And the God fearers are beginning to feel deep stirrings in their hearts. “What about all these Gentiles who are asking about this new message?”
“And this rumor. Surely it is not true!?” A report is making the rounds that one of Gameliel’s star disciples has joined up with these Jewish folk, and he himself is now preaching that Jesus is the Messiah. His Hebrew name is Saul.
There you have it.
Keep in mind that no apostolic writings were available just yet. Everything being preached is coming right out of Moses, David and the prophets.
Listen carefully to Paul’s defense as he stands before King Agrippa.
“So, King Agrippa, I did not prove disobedient to the heavenly vision, but kept declaring both to those of Damascus first, and also at Jerusalem and then throughout all the region of Judea, and even to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds appropriate to repentance. For this reason some Jews seized me in the temple and tried to put me to death.
“So, having obtained help from God, I stand to this day testifying both to small and great, STATING NOTHING BUT WHAT THE PROPHETS AND MOSES SAID WAS GOING TO TAKE PLACE, that the Christ was to suffer, and by reason of His resurrection from dead He would be the first to proclaim light both to the Jewish people and to the Gentiles.” (Acts 26:19-23 - Caps for emphasis only.)
Notice carefully that Paul said he preached nothing but what the prophets and Moses had said was going to take place. Why did Paul limit his preaching to Moses and the prophets? Why not draw on other great men from other nations. The reason is because of all the peoples on the earth, there was one people group alone that God had entrusted with the message of redemption. (Divine oracles or God speaking)
God’s gift through the Hebrews.
Paul explains this to the Roman Church. He said,
“Then what advantage as the Jew? Or what is the benefit of circumcision? Great in every respect. First of all, that they were entrusted with the oracles of God.” (Rom3:1,2)
The oracles of God have to do with the divine revelations. Have you ever wondered why our Bible from Genesis to Revelations is written by Semitic men? The apostle just explained why. (Think about it.)
Now listen to Paul as he cautions preachers and teachers concerning their sources for preaching and teaching:
“Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes, so that in us you may learn NOT TO EXCEED WHAT IS WRITTEN, so that no one of you will become arrogant in behalf of one against the other.” (1Co4:6)
Paul’s point is that no matter how popular a minister may be, if he is not preaching according to what has been written, we are not to become enamored over him. No one has the right to preach a message that is not in accordance with the sacred oracles. (Of course the sacred oracles now take in all the writings from Genesis to Revelation. The apostles completed the writings of the prophets.)
We are wonderfully blessed to have the New Testament writings. The apostles were given the task of completing the sacred canon. (Remember that they were Hebrew men.) Never in a thousand years are we to take away from this wonderful book called the New Testament.
So what about the challenge? The purpose of the challenge is to get you to thinking Hebraically; to get you to search for the gospel that the prophets preached and that the earliest Jewish Christians preached.
Listen to how the prophets described the ever-increasing life that belongs to the child of God.
“But the path of the righteous is like the light of dawn, that shines brighter and brighter until the full day.” (Prov4:18)
The full day is likely what Peter had in mind when he wrote,
“So we have the prophetic word made more sure, to which you do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star arises in our hearts.” (2Pet1:19)
Think of the possibilities…
Think of the possibilities when we return to studying the Bible the same way the early Christians studied. What did they study, you say? They studied Moses and the prophets, the memoirs of the apostles and the directives to the Churches.
The Bible of the early Church was the same Bible that was used by the Jewish peoples. Until the teachings of the apostles were collected, the earliest believers simply studied Moses and the prophets. They did this in light of the new covenant.
But even when the memoirs of the apostles were being collected, Paul still admonished believers to never exceed what had been written by Moses and the prophets. (1Co4:6)
His point is that everything that is taught in the Christian Church must agree with what had been set forth in the former testament. Thus we have the statement, ‘The new is hidden in the old, and the old is revealed in the new.’
The theology of the early Church did not have the complexities that later came to dominate the Christian faith. Their beliefs were simpler. For one thing the early believers never departed from the ancient creed of Israel. Paul says,
“Yet for us there is but one God, the Father, from whom are all things and we exist for Him; and one Lord, Jesus Christ, by whom are all things, and we exist through Him.” (1Co8:6 – Paul is drawing on the sh’ma of Israel. Cf. Deu6:4)
Think about it. The world would not have known where the Messiah would be born, and when He would be born had it not been for the prophet Micah and Daniel. Men from the east would not have journeyed so far to find the infant Jesus, had they not studied these ancient oracles.
The prophet said,
“On that day the deaf will hear the words of a book, and out of their gloom and darkness the eyes of the blind will see. The afflicted also will increase their gladness in the Lord, and the needy of mankind will rejoice in the Holy One of Israel.” (Isa29:18,19)
Oh the wonders of the ancient writings. How our hearts burn within us while the Holy Spirit walks us through those sacred pages. What a wonder it is to behold Jesus in every book and on every page, to see Him as the Lion of Judah and as the Lamb of Abraham. To see Him as the bright morning star. Is it any wonder that the earliest Jewish believers could preach Jesus from Moses, David, and the prophets.
What do you think? Could you share with a Jewish person the gospel from his own Tanach. It is said that when an Orthodox Jew reads the New Testament he hears a Hebrew voice? Why is that? Its because the New Testament completes the divine oracles of God. Jesus is the God of all humanity and that includes Israel.
Just some things to think about.
Now for a song of meditation. Listen with your heart to ‘Praise Adonia’ …
In love with Jesus,