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The authority of Jesus–and the Bible

April 26, 2012

For a disciple of Jesus, Jesus is Lord. And the New Testament witness is the primary authority for knowing what this king wants us to do and say. That written witness is connected to the first eye-witnesses, Jesus’ original disciples, who knew and spoke the truth about the Jesus they heard and saw. Jesus’ Spirit inspired and now illumines that witness in order to show us the truth.

If the New Testament is our main authority for knowing about and following Jesus, what about the authority of the rest of the Bible? The Old Testament was especially the authority for the kingdom of Israel, and describes God’s covenant and history with that nation. But now that Jesus has fulfilled that old covenant with a new covenant and new international kingdom, with new commands and blessings, his disciples are not under the authority of the Old Testament.

Thus most of the specific commands of the Old Testament (most of the Bible) are not applicable to disciples of Jesus. Only when Jesus’ teaching affirms a certain command from the Old Testament does it continue to apply to his followers.

Yet many Christians still emphasize the authority of the (whole) Bible as the basis for knowing and doing God’s will. Shouldn’t followers of Jesus, who are above all under the authority of their risen king, focus on the authority of the New Testament?

This is a big issue that begs for further discussion. So let’s discuss this fundamental question of our authority for (Christian) faith and life. What do you say?

  1. Returning the courtesy: the New Testament taken a la carte, can be easy to dismiss for the casual reader, student and/or “believer”. In order to understand the need for a new covenant, current dilemmas, the paths pursued, the remedies forsaken and the future prophecies (Revelation) the Old Testament taken in full immersion is necessary. It’s the blocking and tackling of spirituality, not always fun but always eye opening. So many churches shout “just believe”, and the crowds love a simple answer, but the rest of the Bible houses the remainder of this critically important message.

    • Hi JC,

      Thanks for your comment.

      The Old Testament can certainly help us understand the New Testament. The main problem is when people prefer God’s covenant with Israel through Moses over God’s covenant with disciples through Jesus (often by trying to combine the two covenants, as if they are not really that different from each other).

  2. Jeremiah Pratt permalink

    Well I thinking trying to make one more important than the other would be like telling someone to watch a movie but just skip to the climax. I think part of the power of the Old Testament is it shows the conflict, lack and need of a people who seem irreconcilable. Then, just at the last minute, the Lord they have worshiped so long steps down and becomes like them so that He can save them. Also, it’s really clear that Jesus is actually revealed in the Old Testament because of what happens in Luke 24. So I think you’re right in a sense, that we shouldn’t make the Old Covenant our focus. But I think the same is true for the New Covenant, because instead of focusing on Jesus and making Him the focus of every sermon, we make grace or justification or how to live more important in our sermon than Christ Himself.

    • In terms of “story,” the Old Testament is important in revealing much about God and His ways, especially with the kingdom of Israel. My post was especially about “authority,” about what part of the bible is our authority today regarding what is God’s will for us in Jesus’ new kingdom. Since Jesus is our authority, our king, how do we know what he commands and teaches his kingdom?
      You are right that some use N.T. passages about grace or justification to say that what we do doesn’t matter; and others say how we live is more important than knowing Christ. Yet if we are to focus on Christ Himself, it must be the true Christ, the Jesus of the New Testament; otherwise, our Christ is a Jesus we create for ourselves (who often looks a lot like us, and thus does not challenge us to change).

  3. So, let me get this straight: if I understand you correctly, the Law does nothing to me or for me as a New Testament Christian. I have no use for it whatsoever, whether for witnessing and evangelism or for living the Christian life. Have I understood you correctly?

    • I think you use the “Law” to refer to the law(s) of the Old Testament. In my post, I wrote that Jesus affirmed certain commands of the Old Testament (law). Thus one could also use the “Law” to refer to the law(s) of the New Testament; and the N.T. law(s) include certain O.T. laws (though not most of the O.T. laws). The law of Christ in the Gospels, and teaching about it in the rest of the N.T., are meant for living the Christian life, and should be used in witnessing about who Christ is and what life he commands.

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