What are the differences between the Old and New Testaments?

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The Old and New Testaments

The Old and New Testaments are inspired by the Holy Spirit. “For prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit” (2 Peter 1:21). They complete each other and together make up the Christian Bible.

The Old Testament was written to help people get ready for Jesus’s first coming (1 John 2:22). It can also be used a resource of historical events that took place in the past from the creation of the world until the events preceding Christ’s birth. The New Testament focuses on Jesus’ life which was a fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. And it shows us how we can accept Christ’s gift of eternal life (Hebrews 3:15).

Differences between the Old and New Testaments

  • The Old Testament contains 39 books written by 23 authors in Hebrew and Aramaic. It was written from 1200 to 165 BC.
  • The New Testament contains 27 books which were written by 8 authors in Greek. It was written from 50-100 AD.
  • The Old Testament focuses on the sacrifice of animals.
  • The New Testament focuses of the life and teachings of Jesus Christ, the ultimate sacrifice, and how we can find salvation through Him (1 Peter 1:18,19).
  • The Old Testament prophecies speak of Christ’s first coming (Genesis 3:15; Isaiah 53, Isaiah 9).
  • The New Testament speaks of Christ’s second coming (Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21).
  • The Old Testament presents the law of God (Exodus 20:3-17).
  • The New Testament shows the necessity of not only external obedience to the law but heart obedience (Matthew 5).
  • The Old Testament explains the earthly sanctuary (Exodus 25:8-9).
  • The New Testament presents Christ, the High Priest, ministering in the heavenly sanctuary (Hebrews 9:11-15).

Similarities between the Old and New Testaments

Content

Both the Old and New Testaments start with history, then wisdom/doctrine and closes with prophecy.

God’s plan of salvation

Both the Old and New Testaments teach that the plan of salvation is revealed in the Sanctuary (Psalm 77:13) and that obedience and faith go hand in hand (Deuteronomy 28; Revelation 14:12; James 2:14-26).

Sin and Salvation

Both the Old and New Testaments teach that man is separated from God through sin (Genesis 3) but he can be restored to a relationship with God (Romans 3-6) and godliness (2 Timothy 3:15-17).

God’s Character

Both the Old and New Testaments reveal the same holy, merciful, and righteous God, who condemns sin (Exodus 34:6,7 & 1 John 4:7-12). However, His forgiveness is only possible through faith in Christ (John 3:16).

Priesthood and sacrifices

The Old Testament teaches the ministry of priests and the ceremonial system (Leviticus). The New Testament teaches the ministry of Jesus in the heavenly Sanctuary (Hebrews 2:17; 5:6; 7:25, 26). The Passover lamb in the Old Testament (Ezra 6:20) becomes the Lamb of God in the New Testament (John 1:29).

The Law

The Old Testament declares God’s Law (Exodus 20:3-17). The New Testament reveals its binding on the believers (Matthew 5:17,18) and God’s enabling power to keep it (Philippians 4:13).

Prophecies

The New Testament records many of the fulfilled Old Testament prophecies that were written hundreds of years earlier. Thus, these prophecies provide evidence to the Bible’s divine origin (2 Peter 1:19).

People of Israel

In the Old Testament, God’s dealings were mainly with literal Israel (Exodus 19:6) but in the New Testament, God’s dealings are with His church – spiritual Israel (Galatians 3:29).

Why is God different in the Old Testament compared to the New Testament?

To some, the God of the Old Testament may seem stern, while in the New Testament, He appears to be more loving and forgiving. However, God is the same both in the Old and New Testaments. He declared, “For I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6).

The truth is that the greatness of God’s love is seen in the Old Testament as it is seen in the New Testament (ex. Exodus 34:6,7; Nehemiah 9:17; Isaiah 43:1-3; Isaiah 54:10; Psalms 10:14, 17-18; Ezekiel 33:11; Hoses 11:8-9; Lamentations 3:31-33; Joel 2:12-14).

There were reasons why God may have seemed different in the Old Testament. The nation of Israel was to be holy and free from the worship of pagan gods (Exodus 20:3). And for Israel to stay as a holy nation, the other nations around Canaan had to be destroyed to protect Israel. In addition, in the Old Testament, God charged the corporate authority – Israel- to execute criminals by the priests and judges. In the New Testament, civil authority was carried out by  secular governments, not the church.

To really know how God works, we need to realize the context of the events in the Bible. In the Old Testament, we see God with the nation of Israel which He had picked to represent His holiness and character to the world. In the New Testament, the context is God’s relationship with individuals.

There has been only one way for salvation in the Old and New Testaments and that is by blood and grace. In the Old Testament, people were saved by faith in the blood of animals that pointed forward to the blood of the Savior. In the New Testament people are saved by faith in the blood of Jesus, the Lamb of God.

Did Jesus abolish the Old Testament?

Some wrongly teach that Christ abolished the Old Testament and its laws. But Christ and the disciples based all their teachings on it. When Christ died on the cross, He just put an end to the sacrificial system and its laws, which pointed to His life and death (Ephesians 2:15; Colossians 2:14-17).

Christ never abolished the law of the Old Testament. Instead, He said: “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled” (Matthew 5:17,18).

The idea that by fulfilling the moral law Christ canceled the Old Testament law does not agree with the context of Matthew 5:17,18. By fulfilling the law, Christ simply “filled” it “full” of meaning. In the Sermon on the Mount, He declared that external obedience to the law is not enough but that believers should have an internal obedience that stems from a loving heart. And Christ Himself gave us a model of obedience to God that the same law “might be fulfilled in us” (Romans 8:3, 4).

The great Law giver reaffirmed the Ten Commandments of the Old Testament as binding upon New Testament believers. He declared that anyone who should attempt to abolish them would “in no case enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:20).

Conclusion

Both the Old and New Testaments serve as guides for a Christian life (Psalm 25:4 &12; Psalm 32:8; Psalm 40:8; Proverbs 3:5-6; Jeremiah 33:3; James 1:5). The Old and New Testaments support each other. They both teach that we can come to God by faith and that He will redeem us and give us victory over sin (Genesis 15:6; Ephesians 2:8).

So, it can be concluded that the power of the Scriptures is from the life breathed into them by God Himself. “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16).

In His service,
BibleAsk Team

 

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