A LOT OF NEW WAS OLD
by George H. Kemnitz (written 1975)
Some feel that the Old Testament is totally physical and
dead, the New is spiritual and living. To them, except for some
inspiration from the Psalms, or "Bible stories" for the children,
little or nothing written in the Old Testament is of any real
value to a New Covenant Christian.
They assume Christ came with a totally new and spiritual
message that was completely opposite to and superseded the laws
and teachings of God in the Old Testament books. The new precepts
taught by Christ in the New Testament are our guide, they say,
not the teachings from the archaic, out-of-date Old Testament.
True, Christians are now under the conditions of a new
spiritual covenant with God, based on better promises (Heb.8:6)
and administered with grace and mercy, rather than by the letter
that kills (2 Cor.3:6-8). But, in the same chapters in which the
Apostle Paul described this New Covenant (Heb.8 and 2 Cor.3), he
explained that the laws that were written in stone are now to be
engraved in our hearts and minds. For they are spiritual laws.
Yes, spiritual laws very much existed and were in effect
throughout the entirety of the period covered by the Old
Testament. They have existed since the creation of man in Eden,
through the patriarchal period, through the period of God's
covenant with national Israel - the time of the judges, the kings
and prophets, the captivity of Israel and their postexilic
period, and the intertestament period -- on through the pivotal
century of Jesus Christ and the start of the New Testament
Church, and throughout the centuries down to our generation. And
the Bible shows they will continue to exist beyond into the
millennium and God's eternal kingdom age.
There are, have been, and always will be divine, spiritual
laws and precepts perpetually in effect. God's spiritual laws
have always been the same. Evidence from both the Old and New
Testament books makes this abundantly clear.
Let's notice a few examples and see several clear references
in both the Old and the New Testament attesting to the fact that
God's spiritual precepts existed, were taught, and were known in
the Old Testament, including the period of the Old Covenant of
Sermon on the Mount
Some think Christ taught something entirely new in the New
Testament, spiritual principles that weren't known or taught
before His Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5 through 7. Turn to
Matthew 5 and read this famous sermon, often referred to as the
foundation of New Testament, New Covenant, spiritual
Christianity. Jesus "put it all together" in this fundamental
sermon on New Testament Christianity.
Christ's message begins with what many call the
"Beatitudes." But these were not really new, never revealed
before. Notice the first one in Matthew 5:3, "Blessed are the
poor in spirit ..." This is surely a New Covenant teaching and a
Christian attribute. But notice these plain statements in the Old
Testament as well: "...but to this man will I look, even to him
that is poor and of a contrite spirit, and trembleth at my word"
Isa. 66:21. And King David, a man after God's own heart (Acts
13:22), clearly understood this principle when he said: "For thou
desirest not sacrifice; else would I give it: thou delightest not
in burnt offering. The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit: a
broken and a contrite heart, O God, thou wilt not despise" Psa.
51:16-171. See also Psalm 34:11-19.
In Isaiah 57:15 God promises to dwell "with him also that is
of a contrite and humble spirit, to revive the spirit of the
humble, and to revive the heart of the contrite ones." So, even
Christ's profound teaching that God would dwell in the converted
man, and that our bodies are the temple of God's Holy Spirit, are
not unique revelations of the New Testament . (Compare Isaiah
56:15 and 62:1-2 with John 14:17, 23; 15:4-5; Acts 7:47-51; I
Corinthians 3:16-17; 6:19; Ephesians 2:21-22.)
Christ's second point in the Sermon on the Mount, "Those who
mourn shall be comforted," was also taught in the Old Testament.
Again, in Isaiah 57, God promised to "restore comforts unto
him and to his mourners" (verse 18). See also Isaiah 61:2; Job
5:&11; and Psalm 30:10-11.
Next Jesus said, "Blessed are the meek: for they shall
inherit the earth." He must have been referring directly to Psalm
37:11 which plainly taught: "The meek shall inherit the
It is the same with all the other beatitudes Christ taught.
They were not new teachings; they were taught in the Old
Testament as well. "Hungering and thirsting after righteousness"
closely parallels Isaiah 55:1-3; Amos 8:11; Psalm 42:1-2; Psalm
63:1; and Psalm 143:6. "Blessings to the merciful" was taught in
Proverbs 3:1-4; Proverbs 11:17; and Proverbs 21:21. And Psalm
18:25 directly taught: "with the merciful thou [God] wilt shew
thyself merciful" (compare Matt.5:7). "The pure in heart" precept
of spiritual Christianity was taught in Psalm 73:1 and in Psalm
24:4-5, which says he that has a pure heart "shall receive the
blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his
salvation." "Peacemaking" was taught in Proverbs 12:20, and being
"persecuted for righteousness' sake" is directly connected by
Christ to the Old Testament prophets in the very context (Matt.
5:10-12; also Acts 7:51-52).
Clearly Christ introduced nothing revolutionary or new in
these beatitudes but rather drew from the Old Testament those
eternal precepts and spiritual attitudes that have always been
fundamental to God's servants throughout all ages. Christ put a
special emphasis on those teachings regarding the heart and
spirit and made them the solid foundation of New Covenant
But, some might argue, the commandments Jesus taught in
Matthew 5 are "spiritual"; the commandments of God in the Old
Testament were "physical," "Mosaic," "carnal," and "done away."
Let's take a closer look.
In His sermon Jesus addressed Himself to the questions of
law. He prefaced His instruction with the statement: "Think not
that I am come to destroy the law ..." (Matt.5:17). Rather, He
would fulfill and magnify God's law and make it honorable. Even
this was prophesied in the Old Testament. Isaiah said: "The Lord
is well pleased for his righteousness' sake; he will magnify the
law, and make it honourable" (Isa.42:21).
Were God's spiritual laws (which Paul described as holy,
just, and good -- Rom 7:7,12,14) dishonorable, small-minded,
physical, weak and beggarly, elementary teachings for the
immature? As Paul would say: "God forbid!" No, God's spiritual
laws are not the immature, elementary teachings as some claim.
God's Commandments have always been worthy of the highest praise
The fault lay not with God, or His perfect, spiritual law,
but with man. As Paul said of the Old Covenant between God and
Israel: "for finding fault with them [the people], he saith,
Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new
covenant ..." (Heb.8:8), with God's spiritual laws written on our
hearts rather than on tables of stone (verse 10). It is a "better
covenant" because it is "established upon better promises" (verse
God's spiritual law has always been honorable, but it has
not always been honored by men. Men have resisted, rebelled
against, maligned, twisted, perverted, and distorted God's
honorable laws and spiritual teachings. Christ's New Testament
teachings re-established for Israel -- and for the world -- the
honor and magnified praise due these eternal spiritual precepts.
The self-righteous Pharisees of Christ's day had lost sight
of the purpose and intent of God's Commandments, which have been
spiritual and eternal from the very beginning. They prided
themselves in their "law-keeping" (Luke 18:9-14). Yet they had
lost sight of how far short they fell of the spiritual perfection
of God (Matt.5:43-48 and Rom 2:17-29).
They looked at the law from a legalistic, physical point of
view, ignoring the intent and spiritual aspect of God's perfect
law. Their righteousness stood in outward acts and deeds, while
inwardly they were anything but the quality of person God desires
That is why Jesus proclaimed: "For I say unto you, That
except your righteousness shall exceed the righteousness of the
scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter into the Kingdom
of heaven" (Matt. 5:20).
You Have Heard It Was Said
Let's read Christ's teaching regarding God's spiritual laws
for man, carefully noting what it does and what it doesn't say.
Matthew 5:21: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old
time, Thou shalt not kill; and whosoever shall kill shall be in
danger of judgment: But I say unto you, That whosoever is angry
with his brother without a cause shall be in danger of the judg-
Was this a new teaching? Something spiritual added to a
previously physical law? Note Jesus' emphasis. He didn't say:
"The Old Testament law said .... Now I will change it." Jesus
said: You heard that it was said by them of old time. Remember,
God's spiritual law was without fault. The fault lay with the
people who rejected God's spiritual teachings and His
requirements concerning their hearts.
What Jesus taught here is not something brand new. It was a
reiteration of spiritual teachings of the Old Testament that were
rejected and ignored by carnal, selfrighteous men who had anger
and hate in their hearts and weren't willing to let God's
perfect, spiritual law convert them to the God-centered,
service-oriented life God intended men to live.
What was meant by these men of old was: "just so you don't
actually kill someone, you haven't violated the commandment
forbidding murder." So men reduced God's holy law to a more
criminal statute, a legal enactment concerned only with external
actions. But that clearly was not the intent of our loving God
when He gave His perfect Law.
The spirit of God's commands was clearly taught even in the
Old Testament. Leviticus 19:17 says: "Thou shalt not hate thy
brother in thine heart." The book of Leviticus is part of the
"Old" Covenant teachings. Clearly, what Christ taught in Matthew
5:22 is not new. Rather, He reminded us of what the spiritual
intent for God's Commandments was all along.
The next one of the Ten Commandments Jesus explained was the
seventh: "Ye have heard that it was said by them of old time,
Thou shalt not commit adultery" (Matt.5:27). In other words, it
was the act of intercourse that violated God's law, they said.
"But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust
after her bath committed adultery with her already in his heart"
(verse 231. Something new? The Old Testament also taught the same
spiritual precept: "Lust not after her beauty in thine heart"
Similarly, you can hear it being said by some men today: "If
you don't bear false witness against your neighbor -- if you lie
for his benefit or tell falsehoods that don't endanger your
neighbor at all -- you are not violating the ninth commandment."
But such men are making the same mistake the carnal men of old
made. They are viewing God's spiritual Ten Commandments in a
physical, legalistic way, as though they were mere statutes
governing external actions and deeds alone. But God's
Commandments are spiritual laws. The fault is not with God's
spiritual law; it is with men who don't want to live in the ways
God taught us. Jesus would say to us: Be honest and truthful with
all your words; let your yes mean yes and your no, no -- as it
says in the Old Testament. God hates a false witness that speaks
lies (Prov.6:19) and every lying tongue (verses 16-17). Compare
Matthew 5:37, Matthew 12:36-37, Ephesians 4:25, and Revelation
21:8, which all show that God hates all falsehoods and lies--as
He always has.
This is the same problem the physically-minded,
externally-oriented Jews had regarding God's Sabbath Day, the
fourth commandmem. They lost sight of the spiritual purpose and
intent of God's creating the Sabbath for man (Mark 2:27; Gen.
2:1-3) and got embroiled in continual intellectual debates over
defining God's spiritual law in physical, technical terms.
Such human interpretations, with an emphasis almost
exclusively on external actions and deeds, demoted God's law from
its spiritual plane to a mere mundane and criminal ordinance.
This made the Sabbath, probably more than any of the other
commandments of God, an arena for human debate, criticism and
judgment. No wonder Jesus had to show by His perfect example and
teachings that God's Sabbath was made for man and not man for the
Sabbath (Mark 2:271.
God gave man the Sabbath for his benefit and good. But human
imposed rules and restrictions and the strict prohibitions of
certain external acts resulted in a lowering of the esteem and
respect for God's holy law to the point that self-righteous,
exacting men were judging others on the Sabbath day, even
plotting murder (Mark 3:6), rather than drawing closer to God and
their fellow man on God's special, holy day. Jesus came to
restore honor to God's commandments and elevate them to the
original spiritual level Gad always intended.
Clearly, by Jesus' own testimony, lust (Commandment 10),
murder (Commandment 6), lying (Commandment 9), and such like were
sins against God's eternal, spiritual law "from the beginning"
(John 8:44; 1 John 3:4,8,11-12).
God's intent for man -- the way of life He intended man to
live -- was revealed from the beginning. What God is really
interested in was very much a part of Old Testament teaching: an
attitude of obedience; a right heart, love toward God and toward
neighbor; and judgment, mercy, and faith.
Entered on this Website November 2007