By Submitted Article on December 2, 2017.
Old and new
Last of three parts
Jacob M. Van Zyl
Why do we hoard so much stuff over years? Some put unwanted things on the driveway for people to take for free; others have a garage sale. One person’s trash may become another person’s treasure. Moving to another home or town is a good time for pruning out dead wood.
When one surrenders one’s life to Christ, one also realizes there is a lot of old stuff to get rid of. “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17). Old habits, tastes, values, views, attitudes and friends must be replaced with new ones.
Regarding our position as children of God (justification), this renewal is finished; however, regarding our condition as children of God (sanctification), this renewal is a work in progress, continuing till the death of our bodies.
The apostle Paul shows in several of his letters that Christians should regard themselves as dead to sin; however, they should also crucify their old sinful nature continuously (Rom. 6-8, 12:1-2, Gal. 2:20, 5:16-26, Eph. 4:22-24, Col. 3:5-17).
The sacrificial rituals of the Old Testament were symbols or foreshadows of the Messiah and his redemption. Therefore, these symbols fell away when the Messiah had come.
However, Christians don’t discard the Old Testament; its symbols shed light on their fulfilment in the New Testament. And apart from the sacrifices, the Hebrew Bible harbours a rich variety of lessons in its historical parts. We learn much from the narratives about Abraham, Jacob, Joseph, Moses, Joshua, the Judges, Samuel, David, Solomon, Hezekiah and the prophets. The Psalms and Proverbs have remained a source of strength and insight for believers over the ages.
We must guard, though, against falling back into the legalism of the old dispensation; we must interpret the Old Testament through the eye-glasses of the New, depending on grace, not works.
At the first church council about doctrine, about AD 50 in Jerusalem, it was decided that Gentile Christians need not observe Jewish Law (Acts 15). Paul later warned that making circumcision a condition for salvation excludes one from salvation (Gal. 2:16, 5:1-6, Rom. 2:25-29, 3:20).
Eventually both believers and Earth will be renewed (Acts 3:19-21, Rom. 8:18-22). Flesh and blood can’t inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor. 15:50); therefore, our present bodies must die (or be changed with the return of Christ). Jesus himself received a new body before he returned to heaven.
In this time of Advent, we are preparing for Christmas – a unique celebration of the old and the new. The message of the old stories must be applied in current situations. Bad Christmas habits should be replaced with better new ones.
Jacob Van Zyl of Lethbridge is a retired counsellor and the author of several faith-based books.
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