Matthew 13:51-52 (NIV) “Have you understood all these things?” Jesus asked.
“Yes,” they replied.
He said to them, “Therefore every teacher of the law who has been instructed about the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old.”
Jesus did not denigrate the teachers of the law. Insofar as they legitimately taught God’s real law and the history in which that law was given, they served a valuable role in helping God’s people know both God and His requirements for them. Of course, when they taught the rules of people and the commentaries of people as having the same authority and value as God’s real law, they did harm to the hearts and minds of people, placing additional burdens on them that God never intended, and which they couldn’t bear.
But the history of God’s interaction with people shown in the Old Testament, from Adam all the way through Malachi, was essential for people who wanted to know Him, and to know how He deals with people. (Remember, God doesn’t ever change!) The rules and requirements in the Old Testament were essential so that God’s people would know what was required of them. Jesus Himself stated that He did not come to abolish the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17-20). All of those are the reason why Christians today still have the Old Testament in their Bibles.
Bu with the coming of Jesus and the inauguration of God’s kingdom, there was now a further, and much more extensive and profound, revelation of God’s character, and of His requirements for His people. In this new dispensation, the teaching of the Old Covenant were not enough. There were not new treasures to be unpacked and explored; new dimensions of God’s commandments and requirements that moved obedience out of the realm of legalism, and into the realm of relationship.
Jesus’ apostles would become teachers of the full dimension of God’s revelation. They would teach the things that were revealed in the Old Covenant (the sermons in the book of Acts and the writings in the epistles are crammed with Old Testament lessons and references), but they would teach them through the lens of the kingdom of God as a here and now reality. They would teach how God’s actions in the Old Testament were directed toward making the coming of Jesus the Messiah real, and how they all pointed to the reality of God’s kingdom. They would show how God’s sacrificial requirements foreshadowed and were completely fulfilled by the once-and-for-all sacrifice of Jesus. And they would teach how God’s righteous requirements could be fully met in the kingdom by those who live according to the Spirit, and not according to the flesh (Romans 8:1-17).
Both the old treasures and the new are valuable to the growing disciple, so both must be learned, and both must be taught. But only those who have been instructed in the truths of God’s kingdom can accurately teach both.
Father, it is easy to see how the two fit together, and why we must know both the promises and their fulfillment. Why it is important to see Your interactions with the patriarchs, and the nation of Israel in order to understand Your purposes in sending Jesus. Help us all to be well-instructed in every facet of Your character, as well as Your commands, from both the Old Testament and the New. Amen.