Friday, 30 October 2015

Is the New Testament Consistent

Is the New Testament Consistent with the Old?

In a very brief way we have established the internal consistency of the Old Testament. The next question is the dual consistency of the New Testament with the Old and within itself.

The new testament message revolves around Jesus Christ. Who he was. What he did. How we should live in the light of this. So I will start with the “letters” and then look at the Gospels.

Paul's letters first: remember we are not looking at the entire message of them this time – just the description of God's character that would either agree with or contradict the one in Exodus we chose: Exodus 34:6,7. (YHWH) “passed in front of Moses proclaiming: “YHWH, YHWH the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, and forgiving wickedness rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished ...”

The short answer is that in Paul's letters all these attributes are demonstrated in Jesus. Jesus hanging on the cross dying for the sins of the world is exactly this character of God previously stated to Moses displayed now in actions for all to see. There is an abundance of examples available, for instance:

Romans 3: 23ff: “For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified feely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement through the shedding of his blood – to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness, because in forbearance he had left sins committed beforehand unpunished – he did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.”

God's grace and compassion are evidenced in his actions, as is the combination of forgiveness but not leaving evil go unpunished.

Ephesians 2: 1ff “you were dead in your transgressions and sins … all of us also lived … at one time gratifying the cravings of our flesh … like the rest we were by nature deserving of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace you have been saved.”

Again god's great compassion, graciousness, love, and forgiveness are the triumphal theme – because this wonderful character has been demonstrated in action in Christ, and made real and effective to us who believe.

Hebrews 1: 1ff “In the past God spoke to our ancestors through the prophets at many times and in various ways, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, … The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being … after he had provided purification for sins ...”

John follows closely in his letters, for instance: 1 John 4: 9ff “ This is how God showed his love among us: he sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we have loved God; but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins.

1 Peter 1: 3 “Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead.”

Revelation 21: “ 'Look! God's dwelling place is now among the people, and he will dwell with them. They will be his people and God himself will be with them and will be their God. And he will wipe away every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.' … The one who was seated on the throne said “ … It is done. I am the Alpha and the Omega, the Beginning and the End. To the thirsty I will give water without cost form the spring of the water of life. Those who are victorious will inherit all this and I will be their God and they will be my children. But the cowardly, the unbelieving, the vile, the murderers, the sexually immoral, those who practice magic arts, the idolaters and all liars – they will be consigned to the fiery lake of burning sulphur. This is the second death.

I'm sure I do not need to join the dots! Exactly the same character of God in these areas is consistently displayed throughout the letters and Revelation, and it is exactly the same character as maintained throughout the Old Testament.

Now for the Gospels. Again, the Gospels are all about Jesus. Who he said he was, what character he displayed in word and deed. The mighty miracles by which God endorsed him. And ultimately his suffering, death and resurrection. In John's gospel in particular the slowing of the pace as Good Friday approaches highlights that this is the single most important act.

I started with the other books of the New Testament because of their commentary on Jesus death and resurrection. That this was God – Father Son and Holy Spirit – demonstrating beyond all question and beyond all imagining, the true character of God. And showing in actions what had been revealed in words to Moses, showing now that God was the very essence of Compassion, Graciousness, and Love. And showing supremely now what he had demonstrated in smaller ways throughout history: his utter faithfulness to those who trust in him.

Also during his few years of public ministry Jesus demonstrated this character in his every day dealings with people. As this is obvious by reading any of the Gospel accounts I will not give examples here.

Forgiveness is both amply demonstrated in the Gospels and amply understood by the general public. The enigma of this co-existing with God's stated character of not leaving evil unpunished is also amply demonstrated by Jesus' suffering, death and resurrection “the righteous for the unrighteous”.

Hence the double-barrelled reason given in Romans 3: a) to demonstrate god's justice since he, the just Judge had indeed forgiven sins in the Old Testament period. And b) to be just even in justifying those who believe in Jesus.

All I think that remains to be demonstrated is the trait of not leaving the impenitent guilty unpunished. This should be obvious on any reading of the Gospels, but as it has been denied by much modern liberal theology I shall give some examples.

Matthew 7: 13,14: “ Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction and many enter through it. But small is the gate and narrow the road that leads to life and few find it

Matthew 18: 6ff “If anyone causes one of these little ones … to stumble it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and be drowned in the depths of the sea. … If your eye causes you to stumble … it would be better to enter life with one eye than to … and be thrown into the fire of hell.”

The parable of the unmerciful servant in Matthew 19 ends with the warning “… the master handed him over to the jailers to be tortured until he should pay back all he owed. This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless ...”

Jesus condemnation of the practices of the religious leaders includes this dire warning: (Matt. 23: 33 “You snakes! You brood of vipers! How will you escape being condemned to hell?”

Jesus' depiction of the Judgement concludes: (Matt 25: 46 “Then they will go away to eternal punishment, but the righteous to eternal life.”

So the gospels also give a consistent account of God's character in the area we chose to examine.

To sum up: The Bible claims throughout to be a record of “the God who made heaven and earth” making known things to human beings about God's character and how God desires humans to live. Written by a large number of different people over roughly a millennium and a half the Bible exhibits the sort of consistent message we would expect if its claim were true.

Thus examining the Bible in a scientific sort of way has paid dividends. We have not proved that God exists, we have not even proved that the Bible is what it claims any more than a scientific experiment can prove a hypothesis is true. But … just as with scientific experiments … we have established that taking the Bible's claims as “true” is a good working hypothesis.

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