Is Jesus’ Teachings For Us Today?
I am Luigi, 44 years old, I got born again a few years ago and I live in France.
I have a question concerning the Old and New Covenant.
The entire earthly ministry of Jesus happened under the Old Covenant and directed only to Israel (Matthew 15:24, Romans 15:8). When Jesus first sent out His disciples, He told them to only go to the people of Israel (Matthew 10:5-6). But after His resurrection they were sent into all the world to tell the Good News to everyone (Mark 16:15, Matthew 28:19).
So every word spoken by Jesus before His resurrection was spoken before the New Covenant existed.
Does this mean we should consider what Jesus said before His resurrection “less important” as they were intended for Israel and not really for us? We have to remember He was talking to people under the Old Covenant, not the New Covenant. what I mean is, Jesus was telling people how to get saved under the old covenant, how does it apply to me today?
For example, in Matthew 19:16 the rich young ruler asked Jesus what to do so he could have eternal life. Jesus’ answer in Matthew 19:17 to “keep the commandments” is much different than the answer in Acts 16:31 which says to “believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved,” or 1 John 5:13 which says those who believe in the Son of God may know they have eternal life.
Does the things He said to His body, the church, after He redeemed us with His blood, take precedence over the words He spoke under His Old Covenant ministry on earth, because they recognize the reality of the New Covenant?
Please excuse my English and thank you for answering me if you have time.
God bless you and your family
Good morning Luigi,
(Your English is great!) Very interesting questions.
Everything Jesus did and said is important for New Covenant believers because He shows and explains God to us in a way that the Old Covenant never could. We learn a lot more about God’s true nature in the Gospels than the Old Testament could ever convey.
I believe the Old Covenant (law, rules, regulations) was for Jesus. It was for Him to fulfill and complete (Matt. 5:17-18). The law came to the Israelites, and they lived under it but ultimately living/fulfilling it was the way for Jesus to get the reward of the law (eternal life) and share it with humanity.
You state “Every word spoken by Jesus before His resurrection was spoken before the New Covenant existed.” I would say, Jesus was always the plan, long before the creation of the world. (Rev. 13:8; 1 Peter 1:19-20; 2 Tim. 1:9-10; Prov. 8:23; Titus 1:1-3). The New Covenant has always existed, reveal when Jesus came, but hinted at throughout the Old Covenant.
If you really read the story of the rich young ruler through the eyes of the New Covenant, you’ll see that Jesus answered the question he asked, not the question that needed asking.
“Teacher, what good thing must I do to get eternal life?” (vs. 16) (emphasis mine).
Notice, he doesn’t ask Jesus for eternal life; he assumes it’s up to him. What do I do? How can I earn this? How can I fulfill the law?
And Jesus answers his question. “Why do you ask me about what is good?” Jesus replied. “There is only One who is good. If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.” (vs. 17).
Jesus starts by answering the question he doesn’t ask. There is only One who is good... you cannot do it, so instead look to the One. But since that answer, the true way to find eternal life falls flat, he then answers the other question, which the rich young ruler already grew up knowing the answer too. “If you want to enter life, obey the commandments.”
The man asks the specifics of obeying the commandments because he wants to make sure he’s covered, and Jesus gets to the point. It’s about heart. Jesus calls out the thing that is keeping him in bondage, in this case money and possessions and then invites him to follow Him. Because He knows the rich young ruler will then find the eternal life he’s looking for... He’ll find it in the Savior, which has always been the way, even under the Old Covenant. In fact, isn’t this Jesus’ definition of eternal life? “Now this is eternal life: that they know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3).
The way to God has always been outside ourselves... it has never been by the law or living it. In fact, the law was for an entirely different purpose... even, especially under the Old Covenant.
The apostle Paul makes this clear in the book of Romans and Galatians. Here’s the Law’s purpose:
- to show sin (Rom 3:20; 7:7; 13)
- to arouse sin (Rom. 7:8-9; Gal 3:19)
- to condemn us (Rom. 7:10; Gal 3:10, 23)
- to Bring us to Christ (Gal 2:19; 3:24)
The true purpose of the law was to condemn us so we would look outside of ourselves and fall on the mercy of God. So many Old Testament figures discovered and lived this. Think Abraham and David (Rom. 4). So it makes sense that Jesus’ true answer was “There is only One who is good.” Look to Him and in Him find the life you are seeking!
This seems to line up with everything the New Testament writers wrote... believe in the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:13), believe in the Son (1 John 5:13), Whoever believes in the Son has life (John 3:16), etc.
Throughout the Gospels, Jesus spoke about the way to the Father and about putting our trust in Him. I would say, that the words of Jesus trump everything and as New Testament followers what He taught and said is important for us today.
I hope this help answer your question or at least gives you some things to continue thinking about and wrestling with. God bless!