New Life of Beauty and Grace
For by grace you have
been saved through faith,
and that not of yourselves;
it is the gift of God.
Ephesians 2:8 WEB


Two True Testaments

We have been given, not one, but two Testaments of scripture in the Bible. Obviously, we need them both and it would be a mistake to neglect either one. But it would also be a mistake to think that they can be read the same way. We who believe in Jesus have been brought into the new and “better” covenant which the New Testament contains. We read the Old Testament as believers in the New. Put your gospel glasses on, if you want to keep your understanding grounded with a proper perspective.

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” Matthew 5:17-19 ESV

A Pause to Clarify

You may be new to Christ, but you’ve probably been around long enough to see that the Bible is divided into two major sections. These are called either the Old and New Testament or the Old and An Old Testament Torah Scroll : Two True TestamentsNew Covenants. This can get confusing for two reasons. The first problem is that there are at least seven covenants in the Bible—not two—which automatically spreads confusion whenever “Covenant” is used to describe the division.[1]

The other problem is the use of “New” and “Old,” because this seems to give the first and largest section of the Bible an inferior, obsolete status.[2] That “Old” section was the entire Bible for Jesus! He had nothing but great things to say about it (as in the quote above). Even the authors of our New Testament never thought of the Hebrew Scriptures as “old” in any sense other than ancient. For the sake of simplicity, I will use those terms here, if you promise not to think of the Hebrew Scriptures as old in the “out of date” or “no longer applies” sense of the word.

Gospel Glasses

The Great Reformer, Martin Luther, said that we really shouldn’t read any part of the Bible without putting “gospel glasses” on first.[3] We, who believe in Jesus, have received an enhanced revelation of God’s love and mercy which comes through faith and the New Birth. This revelation shines brightest wherever the core gospel message is the main element of a Biblical passage. But the Bible is a BIG book!  

There are vastly more passages in the Bible where the gospel is “hidden” than where it is blazingly revealed. Some of those passages can be downright scary; others are notoriously difficult to interpret. Luther’s point is that the gospel is the main message, the “good news” that God wants us to hear. It is the unchanging and highest revelation of God’s love for us, as well as being His plan for saving us. Nothing else in the Bible — properly understood — can contradict this ultimate revelation of God.

Without looking through those gospel glasses it would be easy to think that the God of the Hebrew Scriptures was a God of wrath, or that the New Testament is all about grace and the Old was only about law. Many people throughout Church history have drawn those wrong conclusions. In fact, grace and law are suffused throughout both Testaments, just as God’s mercy is fully revealed in both.

The Dividing Line

The dividing line is Jesus. His birth inaugurates the division between the two Testaments, but it is more than a break in the time line. In a very real sense, the gospel glasses are a way of reading the scriptures through His eyes. Picture this: The One who spoke the Word (of the Old Testament) to Israel through the prophets has now come (through the New Testament) to give the definitive interpretation of that same Word.

Due to being born fully human, Jesus set His divine attributes aside and emerged into life on earth with an infant’s understanding.[4] He even had to be taught Hebrew! However, He was raised on the Hebrew Scriptures with the “head start” of having the Holy Spirit inside Him from conception, enlightening His understanding (and no sin nature darkening it). By the time He was twelve He amazed Jewish leaders in Jerusalem with His wisdom and breadth of knowledge.

The Best Commentary on Scripture

His entire life is an audio-visual commentary on the scriptures. He lived by the Old Testament scriptures and He taught the Old Testament scriptures. Both His actions and His teachings, however, eventually brought Him into conflict with the Jewish people most dedicated to the Hebrew scriptures: the scribes, Pharisees and Sadducees. As we “listen” in to their discussions with Him, we “see” how Jesus read the Bible differently than many of the people around Him. This helps us gain eyes to see and ears to hear God’s Word from His perspective.[5] Perhaps Martin Luther should have told us to read the Bible through “Jesus’ glasses”!

We see the Old through the apostle's eyes too. Not only does the New Testament give us a commentary on scripture by the Word of God Himself, it also gives us fresh perspectives on, or re-interpretations of the Hebrew Scriptures by the apostles. The upheaval of their mental/spiritual world caused by Jesus’ life, death and resurrection had them going over all that they once thought they knew about God and the scriptures. They had to bring the Word of God to the Light of Christ. Therefore, their writings also provide a New Testament commentary on the Old Testament: scriptures that interpret scripture!

An Invisible Shift

Something else happened which makes it imperative that we learn to “see” the truths of the Old Testament through a different set of eyes than those of people schooled only by the Hebrew Scriptures and God’s covenant with Israel. First of all, we are under a "new and better" covenant and need to know the terms of it.[6] But more than that, a radical, life-transforming shift has happened for us who through faith-conversion have been re-born with the Holy Spirit living inside us. We now live a spiritual life that was outlined for us by physical Israel, but which they could neither imagine nor experience. This is huge! See Two Realms of Habitation.

Israel lived in a natural reality that included a spiritual dimension. We live in a spiritual dimension that manifests at times through the natural reality. That is almost too big a thought to process or to believe, but let’s give it shot.

1) Inheritance

The nation of Israel had a visible inheritance in the land and a future inheritance in God’s coming kingdom. We have an immediate and real inheritance in Christ which includes access to the kingdom of God on earth and a position of being “seated with Christ” in the heavenlies.[7]

2) Warfare

Israel fought visible enemies to claim their land, campaigning against the strongholds of fortified cities. Our battles are not with “flesh and blood,” but with the invisible powers and principalities of the kingdom of darkness and strongholds they control which block the advance of God’s kingdom.[8]

3) Sacrifice

Israel had a visible religious system of priesthood, sacrifice, altar and temple. We are a royal priesthood, Jesus is the one and only sacrifice, our hearts hold both throne and altar, and our bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit.[9]   

4) Righteousness

Israel could "see" the righteous and the wicked. In the Hebrew scriptures people were considered as being either wicked or righteous, based on their keeping or failing to keep the Law of God. We have been given eyes to see that the fallen nature is in everyone and that the Spirit of Christ can also be in anyone. The “wicked” for us to deal with are evil spirits: Any living person can convert and be restored to their true potential though faith-surrender to Christ.

These four glimpses of the transcendent “new reality” that characterizes our life in the Spirit are not meant to be final or complete. Put your gospel glasses on, read the Old Testament from the New Testament perspective, and see what you can see. Let the Holy Spirit opens your eyes to behold the spiritual landscape.

Next Double to See

Two Competing Covenants  The two Testaments of the Bible include many covenants. By one count there are four with the nation of Israel and three with humanity in general. Why so many? Evidently, we need a lot of examples to prove to us that God keeps His part of the bargain! Why highlight just two? Only one OT covenant was ever superseded by another. The “Old Covenant” refers to God’s covenant through Moses with the Jewish people on Mount Sinai which gave way to the new and “better” one that Jesus made with all of us.

Free Downloads

pdf Learning to See Double (eBook) (670 KB)

pdf Two True Testaments (this article) (388 KB)

“Gospel Glasses” Scriptures

"Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Matthew 5:17-19 ESV

I want you to know, brothers, that our fathers were all under the cloud, and all passed through the sea, and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea, and all ate the same spiritual food, and all drank the same spiritual drink. For they drank from the spiritual Rock that followed them, and the Rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not pleased, for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 1 Corinthians 10:1-5 ESV

Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did. Do not be idolaters as some of them were; as it is written, "The people sat down to eat and drink and rose up to play." We must not indulge in sexual immorality as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in a single day. We must not put Christ to the test, as some of them did and were destroyed by serpents, nor grumble, as some of them did and were destroyed by the Destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come. 1 Corinthians 10:6-11 ESV

Therefore let no one pass judgment on you in questions of food and drink, or with regard to a festival or a new moon or a Sabbath. These are a shadow of the things to come, but the substance belongs to Christ. Colossians 2:16-17 ESV

Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They serve a copy and shadow of the heavenly things. For when Moses was about to erect the tent, he was instructed by God, saying, "See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain." Hebrews 8:4-7 ESV

But as it is, Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old as the covenant he mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion to look for a second. Hebrews 8:6-7 ESV

For since the law has but a shadow of the good things to come instead of the true form of these realities, it can never, by the same sacrifices that are continually offered every year, make perfect those who draw near. Hebrews 10:1-2 ESV

Scriptures and Foot Notes

[1]  I personally prefer not use the term Old and New Covenant for several reasons: 1) the Bible does contain covenants, but it is far more than covenants only; 2) there are at least seven covenants, not two; and 3) only one of the older covenants was actually “replaced” or “superseded” by the newest one that Jesus inaugurated. However, if someone wants to refer to the division as Old and New Covenants, I certainly don’t object. There is little to be gained by “fighting” semantic battles!
[2]  Out of respect for that portion of the Bible that Jesus knew and used, I prefer to call it “the Hebrew Scriptures” rather than the Old Testament, which denigrates its status in our ears. In this way its character as full-fledged scripture is affirmed and people always know I’m referring to the Old Testament.  A further consideration is that our term “Old Testament” unnecessarily rubs salt in the wounds of Jewish believers who don’t recognize the validity of that which we call new. As with my other quiet campaign (see above note), I don’t make any big deal about it, or stick ruthlessly to these distinctions myself. Sometimes you just have to go with the flow…
[3]  Here is the quote that I have heard for years, but I can't find the source to confirm it: “A Christian should read the Bible through the lens of the gospel.” Even if Luther didn't write this, it nicely describes his approach to reading scripture by seeking an interpretation of each passage that also fits with Christ and the gospel.
[4]  This enormous idea is usually expressed as Christ’s “Kenosis” or self-emptying: Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. Philippians 2:5-7 ESV
[5]  Jesus often invited His listeners to have “ears to hear” His message: For all the Prophets and the Law prophesied until John, and if you are willing to accept it, he is Elijah who is to come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear. Matthew 11:13-15 ESV
[6]  When God speaks of a new [covenant or agreement], He makes the first one obsolete (out of use). And what is obsolete (out of use and annulled because of age) is ripe for disappearance and to be dispensed with altogether. Hebrews 8:13 AMP
[7]  But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ— by grace you have been saved—and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Ephesians 2:4-6 ESV
[8]  For we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places. Ephesians 6:12 ESV
[9]  But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for his own possession, that you may proclaim the excellencies of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. 1 Peter 2:9 ESV

Are You a Forerunner?

Are You a Forerunner?
Run with us on Facebook!
Like John the Baptist, forerunners go before the Lord to prepare His way into their own heart and other lives. That's your heart too, isn't it?

Rescued from Hell

I'm Steve, a former hippie and carpenter, now a passionate follower of Jesus.

Living by Faith

Subscribe to our weekly (or so) newsletter and stay updated on the latest insights and blog posts.