If you are just now joining us, we have been talking about the gospel. We started this series by asking the (disturbing) question: Is something wrong with our gospel? Then, we looked at how the NT authors use the word and how we have reduced their understanding to a simple formula. In this post, we will look at some examples of how the gospel is the fulfillment to which the Old Testament (OT) points.
A Story with No Resolution
If you have ever read through the OT, you have probably realized that it is not a stand alone book. (Conversely, neither is the NT.) It is a story that is going somewhere. If we had nothing after Malachi, the OT would be the ultimate
cliffhanger disappointment. So many hopes…so many expectations…so many unfulfilled promises. We are left with a problem longing for resolution, a story awaiting its climax, promises needing to be fulfilled… The resolution/climax/fulfillment is the gospel, the good news about Jesus Christ. Throughout the life of this blog, I would like to unpack how the gospel is the fulfillment of the OT, but in this post, I just want to give a few examples showing that Jesus and the apostles saw that the gospel message was the fulfillment of their Scriptures (i.e., the Hebrew Bible, our OT).
According to the Scriptures
- In the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), Jesus says, “Do not assume that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets [i.e., the OT]. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill…” (Mt 5:17)
- John's gospel account records Jesus' saying to the Jews who persecuted him for healing a man on the Sabbath (John 5), “You pore over the Scriptures because you think you have eternal life in them, yet they testify about me…” (Jn 5:39)
- A few sentences later Jesus says, “…if you believed Moses [i.e., the Law/Torah], you would believe me, because he wrote about me. But if you don't believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” (Jn 5:46-47)
- My favorite example is the resurrection story in Luke when Jesus is walking with the two disciples on the way to Emmaus. (Lk 24:13-35) The disciples are puzzled because they thought Jesus was Israel’s Messiah, but how could he be their Messiah if he is dead? Jesus begins with “Moses and all the Prophets” (Lk 24:27) and interprets the Scripture in light of himself. Apparently, their hearts were on fire as Jesus did this (Lk 24:32).
- Later, Jesus tells the Eleven and those with them that not only the Law and the Prophets are fulfilled in him, but also the Psalms. (Lk 24:36-49)
- Upon entering a town, Paul would typically go to the synagogue to reason from the Scriptures that Jesus is the Messiah. (e.g., Acts 17:2-3, 11)
- In Paul's most overt gospel statement (1 Cor 15:1-8, 20-28), he reminds the Corinthian church that Jesus' death and resurrection are both “according to the Scriptures.” (1 Cor 15:3-4) Paul would not have had access to the NT biblical artillery used in our “Gospel as Formula.” Paul did, however, spend a year-and-a-half in Corinth teaching the word of God (cf., Acts 18:11). I am going to step out on a limb and speculate that Paul, being the Jewish scholar that he was (cf., Acts 22:3), had time to teach the church the OT story which begged for resolution and how the gospel of Jesus was that resolution, the fulfillment of the promises of God. Maybe when Paul said “according to the Scriptures,” he was confident that the church would recall that story.
- The writer of Hebrews says, “Long ago God spoke to the fathers by the prophets at different times and in different ways. In these last days, he has spoken to us by his Son…” (Heb 1:1-2)
This list is not exhaustive. I just want to show that the gospel fulfills the OT. We can't fully understand one without the other…