Recently I heard about a study alleging that married couples, after a number of years, acquire each other’s characteristics, with each one even beginning to look somewhat like the other.
At first I was skeptical. How could that be? All my life, for example, I have had difficulty accurately describing colors or choosing good color combinations. That’s one reason my wife, Ruth, does not trust me to buy my own clothes.
The fact is, I don’t trust myself to buy my own clothes! If married couples acquire characteristics and abilities from each other, why have I not acquired my wife’s ability to choose color combinations? I don’t know, but I do believe that some validity exists in the assumption that couples do acquire each other’s characteristics. Looking at some couples whom I know, it does seem that they reflect each other. They belong together. This seems especially true for couples who have a positive marriage relationship, for in some ways we can hardly imagine one without the other.
Belonging together does not come about by force. It has to be natural and obvious—it must be evident to others. I want to focus on another togetherness —the Old and the New Testament. But, is that not obvious? Perhaps to many, but since the completion of the New Testament there have been individuals and groups who have not seen the two Testaments as belonging together.
Some 120 years after Christ, Justin Martyr was downgrading the Old Testament—especially the law of the Old Testament. But we need not look solely at history, for in the contemporary religious world we have found examples of advancing one portion of the Bible over the other. Some Christians seem to be almost embarrassed over the Old Testament while other religious groups place no value in the New Testament. It seems to me that, while they are not the same, they do belong together. The Old Testament anticipates the New, and the New Testament depends on the Old.
Anticipation, promise, and hope
Not complete by itself, the Old Testament foresees that which is to come. As an example of anticipation and promises, Daniel refers to the “Anointed One” and assures readers that “He will confi rm a covenant with many” (see Dan. 9:25, 27). Isaiah likewise looks with hope to the future even though the Promised One “had no beauty or majesty,” and “he was despised and rejected by men.” Why hope? Because “he took up our infi rmities and carried our sorrows.” But that is not the end, for the Promised One “made intercession for the transgressors” (Isa. 53:2–4, 12, NIV). Transgressors identifi es the people living during both of the Testaments, and it also refers to us. In spite of our states of helplessness, the promise of the Messiah gives hope. Daniel, Isaiah, and others, all Old Testament writers, give us reasons to anticipate and hope: More is coming. That’s the promise of the Old Testament.
Fulfillment of the promise
Not isolated from the Old Testament, the New Testament displays stories of fulfi llment throughout. Unfortunately, the trained theologians and religious leaders did not always recognize that fulfillment. At least on one occasion, a person who was not a theologian (and shunned by many except for her secret customers), recognized Jesus as fulfillment. John writes that “The woman said, ‘I know that Messiah’ (called Christ) ‘is coming. When he comes, he will explain everything to us’ ” (John 4:25, NIV). And when she learned that Jesus was the Promised One, she hurried to tell the good news. Old Testament promise—New Testament fulfillment.
Jesus saw Himself as a fulfillment of Scripture promises—specifi cally the Old Testament. “ ‘Today,’ ” Jesus said, “ ‘this scripture is fulfilled in your hearing’ ” (Luke 4:21, NIV). He spoke those words after He quoted Old Testament promises about Himself.
The Old and the New Testaments belong together as inseparable partners. We look at one and it reminds us of the other, and the more we study them, the more we realize how much they complement each other. There is a continuity in their messages—a continuity that leads into God’s kingdom.
Let’s appreciate them
In this issue, we share the first of a series of articles by Daniel I. Block. His indepth study shows the value God places on both the Old and the New Testaments. John McVay and Phillip Long provide us with a list of valuable resources for New Testament studies. In a future issue, we will do the same for the Old Testament. After all, the Bible, both the Old and New Testaments, remains the foundation of our faith. I hope that these and other articles will lead us to appreciate the value of the Word of God—both the Old and the New Testaments.