Does NCT Deny the Authority of the Old Testament Scriptures? (Questions, Part 6)

Does NCT Deny the Authority of the Old Testament Scriptures? Another question surrounding NCT is whether it, as a theological system, undermines, minimizes or denies altogether the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures. This question is typically asked for one of three reasons. It may be presented as a logical outworking of the previous question, where it is assumed that NCT equates the Old Covenant with the Old Testament Scriptures. To be sure, the Old Covenant was abrogated by the death, burial, and resurrection of Christ (Heb. 8:13). Not so with the Old Testament Scriptures. NCT neither equates the Old Covenant with the Old Testament Scriptures nor teaches that the Old Testament Scriptures have been abolished.

It is also questioned whether NCT undermines or minimizes the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures via its hermeneutics. On what grounds? In short, because NCT emphasizes that the New Testament Scriptures must have interpretive priority over the Old Testament Scriptures due to the former being the final revelation of God. Vlach differs with this approach: “That approach goes beyond the idea of progressive revelation to holding that the NT actually jettisons the original historical-grammatical sense of certain OT passages. Thus, according to NCT…, at times the NT overrides or supersedes the original authorial intent of the OT authors. This is particularly true of OT passages that teach the restoration of the nation Israel.”[1] Elsewhere, Vlach states, “With the hermeneutics of…NCT, the OT is muted.”[2] Again, he writes: “Though acknowledging the varied applications that the NT writers make in using the OT, one is not justified in jettisoning the authorial intent of the OT writers. The approach of NCT…, at times, casts doubt on the integrity of some OT texts. It also casts doubt on the perspicuity of the OT.”[3] William D. Barrick likewise states: “Any hermeneutic that begins with the assumption that the NT fulfillment alters OT fulfillment must beware of implying that the NT contradicts or revises the OT. The NT complements the OT, contributes to the teachings of the OT, and explains the OT in context.”[4] These brethren appear to reframe the theological issue from one of biblical hermeneutics to one involving the very nature of the Scriptures themselves. The real issue is not whether the promises of the Old Testament will come to pass (they certainly will), but rather the manner in which these promises will ultimately be fulfilled.

NCT proponents maintain that there are sound, biblical reasons for their view that the New Testament Scriptures must have interpretive priority over the Old Testament Scriptures. First, the Lord Jesus Christ understood the message of Scripture to be about Himself (John 5:39, 46; Matt. 5:17; 2 Cor. 1:20; Luke 24:27, 44). Tom Wells appropriately states, “The Lord Jesus…treated the Old Testament as a sign that pointed to him.”[5] Peter Gentry and Stephen Wellum also declare in Kingdom through Covenant that within Scripture is “an underlying story line, beginning in creation and moving to the new creation which unfolds God’s plan centered and culminated in Jesus Christ.”[6] Second, the Apostles and writers of the New Testament interpreted the Old Testament in light of Christ, as He had taught them (John 1:45; Acts 3:18, 24; 26:22-23; 28:23; 1 Pet. 1:10-12; Rom. 10:4). Third, the New Testament revelation is a higher, clearer revelation of the Lord Jesus Christ than the Old Testament Scriptures. This is not to say that the Old Testament should be discarded, devalued, or considered less the Word of God (2 Tim. 3:16-17) than the New Testament. That being said, the New Testament must have interpretive priority over the Old due to the former being the final revelation of God. Commenting on Hebrews 1:1-2, Fred G. Zaspel notes, “God has spoken climactically and most fully in his Son. We have in Jesus Christ God’s fullest– indeed, his final– revelation.”[7] In other words, “New Testament revelation, due to its finality, must be allowed to speak first on every issue that it addresses.”[8] As a result, Christians “must read the Old in the light of the New, so that the Lord Jesus has the first and the last word.”[9] John Reisinger also describes the interpretive priority of New Testament: “First, we consider the promise/prophecy as stated in its Old Testament text. Next, we ask questions of that text. Finally, we turn to the New Testament for answers to those questions.”[10] Consider also the Transfiguration account of Luke 9:28-36, in which God the Father says, “This is My beloved Son. Hear Him!” (Luke 9:34-35).

Fourth, Scripture unequivocally teaches that God the Father’s ultimate purpose is to glorify His Beloved Son (Col. 1:16-18; Eph. 1:20-22; Heb. 1:2). In Colossians 1:18, the Apostle Paul effectively sums up God the Father’s purpose: that Christ “might come to have first place in everything.” Consider Paul’s declaration: Christ is to have first place in everything. The implications of this statement are staggering: God the Father desires Christ to have first place in the Church, in the world, in our nations, in our states, in our cities, in our local churches, in our public lives, in our private lives, in our thoughts, in our hearts, in our minds, in our jobs, in our schools, in our relationships, in our leisure time, in our spiritual disciplines, in our marriages, and in our interpretation of Scripture. The Lord Jesus Christ must have first place in our interpretation of Scripture. Finally, the primary ministry of the Holy Spirit (who inspired the writers of Scripture) to reveal and glorify the Lord Jesus Christ also demonstrates the necessity of a Christotelic hermeneutic for accurate biblical interpretation (John 14:26; 16:12-15; 2 Pet. 1:21).

NCT also maintains the Old Testament Scriptures are authoritative for the New Covenant believer. 2 Timothy 3:16-17 declares: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly furnished unto all good works.” Consider also Matthew 5:17-18: “Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets: I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil. For verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Thus, the Old Testament Scriptures (i.e., the Law and the Prophets) and the New Testament Scriptures together comprise the wholly inspired, wholly infallible, and wholly inerrant Word of God, which is the sole authority of faith and practice in the life of a believer. To be sure, Christians are neither members of the Old Covenant nor under its authority. However, Christians are still under the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16-17). Reisinger notes: “Christians, while being free from the Mosaic law (the Old Covenant), are not free from the Old Testament. Failure to maintain this distinction will result in confusion and can lead either to legalism or to antinomianism.”[11] Elsewhere, he states that “the New Covenant has replaced the Old Covenant in totality, but it has not replaced the God-breathed Old Testament Scriptures.”[12]


Footnotes:

[1]Vlach, “New Covenant Theology Compared with Covenantalism,” 213.

[2]Ibid., 217.

[3]Ibid., 214.

[4]William D. Barrick, “New Covenant Theology and the Old Testament Covenants,” TMSJ 18/1 (Fall 2007): 171.

[5]Tom Wells, The Priority of Jesus Christ: Why Christians Turn to Jesus First – A Study in New Covenant Theology (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2005), 61.

[6]Gentry and Wellum, Kingdom through Covenant, 91.

[7]Tom Wells and Fred G. Zaspel, New Covenant Theology: Description, Definition, Defense (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2002), 35.

[8]Ibid., 7.

[9]Wells, The Priority of Jesus Christ, 70.

[10]Reisinger, John G. New Covenant Theology & Prophecy (Frederick, MD: New Covenant Media, 2012), 23

[11]Ibid., 4.

[12]Ibid., 14.

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