A second category of NT use of the OT that we will look at now is "Literal Application of a Timeless Moral or Theological Point." This occurs when a NT writer or person applies a moral or theological point found in the OT to the present. Below is a sampling of this type of usage of the OT:
Matt 4:4-10 / Deut 8:3; 6:16; 6:13
"But He [Jesus] answered and said, ‘It is written, "MAN SHALL NOT LIVE ON BREAD ALONE, BUT ON EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS OUT OF THE MOUTH OF GOD.’" Then the devil took Him into the holy city and had Him stand on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, "If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down; for it is written, ‘HE WILL COMMAND HIS ANGELS CONCERNING YOU’; and ‘ON their HANDS THEY WILL BEAR YOU UP,
SO THAT YOU WILL NOT STRIKE YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’"
Jesus said to him, "On the other hand, it is written, ‘YOU SHALL NOT PUT THE LORD YOUR GOD TO THE TEST.’" Again, the devil took Him to a very high mountain and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory; and he said to Him, "All these things I will give You, if You fall down and worship me." Then Jesus said to him, "Go, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND SERVE HIM ONLY.’"
When Jesus is tempted in the wilderness by Satan, Jesus quotes the OT three times to refute Satan who also quotes Ps 91:11-12. Jesus applies Deut 8:3 to which indicates that man shall not live by bread alone. He then quotes Deut 6:16 to indicate that God should not be tested which Israel did at Massah. Jesus applies this principle to His situation. Jesus refers to Deut 6:13 and/or Deut 10:20 to show the principle that only God should be worshiped. Jesus uses the OT contextually to draw out timeless principles to refute Satan.
Luke 4:4-12 / Deut 8:3; 6:13; 10:20; 6:16
This section describing the temptation of Jesus by Satan parallels Matt 4:4-10 as discussed above. The point is the same. Jesus uses a contextual understanding of the OT to apply moral principles to refute the temptations of Satan.
Matt 9:13 / Hosea 6:6
"But go and learn what this means: ‘I DESIRE COMPASSION, AND NOT SACRIFICE,’ for I did not come to call the righteous, but sinners."
Jesus draws a principle from Hos 6:6 that God is more interested in matters of the heart than ritual in his confrontation with the Pharisees regarding eating with tax collectors and sinners.
Matt 11:29 / Jer 6:16
"Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and YOU WILL FIND REST FOR YOUR SOULS."
Jesus applies a timeless principle from Jeremiah 6:16. Jeremiah 6 discusses the impending destruction of Jerusalem. The Lord calls on His people to "ask for the ancient paths" and in doing so they will find rest for their souls. Likewise, Jesus’ hearers can find rest for their souls if they turn to Him.
Matt 15:4 / Ezek 20:12; 21:17
"For God said, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND MOTHER,’ and, ‘HE WHO SPEAKS EVIL OF FATHER OR MOTHER IS TO BE PUT TO DEATH.’"
Jesus quotes Ezek 20:12 and Ezek 21:17 in a contextual manner to highlight the eternal moral principle of honoring one's parents.
Matt 22:37-39 / Deut 6:5; Lev 19:18
"And He said to him, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’
"This is the great and foremost commandment.
"The second is like it, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’"
Jesus quotes Deut 6:5 and Lev 19:18 to point out the eternal timeless principle that God requires that people love Him with their whole being.
Rom 1:17 / Hab 2:4
"For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, ‘BUT THE RIGHTEOUS man SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.’"
Paul applies Hab 2:4 to indicate that righteousness is linked to faith.
Rom 3:10-18 / Several Psalms
"as it is written,
‘THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NOT EVEN ONE;
THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS,
THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS FOR GOD;
ALL HAVE TURNED ASIDE, TOGETHER THEY HAVE BECOME USELESS;
THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD,
THERE IS NOT EVEN ONE."
‘THEIR THROAT IS AN OPEN GRAVE,
WITH THEIR TONGUES THEY KEEP DECEIVING,’
‘THE POISON OF ASPS IS UNDER THEIR LIPS’;
‘WHOSE MOUTH IS FULL OF CURSING AND BITTERNESS’;
‘THEIR FEET ARE SWIFT TO SHED BLOOD,
DESTRUCTION AND MISERY ARE IN THEIR PATHS,
AND THE PATH OF PEACE THEY HAVE NOT KNOWN.
‘THERE IS NO FEAR OF GOD BEFORE THEIR EYES.’"
Paul uses a cluster of quotes mostly from the Psalms—Psalm 14:1-3; Psalm 5:9; Psalm 140:3; Psalm 10:7; Isa 59:7; Psalm 36:1, to establish the important and foundational theological point that all people are sinners.
Rom 4:3 / Gen 15:6
"For what does the Scripture say? 'ABRAHAM BELIEVED GOD, AND IT WAS CREDITED TO HIM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.'"
In Romans 4 Paul is arguing that justification is based on faith not work. This is true for both the OT and NT eras. As evidence that justification is based on faith he quotes Gen 15:6 to show that the patriarch Abraham was justified though faith alone.
Rom 4:6-7 / Psalm 32:1-2
"just as David also speaks of the blessing on the man to whom God credits righteousness apart from works:
‘BLESSED ARE THOSE WHOSE LAWLESS DEEDS HAVE BEEN FORGIVEN,
AND WHOSE SINS HAVE BEEN COVERED.
‘BLESSED IS THE MAN WHOSE SIN THE LORD WILL NOT TAKE INTO ACCOUNT.’"
Paul quotes David’s words in Psalm 32:1-2 to affirm the theological point that salvation is through faith apart from works.
Rom 4:9 / Gen 15:6
"Is this blessing then on the circumcised, or on the uncircumcised also? For we say, ‘FAITH WAS CREDITED TO ABRAHAM AS RIGHTEOUSNESS.’"
Again, Paul quotes Abraham to make the theological point that righteousness comes through faith.
1 Cor 1:31 / Jer 9:23-24
"so that, just as it is written, ‘LET HIM WHO BOASTS, BOAST IN THE LORD.’"
With Jer 9:23-24 the Lord declares that the wise man should not boast in his own wisdom or power but should boast in the Lord. The context of 1 Cor 1 is similar in which Paul states that boasting should be in the Lord and not in human wisdom. Thus, Paul’s quotation of Jer 9:23-24 is a contextual application of an eternal moral principle.
1 Cor 6:16 / Gen 2:24
"Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, ‘THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.’"
Paul quotes Gen 2:24, a passage from the creation account, to show the seriousness of the unity that takes place when two people have physical relations with each other. This is a moral warning to stay away from immoral sexual behavior.
Gal 3:10 / Deut 27:26
"For as many as are of the works of the Law are under a curse; for it is written, ‘CURSED IS EVERYONE WHO DOES NOT ABIDE BY ALL THINGS WRITTEN IN THE BOOK OF THE LAW, TO PERFORM THEM.’"
In Deut 27 the Levites detailed curses for the men of Israel if they did certain things. In Deut 27:26 the men of Israel were told they would be cursed if they did not keep the Law. In arguing that Christians are not under the Mosaic Law Paul quotes Deut 27:26 to show that failure to keep the Law means being under a curse. This was to be a warning to any of Paul’s readers who wanted to try to keep the Mosaic Law.
Gal 3:11 / Hab 2:4
"Now that no one is justified by the Law before God is evident; for, ‘THE RIGHTEOUS MAN SHALL LIVE BY FAITH.’"
Paul quotes Hab 2:4 contextually to show that being in a right relationship with God has always been based on faith.
James 2:8 / Lev 19:18
"If, however, you are fulfilling the royal law according to the Scripture, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF,’ you are doing well."
James applies the eternal moral principle of loving one’s neighbor found in Lev 19:18 to his readers.
James 4:6 / Psalm 138:6
"But He gives a greater grace Therefore it says, ‘GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE.’"
James applies the point that God is opposed to the proud from Psalm 138:6.
1 Pet 1:16 / Lev 11:44; 19:2
"because it is written, ‘YOU SHALL BE HOLY, FOR I AM HOLY.’"
This is a quote of Lev 11:44; 19:2. This is a literal application of a timeless principle that God’s people need to be holy because He is holy.
As the above passages indicate, there are many occasions in which the NT writers contextually use the OT to apply a timeless moral or theological point to the present.
Hi Dr. Vlach, I am so grateful for all of these posts on this topic! Thank you. BTW - you have the wrong scripture references. It should say Exodus not Ezek under "Matt 15:4 / Ezek 20:12; 21:17" and the explanation beneath it too.ReplyDelete
God Bless - David E