Interpreting the Bible Accurately 3

By Ron Jones ©Titus Institute 2010

Scripture quotations are from the ESV Bible (The Holy Bible, English Standard Version), © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Interpreting the Bible Accurately - Session 3 Principle of Scriptural Covenants


We are in a four-week series on Principles of Interpreting the Bible Accurately. The principles have been used by faithful and careful Bible interpreters for centuries and can keep us from imposing our own views and biases on the Scriptures and can help us discern when others are falling into that trap.

Our study is divided into four main points:

W1 Principles of Scriptural Meaning

W2 Principles of Scriptural Consistency

W3 Principle of Scriptural Covenants

W4 Principles of Scriptural Application

These are four categories of principles of interpretation that I am going to give you so you can interpret the Bible properly.

All of these principles could be called the Historical Grammatical Literal Interpretation of Scripture.


W1 Principles of Scriptural Meaning

W2 Principles of Scriptural Consistency

The first week we dealt with four Principles centered in discovering the Authorís Intended Meaning.

The second week we dealt with six principles that centered in the Analogy of Scripture, that all the books of the Bible were written by God and form one unified body of truth and cannot contradict each other and must be consistent with each other.

This week we come to

Session 3 - W3 Principle of Scriptural Covenants

In this session, we come to the process of interpreting the Old Testament Scriptures according to the Historical Grammatical Literal Method.

As we approach this, we need to understand that if we are using the Historical Grammatical Literal Method of Interpretation, we are going to realize that there is a distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament.

If you read through the Bible, it becomes obvious that there is a distinction between Israel and the church.

In the Bible, there is a distinction between Israel and the church.

OT ? Israel ? Mosaic Covenant

NT ? Church ? Abrahamic Covenant/New Covenant

This is crucial to understanding what applies to us as Christians in the Old Testament because we are under the Abrahamic Covenant and its completion the New Covenant and Israel was under the Mosaic Covenant.

This brings us to Principle 11.

Principle 11: The OT portions that reflect Godís plan for Israel in the Mosaic Covenant applied to them only and does not apply to Christians.

God gave two major covenants in the OT, the Abrahamic Covenant and the Mosaic Covenant. A covenant is an agreement God makes with man to accomplish his purposes.

Both of these covenants had a purpose, one of them applies to us and the other applies only to the nation of Israel in the OT.

The Abrahamic Covenant

Genesis 12:1-3 1 Now the Lord said to Abram, ďGo from your country and your kindred and your fatherís house to the land that I will show you. 2 And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. 3 I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.Ē

Godís Covenant with Abraham was that the future king would be his descendant, reign from a nation of his physical descendants in the land of Canaan and bring in a kingdom of righteousness that will be for the whole earth.

v.1 ďto the landĒ = Land of Canaan where Israel would dwell

v. 2ďa great nationĒ = Israelites who will believe in the messiah

v.3 ďin you (your seed) blessings for all familiesĒ = Eternal Life in Godís kingdom for all families, both Jew and Gentile

This covenant was a salvation covenant with Godís promise of salvation to all who would come into the covenant by faith in the future messiah for the people of the OT and faith in the messiah who came, Jesus Christ in the NT.

These three promises will be fulfilled in the coming millennial kingdom after Jesus returns. Israel will be a great nation of believers in Jesus Christ dwelling in the land of Israel. Christ will rule on the throne of David, and all those who initially live there will be believers.

It is an unconditional covenant entered into by faith.

However, for God to fulfill these promises through his messiah, he needed to establish the nation of Israel in the land of Canaan.

They were to receive his revelation from his prophets and birth the messiah through the descendants of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob Ė Mary and Joseph.

In order for them to do this, they needed to be a holy nation who followed Godís ways.

So, God gave to them the Mosaic Covenant.

The Mosaic Covenant

The Mosaic Covenant was given to govern Israel as a holy nation under God in the Promised Land. It was given to Israel so that it might help fulfill the Abrahamic Covenant by preparing Israel for the birth of the Messiah who would bring salvation blessing through them to the world.

The Mosaic Covenant had three kinds of laws

1) Moral laws

2) Civil and criminal laws

3) Ceremonial laws

It was conditional and temporary until messiah came, until Jesus Christ was born.

The Mosaic Covenant was not given by God to save the Israelites or any OT people from their sins nor does it apply to NT believers.

Galatians 3:16-19

16 Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, ďAnd to offsprings,Ē referring to many, but referring to one, ďAnd to your offspring,Ē who is Christ.

17 This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void.

18 For if the inheritance comes by the law, it no longer comes by promise; but God gave it to Abraham by a promise.

19 Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary.

v.16 The Abrahamic Covenant is a salvation covenant in Abrahamís offspring, Jesus Christ.

v.17 the Mosaic law which came 430 years later does not annul or replace that covenant.

v.19 The Mosaic law was an additional covenant given to point out sin Ė this is its oral purpose

Its main purpose was to govern Israel.

These two covenants are very different.

Abrahamic Covenant ? Unconditional ? Eternal ? Provides eternal life in messiahís kingdom

Mosaic Covenant ? Conditional ? Temporal ? Provides civil, criminal & ceremonial laws to govern Israel

This not only affects our interpretation of the OT, but our application of the OT to ourselves as NT believers.

This means that OT passages that speak directly about the obligations & the blessings and curses of the Mosaic Covenant do not apply to Christians.

Deuteronomy 28:1-14

Moses gives the blessings of obeying the Mosaic Covenant.

v.1-2 states that they will get blessings if they follow the covenant

v.3-14 describes the blessings that they will get (all centered in the land and them as a nation)

Deuteronomy 28:15-68

Moses gives the curses of not obeying the Mosaic Covenant

v.15 state that they will receive curses if they do not follow the covenant

v.16-68 describes those curses

But there are many passages in the OT that speak of these blessings and curses.

Notice that the blessings and curses are physical and financial. They speak of the land of Canaan. If you are using the historical grammatical literal method, you cannot spiritualize or allegorize them.

OT passages that speak of Godís specific miraculous work in the nation of Israel under the Mosaic Covenant do not apply to Christians

God did many miracles as he was delivering the Israelites from Egypt and were establishing them as a nation.

He rained plagues upon Egypt, he led them in a cloud by day and in fire by night. He parted the Red Sea. He fed them with manna and quail. He provided water out of a rock when they needed it. And God did other miracles recorded in the OT.

God did this for a specific purpose as he established the nation of Israel and does not have those purposes for us today.

This also means that the Ten Commandments do not apply to us.

The Ten Commandments

The Ten Commandments are a reflection of Godís moral standards specifically given for the Mosaic Covenant and do not apply to Christians.

As Christians, we are under Christís commandments which are Godís moral standards.

Godís Universal Moral Standards ? Ten Commandments = Godís universal moral standards plus Sabbath observance for Israel

Godís Universal Moral Standards ? Christís Commandments = Godís universal moral standards for the Church

When Jesus brought the New Covenant, it was only new in relation to the Old Covenant which was the Mosaic Covenant.

It actually was a fulfillment of the Abrahamic Covenant of salvation.

Abrahamic Covenant ? New Covenant ? Messianic Kingdom

John 14:21

ďWhoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.Ē

Godís moral standards are the commandments of Christ that we are to follow in our daily lives.

All of the Ten Commandments are repeated in the commandments of Christ in the NT except for the Sabbath observance which was specifically for Israel.