The Old Testament and the Christian Life

I’m in the midst of writing a PhD proposal where I hope to demonstrate the John’s (the Gospel writer) reliance upon Deuteronomistic kingship ideology found in Deuteronomy and Samuel. As could be imagined, I’m reading a lot. Thankfully, I’m working in a subject matter that I’m passionate about and on a problem that I believe to be real and in need of clarification. The majority of my dissertation will deal with OT material, which is fantastic since I originally went to seminary to study the OT. Here is passage I came across while reading Brevard Childs’ Old Testament Theology in a Canonical Context (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1985).

Childs’ work has been around a while, so it is undoubtedly the case that what I’m writing isn’t new. Nevertheless, I greatly benefited from this particular part of his book. Childs writes on p. 30, “The implication of the Old Testament canon, both on a formal and material level, is that the Christian life is still lived between the promise and fulfillment, not as a unilinear heilsgeschightliche patter, but as a description of the essential eschatological dimension of divine redemption.”

The idea isn’t necessarily groundbreaking. We’ve had the idea of the “already, not-yet” paradigm on biblical studies for as long as I’ve been studying the Bible formally. What is so groundbreaking to me is the way Childs connects the OT to that same already, not-yet paradigm. In other words while we know what the New Testament declares to be true, namely that Jesus is Lord, our sins were atoned for at Calvary, that the kingdom of God is now invading this world through the work of Jesus’ disciples, and that kingdom will establish itself fully on this earth in which Jesus will rule the entire universe according to his perfect justice is all true. It just isn’t fully realized yet.

We can cry “How long, oh Lord?” just like some of the prophets and various psalmists. We long for the righteous to be vindicated and the wicked to be judged. We await the king who will cause people to beat their weapons into plowshares. We, like Abraham, are strangers and sojourners in a land not our own. We long for the recreation of this world prophesied by Isaiah. In essence, we are like the OT believer in that we’ve heard God’s word, we’ve seen his might acts bringing about redemption and our return from exile, and we’ve been told of the glorious future that awaits us as God ushers his kingdom onto this earth. We live between promise and fulfillment. If this is true, then why is there such a neglect of preaching the OT in our churches?

This is not to say that we demean what Jesus’ work makes certain. May it never be! Rather, we rest completely on Jesus. He is the cornerstone upon which our faith stands. His resurrection and ascension to the exalted position at God’s right hand is the essence of the gospel. Our faith rests securely on those things. Yet, like the OT believer, we live knowing the truth, though not experiencing it in the fulness that we’ll enjoy when the kingdom of God is fully present and paradise lost becoming paradise regained.

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