The eternal word

by Michael E. Brooks

“Since you have purified your souls in obeying the truth through the Spirit in sincere love of the brethren, love one another fervently with a pure heart, having been born again, not of corruptible seed but incorruptible, thought the word of God which lives and abides forever, because ‘All flesh is grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of the grass. The grass withers and its flower falls away, but the word of the Lord endures forever.’ Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you” (1 Peter 1:22-25).

Culture shock continues to affect me, even though I have traveled in South Asia regularly now for 19 years.

I regularly see things or hear things which are misunderstood because I cannot keep from filtering them through my Western eyes and ears. It also works the other way–the people here often misunderstand my American expressions, because the same words, translated into their language, have altogether different connotations.

Peter recognized this and made use of it in his interpretation of Old Testament prophecies and other teaching (see for example his sermon in Acts 2:14-36).

I am not sure that I have previously recognized how much Peter draws from the Old Testament in his sermons and writings. A quick count in my English New Testament yields at least ten direct quotations in 1 Peter. That is a high number, given that the letter only contains five chapters.

Second Peter contains only one Old Testament quotation, but does make reference to “the rest of Scripture” — a phrase that virtually all commentators believe points primarily to the Old Testament (2 Peter 3:16). The sermon in Acts 2 contains three quotations that make up 11 of the 23 verses — almost half of his material.

Given Peter’s extensive use of the Old Testament, his teaching about the living, abiding, and enduring word of God (1 Peter 2:23, 25) must certainly be understood as including that book — in fact as including all Scripture (See 2 Timothy 3:15-17).

I particularly note the last part of verse 25: “Now this is the word which by the gospel was preached to you.” “This word” is clearly the Old Testament from which he has just quoted.

Is the Old Testament to be preached to modern man? Absolutely. How is it to be preached? Through the Gospel, that is by being interpreted through a New Testament lens, understood, explained and applied in Christ.

Everyone should know the great stories of the Old Testament– the birth of Moses, the deliverance of Israel from Egypt, David and Goliath, and many more. But the stories are only the frame.

The message is “Jesus Christ and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2:2). Jesus is the central theme of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. It is by the Scriptures (Old Testament) that Jesus was proved to be the Christ (Acts 18:28).

It is upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets that the church was built (Ephesians 2:20). The Scriptures which Timothy had known from childhood (Old Testament) were able to make him “wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).

The commandments given in the Law of Moses and to the Patriarchs are obsolete and have been done away with (Hebrews 8:13) having been nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14).

We do not live under the rules of those laws. But that is far from saying the Old Testament Scriptures have no value or relevance to Christians. The Apostles and first century churches would be shocked to hear such an idea.

God’s word, whenever and however spoken, endures forever.

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