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What is the meaning of the word ‘Testament’?

The word ‘Testament’ means ‘Covenant’ or ‘Agreement’ or ‘Contract.’ 


What was the Old Testament?

The Old Testament was God’s original covenant (or agreement) with his people.  And the covenant was simply this: that if God’s people would follow him, obey him, trust him, and be ‘his people’, then he would be ‘their God’ and take care of them.  He would take care of their crops and their livestock; he would supply their needs; he would keep them healthy; he would protect them from their enemies.


This covenant was made with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and it was later confirmed and spelled out in detail to Moses at Mount Sinai.  But the Old Testament history is not always a pretty story of God’s people keeping their end of the agreement.  In fact the Bible is full of stories of God’s people falling short of the mark, and whenever they did – things went badly wrong.  The things that went wrong were often seen as ‘God’s punishment’ and sometimes that was probably the case.  But, quite simply, what often happened was that they had (by their disobedience) put themselves outside God’s covenant of protection and their lives were then just subject to chance.


What is fascinating to read is that the Israelites at the time actually recognised this!  When things started to go wrong, they knew it was their fault for not complying with God.  And when they turned back to him, prayed, were genuinely sorry, acknowledged what they had done and pulled back into line – almost immediately the miracles began again.  Food was provided, their enemies were subdued, rain watered their crops etc.


But even so, people continued to rebel.  The Bible calls this rebellion against God ‘sin’, and there is a penalty for it – death.  Not just physical death, but an everlasting separation from God, and the Bible calls this ‘spiritual death’.


God is just and what he has warned people about, will be done.  But God is also merciful, and dearly wants to save all people from this eternal separation that they deserve (by their rebellion in choosing not to follow him).  And to that end, a system of sacrifice was put in place.  The system made disobedience extremely costly – usually the life of one of their animals (and it had to be the most perfect one they had!)  It was intended partly as a penalty and a deterrent but, more importantly, it was a way back to God.  It provided a means by which his people could be forgiven, make peace with him again and restore the relationship.


But . . . still people rebelled.  And they still do.  And that is where the New Testament comes in.


What is the New Testament?

The new covenant, or contract, is God’s offer of a new life with him now and forever.  And this is made possible, no longer by the death of animals, but by the sacrificial death and resurrection of God’s son, Jesus (the promised Messiah).   


This offer of ‘substitutional atonement’ is difficult to comprehend.  But the amazing concept has, in fact, been in place all along.  Way back in time, Old Testament prophets promised that final salvation would eventually come to mankind through an ‘anointed one’ – God’s Messiah.


And the beautiful thing is, this offer is for all nations, all races, all people – all who will receive it.


All we have to do is acknowledge that God is supreme.  Then prayerfully admit that we have rebelled against him (by running our own lives with no thought of consulting him); thank Jesus for the unparalleled sacrifice he made for us; and humbly invite God’s Holy Spirit to take control of our lives.


Stay connected to God.  Stay prayerful.  Read, and get to know and love the beautiful Scriptures.  If you don’t belong to a church, find a Christian church somewhere.  If you do not feel comfortable with the first one you try – don’t give up.  Churches are just groups of people, usually groups of struggling humanity, and therefore churches are not all perfect.   But somewhere there will be one where you’ll feel at home.


May God bless you.




OT Sacrifice System

Why the killing of animals?

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New Testament

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