Section 5: The Holy Spirit
Week 2: The Holy Spirit’s Work in the Old Testament
Day 2: The Holy Spirit’s Role in Inspiring Scripture
2 Tim. 3:14-17
In Section One, we noted that God is completely different from everything else in our experience. What is a self-existent, completely self-sufficient, timeless being like? We simply have no frame of reference. At first that’s a troubling thought. How do we know what to expect from God if we don’t understand him? It’s true, God is active in the world, and those actions might seem like a potential source of knowledge about him. But his actions won’t help us get to know him unless we can properly interpret them. When God leads you into a painful time in your life, for example, is he a patient father helping you grow or a sadistic overlord deciding on a whim to torture you? It makes a big difference, but how do we know which it is? On our own we couldn’t know.
Human Comparisons Don’t Work
That’s because we typically make judgments about a person’s motives, biases, etc. based on what we’ve learned about ourselves as human beings. When you see a defendant sweating on the stand and he’s unable to look the prosecutor in the eye, what are you likely to conclude about him? You’re probably going to conclude he’s guilty. In our experience, that’s what guilty people do.
But imagine you met an alien from a distant plant. Suppose this race of aliens naturally perspired all the time and were physically unable raise their eyes above chest level. Would it be fair to reach the same conclusion about him? No. Our human experience doesn’t provide a valid comparison because he isn’t like us.
It’s no different with our attempts to draw conclusions about God based on our experience. We can’t do it. Or at least we shouldn’t. God isn’t like us; our ways are not his ways (Isa. 55:8). On our own then, we can’t really know much about God.
The Necessity of Scripture and the Holy Spirit
That’s why Scripture is so important. Without it, we wouldn’t be able to truly know God. Our inability to understand God, also explains the necessity of the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. If human beings don’t understand God, how could human authors write a book about him? They couldn’t… not on their own anyway. They needed the inspiration of the Holy Spirit because on their own they had no way of understanding God or his plans. The Holy Spirit, however, understands God perfectly because he is God. All Scripture is God-breathed (2 Tim. 3:16) because all Scripture is Spirit-breathed.
The Necessity of the Old Testament
All of Scripture may be God breathed, but do we really need to worry about the Old Testament anymore? The New Testament is where we find Christ. Isn’t that sufficient? The Old Testament is sooo long and so many of the passages are hard to understand. Can’t we just skip all of that now?
We could, but we’d be losing something important. Ask yourself: Can we fully understand what Christ did for us without an understanding of the Old Testament?
The Old Testament gives us a foundation to understand what we learn in the New Testament. The Old Testament is where we learn about Adam and Eve’s sin and how it fractured our relationship with God. Fortunately, the Old Testament is also where learn about God’s plan to bring us back into a relationship with him. To a large extent, the Old Testament is a picture of that plan working itself out in the history of Israel.
One of the major lessons we learn from that history is just how big an obstacle sin is. God gave Israel the Law so they could know what a relationship with him required. Far from solving the problem of sin, though, the Law simply multiplied Israel’s sin because they inevitably failed to live up to the requirements of the Law (Cf. Rom. 5:30, 7:7-12). The Israelites also had the Sacrificial System, but all the sacrifices and rituals in the world couldn’t remove their sins (Heb. 10:1-4). As a result, an intimate relationship was impossible. Sin remained a barrier between them and God. That’s why the average person wasn’t able to approach God directly. Only the High Priest was able to enter the Holy of Holies where God’s presence dwelt, and he was only able to go in once a year to offer a sacrifice for the people (Heb. 9:7).
Why did God give Israel the Law and the Sacrificial System if they couldn’t solve the problem of sin? Did he enjoy making them jump through hoops? No. He was showing Israel (and us) what it would take to remove the barrier of sin. God was preparing them to see their need for Christ. Only Christ’s sacrifice could remove their sin and pave the way for an intimate relationship with God.
The Holy Spirit knew what he was doing when he inspired the Old Testament. He intended it to point God’s people to Christ. Israel needed to feel the weight of the Old Testament system and its inability to save them in order to understand the absolute necessity of Christ’s death. On this side of the cross, we no longer literally bear the weight of the Old Testament sacrificial system, but we need to have a sense of it – a sense of the hopelessness of human effort to save us from our sins. Without a sense of our helplessness, we can never have a true appreciation of our salvation in Christ. And the Old Testament is the light by which we see our helplessness. Without the Old Testament, the New Testament doesn’t make sense.
Read the book of Hebrews.
How often does the author of Hebrews refer back to the Old Testament? Why does he use the Old Testament the way he does? Can we fully appreciate the supremacy of Christ without an understanding of why the Old Testament system was inferior?