Connecting the Old Testament to the Gospels, Part One – Lesson Twelve

Connecting the Old Testament to the Gospels

Part One


The aim of this lesson is to make connections between what has been presented in the summary of the previous lessons with what Jesus taught to Israel in the Gospels.  Jesus served Israel as God’s prophet like Moses (Acts 3:22, 23).  Because Jesus of Nazareth was “the Christ,” what we learn about the kingdom of God in the Gospels was written for the church at a later date.   His teachings became the apostles’ gospel in Acts Two and beyond.  Jesus Christ is now building the church for His Father in the kingdom of Jesus Christ (Matt. 16:13-19).  Christians’ faith actuated the power of God that “rescued us from the dominion of darkness and brought us into the kingdom of the Son He loves, in whom we have redemption, the forgiveness of sins.”  Col. 1:13, 14.


God’s story in the four Gospels belongs to the Levitical Priesthood age.  God sent John, the Baptist, in the spirit of Elijah, to prepare the way for the Christ (Matt. 11:10-14).  Jesus Christ did not officially serve as king and priest during the time frame covered in the Gospels.  He served God as His last prophet to physical Israel and a preacher of the kingdom of God (Matt. 4:17; Acts 3:22, 23).  Jesus preached the eternal spiritual kingdom of God; He did not preach the dismal physical kingdom of God over which Solomon reigned as king (I Chron. 29:23).

The message Jesus brought from God for Israel is connected to all the previous lessons in this book (John 7:16-19).  After His resurrection, Jesus said, “This is what I told you while I was still with you: Everything must be fulfilled that is written about Me in the Law of Moses; the Prophets and the Psalms.”  Luke 24:44.   The grace of the fellowship of the Holy Spirit was not offered to the “Israel of God,” the church, until Jesus was glorified (John 7:37-39; Gal. 6:16).  However, Jesus of Nazareth had the full cooperation of God, His Father, and the Holy Spirit – without limit.  See John 3:34; 5:16-23.

The four Gospels were developed by four Christian writers who were inspired by the Holy Spirit (John 16:12, 13).  The writers chose individual narratives to develop their stories in a sequential manner.  Since the divine literature they produced was presented in a story form, Bible students apply the “three-level” principle for reading a narrative introduced in the previous lesson.  However, we will want to make use of another principle for reading the stories and teachings in the four Gospels.  While thinking about what God was doing with Jesus Christ and then considering what this has to do with why He created us, we keep two contexts for the Gospels in mind:  All four writers wrote their documents after Jesus returned to heaven.  The date for some of their writings could have been more than twenty years after the beginning of the activity in Acts.  This means we read the Gospels in the context of what transpired in Luke’s story in Acts.  The written Gospels are read in a context contemporary with some of the New Testament letters.

Therefore, we need to read the Gospels, first, in the context of Jesus Christ literally living among the Israelites while preaching and teaching the kingdom of God.  He continually made connections to the topics in the previous lessons.  However, we cannot forget what He taught was also for Christians.  He was more than a prophet; He is the Christ, the hope of the world.  Therefore, we read the Gospels with two thoughts in mind: One, in the real historical settings where Jesus was teaching the Jews orally.  Two, and at the same time, we read the Gospels in the context of what Matthew, Mark, Luke and John wrote for the churches’ benefit.  The Gospels can be read from the point of a Jew living in Israel at the time Jesus lived on earth.  However, Christians can mentally place ourselves in the church of God in Christ in the first century in order to interpret the meaning of Jesus’ teachings as we study the four Gospels.

Jesus taught the kingdom of God (Luke 4:43).  We cannot bring the story portion of the Bible to the “here and now,” but we can bring the spiritual kingdom of God.   As Jesus proclaimed to the Jews, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near.”  Matt. 4:17.  Since we cannot think of God separate from the kingdom of heaven; we understand the kingdom of God existed before Jesus brought it near to mankind (I Tim. 6:13-16).  We do not know all the historical details of the context in which God speaks to us.  He has embedded enough history for us to hear what He wants us to hear and understand; howbeit, we may be enlightened about some stories in the Bible by reading historical information not included in scripture.  Even though this extra information may be helpful, it is not needed for Christians’ to understand the kingdom of God and His purposes for creating mankind.  We should not let anything or anyone convince us that God speaks to His children in a manner we cannot understand.

Satan has used the concept of clergy and scholars to block or side-track peoples’ individual Bible study.  Many well educated Christians appear to be fearful to study the scriptures for themselves.  Christians, who want to be disciples of Jesus Christ, must break out of this “box of the clergy” imprisonment.  A brief investigation of what has happened to the teachings of Jesus in the Western societies tells us: “In order to be a disciple of Jesus Christ, we need to learn to read His teachings for ourselves.”  See Luke 11:28.  It is as Paul asked, “Where is the wise man?  Where is the scholar?  Where is the philosopher of this age?  Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?”  I Cor. 1:20.  In verse 21, we understand we cannot know God by the wisdom of men.

Knowing God and Jesus Christ is one definition of eternal life (Matt. 7:23; John 17:3).  Christians do not merely seek to know about God, we want to know Him.  We can know God, as a Person, intimately, because He sent His Son to show us the Father.  We can put “a face” on Jesus by watching Him interact with people in the Gospels.  For instance, we can see Jesus as a person in Luke 7:9 and verses 11-13.  He got excited when He witnessed faith in the centurion.  Jesus’ heart went out to the widow whose son had died.  Jesus Christ is the same Person who serves us today as our king and high priest.  He still has these same feelings when He sees faith or grief in people.  This is our faith.  This is why we love Jesus.  By the grace of the cross Christians have fellowship with God, our Father, and Jesus Christ on a “minute by minute” continuum by our fellowship with the Holy Spirit (John 14:6, 7; Heb. 1:1-3; II Cor. 13:14; I John 3:23, 24).

It may be helpful to review the previous lessons to which connections will be made to the Gospels in the remainder of this lesson.  The connections are being suggested for your consideration.  This is an exercise for a sequential movement in our Bible study from what is called the Old Testament to the New Testament.  These terms “Old and New Testament” have been added by mankind; they do not fit the Hebrew writer’s concept of the old and new covenant (Heb. 8:7-13).  Even though a gap of more than four hundred years existed between Malachi and Matthew, God’s story is a continuous story.  It is God’s story about why and how He created mankind and what went wrong in the Garden of Eden.

Because of the volume of material in the four Gospels, John’s Gospel will be considered in Part One of the two lessons on this topic.  The Synoptic Gospels will also be examined to understand how they connect to the topics of the previous lesson.  The Gospels of Matthew, Mark and Luke are often referred to as the Synoptic Gospels because of the similarity of the material in these documents.

Please note how John’s prologue connects to Lessons One through Three in this book entitled “Door of Faith.”

1:12.  “He gave the right to be sons of God.”

1:17.  “Grace and truth came through Jesus Christ.”

The truth we learn:

All people were created to be sons of God.  This was in the mind of God before He created the world.  Jesus was full of grace and truth.  We want to be aware of the difference between God’s purpose in creation and the grace He added so His purpose could be accomplished through Jesus Christ (II Tim. 1:9).  All people have been born physically by the “natural descent” of Adam (1:13).  We have what Adam got when he broke God’s covenant.  All people have an “inborn” endowment “of knowing good and evil.”  When people mature to the point of becoming responsible for the proper use of this endowment we need grace.

Jesus is the light of life for sons of God; therefore, His life and teachings are the light for believers about how our spirits have been designed to naturally develop like Jesus (1:4).  His life is truth about the spirit of all living beings.  He is the enlightenment factor.  People who do not know Jesus Christ as the law of their life are spiritually dead.   This category of law describes the phenomenon of our growth.  It does not condemn.  Spiritually dead people can cross over from death to life by their faith in the grace and life, as a son of God, through Christ.   Jesus is the Word that describes how people are designed to develop.  He was with God but “The Word became flesh and made His dwelling with us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”  1:14.  He is the Teacher of the life of the spirits of mankind.  The life Jesus revealed is eternal life.  God is spirit and spirit life is eternal.  Our spirits came from God; Jesus “made Him known” to mankind for us to know the truth about what is the life of a son of God (1:18).  To all who believed this truth, “He gave the right to be sons of God.”  1:12.

This grace is for all unbelievers who decide to become a believer.  Believers, with a heart of faith and repentance are “born of God.”  This literally means our “self,” our spirit that came from God, has been “begotten again” by God.  Babies and children are now in fellowship with God and will be until they develop a guilty conscience.  Mature people with guilty consciences can be born again.  John has connected us to Lessons One and Two.  By the grace of Jesus Christ our “self” can be “born of water and the Spirit.”  Our self came from God as our spirit.  “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit.”  John 3:5, 6.  A mature person who has not been born again cannot enter the kingdom of God after the resurrection of the dead.  Children are now in God’s kingdom (Matt. 18:1-4).  Please see the “Preface” of this book for a review of the kingdom of God.  Christians need a solid “faith view” of the kingdom of God, the kingdom of Christ and the church of God “in Christ,” so we can understand the meaning of God’s word for us as His “sons and daughters” while on earth (II Cor. 6:18).

“For God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son.”  John 3:16.  Christians know why God loves all people in the world.  He had a great investment in mankind even before His only Son suffered the cruelest of deaths, a Roman crucifixion on a cross.  All peoples’ spirit came from God and they are like God; therefore, Jesus went so far as to say, “Is it not written in your Law, ‘I have said you are gods?’”  John 10:34.  See Psalms 82:6, 7.  Christians strive to allow our inherent “likeness of God” to surface in our “selves” as the traits of our identity.  Jesus gave His physical life because it was God’s will to have sinful people become His children with eternal life (John 10:10, 11).  John revealed how God’s grace through Christ is the final solution to mankind’s problems presented in Lessons Three and Four.

Jesus’ death happened as Caiaphas, the high priest, “prophesied that Jesus would die for the Jewish nation, and not only for that nation but also for the scattered children of God, to bring them together and make them one.”  John 11:51, 52.  Caiaphas was referring to the Israelite nation God developed to provide a separate environment for His people Moses led out of Egypt.  John assumed his readers knew about the topics presented in Lessons Six through Ten.  The reason these topics were included in this book is because of the simple rule of biblical interpretation.  A reader of a biblical document must know what the author assumed the recipients knew; otherwise, he or she cannot read the document with understanding.  Christians need to carefully follow Gods moves in the Old Testament in order to read and understand His moves in His story in the Gospels and Acts.  We cannot have faith in what we do not understand.

Although, we must be born again to see the kingdom of God, each Christian must have God’s laws of life impressed on her or his personality and character.  Christians must have the life of God in us because it is the culture of His kingdom.  The new covenant language is “I will put my laws in their minds and write them on their hearts.”  Heb. 8:10.  The “putting on exercise” happens for us by our study of Jesus Christ as life; life as in eternal life – life in fellowship with God.  What people in the world call life, God calls death (John 5:21; 6:53, 63; 8:23, 24).    We understand “His life is the light of men” to mean Jesus’ life and teachings are the laws of the new covenant.  The behavior of people that is different from the righteousness Jesus demonstrated is sin (I John 3:4).

John 3:9-21 is John’s recording of the conversation Jesus had with Nicodemus after He startled him with the theology of how an old man could be born again.  Jesus connected this part of His lesson with the story about the cure for Israel’s snake bites (Num. 21:4-9).  “Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert, so the Son of Man must be lifted up, that everyone who believes in Him may have eternal life.”  3:14, 15.  Jesus continued teaching about God’s love and grace; however, “believing in Jesus” takes on a different meaning as we see in verse 19, “This is the verdict: light has come into the world.”  Jesus connected truth and light to why God sent His Son, who was “full of grace and truth.”  1:14.  God gave the law through Moses.  He gave truth and grace through Jesus Christ (1:17).  Jesus revealed the truth about how our spirits, that is, our “selves” have been designed in the likeness of God.  This is what Jesus Christ demonstrated and taught while on earth (14:6, 7, 23, 27; 17:20-26).  The sacrifice of Himself on the cross provided the grace of “peace with God” while Christians develop as sons of God (Rom. 4:25-5:1).

John recorded several conversations where Jesus repeatedly declared;  it is not about Me, it is about My Father’s will being done on earth as it is in heaven (4:34; 5:19, 30, 36; 7:16, 28; 8:14-18, 25-29, 47; 10:25-30; 12:44-50; 14:7, 23, 31; 15:8; 16:27, 28; 17:4-7).   God’s story is about God, the Father, and the people He created to be His children.  Life is about how mankind has been created to develop as sons of God.  This is the fruit of life God desires; therefore, He created all people to be this fruit.  He did not create us to produce something other than a son of God.  In this context Jesus enlightens born again people about the truth about ourselves.

Satan is happy when religious people believe Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross was the main reason God sent Jesus to live among the Jews for more than three decades.  Jesus spent part of one day on the cross and part of three days in the grave.  His obedience to God’s will, by freely giving His life (psuche, life in Adam), is the grace that has allowed Christians to “cross over from death to life (zoe, life in Christ).”  John 5:24; 10:18.  Jesus used the remainder of His time on earth teaching and showing Israel what is life.  He is the law of life for children of God.  The following scriptures should help us see how John connected Jesus’ teaching to the new covenant in His blood (Luke 22:20; John 19:34, 35; I John 5:6-9).  Jesus is life.  His life is the life of His kingdom and the kingdom is in Christians:

4:14.  “But whoever drinks the water I give him will never thirst.  Indeed, the water I give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” This could not happen until the Holy Spirit came to indwell Christians.  He can indwell us because the blood of Jesus provides Christians freedom from guilt.   See John 7:37-39; Heb. 9:8-14.

4:24.  “God is spirit, and His worshipers must worship Him in spirit and in truth.”

6:35.  “I am the bread of life.  He who comes to Me will never go hungry, and he who believes in Me will never go thirsty.”

6:63.  “The Spirit gives life; the flesh counts for nothing.  The words I have spoken to you are spirit and they are life.”

8:51.  “I tell you the truth, if anyone keeps My word, he will never see death.”  See John 11:25.

9:39.  “For judgment I have come into this world, so that the blind will see and those who see will become blind.”

12:36. “Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.”

12:50. “ I know that His commands lead to eternal life.  So whatever I say is just what the Father has told Me to say.”  See John 14:31.

14:6.  “I am the way and the truth and the life.”  See my book entitled “Kingdom of God,” Part V, Lesson Twelve – The Law of Life.

The Apostle John’s approach for telling the story of Jesus Christ was different in regard to the Synoptic writers.  Christians read all four Gospels and then harmonize them to form the Gospel we preach and teach to the world and to God’s people, the church.  One reason the Gospel of John has been used first is because of His emphasis on Jesus as the “light of life for sons of light” in the kingdom of God.  The words, light and life, have real meaning for people who understand the first three lessons in this book.  For others, they may only be pleasant sounding religious words.  Children of God know why we need grace.  The grace of God is how all mature people in the world can be born again, if they desire to be a son of God.  Because of ignorance, or other reasons a number of religious people have been led to believe “saved by grace” means they are ready for their physical death, Jesus’ return and Judgment Day.  They often ask God to forgive them of all their sins.  It appears, by some technicality, they appear to believe God will forgive them of these sins they rarely confess, at least, not publicly.  God through Christ has always offered the grace of “justification by faith.”  I John 1:5-10.  This doctrine works 24 hours a day and 7 days a week for faithful Christians “in Christ.”

Of course, the “saved by grace” banner is being used by some preachers and teachers to keep their flock.  They may preach for money, personal glory or because of the “box of life” in which they are entrapped (II Cor. 2:17; Phil. 1:15).  In any case, there may be many sincere believers who are in a “saved by grace” box.  This is a good box for now; however, if they believe grace will be offered on Judgment Day they will have a rude awakening.  The scriptures relating to our personal judgment speak a lot about deeds and nothing about grace.  A study of John’s gospel should help open their “box of life.” John should be studied in the context of what was in the mind of God before He created the world and His story in the Old Testament.  For those who decide to continue to read the Bible in the context of their being “saved by grace” presuppositions need to seriously consider one more scripture from John’s Gospel that connects to Lesson Three, “Man Has Become as One of Us” and Judgment Day.

Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear His voice and come out – those who have done good will rise to live, and those who have done evil will rise to be condemned.  John 5:28, 29

The aim of this lesson is not to comment on all the connections John and the other writers made with God’s story in the Old Testament:  The aim is to encourage Christians to keep these connections in mind in order to read God’s story as “one unified continuous story.”  Christians need to be familiar with God’s story from Genesis to Revelation in order to properly read the different parts of His story.  We need to keep track of what God is doing to attain His purpose for mankind.  God is the protagonist, Satan is the antagonist; the plot is for God to have every person as a child in His kingdom – now and forever.  John clearly connects us to why and how God created us in the foregoing scriptures in this lesson.  He also showed how the mature people who have the capacity of “knowing good and evil” must be “born of the water and the Spirit” to live with God in His kingdom.

Jesus gave the Jews a “foreshadowing view” of the new provision God would provide through Him for “born again” Christians’ separation from the world.  See John 10:1-18 and 15:1-17.  The new provision is called “in Christ.”  Eph. 1:3; 2:6.  Jesus may have had this new realm in mind when He told Pilate, “My kingdom is not of this world.  If it were, my servants would fight to prevent My arrest by the Jews.  But now My kingdom is from another place.”  18:36. “In Christ” is a new realm now existing simultaneously with the world.  Christians need to clearly understand the full meaning of “in” as “in Christ.”  Paul used this term several times in the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesians.  See the results of being “in Christ” in Eph. 2:6 and Col. 3:3, 4.  This is the ministry of the Messiah, God promised by the mouth and pen of the prophets (John 7:40, 41).

With regard to God’s covenant with Abraham, Jesus declared, “I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen.  I must bring them also.  They too will listen to My voice, and there shall be one flock and one shepherd.” John 10:16.  This declaration connects us to Lesson Six.  We understand Gentiles are also “children of promise.”  Abraham was able to see what Jesus would do because of his faith in God’s covenants.  Jesus chided the Jews who claimed to be children of Abraham, “Your father Abraham rejoiced at the thought of seeing My day; he saw it and was glad.” John 8:56.  This dialogue begins when some Jews, who believed in Jesus, were told; “If you hold to My teachings, you are really My disciple.  Then you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.”  See John 8:31-59.  The Jews responded in physical Israel’s usual “stiff-necked” manner:  “We are Abraham’s descendants and have never been slaves to anyone.”  Jesus said these Israelites had developed the nature of their father, the devil, and not Abraham (John 8:42-44).

Jesus served God as a prophet like Moses.  The Jews who did not accept Him were not children of promise.  “In other words, it is not the natural children who are God’s children, but it is the children of promise who are regarded as Abraham’s offspring.”  Rom. 9:8.  John often connected Jesus’ teachings to Moses.  Jesus questioned the Jews about their inconsistency and lack of belief in the Law of the Levitical Priesthood; “If you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me.  But since you do not believe what he wrote, how are you going to believe what I say.” 5:46, 47.  “Has not Moses given you the law?  Yet not one of you keeps the law.  Why are you trying to kill Me?  7:19.  See 7:21-24; 8:17; 9:29.  Jesus’ motive was to persuade the people to, “Stop judging by mere appearances, and make a right judgment.” 7:24.

The main reason God decided to let the Assyrians take the ten tribes into their final captivity was due to their worship of idols (II Kings 17:7, 8).  Judah followed this same path into their seventy year captivity by Babylon (Jer. 2:11-13).  See Lessons Nine and Ten.  God charged the shepherds with failing to properly lead His sheep.  See Isa. 56:11; Jer. 50:6; Ezek. 34:2.  Since the authentic “shepherd category” of leadership has been abandoned in most religious groups throughout the world, we will want to carefully note the principles set forth in Jesus’ teachings on Christian leadership.  John connected his Gospel to this shepherd style leadership in John 10:1-18.  Please note the principles:

V 1.  The shepherd approaches the sheep according to the will of the One to whom the sheep belongs.  V 3.  The shepherd has been given the right to shepherd the sheep by this One.  V 2.  All other leaders are thieves and robbers.

V 3.  The shepherd has a personal relationship with each of the sheep.  The sheep trust the shepherd for their security.  It is not difficult to understand why God’s nation, Israel, failed.  God, Himself, desired to shepherd His people but they rejected Him as their king.  God understood each Israelite’s innate needs.  He created the need for security, social acceptance, honor and glory in each of their children.  We can easily witness these needs at work in children.  Their God-given needs are the driving forces in his or her learning experiences.  Each child is seeking to learn how to attain satisfaction for their innate needs.  Parents work with our children according to the way God created them.

Children, like sheep, trust good shepherds to satisfy their needs God created in them.  True leaders of God’s people serve with the “shepherd mentality.”  In John 10:7-18, Jesus declared Himself to be the “gate for the sheep.”  His point can only be understood by Christians who understand the two realms; the world realm and “in Christ.”  This is a full study by itself; therefore, it will be left for another place.

V 15.  Jesus knows God and God knows Jesus and they both know what is in man (John 2:25). Therefore, Jesus is qualified to serve God’s people with the shepherd mentality.  He is providing the same quality of leadership for the church God desired to provide for Israel.  The principle is simple; “If you don’t understand the innate needs of people, you will not be a very good shepherd.”  But there is more to Jesus’ leadership.

V 11, 17, 18.  Jesus Christ, the Son of Man, did do one thing God did not do for His people.  Jesus could and did die for their sins.  Jesus is the Chief Shepherd (I Pet. 5:4).  Sadly most preachers, who have set themselves forth as the leader of groups of people, preach a lot about Jesus as Christians’ sin offering.  This is a special grace we have in His priesthood; however, to fail to present Jesus as our king who serves us like a shepherd has robbed God’s people of a great power.  Jesus knows how we have been created and He works with us on the basis of why and how God created us.  This is the truth Jesus brought to humanity.  Because Christians have the capability and responsibility for “knowing good and evil,” Jesus has also provided us the grace we need to allow God’s Holy Spirit to indwell us.

The divine principle of church leadership is established in John 13:1-5 and 12-17.  Jesus washed His disciples’ feet.  All religious leaders know this scripture well.  Most, like James and John, still want a special seat above other Christians (Mark 10:35-40).  We understand this desire is based on our innate need for honor and glory, but Christians are willing to wait in hope (John 5:44).  The world has chosen the “chief seat” mentality Jesus condemned; however, parents generally use the “towel and washbasin” leadership mentality.  We are happy to wash our children’s feet – even after they are capable of washing their own, if they need our help.

Unfortunately, the people who have gained the power over religious people worldwide have not submitted themselves to Jesus’ teaching and demonstration of church leadership.  By the wisdom of men they have developed “chief seat” positions Jesus clearly condemned from the pope in Rome down to the pulpit preacher.  In either case, it is a problem in leadership God always worked to overcome for His people.   The present day leadership problem in the church should not be surprising; because after Jesus presented His discourse on the “shepherd mentality” of godly leadership, many Jews said, “He is demon-possessed and raving mad. Why listen to Him?”  John 10:19.

Matthew, Mark and Luke’s Gospels will be the topic of Part Two of this lesson.  The aim will be to understand how these writers related to the topics of the previous lessons.

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