The Sunday School lessons this quarter are on the theme “Jesus’ Fulfillment of Scripture.” These thirteen lessons include Scripture readings from fourteen books of the Bible. If we include the background Scriptures, two more books are included; then our lessons draw from all major divisions of the Bible—Torah (or Law), Prophets, Writings, Gospels, Acts, Epistles, and Revelation. The books in the Hebrew (or Jewish) Bible are arranged differently than in our Old Testament. The first division in the Hebrew Bible is the Torah, which is the first five books in our Old Testament. The second division, the Prophets, is further divided into the Former Prophets (Joshua, Judges, Samuel, and Kings) and the Latter Prophets (Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and The Twelve). The rest of the books of our Old Testament are in the Writings in the Hebrew Bible, including the book of Daniel. As you can see, we will not be doing in-depth study of any particular book of the Bible.
If the promises and prophecies were fulfilled in Jesus, why do we bother studying the Old Testament? In the mid second century a.d. a man named Marcion excluded the Old Testament from the Bible and all Old Testament quotations in the NT. The Church declared that his teachings were heretical. Jesus said that he did not come to take down [destroy, abolish] the law or the prophets, but to fulfill them (Matthew 5:17; also see Romans 3:31). Furthermore, the Scriptures for the apostles and the early church was the Old Testament (or Hebrew Scriptures), for the New Testament had not been written. Also, we know that Jesus reinterpreted many of the laws of the Jews, but He did not abolish them (for example, in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5–7). Jesus summarized all the requirements of the law and the prophets in two commandments (found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18), to love God with all your being and to love your neighbor as yourself (Matthew 22:34–40). Instead of measuring ourselves by the Ten Commandments, we are to use the two laws of love, which are more comprehensive and more demanding. When we are baptized into Christ Jesus the Old Testament becomes part of our heritage, and we can say that Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob are our ancestors.
So what does it mean when we say that the Scriptures are fulfilled in Jesus? Matthew, more so than the other Gospels, repeatedly makes the claim that prophecy was being fulfilled in Jesus. The International Lesson Annual (published by Abington Press and available through our Cross and Crown Christian Stores) has an excellent introduction to this study written by the Reverend David Kalas. He uses the illustration of “connecting the dots.” The Old Testament contains many “dots” (prophecies about the coming Christ, or Messiah). Then the New Testament writers connect the dots and color in the picture revealing Jesus as the Christ. Our study this quarter is an exercise in “connecting the dots.”
The first lesson in Unit One is about the promise of a permanent Davidic Dynasty. Lesson two connects the dots placing Jesus firmly in the House of David. Peter’s sermon on the Day of Pentecost, lesson three, cites the Resurrection as proof that Jesus is the promised Messiah. Then in the last book of the Bible, lesson four, every voice in heaven and earth, both living and dead, declare that the reign of Jesus is forever. The last Sunday this month has the first lesson in Unit Two, “What the Prophets Foretold.”
Jesus, in fulfilling the Scriptures, did not abolish the Old Testament but brought us into the fold as recipients of its promises and prophecies. The Old Testament and the New Testament are intricately connected.