Jesus’ Old Testament Ministry

By Justin Johnson

The Bible is clear that Jesus was born under the old testament.

“…when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law…” – Galatians 4:4

This would explain why, after he was born, he was circumcised and sacrifices were offered according to the law (Luke 2:21-24).

Jesus’ Ministry on Earth

During his life on earth, Jesus also ministered under the old testament. The scripture is just as clear about this in Hebrews 9:15-17.

“For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth.” – Hebrews 9:17

Since a testament is of force only “after men are dead”, then this means the new testament could not begin until after the death of Jesus. Jesus died in the very end of his earthly ministry as recorded in Matthew 27:50, Mark 15:37, Luke 23:46, and John 19:30.

If “while the testator liveth” the new testament is of no strength, then Jesus’ birth, life, and ministry on earth were all old testament.

This goes a long way to explain why Jesus instructed men to offer sacrifices (Matt 8:4), taught the law of Moses (Matt 19:17; Matt 23:1-2); frequented the Jewish temple; separated from Gentiles (Matt 10:5; Matt 15:24); and participated in Israel’s holy days.

He ministered on earth under the old testament! The new testament had not yet been dedicated by his death.

It is popularly thought by self proclaimed new testament Christians that they follow Jesus in his earthly ministry (the red letter books), but in following Jesus in his earthly ministry they are following Jesus under the old testament.

Jesus Ministry in Heaven

After Jesus died Hebrews 9 also explains that Jesus becomes the mediator of Israel’s new testament: a far better covenant for Israel.

Thus began Jesus’ ministry for Israel in heaven as their great high priest. Hebrews calls this work a “more excellent ministry” when he entered “into heaven itself” into the “true tabernacle” there (Heb 8:1-6; Heb 9:24).

Israel’s Messiah had to ascend to heaven to perform their new testament ministry. Later he will return to bring salvation to them (Heb 9:28; Rom 11:26-27).

While we read about the Word putting on flesh and blood and ministering to Israel while on earth, what Israel needed to learn after he died was the special ministry Jesus was performing for them in heaven for the new testament. This is the content of Hebrews.

Jesus Ministry from Heaven

Jesus had a ministry on earth under the old testament, and a ministry in heaven for the new testament, but both covenants were made with Israel (Heb 8:8). So, what ministry is Jesus performing today now that Israel is fallen and the new testament is not yet complete (Rom 11:11; Rom 11:25-27).

The answer to this is a ministry from heaven revealed first to the apostle Paul, a special dispensation of grace to all men kept secret since the world began (Eph 3:1-2; Rom 16:25). The revelation of this special ministry contains the message and ministry of the church today.

From heaven Jesus serves as Head of a new creature called the Body of Christ (Eph 2:15; Eph 4:12). In the Body there is neither Jew nor Gentile, the church is not under Israel’s law, nor must the Body wait for Israel’s new testament to be fulfilled.

The Body of Christ performs the ministry of Jesus from heaven preaching the glory and grace of his death and resurrection as salvation offered freely to all. This is the content of Paul’s epistles.

Three Ministries of Jesus

Jesus did not have just one ministry. He lived under the old testament, he died for the new testament, and now he has revealed the mystery of the gospel.

His entire life Jesus ministered under Israel’s old testament on the earth. When he died Jesus ascended and ministered Israel’s new testament in heaven. When the mystery of Christ was revealed Jesus ministered the dispensation of grace to all men from heaven.

Jesus’ old testament ministry is different than his new testament ministry, which is different than his mystery ministry from heaven. And not only are they different, but some are more excellent. They must be rightly divided.

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Published: June 11, 2016
Last Modified: June 13, 2016
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