Before beginning an actual study of the text of the Bible, perhaps it would be well to get an overall view of the Bible and how God has dealt with man. God has dealt with man under different laws at different times.
THREE AGES OF BIBLE HISTORY
For all practical purposes, the Bible can be divided into three major periods. In each period God has dealt differently with man.
THE PATRIARCHAL AGE
The word “patriarch” means “father” and the Patriarchal Age is the time when God dealt directly with the fathers of each family. Because there was no Bible or written law from God, it was the father’s responsibility to teach and lead the family in worship. The Patriarchal period begins with the creation and ended with the giving of the law by Moses. Of course, this ending only applied to the Jews. The Patriarchal Age continued for the Gentiles until the cross.
THE MOSAICAL AGE
The Mosaical Age is the period of time when God had a written law (including the Ten Commandments) for the Jewish people and dealt with them according to its teaching. This age began about 1,500 years before Christ came. One important point to remember is that we do not live under this law.
THE CHRISTIAN AGE
The Christian age is the one in which we live. It began at the death of Christ (Hebrews. 9:16, 17) and is for all men of every nation under heaven. The teachings for the Christian age are to be found in the New Testament. We are to live by the teachings of the New Testament and not the Old.
THE PLACE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
God never intended for the Old Testament to be a permanent law, but rather gave it until Jesus came (Galatians 3:19). Today one who would seek to be saved by its teachings falls away from the grace of God (Galatians 5:4). This is not to say the Old Testament has no purpose (see Romans 15:4; 1 Corinthians 10:11) but it is not for it to be a law for men today.
WHY TWO TESTAMENTS?
Perhaps an example will help us to understand the difference between the two testaments. Suppose a man has a large sum of money and much land. He makes a will (his testament) showing how his things are to be divided among his children. Later he adopts several other children; and he makes a new will to include them. The old will is no longer binding.
In like manner, God had a will (the law of Moses) that was only for the Jews (Deuteronomy 5:2, 3); but this has been replaced by the New Testament that includes all men.