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Thursday, 11 September 2014

Open Letter to an Inmate

   Each week I receive a lesson from a different Canadian inmate who is completing a Bible correspondence course.  After I mark the lesson, I write a personal letter to encourage him or her. There is a place in each lesson for questions to be asked.  This week, the question was asked "Is the New Testament more important than the Old Testament?"  Others may have wondered about this too.

Dear J_____,

   Thank you for the lessons you sent in this week.  They were well done.  It is great to see your good attitude regarding prayer: that no matter the physical place where you may be, you can close your eyes and go deep within to talk with God.
   You asked "Is the New Testament more important than the Old Testament?"  First of all, I should say that I am not an expert on everything biblical.  In university and to the present time I do study the Bible and try to learn as much as I can about God and his Word.  My short answer to your question is that we should not pick one at the expense of the other.  The New Testament is usually the place to begin when someone has no background in the Bible at all.  We share the life of Jesus because He is the Son of God who came to earth and spent his life of about 33 years among the people around the territory of Israel.  Everything in the Old Testament is leading up to the coming of Jesus, so that makes it very important as well.  Especially in the book of Matthew, there are so many quotations from the Old Testament because he wants to show the readers how Jesus' life fits with God's plans for humanity since the beginning in Genesis.  To fully understand Jesus' life and the culture of his time, the Old Testament books of Genesis, Exodus, Psalms and Isaiah are key.
   In the same way, the Old Testament by itself might not make as much sense to the reader who has not read the New Testament.  They will be missing the sequel of God's plans, who is Jesus.  These two parts of the Bible belong together.
   Some people try to point out a big difference in these two parts of the Bible by saying the Old Testament is about "LAWS" and the New Testament is about "GRACE."  They say that God is harsh and judgmental in the Old Testament, but loving and merciful in the New Testament.  When you read the whole Bible you can see that God's character is consistent in both testaments.  For example, in the Old Testament we read (Psalm 103:8-9) "The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love.  He will not always accuse, nor will he harbor his anger forever..."  In the New Testament, Jesus says in Matthew 12:36, "But I tell you that men will have to give account on the day of judgment for every careless word they have spoken." God cannot tolerate wrongdoing, but he extends mercy to the wrongdoer.  Justice and grace can go together!
   You also asked if Cain and Abel were twins.  In Genesis 4, it says Cain was the firstborn.  "Later she [Eve] gave birth to his brother Abel" seems to put some distance between their births and indicates they were not twins.
   I hope you will continue to complete these lessons and grow in your understanding of Jesus.

Your sister in Christ

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