by Ken Mick Jr.
So, who is correct? Godly men and women tent in different biblical campsites, each claiming allegiance to Sola Scriptura, the absolutely authoritative Scriptures inspired by God and without error in the original manuscripts. It is not the godliness of an individual that determines which campsite has the best location to set up the theological tent. It cannot be who believes what the Scripture says and who refuses to believe them. If one is a Dispensationalist, a follower of Covenant Theology, or one who believes New Covenant Theology, you probably agree in the ‘Five Solas’ of the Reformation. Yet differences abound in other theological areas. So, I ask again, “Who is correct?” and “Which ‘theological system’ will get you closest to the truth Christ intends His followers to believe?” A foundational issue for Dispensationalism, Covenant Theology, and New Covenant Theology has to do with Biblical hermeneutics: how a person interprets the Bible.
There are four basic hermeneutical principles upon which New Covenant Theology is grounded. After listing each briefly, the last principle will be our focus.
- Interpretation ought to find its climax and purpose in Christ and His seed (Luke 24:27, 44-47, John 5:39, Eph. 1:7-12, 2:11-15, among others).
2: This Gospel Age begins the Promised Glory that was to follow the cross (Luke 24:26, Acts 3:24 and I Peter 1:10-12, etc.).
3: Historical/Cultural context is helpful in interpreting a passage whether Old or New.
4 Compare Scripture with Scripture. More specifically for our purposes- How does the New Testament interpret the Old? I contend there is an Apostolic Interpretation of the Old Testament that we should seriously consider. The Old Testament contains things which were copies, shadows. The New Testament then explains these.
Certain consequences follow: a. The New Testament ought to be used as the primary interpreter of the Old Testament. The New explains the Old, not the other way around. Furthermore, b. The Epistles interpret the Gospels. John 16:12-14 says “I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now. 13 However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come. 14 He will glorify Me, for He will take of what is Mine and declare it to you.” The happenings of the Gospels occurred before the coming of the Spirit and mostly before the establishment of the New Covenant. The Spirit had come before the writings of the Epistles. Therefore, the Epistles explain the Gospels. c. It is good to let the many, clearer verses in the Scriptures interpret the fewer and more obscure passages. When you compare Scripture with Scripture you always have an infallible interpretation. Out of prophecies given naturally in the Old Testament and mentioned as fulfilled in the New Testament, nearly all of the time they are fulfilled differently than as stated. In the great majority of them the principle fulfillment is in the spiritual realm. So, I understand that the New Testament interprets the Old Testament primarily spiritually and figuratively, not naturally and politically. We should let the Scriptures speak for themselves and understand God’s intention is the spiritual understanding of truth. Of course, there are many fulfilled prophecies in the New Testament that are not directly quoted, but when the New Testament directly cites the Old Testament concerning fulfillment we discover the following four ideas.
1) When the authors give a quote directly, or a paraphrase in some cases, natural events are explained naturally in the New Testament, yet not exactly as described or foreseen in the Old Testament. Old Testament authors often use terms and experiences of this earth to explain what God intends to do in the future. National and political words and ideas are mentioned. Physical objects, stuff of this earth, are used in the prophecy to explain the future work of God. Yet, in the New Testament interpretation of the event, things are not fulfilled exactly as they appear in the Old Testament.
2) There are times or when the New Testament shows fulfillment of events both naturally and spiritually. However, NEVER exactly as they are described. New Testament explains what the meaning really is, even if we may not think so according to the Old. Remember the points above. If the New Testament authors give a passage a certain meaning, who are we to differ with them It is certainly okay for us not to understand, but we should not deny, nor question them, nor say it might mean what they say but also mean something else. If it also means something else, why wouldn’t the apostles tell us and how will I know just what it means or know if I interpret correctly?
3) Most often, natural events are fulfilled in the New Testament in the spiritual realm only, but not as described.
4) Fulfillment cited in the New Testament as the general tenor of ‘what the prophets have said’, these ALWAYS are mentioned as fulfilled in the spiritual realm.
“What about interpreting the Bible literally?”, our Dispensational friends may ask. The question is not, “Should we be literally?” Rather, “What does it literally say? Is it naturally or spiritually to be literally understood, as opposed to mystically or allegorically, we could say? What did the author really mean?” The answer the Apostles give us most often is, ‘the spiritual’.
One Scripture to illustrate is Isaiah 54:11-17. To whom is the passage written? Israel, but the message is mainly spiritual. Jesus applies this scripture, at least part of it in John 6:44-47. Jesus is applying the passage to all who believe, although the first Israelites most likely did not think it referred to Gentiles because of the words used and because of the absence of mention of Gentiles. Does Jesus say this OLD TESTAMENT prophecy to Israel can also have application spiritually? No, Jesus makes it the interpretation. Isaiah says, ‘All your children shall be taught of God.’ We hear Jesus apply the passage to the great work He would do the all God’s people, both Jew and Gentile. They shall all be taught of God. He makes a spiritual interpretation to the passage that is beyond what the original Jews would have thought.
Let’s look at the New Covenant promised to Israel found in Jeremiah 31:31-34. How do the New Testament writers interpret this passage in Hebrews 8:8-13 and 10:15-18? These verses about a New Covenant refer to all God’s people, Jew and Gentile. The writer does not speak of two New Covenants.
Joel 2:18-20, 28-32. How does the New Testament explain Joel’s prophecy in Acts 2:14-21. What does Peter say about it? “But this is what was spoken by the prophet Joel: ‘And it shall come to pass in the last days, says God, That I will pour out of My Spirit on all flesh . . . . ” ‘This is that,’ and then Peter uses this to preach his Gospel sermon. Some have interpreted Peter’s words to mean, “This is that, in some sense.” These interpreters do not see how Peter could mean that the events in Acts 2 could be the complete fulfillment on Joel’s prophecy. They insist that Peter means ‘This is that’ which Joel meant in some partial fulfillment. However, what does the Scripture say? Peter is giving a spiritual fulfillment to a promise spoken in the natural. The Apostles do this all the time, giving spiritual interpretation to the Old Testament.
Could there be a now and later part to the promise? If there is, the apostle never talks about it. Peter applies the passage to all believers in this current age of the Spirit. When “Double fulfillment” takes place in Scripture in some passages, the pattern in Scripture is ‘first the natural, then the spiritual’ not the other way around. The more physical and political meaning is the partial and lesser fulfillment. The Spiritual is always the greater fulfillment. Thus, when Peter says “This is That” and shows how Joel’s prophecy relates to the current work of the Spirit that the crowd was experiencing, we understand that the fuller, complete interpretation of the passage was happening at that time. Even though the Joel passage uses natural, of this earth language (blood, fire, smoke, etc.), Petr says that what was happening before them is the fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy.
Let’s review. 1. Interpretation ought to find its climax and purpose in Christ and His seed, the church. 2. This Gospel age begins the Promised Glory that was to follow the cross. 3. Historical/Cultural context is helpful in interpreting a passage whether Old or New. 4. Compare Scripture with Scripture and trust Apostolic Interpretation of the Old Testament. The New is the only INFALLIBLE explanation of the Old. You will discover that the spiritual and figurative take precedence over the natural and political.
Kenneth M Mick, Jr
StressLess Living Ministries
 Kenneth M. Mick, Jr, is a PK. He was in pastoral ministry 20 years and now does pulpit supply. He sells theological/philosophical/history books, etc. on-line. He lives in Berkshire County, MA, and is married to Beth. They .homeschooled all four children. Ken is an El. Ed, undergrad at MAR Liberty University.