The Single Testament of the People of God

A testament is a witness statement. God has given us his witness statement and testimony. He is our lesson,
our teacher, and he provides the time in which to learn him, and from him to learn about one another as his creatures. 

A testament is a written witness
statement, and it is the witness himself. By the Holy Spirit that witness is
still available to us to answer the questions we put to him. It is not the case
that the New Testament is gospel and the Old Testament is not. These two are
the one indivisible testament of God. God’s message and witness is indivisible
because God is one. So there is one witness, there are two witness, and there
are lots and lots of witnesses – and we are to be among them. God picked for
himself a people who would become his elect learner group. To them the gospel
spells himself out slowly and sequentially. They recorded in the Old Testament
all the reactions and misapprehensions of the first listening community, for
our edification. The New Testament is the gospel himself, given to us in the
eyes of expert (Israelite) witnesses, the disciples who became apostles and
gospel-writers. In the person of the Son they were taught the word of God, in
action against all the other regimes and their own various ‘lessons’. The
wisdom of God comes in the form of this attack on other claims and statements.
It calls them false witnesses, speaking only in their own advantage, and to the
disadvantage of those they hold in their power.

1. One witness. The
first witness is God himself. God is himself our witness available to us in the
form of his servant and Son. This Son is the new witness and the new covenant.

2. Two witnesses. Then we
must say that this Son is then two witnesses, or that he is witness to us in
two ways. The first of these is by himself. He is this man, Jesus of Nazareth,
crucified and raised. He is this single Israelite, drawn out of the world,
alone against the world, the sole witness of God against it. And then he is
witness to himself in the form of all the many witnesses to him. He is witness
to himself in the form of these he prepared for this job – the apostles. He
witnesses to himself not only in the form of Peter and John, but of Mary and
Lazarus, and of Herod and Judas and Caiaphas and Pilate.

3. Many witnesses. But then
we can see that this witness is teaching his witnesses by introducing them to
hosts of others witnesses. Jesus teaches his disciples the Old Testament
scriptures. He opened the Scriptures to them and told them the plot of the
history of Israel. He taught Peter the apostle (who taught Mark the gospel
writer) by teaching him David, and Moses and Elijah, and Israel the suffering
servant. He re-enacts episodes from the history of Israel for them so they can
see the action of God. He walks them through the action of God, and the first
steps of Israel, and the response of God to these first steps. Thus the New
testament gives himself to us in opening to us the Old Testament, and giving
himself to us in this twofold form.

Jesus teaches the disciples to
deduce for themselves the patient servant-like approach God has taken with his
people, and realise that progress has not been swift. Though Israel has been
taking lessons for generations she seems no further forward. When can she move
up from elementary grade to intermediate grade? When will the breakthrough
come? Jesus teaches them about himself by pointing to all the witness who
pointed forward to him. He points to himself by pointing back, and in a
hurriedly assembled intensive crammer course he recapitulates the whole history
of God’s sharing himself out with this people. Yet, until the battle is fought
and the rebellion ended, Jesus knows that the most he can hope for is that his
disciples will pick up some of the ingredients. After the cross and
resurrection these bits and pieces will click together and the history of God’s
consistent self-witness from Abraham to Jesus become clear in a trice. Jesus
warns that things only get really clear to the Christian who is faced by a hostile
judge and violent crowd who is about to put them in the same position they put
Jesus. When for instance Stephen looks up the heavens are completely
transparent and he sees the whole script and history written up. He is about to
make the good confession and have the very same violence and refusal of the
world played out on him. That is when the disciple is most able to read the

The Son is the Old Testament. The Old
Testament is also his witness statement. It is many statements made by many
witnesses, and the name of Jesus does not appear in it. Together they make a
single long statement, a single testament (canon). This is witness statement is
by all the many servants of God, all the patriarchs, judges, priests, kings and
prophets, and also by the many other people who also get a mention (the
Syro-Phoenician woman, the people of Bethsaida who provided a donkey). They
make a single community. The witness of this community of the people of Israel
is the Old Testament.

The difference between the Old
Testament and the New Testament. The New Testament is the
lesson taught by the teacher who is that lesson in person. There is a
difference between this short lesson and a long course of lessons taught by a
number of junior teachers, directed from a distance by the teacher. The Old
Testament is the ongoing serial account. The New Testament is the full presence
of this account, all-at-once, in and as the person of one man. He is the one
testator and testament of God who is both original (‘old’) and ever-living and
–renewing (‘new’). But we cannot be given the whole testament at once. So we
are given it with infinite gentleness, using great patience. It is the New
Testament himself who gently and mercifully dispenses himself out to us in this
long sequential process we see in the Old Testament.

God does not give us the
Scripture/Law only. He does not put the book in our hands and go off
and leave us. He gives: 1. A plan, syllabus, set of lessons and learning diary
(Scripture); 2. He gives a teacher (prophet); 3. He gives the other members of
the community (Church), amongst whom there are more advanced members,
commissioned and enabled to teach us, and there are junior members, who need to
be encouraged and coached by us. They are given to us as a trust and work. We
are given not only the script, the teacher, but these responsibilities in the
form of these people too. We are given a share in the work and reward (harvest)
of bringing them up. I’ll come back to this later.


What is the Old Testament? The Old
Testament is the Scriptures. It is the Law. It is the instruction manual,
the curriculum and syllabus. This is the storehouse and resource. It is the
source of a river of good things. It is the identity-book, the
circumcision and passport of the people chosen by God to be his witnesses. It
is the signal book for the people of Israel. Scripture is the signal for
and authority to make the signal for total mobilisation of the spiritual armies
of God. The Scriptures are three signals. When the trumpet sounds the first
time it warns us to get ready, or rather it readies us. The second tells us
that the enemy is coming, so we stand up to receive the enemy, to take his
fire, to endure and to hold the line against his onslaught. At the third we go
over the top. We charge. These who cant hear the signal the first time will be
oblivious of the next – indeed they will be part of the onslaught on us, and
they will be scattered by our charge. It is a shout first of command and then
of triumph. Jesus calls this knowledge of the Scriptures as resource and as
word or signal of command ‘faith’. It is the means by which an Israelite can
call in the whole power of God, in the form of the whole army (host) of God. The
Scriptures must be kept in constant employment. They cannot remain a book
on the shelf. It is not primarily a book at all, but the voices of this vast of
array of people, witnessing to the Son and passing on knowledge of him to us.
This Testament is written on the people. Deuteronomy 6.6-9 These commandeers
that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them upon your child.
Talk about them when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you
get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them upon your foreheads.
Write them on the door-frames of your houses and on your gates. It is
written on their hearts and minds, and in the form of circumcision, it is
written on their skin. But Jesus is amazed that Israelites have so little
understanding other what they have available to them in this form. They have so
little faith. He is ready to give them more, but they cannot yet use even what
they have. But it looks as though after centuries of education have retained
absolutely nothing. Jesus is angry not because Israel’s teachers have taught the
law, but because they haven’t taught the law.

The harvest. The
community of God began a long time ago. It did not start with gentiles – the
Christians. They merely joined it, much later, at Pentecost. The community of
God has been there in the person of the Holy Spirit from the beginning. And
from Abraham new members have been added to this community, joining the crowds
around the throne. All earlier members of this community of God planted us, so
we are their harvest. Yet we can say that they are ours. (John 4.36) The sower
and the reaper may be glad together. Thus the saying ‘One sows and
another reaps’ is true. I sent you to reap what you have not worked for.
Others have done the hard work, and we are the benefits of their labour and
have reaped the benefits of their labour. The Old Testament prophets planted
and the New Testament Church is gathering in. The Old Testament prophets are
righteous men. The new children of God now appearing all over the world are the
fruit of their work. They have died, but in battle, worn down by the onslaught
of the opposition of unrighteous powers. But these men will go before us,
because they are of greater honour. According to the Lord’s own word we tell
you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord will
certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep (1 Thessalonians 4.15).
We will not go before them in the procession, get seated before them, or get a
higher place. We came later, have not borne the heat of the day, and will take
a lower place. They worked but have not yet seen their reward. They are all the
righteous of Israel. The community has not just recently been inaugurated, and
is not therefore is not the Church. Rather the community has been recently been
finally opened to outsiders. The outsiders have been captured and brought in as
defeated prisoners. Israel has been vindicated. The insiders who wanted no
outsiders, and thus did not want Israel to win the world, have been ousted, and
now live as a separated community, so we have two parallel communities, Israel
and the Gentiles brought in to supplement Israel.

The Old Testament is the record
of the whole heavenly host. The Son already has a community. It is this
heavenly community that sends him to us. This force rescued him from us,
raising him from the dead and bringing him to the right hand of the Father.
From there he sends some of this spiritual force to us to teach us how to call
him and appeal to him for more of his force. The Spirit, represented by the
whole host visible in Scripture, has the authority to make the signal for total
mobilisation. The Spirit is the signal itself. At the first signal given by the
bugler the forces move up into positions. At the second blast they form the
phalanx and stand their ground against all that is thrown against them. At the
third they go into combat. Jesus understands the verses of the Scriptures as
the voice and trumpet blast that sends out the whole forces of God into the
fire of the enemy. Scripture spoken is itself the blast and roar of the force
of God. This voice and command is not heard by our ears (merely) but by every
sinew, it snaps muscles into action. It fills lungs and heart and pumps out
action. This voice fills every chamber in us and comes out of our every pore,
driving us forward at the enemy line. The voice of the Lord is purest adrenalin
which drives directly every part of our body. For the head it is a word of
address and command – for the body it is purely propulsive energy. It does not
seek the permission of the head before addressing the body. Our head does not
first have to hear, then to consider, then to decide to pass on this command.
There is no cognisance of such a chain of command, but the bottom as the top is
instantly and directed driven by this command. This voice of God fills our
bodies, dinning out all other voices. His voice raises us up.

What is the purpose of the Old
Testament? The Old Testament is a set of principles and guidelines
for the creation of a holy people. It understands that this is an extremely
difficult project. It understands that the holy people will get into trouble,
sustain injuries and blemishes and so be regularly threatened by unholiness. It
provides a number of ways for these blemishes and that unholiness to be dealt
with. It is a people-purification system. Jesus charges Israel’s other teachers
with having failed to employ that system. There is in the law a fail-safe
system for the necessary permanent work of reintegration – tidying, cleaning up
and keeping all Israelites inside the circle, so they are not picked off by
outside forces. This system is powerful machinery and needs only machine
minders. Other teachers simply have not understood that this system has to be
kept in motion. It has to be worked, but they have not kept it working it. What
the law says the poor must bring, it itself provides. It provides the rich and
the strong to do this service. The law tells the rich to provide the gifts the
poorest require. It sets the rich over the poor, insisting that what the poor
need the rich will provide them. It does not imagine that the poor will have to
provide this for themselves from some source of their own that they clearly do
not have.

The testament is the work of the
Spirit. The Spirit works as a downward conveyor belt of good
things and as an escalator that carries us up from one level of competence
(righteousness) to the next. He does gently so the movement is imperceptible.
He carries us first to the first floor. There we are enabled to pick up a
selection of its attributes (not 100%, say 40%) and some of its work and
burdens. Then when we can do that level, he carries us up again to the second
floor, and the next, and the next floor. Christ is the top and bottom lynch-pins
of the belt and escalator, and he holds the whole together. He holds every
floor apart, lifting them and distinguishing them from one another. He lifts up
and stretches out the whole cosmos, lifting it and preventing its collapse.

The gifts this conveyor belt
provides are (1) words (2) persons (3) things.

1. The Spirit provides words. He
provides the right (appropriate, time and place specific) word. He sees the
particular predicament and need and responds to it with the insight that is
asked for.

2. The Spirit provides persons. The
Christian on my right in the line of battle is my teacher and protector. He
covers for me, supplying what I lack, chiefly the discernment and advice that
points out what is missing from my performance and points me towards better
performance. I have to be Christ the head to him. When I serve as his guide he
can learn with me how to be the hands of Christ. By being these hands I teach
him how to be the hands of Christ with me, and in this act I serve as his head.

3. The Spirit provide gifts and
those aids that will support us while we learn to let go of the old habits and
acquire the new character of the people of God. We are given a text. In this
text we are given the principles (guidelines) and we are given the specific
laws (handrails). In addition, we are given a huge package of case studies
which will help us learn what to look for, teach us how to think about each
single case in terms of Israel’s wholeness, and this wholeness in terms of
service to the world. This case law is intended to give us the instincts –
discernment (wisdom) – to know when to refer to this principle or to that, when
to opt for gentler but less clear interpretations and when to stay with harsher
and less ambiguous.

Scripture/Law as gift and test. There
is no priest without a sacrifice, no worshipper without a gift, just as there
is no defending counsel without a case, no messenger without the message he
brings. Each brings something, a gift, token, message, a brief. He carries the
brief he is going to present. He must bring something, and have something to
give us. He must have a case to make, and news to give. What is the gift and
the letter that the messenger of God, the new witness, brings? The messenger
brings the Speech and Voice, the Word and Instruction of God. First he brings a
letter that introduces everything he brings. This is the constitution that will
form the people of God. he gives us the letter and tells us what it says, and
he lays on the table before us a large file. It contains the questions he has
been sent to ask us. He has come to audit us. The kingdom of heaven is a
king who wanted to settle accounts with his servants (Matthew 18.23). He
has come to settle accounts. He has come so we can tell him what we have been
up to. This examination is represented by a file that contains hundreds of
sheets of checklists, of demands for evidence of performance. This examination,
these questions, are what he has come to give us. The auditor, and the file of
questions, are the gift from the king who sent him. The gift of God to us is
this assessment and this assessor. But he comes accompanied by instructors.
They are going to bring us through this test. They are here to train us until
we are ready. They will not let us go forward to any stage of the test that
they do not think we are ready for. They are here to make us all ready for
these questions. We must welcome and look forward to what these instructors say
and to each new stage of the test. They will prepare us slowly to take on the
teaching load ourselves, so we carry one another, so we all move together in
good order toward that that criterion and standard. He has come with wisdom, he
brings wisdom for us, and it comes as questions for us. These question are
intended not to be answered not by one-word answers, like Yes, or more probably
No. They are intended to create a transformation in us. They are going to turn
us into the people who stand behind the Son, who is the one able to give the
Yes, on our behalf, and who is himself that Yes.

This regulation is good and
points to the proper economy. But without the teacher in person, accompanied by
his many instructors, it cannot develop the proper economy, orientated to the
production of persons with all the attributes (righteousness). It divides the
description from the action (rather than being description serving action). It
does not propel and compel and unite the description and the present actuality
– driving the production of persons. It does not create generous action it just
identifies and creates opportunities both for good and bad action
indifferently. It cannot create generosity by actively reinforcing every move
in that direction and negative reinforcement of every failure. When a person is
the reward and the end, a person must be the means, albeit that that person
will himself provide many subordinate means at the right moment, and afterwards
remove them. God insists on an exclusive relationship. He protects us from the
importuning free offers and trial periods of other masters touting for
business. He does not let you receive more threats and temptation than you can
withstand or than serves to strengthen you.

If the people cannot understand
the lesson the teacher must decide whether to make it easier. He could
introduce first a gentler stage-by-stage version that will make learning the
new action easier. The teacher can provide a pair of balance-wheels or
water-wings. But the teacher must decide whether it is better to be kinder with
these specific learners, and to introduce another intermediary step for them.
An intermediary step will work in this immediate present case, but it will not
work more generally. But it is also kinder to be clearer, harsher, to give
strong memorable one-liners and to avoid any ambiguity. Which to choose, to be
gentler for these learners, at the cost of making the way less clear for all
other learners? Jesus, like every teacher, has it both ways. It offers carrot
and stick. He lowers the threshold for some and raises it for others. He plays
the flute, but they don’t dance. He feasts and celebrates the arrival of the
kingdom, but they don’t tuck in. He fasts and prepares for war, they do not
prepare with him.

The Law as voice of command. You
do not know the Scriptures or the power of God (Mark 12.24). We do not know
the Scriptures as command, or the power of God to carry out this command. The
command is to make holy sons for Israel. But Jesus finds the teachers of Israel
so little acquainted with the Scriptures and thus with any sense of the identity
given them by their anointing that they do not know what he is doing. They do
not recognise the clues he gives them, which are cues for them to join in and
follow him. They do not recognise the cues for their own responsive action. He
gives the command to pass on what they have received, to give as they have been
given, to exercise the generosity of God to those most in need of it as he has
exercised it for them. Jesus is outraged that other teachers have not
understood the law as the command of God to exercise the mechanism of
reintegration, but only as instruction to cut out all the blemished parts, and
so carve chunks out of the body.

The Law as portrait. The Law
is a description and portrait of Christ. Jesus fits the description perfectly.
But we do not. It may be that by effort or luck we can imitate some aspect. But
as soon as anyone sees through our disguise, we are exposed as those who do not
fit the description. He is the point (telos, ‘end’) of the law. Its
purpose was to describe him and ready us to recognise him. The Son has been
sent us stage by stage, in the stream of persons with a clutch of his
attributes. Each of these performs some of his actions. These prophets taken
together amount to the fullness of his attributes. Now for the Christians, the
witnesses to the resurrection, the portrait has been incised on their hearts,
and installed as their own internal architecture. They are spiritual creatures,
and making (external) writing redundant.

The Law as mechanism for
reintegration The Law, by which we mean the Old Testament as a whole,
and the sacrificial legislation in particular, is the means provided for
maintaining the integrity and health of the witness of God to the world, in the
form of the people of Israel. It is the mechanism for tidying and cleaning up
after the people of Israel. It is intended to keep the little ones in good
shape, and so to keep them inside the circle and prevent them from being picked
off by outside forces. Jesus charges the various (Pharisee, Sadducee) leaderships
(regimes) of Israel with failure to make any use of this safety reintegration
system. What the law says the poor must bring, it tells the rich to provide. It
sets the rich over the poor, insisting that what the poor need the rich must
provide them. It does not imagine that the poor will have to provide this for
themselves from some source of their own that they clearly do not have. It says
that they have only to turn up to get atonement in the form of the ashes of the
red heifer (Number 19.9). But the leaders of Israel have not understood that
this reintegration-system (the sacrificial legislation) is to be set in motion
and kept in motion. But in their hands it has been kept idle, or has even been
used as way of raising income from the very poorest. These teachers have not
understood the whole law as the ongoing voice of God and the intercom to God to
call him in to help Israel and keep all its little ones integrated.

Exclusion (cursing)
and mercy (blessing) 1. On one hand we need an account of the vicious
circle. If an Israelite is not given all the instalments of blessing this will
begin to be reflected in his appearance. If he is given no working capital, he
will have no means to practice the obligations of friendship, of giving gifts
that represent him and keep him visible in the assembly of Israel. Then he will
have no access to all the good things available within the assembly. He will
begin to look like an outsider, his appearance will be blemished or ambiguous,
and he will be shunned and treated as an outsider. 2. The other is the virtuous
circle. In this case the Israelite who has no working capital is given working
capital. When he has exhausted it (either profitably or unprofitably) he will
be given more – seven times seventy – in the expectation that he will learn how
to make ever more profitable use of it. He is given gifts in order that he has
gifts to give on his own account. From his wealth he will give, so whatever he
is given he will spread widely to the benefit of the whole body of Israel. He
is a benefactor, and he receives his recognition as such; he can appear in the
assembly. He has a place and an office, and he gives the unprotected a place,
taking them into his protection. He binds their wounds, and readies them for
readmission to the assembly. He is their kinsman redeemer. He honours them as
though they were his own parents. He displays the generosity of God. He does
not love to be seen in the market, but you can find him on its edges, looking
for the least of these to bring back into the centre. Everyone has a reason to
thank God for this servant of his.

The law is not the same for
everybody. Not everybody is the same, nor is it intended that we all be the
same. Some have more advantages and responsibilities than others. These senior
Israelites have been given more, and from them is expected more. What is this
more that they have been given? They have been the Instruction. This is
instruction in how to rule-and-serve and participate in the work given to
Israel by God. They have been given all the material means of life. And they
have been given the care of the younger ones. The younger ones are the trust,
job, gift, and treasure given to the older ones. If these younger ones are
successfully nurtured, they will also be the reward of their teachers. The big
ones are heads of households, and the younger ones are members of the household
headed by the bigger ones. But ‘head of household’ is not a permanent position.
There is a possibility of promotion or relegation, of having one of your
position taken away from you, of being returned to the ranks, your own juniors
promoted into your position, so you have to serve him as he served you.

Here is how each member of
Israel is kept integrated. Each family and each village sends a member up to
the great King at the palace (the temple) in Jerusalem. This member is their
‘sacrifice’. They choose him, set him aside, prepare him for this special
and dangerous duty. They set him apart from the rest of us for this purpose,
release him from all other domestic economic obligations and educate him for
his task, by teaching him the law. They lay their hands on him, loaded him with
the various tokens of themselves and petitions they wish to send. They prepare
him so that he knows off by heart the speech he has to make, and have also
written it down on paper. This speech will start by praising the great King for
his good action and justice, for taking an interest in them and demanding that
they make an appearance to give him the news from their village. Then it will
ask him for everything they want for their village. They ask for education,
debt relief (forgiveness), protection (defence) and investment.

God opens himself and hands to
us only what we can take. The first lesson is that we have to keep going back
to him. At no point can we say that we have finished learning, and can now
continue without him. This action cannot be done without him, because this
action is nothing but relationship with him and response to what he says next.
But the criticism made of Israel is that it – that Galatians 3.3 having begun with
the Spirit they are now trying to attain the goal by (unaccompanied)
human effort. Hebrews 4.2 the message they heard was of no value to
them because they did not combine it with faith. They had no internal
scripture. They had not been adequately re-scripted internally by training, to
back to God to ask for the next instalment. They had the prepositional
knowledge, but it had not been drilled by training to become the set of
instincts by which they could respond to it. They were utterly unable to meet
what they experienced with the training they had received. They forgot their
training, and were instantly lost, and spiralled into a panic they could not
recover from. Though they should have been experienced troops, for they had had
many generations and centuries of training, yet they had not become
battle-hardened, and they were shattered in the first assault they received.

Scripture was written for us. Israel
went through this hard training for us. It was all for our benefit. She kept
her learning diary, and now through the new testament we have access to it.
Israel went through all this with God just as the instructor pulls one student
out of the crowd and goes through the whole action with them. It does not
matter if at the end they have not entirely got it. The point is that the
onlookers, the whole student group, now has some good idea of what the whole
action consists of. Now the work for each of them begins. The Old Testament is
a hundred test cases and cautionary tales. There is no cover up about any of
this. The embarrassing moments are collected and told with glee. The point is
not that Israel looks good. Israel is made a fool of, and consents to this
being made a fool of, in front of the Gentiles, and for their sake – for our
sake. The teller of Scripture is simply not interested in making Israel look
good. Inasmuch as Israel reveals all these errors, and endures mockery, Israel
is the servant who suffers. This ridicule will turn to respect when we
outsiders come to realise that Israel left all the record of these trials in
only in order that we should have the benefit of it. It is experience that
cannot be bought. It is Israel’s gift to us. Romans 15.4 For everything that
was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and
the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. To read either
testament is to see prophets and disciples giving their reactions to the sight
that we have not yet seen. They are still shaking with fear and excitement, and
shaking their heads at their own reactions, and saying frankly how frightened
they were. They admit that in the terror of the instant that they forgot all
their training and froze. They met the God of Sinai, and though the Servant of
this same God prepared them for this moment, they were still utterly
unprepared. We are still utterly unprepared.

The Scripture is also an invoice
and charge sheet. It is an account of the cost of our production.
God pays this. It is not a bill that God intends to present to us. But the man
who insists on being responsible for his own creation, without God, will have
to find the resources from which to create himself. He will have to pay this
bill for his own creation. The man who lets himself be circumcised that he is
required to obey the whole law (Galatians 5.3). If he starts to pay off the
debt on his own account, then he is obliged to pay the whole amount. He starts
his own separate household, he will have to compete with Christ for the prize
that will go to the beloved Son, whom the law describes. In trying to read the
Law (Scriptures) without the Son by the Spirit we have been trying to sideline
the ongoing and active help of God. We want to know the content of this picture
(description) of God without the person it represents. The modern Christians
want to be let alone with the book, to have the syllabus without the teacher,
and without his ability to open and dispense the lesson to them. But we are
released from the unaccompanied word, Scripture without apostle. We are not
allowed to wander back to the unaccompanied text, where we do not have mature
enough instincts and criteria to distinguish between the voices, or know which
way to read the text. We are kept in sight by the warders (Christian teachers)
and allowed to participate only in the daily oral recovery programme. By
praising God together, the truth washes the toxins and dependency slowly out of
us. The Law is knowledge of the action of God. It is the gift the God gives for
the intellect. It is intended to build up the intellect to make it serve the
whole body and people. The students must ask the teacher before he will issue a
new instalment of knowledge.

The Son takes three forms of
servanthood for us. (1) He comes as the book of Scripture. He is the Word and
Instruction and Wisdom of God. He is the Torah, Scripture and the Law. (2) Then
secured at the right hand of the Father, Christ is the supplier of all gifts,
and the teacher of all wisdom. He comes to us in the person of the Holy Spirit
(pneumatology). (3) Then he makes himself available to us in the form of the
many persons who make up the Christian body. He takes the form of this
Christian who is my senior and that other Christian who is my junior.

How does the modern Church
regard the Old Testament? Modern Christians are taught to contrast the New
Testament to the Old Testament. They are taught to query and discard the unity
of the biblical testament and testimony. But it is the Son that can be seen in
the Old Testament. It is not that the Father is seen at work in the Old
Testament and the Son in the New Testament. It is not that the Father is fierce
and the Son is friendly. They can have no real knowledge of the Son without the
Old Testament. And without the New Testament operating as the way into the Old
Testament they cannot know the name of God. God has not published or released
to anyone, except in the New Testament. The New Testament with the Old
Testament together is the sole means of learning the name of the Son and being
given the Spirit who is the sole means and power of calling on this name,
activating and exercising knowledge of him through relationship with him. It is
not the case that they have known the Father, but not the Son. It is not the
case that there is knowledge of the Son that is anything else but the power to
call him in, by knowing and using his name (as a door-opener) and no one can do
this except as the Holy Spirit does this for him.

The modern reader who has no
faith, and disdains to read either testament as the one undivided testament of
God, will not read the old testament in the frame of the Church’s word, service
and liturgy. This modern and isolated reader does not know that the liturgy is
pure Old Testament. So he will find the Priestly legislation is odd, boring,
superseded. He will contrast legalistic priests with spirit-driven prophets, or
to say that sacrifice is about law-keeping and duty, whereas the prophets tell
us not to sacrifice but to love, or they will find that prophets are gloomy.
The isolated reader will believe that the Church does not need law (the Torah,
the Old Testament) because he believes that the gospel is not coercive. He is
mistaken. The cross is the coercion of God. The gospel contains all the law and
judgment of the old, and the cross is all the violence seen in the Old
Testament brought to a single point. It is the No of God pronounced against
mankind. But the modern reader, having no Christian community to read with him,
will lurch from one clumsy contrast to the next. He will have the Old Testament
and the New instantly closed to him.

We are released from the
unaccompanied word. All modern theological questions set out to identify Jesus
as an individual. They try to take him away from his people, and his people
away from him. They take him away from the people Israel, and their record of
their relationship with him, the Scriptures. But Jesus is not an ‘individual’,
and he cannot be separated from his people. His status as leader is not a front
behind which he is something else. He is the glory of Israel, and Israel is his
glory. Israel made him and handed him on to us. He hands us to Israel, adopts
us as supplementary members of this community. He does not found a community on
the Gentiles. He opens the existing community, of Israel, to let the Gentiles
in. We are not a new community but the missing second half of the one community
of God. But we did not receive the Spirit by observing the law or reading the
Scriptures alone, as individuals, without the head of Israel himself. We
received it by believing what he himself told us. There is no way that have
begun with the Spirit we can now start working our way to God without God. This
must be God’s work. To leave God on one side, and to get to God without his cooperation,
is to try to take God by storm, against his will. To imagine that this is what
our unaided reading of the Scripture can do is to make a fetish and an idol of
the text. God is unreadable. But he can read himself to us, and give us as much
knowledge of him as we can take.