The Gospel in Old Testament Example

Foy E. Wallace, Jr.

We speak today of the gospel in Old Testament story. Our particular text is 2 Kings 5:1: “Now Naaman, captain of the host of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master, and honourable, because by him the Lord had given deliverance unto Syria: he was also a mighty man in valour, but he was a leper.” Someone has complained that we do not have any use at all for the Old Testament, because we have shown that the Old Testament ended at the cross. There is a lot of difference in saying that “ye are not under the law” (which is the very thing Paul said in Romans 6:14), and in saying that we have no use “at all” for the Old Testament. The same Paul who said that we are not under it, also said, “Whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). The proper use of the Old Testament scriptures is in the fulfillment of its wonderful prophecies in the New Testament; and in seeing the Old Testament type, shadow and metaphor in the light of New Testament antitype, substance and reality.

The Old Testament

Some people become alarmed when they hear us say that no part of the Old Testament is binding upon Christians. They think that since the Old Testament says “thou shalt not kill,” if it is done away then it would mean that we may kill, commit adultery, steal, and disregard the “moral law.” But that does not follow. The United States was once under the law of England, and Texas was once time under the law of Spain. Today we are under neither. Yet in the statutes of those countries there were laws prohibiting things such as named. Does it mean therefore that our people may now do such things seeing that we are no more under the laws forbidding them ? No, is the answer, but why? Because our new constitution prohibits the doing of such things also. On the same principle the New Testament becomes unto us a perfect law and itself forbids the doing of all those things that were in themselves wrong to do. The prohibitions and inhibitions of the new covenant (or constitution) are therefore independent of what was in the old, and they are obligatory upon us, not because they were in the old, but because they are in the new.

Paul said of the Old and the New “He taketh away the first that he may establish the second. By the which will we are sanctified (saved)” (Heb. 10:9). So we are not under the Old Testament. It is not our law; it is not our system. It does not contain the things we are to do in obedience to God, nor the gospel commands we must obey in order to become a Christian and live as a Christian. Neither does it contain the ordinances of worship for the New Testament church. As a law, we are not under it, nor any part of it—for Paul said, “But now ye are delivered from the law, that being dead wherein we were held (that law being dead); that we should serve in newness of the spirit and not in oldness of the letter” (Rom. 7:6). These, and a hundred more, clearly show that the Old Testament has been abrogated, and we have a New Testament. Of what use, then, is the Old Testament? Simply the use that Paul made of it, and the use that I propose to make of it—the things in it are for our examples. The principles of obedience to God are the same— but the elements of obedience (the things we do) are not the same because the law has changed. “He taketh away the first that he may establish the second.” Since it is impossible to have two testaments in operation at the same time—which one do you say we are under, friend, as we cannot according to Paul, be under both of them? And we bring nothing over from the old—Christ who made the new, and is its mediator, and minister, put in it all that it was God’s will to include, and all else is excluded. This, however, does not mean that in the history of Old Testament things there are no lessons for us to learn— yea, they are written for our learning, for our patience, for our comfort and for our hope. Do you ask how? My answer is, in applying the lessons we learn, in examples of faith, on the part of those who obeyed God under the old covenant, to the commands and duties the New Testament binds upon us in the new covenant.

For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience (in times past) received a just recompense of reward; how shall we escape, if we neglect so great salvation; which at the first began to be spoken by the Lord, and was confirmed unto us by them that heard him (Heb. 2:2-3).

Thus we may teach by example from the Old Testament, but the New Testament alone is our law.

Facts Versus Fables

There are those who claim to believe the Bible—but not all of it they say. They would delete it, blue-pencil it, and cull out certain things they call fables and relegate these to the realm of myth and tradition. They tell us that they accept the teaching of Christ, but not such Old Testament stories as Noah and the flood, Jonah and the whale, and of Naaman the Leper. It so happens that it is so fixed that you must believe all or none, for the integrity of the New Testament is linked with the truth, veracity and authenticity of the Old Testament. For instance, Jesus said concerning the flood:

For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark, and knew not until the flood came, and took them all away; so shall also the coming of the Son of man be (Mat. 24:38,39).

Now, how can a man believe in Jesus Christ and deny what he said about the fact of the Old Testament record of the flood? The divinity of Jesus Christ is therefore made to depend on the accuracy of the Old Testament record. And that is not all. Regarding what is called “the big fish story” the Son of God said, “For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly; so shall the Son of man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth” (Mat. 12:40). If Jonah was not in the belly of the whale the period of time named, Jesus Christ was not in the earth the same period of time, nor did he arise from the dead. It means that you believe it all or none. No man can believe that God raised Jesus from the dead, according to the Lord’s own statement, and reject the Old Testament record of Jonah and the whale. As to whether a whale can swallow a man or not, the record says that God “prepared a great fish,” we believe he did, and are not interested therefore directly in the scientific argument. The same God that made them all surely “prepared” the one that swallowed Jonah. Friends, when a modernist gets through with the Bible, we have no Bible, for he takes out of it every single, solitary, mark and evidence of its divinity and reduces it to a human book, written by man. Believing the Bible is a matter of believing all of it, or none of it.

Then, what about this man Naaman getting his leprosy cleansed by washing seven times in the Jordan river? Well, that is just what happened—now, do you say that you believe in Jesus but don’t believe that? Then hear Jesus: “And many lepers were in Israel in time of Elisha the prophet; and none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian” (Luke 4:27). Thus Jesus puts the stamp of credibility on the story of Naaman. The cleansing of Naaman was a fact, not a fable.

Leprosy And Sin

Here is a very striking analogy. What leprosy is to the body, sin is to the soul. It is loathsome in all of its effects. It is beyond the power of man to cure. It has in its sound the hiss of the serpent and in its glamour the gleam of the fang—S-I-N. As in the case of Naaman, great men are not exempt. Naaman was a great man. Naaman was a hero. Naaman was honourable, a “mighty man in valour.” We love to talk of great men, heroes and of deeds of honour and valour. But there was one overshadowing fact—this great man was a leper. He was physically and socially disqualified. Many people appear to think that there can be nothing wrong with great men— but they are sinners before God. Greatness is not a synonym for salvation, and if men of greatness have not obeyed the gospel of Christ they are sinners unsaved “for there is no respect of persons with God.” Often we appeal to people through flattery to come into the church. We would compliment their position of power and mention what they would be worth to the church. That is the wrong appeal. No man can be brought to Christ through flattery or any appeal to pride. The church needs no man (in that sense); the man needs the church. You may be great, my friend, but if you are in disobedience to God you are a leper—a loathsome leper in need of cleansing. The redeeming thing about Naaman is that he realized he was a leper. All the flattery of his admiring people could not minimize his trouble. He knew it was leprosy. He could not have persuaded himself that it was a minor skin trouble, perhaps, rash or roseola, eczema or that other skin trouble that everybody has had; he knew he couldn’t scratch it out in seven years! Men are prone to minimize sin and mitigate disobedience. “He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but whoso confesseth and forsaketh them shall have mercy” (Pro. 28:13). Until convicted of his sins, no man can be saved. Such a realization, or conviction, humbles men. Naaman was humble—realizing his condition, he was willing to receive instruction even from humble sources. It was the maiden in his household who told him what he did not know. When men will not be told, they are hopeless. “Pride goeth before destruction and an haughty spirit before a fall” (Pro. 16:18). The Son of God “humbled himself and became obedient” (Phi. 2:8) and it was He who said, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls” (Mat. 11:29-30).

Sincerity Seeking The Way

When Naaman reached the land of Israel he went to the wrong place―he became misguided―he went to the king instead of the prophet. The maiden said the prophet, but Naaman went to the king. He made a mistake. The king knew as little about what to do with Naaman as the average denominational preacher knows about telling sinners what one must do to be saved. When you go to men and creeds, friends, instead of the word of God, you are misguided. But many people say that it makes no difference what one believes just so he thinks it is right―that did not seem to work in Naaman’s case; he thought he was going to the right place when he went to the king. I have never understood how anybody could think that wrong is right because one believes it is. Jesus called the religious teachers of his day “blind guides” and “blind leaders of the blind” and said, “both shall fall into the ditch.” They will not escape the ditch merely because they are blind and cannot see it, nor because they think no ditch is there. It simply means, friends, that you cannot be right if you are wrong.

But this man Naaman was sincere and when he found out that the king was not the prophet, he went in search of the prophet. Many people do not search for the truth; and when their credulity has been once imposed upon in religion, often they will give it all up and wander into unbelief, rather than sincerely seek the way. So, Naaman comes to the prophet. It is here that his faith must stand its test. The prophet did not come out to see him―Naaman is at his door―but the prophet remains inside. Why does he not come out? This is Naaman, “my lord Naaman,” whose chariot and horses stood at the door. But he is no more to the prophet Elisha than any other leper. Presently a servant comes out to the chariot with the terse orders of the prophet: “Go wash in the Jordan river seven times.” It knocked the breath out of Naaman. There he was the Generalissimo of the Syrian army, who had come in great array to the prophet of Israel only to be told to dip himself in the river. He went into a rage. To him it sounded as though the prophet had said “go jump in the river!” He said, “behold, I thought” the prophet would do this or say that―it was not as he had thought it would be. And men are still putting what they think up against what God says. Naaman was biased―that enemy of one’s soul that will steal away your power to think, that thing called prejudice. Naaman was prejudiced―he would not wash in the murky Jordan. If rivers and waters were necessary, he would choose his native streams. But one cannot substitute when God commands―God said the Jordan, and no matter how pure their streams, Abana and Pharpar would not do. You must come to the Jordan of obedience, friend. When God says do one thing, you cannot do another, nor can you dispense with what He commands. It must be done. Naaman turned and went away in rage. Many people have done that when they heard a gospel sermon―but when they “think it over,” as Naaman did, they return to obey God. His servants interposed: “If the prophet had bidden thee do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it? How much rather then when he saith to thee, Wash, and be clean.” Naaman turned toward the Jordan. He had conquered pride and prejudice; he was ready to do the prophet’s bidding. He was in the Jordan. Complete obedience was necessary. Partial obedience cannot save―partial obedience is disobedience. There is not a line, not a word, nor an inference in all the word of God that encourages partial obedience. All that God commands must be obeyed. When Jesus said, “He that believeth and is baptized” it does not mean “he that believeth and is not baptized!”

The Simplicity Of The Gospel

God’s word has never been what men would have it be. His word is of marked simplicity. What the prophet commanded Naaman to do was simple―so simple that he did not want to do it. But the servants said: “How much rather than when he saith to thee, Wash and be clean?” Friends, there is never the slightest connection between the thing that God commands men to do and the reason for which it should be done. “For we walk by faith and not by sight.” It is when reason rebels that faith accepts. Faith accepts―obeys the command. When a command is left unobeyed there has been no acceptance of faith. Faith never blesses a man until it expresses itself in action. By faith Abel offered his sacrifice; by faith Enoch walked with God; by faith Noah moved with fear and prepared the ark; by faith Abraham obeyed when he was called; by faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days as God commanded; by faith the children of Israel were healed of the bites of the fiery serpents when they looked on the serpent lifted on the pole―the command was to “look,” and faith without looking was not a saving faith (neither was it “snake salvation” when they looked). It is true that man must exercise faith to be saved, but his faith must also exercise him. When Jesus Christ said, “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved”―if one does not have faith enough to be baptized, he does not have faith enough to be saved.

Another illustration of faith coupled with obedience is in the story of the blind man who came to Jesus. Jesus spit on the ground and made clay out of the spittle, and said: “Go, and wash in the pool of Siloam.” Now, there was nothing in the water of this pool to heal the eyes of the blind―if so, all the blind men in the country would have been there for this. The blind man goes. Can you imagine that someone meets him on the way, and says to him: “Where are you going?” He answers: “I am going to the pool of Siloam to wash this clay off my eyes.” His neighbor says: “Who told you to do that ?” The blind man replies, “Jesus told me to do it.” His interrogator again inquires: “Well, do you believe in Jesus?” And the blind answers: “Yes, I believe in Jesus.” Whereupon his gratuitous friend says: “Well, don’t you know you can see already, if you believe in Jesus.” Ah, friends, do you think you could have the blind man see it? No, he knew he was blind, yet he believed, yes. he believed when he came to Jesus, but he was not healed until his faith expressed itself in obedience. Yet preachers will strangely tell men that the moment they believe in Christ―that very moment they are saved―for which there is no example under the gospel of Christ. I say again. Jesus having said “he that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” the man who does not have faith enough to be baptized does not have faith enough to be saved. Is it faith, or is it unbelief when men do not obey? Really, what some of these preachers call faith is actually a lack of it―plain unbelief.

Naaman’s faith blessed him when? Why, when he washed as the prophet commanded. How many times? The number of times commanded―seven. Obedience must be complete, never partial. But a Methodist preacher said one time that Naaman did not have any faith, it was a mere experiment with him. That’s news, isn’t it?―saved by an experiment instead of an experience! Well, he had seven times as much faith as that preacher had―he had faith enough to be dipped seven times, with no promise of healing save the word of God’s prophet, and that preacher didn’t have faith enough to be dipped one time with all the teaching and examples in the New Testament to induce it. But there is little telling what creed bound preachers will say when they are trying to evade the commands of God. Jesus said of them, “Ye are blind guides” and “if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch.” Don’t let them lead you, my friend, unless you are willing to be ditched.

The Power Of God

With final reference to the cleansing of Naaman, the question comes: Where was the power? When Naaman ascended from Jordan waters, standing on the bank, did he look back into the rolling river and praise the Jordan? Did he say. “The Jordan river has healed my leprosy; I’ll praise the river and worship its fountain!” No, no, friends. Naaman knew better than that, even if some preachers do not. Then what did he say? Here it is: “Behold, now I know that there is no God in all the earth, but in Israel.” Naaman knew that God healed; but he also knew that he had to do what God commanded in order to be healed. Friends, faith is not our saviour; Jesus Christ is our Saviour―but we must believe. Repentance is not our saviour; Jesus Christ is our Saviour―but we must repent. Baptism is not our saviour; Jesus Christ is our Saviour―but we must be baptized. For the Saviour said: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved” and if you believe and trust the Lord you will do it. The man who will not do it is a rebel against God, and there will be no rebels in heaven. We beg you, friends, to continue not in senseless resistance to the demands of the gospel until you are lost. The career of the disobedient ends in hell; divine vengeance is the end of all who know not God and obey not the gospel. There is danger and death in delay, Your decision to wait may decide your fate. O, the hardihood that rejects God and rebels at His word, heaven and earth will pass away, but His word will not. It will judge you in the last day. Why not bow to His will, as did the leper, and receive His saving power, and stand on the promises of God?

   Send article as PDF   

Author: Editor

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.