The law and grace and the gospel, aka What does the Old Testament mean in the present?

*Disclaimer: As will be obvious, I, Donna, wrote this. Please forgive my overstepping any bounds by posting this here on our ministry blog rather than on my own personal page…

What does the Old Testament mean in the present?

Mark asks questions. If you know him at all, this is just a given of knowing him. And his asking questions leads him to dig deeply to understand whatever it is he is asking about in that moment. A lot of times, those questions are ambling, tumbling, chasing each other around in his head over a very long period of time. (I’ll just say that, personally, I’d have gone crazy a long time ago with so many unresolved things resident for so long, but then that’s the giftedness that the Lord wove into Mark.)

A question – or better yet, a set of questions – that has been rumbling around in that head for many years now is how the law relates to grace and the gospel.

If there’s one thing I know about Mark, it’s that when he gets something stuck in his craw, he just. will. not. let. go. There aren’t many things that reach that status, but this law thing is one of them. I have seen him tenaciously pursue this almost as if it were a compulsion. And the teaching and conversations and preaching and discussions that have resulted from this long wrestling have been profound.

Next Saturday, he will be speaking at a conference here in Kyiv on this very topic. One thing that drives him as a teacher is the question of how we use the Bible, in our everyday lives, in our preaching, in teaching.

Because this question of how the law relates to grace and the gospel is such an important one to him, the conference will be looking at how to think about how we use the Old Testament, how we think about the Old Testament in our present – how do I teach from, preach from, apply personally and in my ministry the histories, the psalms, the law, the prophets, and how can I/should I (or even ‘do I?’) see Jesus in the Old Testament?

As Mark and his colleague Alexander were talking about different things they wanted to be doing in the Biblical Studies program at the seminary, they were talking all around the idea of Biblical education beyond just classes at the seminary, like conferences, seminars, discussions, practicums. And in that brainstorming last fall, they began to pull together specifics for a day of diving into the Old Testament. It jelled and they began work on a day and a format, and this conference came into being.

In some ways, it was a bit a crazy to consider it this spring, knowing that Mark would be teaching six one-week intensives this semester, not to mention that Alexander would also be teaching intensives himself. But I also know that in listening to this conversation about how law relates to grace and the gospel over many, many years, it can be rather invigorating and contagious!

So, the conference is happening this coming Saturday. We’re pretty excited about it. (And, yes, a bit jittery as well; it’s kind of big and falls in a particularly intense time.) I am really looking forward to it. When Mark invited me to meet with some of the team planning it back in January for an informal meeting, I was immediately caught up in the enthusiasm. I knew I hadn’t been in the loop because this was something they’d been working on for a while already, but one question stuck out as they were bantering around different ideas and plans: who are the speakers going to be? I couldn’t help laughing when they looked at me as if it were already well known – Mark is the speaker.

I can be a little slow (ok, cut me a little slack for hearing that this was spanning quite a number of topics and thus was wondering!) and so I asked something along the lines of who else would be speaking – you know, kind of sharing the load, some sort of forum or round table thing. That’s when it became clear. Mark is the speaker. What has been rattling around in that head for so long is going out for a long conversation with some others on Saturday.

Personally, I’m really looking forward to it. It’s going to be intense, not only in getting the final stuff ready for it, but also just the having a sustained conversation and fielding questions and, yes, interacting in several languages. And I am looking forward to the Lord meeting us there. Maranatha!


*In case you’re interested in a (an intriguing?) summary statement (as I asked him a minute ago for his ‘stump speech’ statement on this topic):

“The law that God gave his people in the Old Testament, at its core, is the same thing that God requires of us today. There are a lot of details, and specific commands that are different because of culture, history, but most importantly the coming of Christ, but in its essence (what Jesus referred to as ‘the weightier matters of the law’ [Mt 23:23]) it is clear that God has always been leading us to love him, to love our neighbor, and to live as his image in the world.”

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