Thankfully there were men like Justin Martyr, Irenaeus, and Tertullian who stood on the side of Scripture and opposed Marcion. The influence of Marcion was confined mainly to a small cult-like following for the time being, yet has managed to rear its head time and again through the centuries.
If you discuss the Bible to any extent at all with people in the world, it won’t be long until you run into strands of Marcionism. The distinction between law and gospel is prevalent in today’s religious world in which people crave grace without obedience. Martin Luther himself, like Marcion, argued the Book of James should be eliminated from the New Testament because of its incompatibility with his doctrine of justification by faith alone and grace alone. Others see the severity of God’s justice in the Old Testament in contrast to their concept of love and grace in the New Testament, and decide that God is either a bipolar being or altogether different from the god of the Old Testament. Since grace and law, and mercy and justice are allegedly incompatible with one another, many have decided there is no connection whatsoever between the Old and New Testaments. As a young teacher in the church once put it to me, “We could cut the Old Testament out of our Bibles and throw it away because it has no bearing on our lives today. We live by the New Testament, not the old.”
Many who do not share the exact sentiments of the young man quoted above still carry with them an implicit form of Marcionism by failing to read and study the Old Testament.
In 2 Timothy 3:14-15 Paul urged Timothy,
- “But you must continue in the things which you have learned and been assured of, knowing from whom you have learned them, and that from childhood you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.”
The Scriptures Timothy was raised on were the Old Testament. Yet even as a Christian Timothy had an obligation to study those Scriptures and receive instruction from them. Paul went on to say,
- “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)
Though portions of the New Testament were available to Timothy (such as this very letter from Paul), Paul was concerned with Timothy’s view of “All Scripture.” So much is lost spiritually when the Old Testament is eliminated from the Christian’s diet. The Old Testament is the story of our people (Matthew 1:1-17) and the story of redemption. We will never be able to fully appreciate the love, provision, redemption, salvation, power, and nature of God without the cannon of the Old Testament. Nor will we be able to understand a significant portion of the New Testament because of the language and symbolism it has borrowed from the Old (such as the book of Revelation’s use of Daniel, Joel, Zechariah, and other books). In the words of Ron Courter, “The reason we don’t understand the Book of Revelation is because we don’t know our Bibles.”
The Old Testament is not merely a collection of interesting stories with good morals behind them; it is the unfolding of the mystery of the kingdom of God and the fullness of time (Mark 4:11 and Galatians 4:4).
I leave you with the following five passages in hopes that you will reflect on them and give due diligence to appreciate and utilize the whole of Scripture.
- Matthew 5:17-18
- “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill. For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled.
- Luke 24:25-27
- Then He said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?” And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.
- Galatians 3:8
And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel to Abraham beforehand, saying, “In you all the nations shall be blessed.”
- Ephesians 1;10
that in the dispensation of the fullness of the times He might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven and which are on earth—in Him.
- For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.