Why Bother With The Old Testament, Since It’s “Old”?
I heard about a preacher who came to my city a while ago, and preached that we didn’t really need to read or apply the Psalms to our lives since it’s from the Old Testament and not necessary for us Christians. I also read an article, written by a Christian author, which stated that we as Christians need to move away from the Old Testament, and on to the New Testament because of the cross; for him, it seems that the Old Testament is about laws, while the New Testament is about grace.
A negative approach to the Old Testament is nothing new. Many years ago, a man by the name of Marcion didn’t like the Old Testament either—he felt it represented an evil, inferior god, while the New Testament god found in Jesus was a loving and good god.
There is much to say about this subject, and I’m limited here since this is just a short blog post—there are some books out there you can read on this. But let’s consider two major ideas on this to spur us even further to a deeper reflection on this issue.
1) The God of the Old Testament is the Same God of the New Testament. This has a number of implications that are relevant for our discussion:
a) Believers depended on God’s grace in the Old Testament. Relying on God’s grace didn’t just begin in the New Testament. Think about the ‘10 Commandments.’ If you read them in Exodus 20, and get right to the “laws” in verses 3 onwards, you’ll miss something that comes immediately prior to the relaying of those 10 commandments—grace!
Here is God’s message in the verse that comes immediately prior to the 10 commandments: “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.” God in His grace delivered believers prior to their reception of the law! They were brought into this context not by hearing the laws, nor by living up to the laws, but by God’s gracious act of deliverance. We can often miss this point when discussing God’s laws for believers—these same believers were dependent on God’s grace.
b) God’s character, which we often think of as “loving” because of the revelation of Jesus, has always been characterised by love. In Psalm 86:15, found in the Old Testament, the writer reminds us of God’s character: “But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.”
c) The God we find in the Old Testament, who reveals His judgment against sin and unrighteousness, is the same God we find in the New Testament who does the same.
Some people often think of Jesus as soft, meek, and mild—but see the God of the Old Testament as a tough and aggressive entity. But during a time when Jesus was entering the temple courts, He felt some were making that place into a “den of robbers,” instead of a “house of prayer.” What did He do? He overturned tables, made a whip, and drove everyone out! (See Matthew 21:12-13; John 2:13-17). Jesus is not exactly meek and mild!
And of course, Scripture makes clear that Jesus will judge every person in a time to come (Matthew 25).
2) Jesus Affirmed the Need for and Importance of the Old Testament.
a) Jesus was not trying to eliminate the Old Testament, but was about living in fulfillment of all that it said about Him. In Matthew 5:17, Jesus explains, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” That’s a pretty self-explanatory passage.
b) Jesus explained that the greatest commandments of loving God and people as yourself was based on the Old Testament. When someone asked Jesus what the greatest commandment was, Jesus’ response is revealing: “Jesus replied: ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments” (Matthew 5:37-40). These commandments are based on the Old Testament, and are explicitly found in Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18.
I recognize that this subject brings up so many other issues that are worthy of consideration, which I’m unable to address in a short post here. I know there is so much more to say. My attempt here was just to recognize the importance of the Old Testament for Christians, particularly noting its continuation with the New Testament. I’m open to further discussion if you like!
All the best to you, always a pleasure to hear from you!