By Loren Gjesdal
Have you ever heard anyone express thoughts like these? Maybe you have had them yourself?
“I’m a New Covenant Christian, so all I really need to study is the New Testament.”
“Jesus and the Apostles are the final word on theology, life and living. The Old Testament just confuses the gospel.”
“Jesus did away with the law so there is no point in learning what it said.”
So why do we keep publishing the Old Testament in our Bibles? Should New Covenant Christians find any value in studying books of the Bible written before Jesus was born? The answer is a resounding “Yes!” But don’t take my word for it. Consider the words of Jesus and His apostles:
JESUS AFFIRMED THE OLD TESTAMENT
Jesus affirmed the purpose and value of what we call the Old Testament: “You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me; and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life” (John 5:39-40).
“For if you believed Moses, you would believe Me, for he wrote about Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?” (John 5:46-47)
When Jesus used the word “scriptures,” he referred to the canon of writings the Jews held as sacred. This canon included the first five books of the Bible, sometimes called the Torah or the Law, which were attributed to Moses. It is this section of the Bible that comes under particular attack, both from inside and outside the church.
From outside the church, the account of creation recorded in Genesis is contested as myth, while from inside the church the value of the law as recorded in Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy is dismissed. Yet it is these very writings that Jesus and His apostles said were sufficient to lead to belief in Him!
In reading the gospels, particularly Matthew, we find that the authors repeatedly point to the Old Testament as validating Jesus’ claims to be the Messiah, the Son of God, the appointed Savior of mankind from their sins. 30 times “As it is written” is used in the New Testament, each time connecting a text in the Old Testament to Jesus and the gospel.
WRITTEN FOR OUR INSTRUCTION
14 times in the book of Romans alone, Paul refers to the Old Testament to substantiate the theology of justification by faith alone in Jesus alone! Paul sums up his view of what we would call the Old Testament towards the end of his letter to the Roman church with these words:
“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
And what is the hope and encouragement revealed through the Old Testament scriptures? Nothing less than the good news that “… now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets [the Old Testament]” (Romans 3:21).
Notice the specific mention of the “Law” along with the prophets. Certainly, we see the power of fulfilled prophecy to validate Jesus’ claims, but Paul specifically says the Law also adds value to understanding the redemptive plan of God in history. “Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith” (Galatians 3:24).
The Old Testament was a powerful tool used by the gospel writers and the apostle Paul to proclaim the gospel of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone.
THE OLD TESTAMENT IS USEFUL TODAY
Yes, Jesus and His apostles have the final say on the correct interpretation of scripture and all doctrine. But it is through the lens of the cross that we see scripture speaking with one voice of one meta-narrative that ties together all the books of the Bible, from Genesis to Revelation. Seeing this continuity should be faith affirming to every Christian in every era. And more than that, it is useful for advancing God’s kingdom in the Earth to this day.
This is the emphatic affirmation of Paul to his protégé Timothy: “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
THE OLD TESTAMENT EQUIPS THE PEOPLE OF GOD
Again, when Paul uses the word “scripture,” he is certainly including the only canon of holy writing compiled at that time, what we call the Old Testament. If he saw this much profit in it, to equip the people of God for every good work, then how can we possibly dismiss it as irrelevant? If such treasure was available for Timothy to mine, even after Jesus’ death and resurrection, even after Pentecost, then surely it remains valuable for us to study as well!
Artios Christian College is currently offering a course called the History and Literature of the Old Testament. You are invited to learn how to get the most out of reading the sometimes-confusing prequel to the New Testament and be encouraged to see that all of the Bible is written with one message by one author to point every person to saving faith in one name–Jesus! There is treasure to be found in the Old Testament. Let’s mine it together!