In our Bible studies and classes today, we often hear the question, “why study the Old Testament? Didn’t Christ do away with it?” Many people today do not recognize the value of the Old Testament, and in many ways, those who preach and teach are guilty of helping to perpetuate this feeling, rarely ever looking to the Old Testament for understanding and as a reference. As Paul told Timothy in 2 Timothy 3: 16-17:
All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; that the man of God be adequate, equipped for every good work. Therefore, the Old Testament does have value, as it is Scripture.
Now, this is not to say that we are to gain doctrine or try to bind any practice of the Old Testament; Paul and others show conclusively in the letters to the Galatians and the Colossians, and in other places, that this is not so. If we try to take portions of the Old Law while holding to Christ, we have “fallen from grace,” (Galatians 5:1-4). So, we must not use the Old Testament for doctrine; this does not, however, make it useless. Some reasons why we need the Old Testament:
1. The OT helps demonstrate the plan of God. We see the plan which God has for the world demonstrated in the Old Testament: that one nation would receive the promise, and through that nation would come the One in whom all could be saved (Romans 3:1-2). We cannot fully see the plan of God without reading the Old Testament.
2. The OT prophesied the Christ. How do we know that Jesus IS the Christ, the Son of God? What standard do we use to measure the way Jesus acted with how the Christ was to act? The Old Testament, of course! From Genesis 3 through Malachi, the Old Testament predicts the nature of the Christ: the timeframe (Daniel 3), birthplace (Micah 5), death (Isaiah 53), and many, many more. We read in Acts 18:28 about the man Apollos:
for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, demonstrating by the Scriptures that Jesus was the Christ.
In order to show that Jesus is the Christ, you need to use the Old Testament.
3. Christ used the OT as His authority. In the gospel accounts, Jesus often points to the Scriptures when talking to the Pharisees and other Jews, pointing out their errors and hypocrisy (e.g., Matthew 12:3, Matthew 15:4, etc.). If the Old Testament was good for Christ, it is most assuredly good for us.
4. The New Testament writers also used the OT as an authority. The Apostles and others were very familiar with the Old Testament, and used it often to create and strengthen arguments about Jesus the Christ. Who can understand the letter to the Romans or the letter to the Hebrews without having a solid background in the Old Testament? Many in the denominational world have been led to erroneous conclusions about these letters, and others, since they try to interpret them in a vacuum, not trying to understand how the letters work with the Old Testament.
5. The message of the Old Testament is still relevant. Paul wrote to the Ephesians in chapter two, verses nineteen and twenty,
So then you are no longer strangers and aliens, but you are fellow citizens with the saints, and are of God’s household, having been built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Christ Jesus Himself being the corner stone.
The church is built upon the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. The prophets have value, even today! When you read their prophecies in the Old Testament, you can easily see their message. Hosea could modify a few details and cry out in the streets the message of Hosea 4, and it would be relevant. So too with Amos in Amos 8, and many many others. God gave these men revelations not just for their own time, but for all time, and we would be wise to heed their words.
As you can see, we must study the Old Testament so that our knowledge of the things of God may be complete. The mystery of Christ cannot be unveiled completely without the message of the Old Testament being understood.
Ethan R. Longhenry