There is an old adage that goes like this, “I don’t need the Old Testament, just give me Jesus.” Now, I must say, I am all about Jesus. I want Jesus in every aspect of my life. However, if truth be told, if you really want Jesus, then you need the Old Testament. Over the next couple of posts I would like to give you some reasons why we as Christians should not just read the texts of the Old Testament, but love them as well. I want us to find Jesus in these texts and see how to apply them in our own lives. But today I would like to answer the question, why should Christians study the Old Testament. There are many valid reasons for Christians to study the Old Testament, but I would like to give you just three.
Because you need it to understand the New Testament:
The reality is the whole Bible is one continuous story. One does not pick up The Lord of the Rings and start reading two-thirds of the way through it. No, if you want to understand the whole story you start in the Shire, not Mordor. It is the same thing with the Bible. One could not properly understand Jesus dying as the sacrificial Lamb without having a good understanding of Leviticus. Jesus being King of Kings and Lord of Lords makes much more sense when you understand I Samuel – II Chronicles. One reason that Christians should study the Old Testament is so that they can understand the whole story, and not just parts of it.
Because all of it is God-breathed scripture, not just the New Testament:
II Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” The scripture that Paul was alluding to was actually the Old Testament canon. While it is true that Paul says that Peter is writing scripture, and Peter says the same of Paul, the reality is all New Testament Christians primarily read the Old Testament as their Bible. While some of the nuances of the books of Numbers or Daniel may be hard to apply for those standing on this side of the cross, the fact remains that all 39 books of the Old Testament are still “profitable for teaching, reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness.” And for this reason, we should read it.
Because Jesus and the Apostles read it:
When Jesus quoted scripture, what did He use? When the Ethiopian eunuch was looking for answers to who Jesus was, what was he reading? When Paul was standing before King Agrippa explaining what Jesus had done for him, what did he quote? When Peter preached on the day of Pentecost, what text was he reading from? The answer to all four of these questions is the Old Testament. This was still the Bible of the day for these men. Yes, Paul, Peter, John, Luke and others were in the process of being inspired themselves to write holy writ; but they primarily read, studied, and taught from the Old Testament. If this was their primary text, doesn’t it stand to reason that we too should be reading it as well?
There are so many good reasons for us to both read and study the Old Testament. We should not just look at it to learn lessons on how to have the faith of Abraham or how to be a Daniel in our generation in modern Babylon. We have the law to point us to a Holy God. We have poetry to teach us what to sing in worship. And we have the prophets that give us a glimpse at how God progressively revealed himself. So, if you have not read those glorious old accounts of how God dealt with his people (our people) in the pages of the Old Testament in a while, I encourage you to visit with God in the Garden . . . wrestle with the Angle of the Lord with Jacob . . . sing a song with David. Why should we as New Testament believers read about the God that is on the other side of the cross? Simply, He is the same God of the New Testament, and you don’t want to miss out on the whole story.
Soli Deo Gloria,
Adam B. Burrell