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Why do we need the Old Testament? Last week we looked at “Rightly Dividing the Word.” We discussed some of the major differences between the Old and New Testaments. It was mentioned the Old Testament is sometimes called the “Law of Moses,” or, just “the Law,” and that Christians are no longer under that old law.
This begs the question, “If we are no longer under the law and now under the New Covenant of Jesus (ie. the New Testament), then why do we have, or even need the Old Testament?” That’s an important question because there are some brethren who believe it isn’t necessary. There are many who have never read the Old Testament and some see no value in it at all. I’ve known people who have communicated to me that they don’t want to hear anything from the pulpit but the New Testament (obviously, I had been and still preach from the Old Testament).
I’ve known others who flat out refuse the Old Testament. To be quite honest, I simply do not comprehend that type of thinking. It makes absolutely no sense to me! Allow me to explain.
Look at what the apostle Paul wrote in his epistle to the Christians in Rome (fill in the blank), “For whatever things were written before were written for our __________ , that we through the __________ and __________ of the Scriptures might have _________.”(Romans 15:4). So, before the New Testament was even completed, we have here one of God’s divinely appointed, inspired writers explaining why the ancient Scriptures are important to our faith. Shouldn’t that be enough to convince anyone of the value of ALL of God’s Word? If not, then don’t forget to read what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Here, he clarifies that ALL Scripture is: (a) inspired by God, (b) it is useful, and (c) will make the faithful believer, “complete.” Again, notice the word “all.” These two verses are the best reasons why we need the Old Testament. So, if we have established the necessity of Scripture, then what is it about the Old Testament that Christians need today? We can answer that question with three easy-to-remember points: Reference, Redemption History, and Reflection.
While reading the New Testament, especially the Gospel accounts, there are numerous references to personalities, events, and teachings in the Old Testament. In fact, there are some 855 times it is referenced or cited in the New Testament! While opinions on this vary, it appears that all but 10 books of the Old Testament are quoted by New Testament writers. With that many references, it is certainly necessary to be able to review where the quote is located, who said it, and why. Not to mention, that the New Testament is full of words, concepts, and specifics that can only be explained by reading about them in the Old Law. Without it, it would be virtually impossible to understand a large portion of the New Testament.
The reason for Jesus coming to earth, the need for salvation, and the purpose of heaven would be greatly obscured and quite confusing without the Old Testament writings! How would we know the history of mankind, the formation of the universe, the fall of man into sin, mankind’s tendency to reject God, and the loving plan of redemption that our Father unfurled over the centuries if we didn’t have them written down to read about and study? Read how Peter describes this in 1 Peter 1:10-12.
Even though we are Christians under the law of Christ, reading the Old Testament will cause one to reflect upon their own life. The examples of God’s faithful servants, of those not so faithful, the rebellious, and even His enemies are written down to help us reflect upon the nature of God, His love for His creation, and His sovereignty as Judge. It is written to help us contrast our own lives against those who triumphed or failed. To show us that God loves His creation, therefore, He loves you! It is written down so that, as the Psalmist put it, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You,”(Psalm 119:11) When you pray to God today, thank Him for His word! Then, show that thanks by putting it into YOUR heart!