What Value Is the Old Testament to the Christian Life?

What Value Is the Old Testament to the Christian Life?

All Scripture is profitable — not just the pages of the New Testament. But how should Christians read the Old Testament in light of Christ’s coming?

 

Hello, everyone. Well, it’s not easy to apply all of the New Testament to our lives, but it’s certainly easier than trying to apply to our lives all the things we read about in the massive Old Testament. So what role does the Old Testament play in our Christian lives? That’s the question today, and it comes from a listener named Sarah. “Hello, Pastor John — thanks for your ministry faithfulness over the years, this podcast, and for fielding my question. Generally speaking, the Old Testament is still very valuable to us — obviously — but to what extent? Now that the new covenant has arrived, God doesn’t require animal sacrifices for our sins, for example. So what are the best uses of the Old Testament for giving shape to our Christian lives today?”

 

Let me begin with the recommendation of a book. Jason DeRouchie just published a book called How to Understand and Apply the Old Testament. It has a huge section in it on the practical uses of the Old Testament for our day.

 

Jason is the professor of Old Testament and Biblical Theology at Bethlehem College & Seminary. I just listened to a message of his a few days ago about how the Old Testament is not just turned into useful Christian Scripture for our own Christian living, but was intended by God and by the authors themselves to be used that way beyond their own day — in the distant future, including our time. You can probably find that message, by the way, at the audio or video section over at the Bethlehem College & Seminary website.

Long-Expected Fulfillment

 

This is a huge issue that Sarah raises, but I think I can say just two or three things that will help her feel how precious and wonderful and useful the Old Testament is for our Christian life today.

 

“The Old Testament is precious and wonderful and useful for our Christian life today.”

 

The first thing to say is, when Jesus Christ came into the world as the long-expected Messiah of the Old Testament, a profound and dramatic change happened in the way we handle the Old Testament. This is because Jesus was the fulfillment — that’s the key New Testament word, the fulfillment — and the goal of so much Old Testament religion.

 

For example, Jesus was the fulfillment of all the Old Testament animal sacrifices, which were offered as a temporary way of pointing to the way God covers sins. The entire sacrificial system comes to an end in Jesus. We don’t need sacrifices anymore because Jesus was the decisive sacrifice himself.

 

He also is the high priest — the final, decisive, finish-it high priest, who mediates between man and God so that the sacrificial system and the priestly ministry of the sacrifices go away. We have a high priest that takes us right into the throne of grace, personally.

Dramatic Changes

 

That means that the ceremonial laws surrounding that entire system also undergo a dramatic change. For example, Mark says in his Gospel, “Thus he [Jesus] declared all foods clean” (Mark 7:19). You can see how the ceremonial law that we’re attaching to those processes (those ceremonies) are also altered.

 

When the gospel spills over the banks to the Gentile world, and not just ethnic Israel (so that the Gentiles are now included in the Abrahamic people of God), that ethnocentricity and earthly, political, theocentric approach of the civil government in the Old Testament undergoes a dramatic change.

 

The church today is not one ethnicity with an earthly homeland and its own form of civil government. Instead, the church is a scattered people who are exiles and sojourners among all the nations of the world, functioning as refugees in all kinds of alien political systems as representatives of the true heavenly citizenship. It’s a radically different form of being the people of God than the Jewish people were in the Old Testament.

 

You can see from just those few examples (and there could be others) that when we read the Old Testament, we are, by its own intention — as Jason DeRouchie showed me so well a few days ago — making the necessary changes of application for our day.

But nothing I’ve said in all that should be construed to imply that the Scriptures are not profoundly useful today. All of them — all of them — are useful. Second Timothy 3:16 says, “All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable” — profitable for Christians. Not just a few scattered, nice points like Isaiah 53. All of it is profitable.

God’s Welcome

 

There are two reasons for that that I’ll mention. There are others — lots of others probably.

 

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable, not just a few scattered, nice points.”

 

1. God has not changed. Therefore, wherever we rightly understand his character and his ways in the Old Testament, we are learning something true about the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who loved us and sent Christ to die for us.

 

2. When Christ died, his blood secured for us a joyful participation, a full participation as Gentiles in all the promises of God in the Old Testament. This is one of the most important truths that Sarah, in asking this question, should take hold of with all her might. It’s certainly the one that means most to me. Here’s the way Paul expresses it in 2 Corinthians 1:20: “All the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”

 

That is an absolutely glorious, amazing, wonderful, stunning, precious sentence. When you read the Old Testament, there are promises upon promises upon promises made to God’s people, and in Christ, they are yours.

 

You’re now grafted in — into the seed — because of Christ. Paul says in Galatians 3 that as the seed of Israel, you benefit from all the promises made to Israel. You become part of the Abrahamic hope of the world.

Ancient Promises for You

 

Here’s one example of how this works.

Hebrews 13:5 says, “Keep your life free from the love of money, and be content with what you have.” And here’s how he argues: “for he has said” — then he quotes Joshua 1:5 (words given to Joshua) — “I will never leave you or forsake you.”

 

“When Christ died, his blood secured for us a joyful participation in all the promises of God in the Old Testament.”

 

Then he continues in verse 6, “So we can confidently say” — and then he quotes Psalm 118 — “the Lord is my helper; I will not fear; what can man do to me?”

 

You see how he’s doing this. This is what we do. We hear the command, “Be content, and keep your life free from the love of money,” but how can I? Answer: go to the book of Joshua; go to the Psalms. You’ll hear promises that will steady your heart and make you peaceful. That’s amazing.

 

Here’s one more example from Romans 12:19–20. Paul is arguing that Christians should not return evil for evil. How does he argue? Here’s how he does it. He says, “Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written” — where? Deuteronomy 32:5: “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.”

 

He continues in verse 20, only this time without even telling us he’s quoting the entirety of Proverbs 25:21–22: “To the contrary, ‘if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” On and on he goes in the New Testament.

Two Glorious Benefits

 

My limited, but I hope significant and helpful, suggestion for Sarah is that two glorious uses of the Old Testament today are these. First, meeting God for who he really is so that we can know him and worship him since his character was revealed as truly in the Old Testament as in the New Testament.

 

Second, letting the hundreds of promises in the Old Testament wash over you as your blood-bought birthright in Christ Jesus so that every day, you set yourself free from sin by the superior pleasures of the promises of God.

Sourced through Scoop.it from: www.desiringgod.org

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1 Comment
  1. Michael 1 month ago

    Context is King… The context of Mark 7:19 is the wrongful changing of Gods commands in the Old Testament by the religious leaders to keep their traditions (Mark 7:1-3). The question was about eating “the clean foods” as sanctified by God “with unwashed hands” which the leaders claimed defiled those clean and sanctified foods (Mark 7:5). This was their “tradition” and is not in Scripture. Jesus opposed any changing of any of Gods commands (Mark 7:9). He was sinless and kept all Gods commands (Hebrews 4:15). So, Jesus cannot be saying one thing (eat “all foods”) while doing another (keeping all the commands). That is hypocrisy and He opposed it (Mark 7:6-8). What Jesus is teaching is that “all foods” (pasa ho broma – Greek) were clean no matter how they were eaten. And, “Broma” in the Greek specifically referred the foods in Mosaic Law (See Strong’s #1033) as sanctified by God and not “all foods” as it has been translated. Understand that “Food” (that which is eaten) for Jews (Jesus’ audience) is never anything “Unclean” (that which is not eaten and is not “food”). “Cow dung” is not “food” and for Jews “cow dung” and anything “unclean” (pork) were viewed as the same thing. Jews do not even consider pork to be “food.” “Food” for a Jew is only those things which God sanctified to be eaten. Serving a Jew pork is equivalent to someone serving you a plate of cow dung and claiming it is “food.” Yucky… Gross! This places the passage in its rightful and necessary Hebrew context.
    With that said… All of the New Testament is in the Old Testament… all of it! One third of the N/T is quoted from the Old… and even the 22 chapter book, “Revelation” has over 850 references to the O/T in it. Correctly understanding the N/T apart from the O/T is impossible… all of the prophecies about Messiah are in the O/T. Without the O/T Jesus becomes a very unfortunate first century Jew… with it… He is revealed as Israel’s long foretold Messiah and the “Son of Man” (Daniel 7:13-14) which He called Himself 88 times in the N/T! Many teach that “the son of man” was Jesus referring to His “humanity.” It was not… as the passage of Daniel reveals. It reveals Him as “the Son of God” which was the first century Jewish understanding of Daniel.

    You should also look at Deuteronomy 13. In a nutshell, anyone who changed the Law was a sinner… and was to be put to death. Jesus Himself said, “Do not think that I came to destroy (Strong’s #2647, dissolve, demolish, throw down or loosen the load of) the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill (pleroo).” (Matthew 5:17). The word “fulfill” is “pleroo” (Louw Nida #33.144) which in this Greek form means: “to give the true or complete meaning to something.” So, Mat 5:17 should read, “Do not think that I came to destroy Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to give its true meaning.” This is confirmed by the next verse in Matthew 5:18, “For assuredly, I say to you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle will by no means pass from the law till all is fulfilled (ginomai #1096 – Completed). Note that two entirely different Greek words (with very different meanings) are both translated as “fulfilled” (pleroo & ginomai) in the same passage! Here, “heaven and earth” must “pass away” before any of the Law can pass away… and a “jot” and a “tittle” are the smallest marks made in the “Hebrew” written language… so, Jesus is without question pointing at the Mosaic Law. Jesus then goes on to state in Matthew 5:19 “Whoever therefore breaks one of the least of these commandments, and teaches men so, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever does and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.” Jesus’ words… not mine. Context is King…and the context is: “The Beatitudes” (Mat 5:1-11) which are also… all in the O/T. This is the value of the O/T.

    PS God never once makes a distinction between what is “Ceremonial” and “Moral” Law… men have done this. Think about it? Why have men done this?

    I truly hope I have you thinking and you are blessed!

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