I thank God every day that Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament (OT) on our behalf and that we are not obligated to carry out the religious routines and some of the civic laws. But there are two opposing camps in churches who take things too far when it comes to the OT. One camp tries to impose legalism on the Church by claiming we still have to do some of the religious rituals in the Old Testament, which I addressed in a previous post. At the opposite end of the spectrum is the camp who believes we should ignore the OT because they believe it has no benefits whatsoever to the Church. I already addressed why I disagree with the legalistic camp, now I’ll lay out why I disagree with those who dismiss the OT altogether.
But first let me say it’s clear that the New Testament (NT) exceeds the glory of the OT and is a superior covenant. Paul explained this in 2 Corinthians 3:9 when he said, “For if the ministration of condemnation [i.e. the OT] be glory, much more doth the ministration of righteousness [the NT] exceed in glory.” Hebrews 8 also explains that Jesus is “the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises” than the OT.
We know that the OT is good for showing unbelievers how sinful they are in God’s eyes and points them to the Savior, but what good is the OT to believers? According to Paul in Romans 15:4, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” He also tells us in 1 Corinthians 10 “Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted. …Now all these things happened unto them for examples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” In this instance, he’s talking about what the Israelites experienced under Moses.
So taking these scriptures into consideration, here are the benefits of knowing the OT:
- It aids our learning to expand our knowledge. We get in-depth views of what pleases God and what upsets him. We discover how we got here and why things are the way they are. The wisdom books from Job to Song of Solomon teach us everything from how to handle adversity and unfairness in life to how marriages should work. It teaches us God at times will allow our suffering to strengthen us for future challenges. Then at other times it shows us God will deliver us from suffering to prepare us for future challenges. It teaches us that God prophesies and then his prophecies are fulfilled to increase faith in him.
- It prompts our patience. In the OT we find that often God’s promises and prophecies take years and years before we may reap the benefits of them as in the case of Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, the Israelites, etc. The OT saints teach us the benefits of waiting patiently for God to do things on our behalf and the bad things that can happen when we become impatient like King Saul who lost his kingship because he didn’t wait for Samuel to offer a sacrifice before a crucial battle.
- It gives us comfort. We discover the comfort of knowing that God is faithful to his word and to his people even when they mess things up. The Psalms teach us about the comfort that results when we offer up praise and thanksgiving to the Lord. Proverbs lets us know about specific tests we will face in life (like the temptation to get drunk or negative peer pressure) and gives us the answers to the tests before they come. This comforts us in knowing God cares enough to give us a heads-up.
- It gives us hope. The OT shows us the lives of real people with real problems and the real progress they experienced at the end of their trials of life, like David who was a fugitive for years before he received his promised throne. We have the hope that God will come through for us and that he will eventually punish the wicked.
- It gives us admonishment. Admonishment is a fancy word for positive reinforcement with loving warnings. In the OT we discover God will reward those who obey his righteous expectations and punish those who do evil. It encourages us to do good and to be just so we can reap the benefits and warns us about the bad things that can happen if we embrace wicked paths. It also teaches us that doing good is worth it even when we don’t reap the benefits of it in this life.
Yes, the OT is still worthwhile and we dismiss it to our own disadvantage.
Harry A. Gaylord