Who Needs the Old Testament?

We don’t have much room for the Old Testament anymore. Sure, we’ll take some of the better stories like Joseph, Ruth, David, and Daniel. We might even read some Psalms and quote some proverbs. If we are particularly educated, we might grab something from Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Malachi. We have a general familiarity with Job and know the first three books of Genesis pretty well. But the rest of the Old Testament, we could do without. Who wants to read about z being the son of y who was the son of x? Who can make it through rules about mold and chewing cud and goat’s milk? Most intolerable of all may be the passages about killing entire nations, rules for slavery, and examples of polygamous marriages. In the end, many would like to just use the Old Testament for general guidance while focusing primarily on Jesus’ teaching in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

There’s a little problem with that approach, though. Jesus didn’t ignore the Old Testament at all. According to Robert Saucy in his book, Scripture: Its Power, Authority, and Relevance, Jesus was so familiar with Old Testament teaching that at least 1 out of every 10 things that he says in the four gospels is a partial or full quote of an Old Testament passage (110). When tempted by Satan in the wilderness, his responses were quotations of Old Testament passages. Even more, whenever Jesus taught, he asserted the Old Testament as authoritative – not just helpful sayings. How many times does Jesus say, “According to Scripture,” or “Have you not read,” or “What did Moses command you?” Jesus talked about historic figures and events from the Old Testament as if they were historically accurate and true. Examples include Moses, David, Sodom, Lot’s wife, the men of Nineveh and Jonah. In the end, Jesus had a very high view of the Old Testament.

But, we might say, that’s the only Scripture Jesus had. Obviously, the New Testament wasn’t written at that time, so he had to rely heavily on the Old Testament. There are two specific passages that might help us understand that Jesus’ love of Old Testament Scripture wasn’t just circumstantial.

Matthew 5:17-18 (ESV)

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.”

Jesus revealed himself as the fulfillment of the Law and Prophets. He was explaining to the people that he was not a new revelation, but was the full revelation of what had already been revealed in the past. We’ll see in our next verse how far he takes this. Also, Paul expands on this understanding in Romans, Galatians and other places. The author of Hebrews also expands on this.

The point: if you do accept the New Testament, then you really must accept the Old Testament.

Luke 24:27 (ESV)

In the days following Jesus’ resurrection, his followers were very confused. Two of these followers were walking on a road on that resurrection Sunday when Jesus came and walked with them, though he didn’t reveal himself to them. They explained to Jesus what had happened in the past few days and how disappointed they were because they had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah of Israel. Jesus called them foolish for not understanding the prophets (another reason to read the Old Testament) and then Luke says this:

“And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

He showed the two men on the road exactly how he, Jesus, is the Messiah of all of the Old Testament. He is the ark of salvation, the promised land, the serpent lifted high, the great king, the suffering servant, and the great shepherd. The Old Testament, as seen through the interpretive lens of the life, death, and ascension of Christ, shows that God has done and is doing everything that He said He would do. He is patient and faithful. He is the savior.

Over the next ten weeks we, at Fellowship Church, will be walking through the whole Bible to see the Big Picture of what God is doing and the centrality of Jesus Christ in all of Scripture. I hope that you will take this time of study to read the Old Testament for the first time if you have never done so before and to read it with renewed vigor if you have read it in the past. All of Scripture is God-breathed and sufficient for salvation and godliness. Let’s spend this summer in Scripture and see how God will change us through that pursuit.

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