Why Study the Old Testament?
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The importance of studying the Old Testament.
Studying the Old Testament
We begin five talks on Old Testament themes. My hope is to help connect the Old Testament and the New Testament to display the unity of the Bible for God’s glory and his people’s service. I want to “connect the dots” in Biblical Theology. To do so, it is necessary to ask a question no NT writer Would have asked: Why study the Old Testament? Then it is necessary to ask what any Christian reader of the OT must ask: How shall we, as Christ’s followers, understand the OT?
A. Traditional answers (some biblical)
- OT offers essential historical and terminological background to the NT.
- OT offers essential components for ethical persons and an ethical society (see Ex 20: 1-17).
- OT offers the essential promise of a savior (2 Sa 7; Isa 9:6-7; etc).
- OT covers subjects not discussed in the NT (see Lev 17-19).
- OT is an essential cultural-religious influence in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.
B. Biblical answers
- Jesus says the OT offers essential data for following him (Mt 5:17-20).
- Jesus says the OT speaks about him (Lk 24:44; Jn 5:46-47)
- Paul says the OT is God's word to direct the lives of believers (2 Ti 3:14-17) and that this word must be preached (2 Ti 4:1-2).
- Paul and the author of Hebrews claim that the OT offers negative (1 Cor 10:6-11) and positive (Heb 11) examples of how to live for God.
- Paul and the author of Hebrews claim that salvation comes by faith in God (and his Word that reveals him) in the OT and NT (see Ge 15: 1-6; Ro 4; Heb 11).
- Peter claims the purpose of God’s people is the same in the OT and NT (see Ex 19:5-6 and 1 Pt 2:1-9).
- Thus, the links between the OT and NT include, but are not exhausted by, God's promise of a savior. They include how we live each day. Of course, this assertion leads to “how” questions.
A. How shall we interpret the OT in a Way that helps us fulfill the NT’s claims for the OT? What are some options?
- Treat the OT as surpassed in the sense that the NT must repeat OT truths for them to be relevant.
- Treat the whole OT as valid unless some of its aspects are set aside by specific NT statement:
- Specific statement about some laws (Mk 7: 19)
- Specific statement about Christ’s work (Mt 27:46; Heb 7:11-28)
- Specific statement about the church's role (Ro 13)
- Understand that we will always have to work hard at interpreting the Scriptures. They are clear enough to be understood, but that does not mean their depths are grasped by a superficial effort.
- Treat the OT as God’s gracious, authoritative guidance to Christ and the Way we should live (Ps 119).
B. Starting with these precepts in mind will serve us well when we come to traditional “problems” such as lsrael and the nations, law and gospel, etc. lt will also help us deal better with hard stories.