“We live under grace… not the Law!” I’ve heard that over and over again from people in the Christian Church speaking of the Old Testament in a manner that seems to suggest that the Old Testament is lesser than the New Testament – or unnecessary altogether. Quite honestly, I think those who use that phrase, often do so for a possible number of reasons: most likely, they believe Christ and the New Covenant of grace replaces the Old Testament and so it is no longer relevant; but other arguments include that it’s too hard to understand; they chose to disassociate themselves with particular aspects they don’t like about it; or perhaps it feels like nothing more than a set of rules and anything with rules just feels like an insult to their individuality.
I read a blog recently by a guy who had previously been a pastor and now describes himself as simply a “Jesus guy.” In his blog he stated outright that the Old Covenant (Testament) of the Law that was given through Moses was replace with the coming of Christ and a New Covenant (Testament) of grace. In theological terms, this is called Replacement Theory. In a very real sense, it says that the church has replaced Israel in God’s plan – and he had quite a few “Amen!” comments as a result of his arguments for this Replacement Theory.
In my years in the church, I don’t recall ever learning how the Old Testament is meant to point people towards Christ – except perhaps in the prophecies surrounding the birth of Christ. But… many of the stories, objects, and people recorded in the Old Testament really do serve a purpose in moving the Biblical narrative forward to Christ!
For those who feel that the Old Testament was somehow diminished or done away with at the coming of Christ, you may want to know that there is a great wealth of information about who Christ is, that was also done away with in the process. It takes some work and effort on our part to understand how Christ is visible in the Old Testament, but is our God worth our study?
Here are a couple of things to consider. Jesus, Himself, says that the scriptures are about Him!
You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me, yet you refuse to come to me to have life. John 5:39-40
First of all, the scripture Jesus speaks of are the Old Testament books! There were no other scriptures at that time. Jesus was a Jew. He lived among Jews. He worshiped with them in the Temple and He read the same scriptures as the Jews and loved those Scriptures! He quoted Old Testament scripture constantly throughout His ministry and He used those scriptures to instruct the people.
I think in the passage above, Jesus was making a statement that the Jews were so concerned with following all the rules of the scriptures (and then all the oral rules they imposed on top of the scriptures) to the letter, but failing to see their purpose – the fulfillment of the scriptures found in the life of Christ.
Paul also states in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
Again, the Scriptures that are being referenced are the Old Testament books! The New Testament had not been put in place yet! And what does Paul say about these Scriptures? They are USEFUL! They are words from God Himself! The teach us, rebuke us, correct us, and train us to be righteous and holy followers of Christ and in the process we are equipped to do God’s work.
Those are some pretty strong arguments to not only keep the Old Testament as valuable, but to actually study it for what it says about Christ. (You can start with the Tabernacle Devotional study that I put together if you aren’t sure where to start.) It is common to study the Bible to gain practical application or insight for our lives. In studying the Old Testament, that practical application or insight might simply be to gain a bigger perspective of who God is; how He gave us insight into His Son before the Son ever existed on earth; and how His word has been treasured and preserved over the ages.
For greater insight into how the Old Testament is discussed in the New Testament, you might also try reading The Letter Writer: Paul’s Background and Torah Perspective by Tim Hegg. It’s an excellent resource to understand the Old Testament through Paul’s Messianic Jewish eyes.