Too often, out of any number of beliefs, Christians neglect the Old Testament. We find it difficult to engage with lengthy genealogies, tables of laws, and confusing prophecies. Some even may see it as being sub-standard; after all, there are no words printed there in red ink. And some reject the Old Testament outright—if that is the Old Covenant, what has it to do with we who are in the New? And didn’t the Law pass away with Christ’s resurrection? We like to think such complaints bear validity. The older narratives are certainly more fun for Sunday-school classes, and no book is more beloved than the Psalms; but if it is only an “old” testament, what use have we for it? Is a fallen humanity saved by genealogies or old moral stories, if that is what we find in the Old Testament? Brothers and sisters, we need so much more than stories. We need the Gospel, salvation to all who believe. God did not give us a book so we might ignore it, but so we understand our need for it.
First, the Old Testament shows us our sin. There is a godless lie, historically called “antinomianism,” which deceives souls with the idea that the believers need not bear fruit or be regenerated in their spirits. The antinomian believes that the Law is dead and gone following the advent of the new covenant. It argues that the moral imperatives of the Old Testament are simply outdated instructions, thus inapplicable to our modern culture. Sexual immorality defiled the church in Corinth, but in America, one may profess to be a Christian and still support fornication, adultery, homosexuality, and a host of other sins. To condemn sin as sin is to be “close-minded,” “Pharisaical,” or “on the wrong side of history.” It’s the sinister belief that freedom in Christ means what was once sin now is not. It is in all forms an idolatrous re-interpretation of the Scriptures which sets humanity’s desires as paramount to the holiness of God. This heresy is committed every time we determine that the morality of God does not apply to the Christian.
What the antinomian fails to see is that though we are set free from our slavery to the Law, the Law and the Old Testament narratives prove to us our need for a Savior. Paul explains it as such Romans 7:13, where he writes:
“Did that which is good [the Law], then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, producing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure” (emphasis added).
With every law in the Scriptures, we are able to examine ourselves and understand the extent of our sinfulness. With every shortcoming of every character, from Adam and Eve to the kings of Israel, we see the same failures reflected in ourselves. And with every failure to uphold the Law, we are reminded that our salvation is not from our works, but from Christ.
Second, the Old Testament guides us to a sanctified life. There is another lie which preys upon the church—the opposite of antinomianism. Called “legalism,” it is the lie of justification by works and not by faith. And despite the all-out assault made by the apostles against it (perhaps most notably Paul’s polemical letter to the Galatians), legalism remains in the spirit of those who believe that by righteousness they can ensure their salvation. Paul makes it clear that if we hold to such a philosophy, “Christ is of no advantage to us”. Make no mistake, our salvation is of faith alone, through grace alone.
This is the distinction between our justification (righteousness before God) and our sanctification (righteousness before each other). To pursue righteousness, we again need the Old Testament, as it describes what righteous living is. To follow the Law is to strive to glorify God–that is why we long to bear the fruit of the spirit within us. It is why the apostle James urges his readers to remember that faith is shown by the bearing of fruits. We are justified by the grace of God, and we are sanctified at the work of the Spirit bearing fruit in us. All of that is predicated on the hope we have in the Gospel. For as Paul wrote in his letter to the Corinthians, our lives are all for naught if Christ has not been raised from the dead. If we are convicted of our sin and seek to glorify God by use of the Old Testament, we must have assurance that it points to the hope of our salvation.
Third, the Old Testament guides us to rejoice in the Gospel. If it is indeed true that this is God’s Word, and if it is indeed true that He has had a plan from the beginning, then there is not one law, not one lineage, not one parable or story that is lacking in the hope of the Gospel. The Gospel is what gives us life everlasting, it is the only source of hope, of nourishment! We need more than moral stories–we need to be able to see the Gospel.
Isn’t God’s search for Adam in the Garden a foresight of Christ seeking out the sheep who strayed from his flock?
Or when Moses strikes the rock, isn’t the water that floods forth to give life to the Israelites in the desert showing us the Son of Man, whose side was pierced, from which blood and water flowed as He died to give us life?
Or isn’t every law a reminder of the sins which we commit, but which Christ has not, so that His righteousness could be imputed to us?
How great is our God, who from the beginning of time determined to reveal His love for us throughout the entirety of history! The Law, which would have us trapped in our own sin and death, is a tool for righteousness. The stories, which we may neglect as only moral lessons, are a great tapestry woven out of threads of the Good News. The Old Testament is not antiquated, it is not outdated, it is not inapplicable. It is the very Word of God, sufficient for our lives, profitable, and in Paul’s words, “for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness, that the people of God may be adequate for every good work.”
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the authors. They do not proport to reflect the opinions or views of the Gordon Review, editorial staff, or its members.