Posts in this series
- A New Guide to the Old Testament - Introduction
- A New Guide to the Old Testament - Order of the Canon
- A New Guide to the Old Testament - Setting
- A New Guide to the Old Testament - Transmission
- A New Guide to the Old Testament - Purpose
- A New Guide to the Old Testament - Christian Benefits
- A New Guide to the Old Testament - Reading Old Testament Stories
- A New Guide to Old Testament - Reading Old Testament Laws
- A New Guide to the Old Testament - Reading Old Testament Poetry
As we continue our guide to the Old Testament, an important questions must be asked: Why? As Christians, why should we study the Old Testament?
For many of us, this question is absurd. Of course we need to study the Old Testament; it’s attached to our Bibles!
But when a majority of our sermons come from the later testament, perhaps our actions don’t line up; our neglect of one testament reflects our preference.
Back in the 2nd century CE, Marcion saw a complete disconnect between the Old and the New Testaments. He felt there was so much of a difference between the two testaments that he thought the testaments described two separate deities: Yahweh was the angry god of the Old Testament, while Jesus was the loving, forgiving god of the New Testament. And while this heresy—now known as Marcoinism—was originally put down by the early church fathers, it has found a new voice in Richard Dawkins and the New Atheist movement.
But none of this answers the question I first posed: Why should Christians read the Old Testament? Below are 5 benefits Christians receive from reading the Old Testament:
1. Deeper appreciation of the New Testament
When Jesus and the New Testament authors refer to Scripture, they are talking about the Old Testament. And the New Testament is richly filled with quotations, allusions, and images from the Old Testament books. By reading the Old Testament, we have a fuller appreciation and understanding of the New Testament.
2. Highlights who God is and how He works
Through the Old Testament narratives, we see the characteristics of God on display. And in the same narratives, we see how He moves and shapes human history. He is not portrayed as the Deists imagine: the creator who is now removed from creation. Instead, the Old Testament shows how He is active in the course of human history.
3. Deemphasizes moralism
As Christians, it can be easy for us to look at the Old Testament people as great figures of faith. And many of them are, calling down fire from heaven or parting the waters or preaching against entire nations. But none of them are perfect.
When we read the Old Testament, we are reminded that these great figures of faith were deeply flawed individuals. They were just like us: they would succumb to sin, forget the faithfulness of God, or just simply disobey God. As we read these stories, we realize that the only constant in their lives—and in our lives today—is God’s faithfulness. It is not something we earn, and definitely not something we deserve, but we receive it anyway.
4. Shows relationship between God & His people
As I said above, the Old Testament highlights how God works in human history. But something greater happens in the Old Testament: God chooses a people. First Adam, then Noah, then Abraham, and finally the nation of Israel; the Old Testament is centered around a relationship between God and His people.
And so in the narratives, we see how God protects and delivers His people. In the Prophets, we see how God warns and punishes His people, eventually delivering them back to Him. And in the Writings, we see how Israel worships God.
5. Reveals God’s unfolding redemption plan
God’s salvation doesn’t start at the manger. The story of Jesus does not happen in a vacuum, but is rooted in the Old Testament. It is in the Old Testament we first see sin, and how pervasive and all-encompassing are its effects. Throughout the narrative we read mankind’s futile attempts at restoration, attempting to please YHWH—or any god for that matter—through actions. And ultimately we see the need for the cross, for redemption from our sins. We realize that it is not something mankind can do on our own, but must be left in the hands of God.
I know this list isn’t exhaustive, but it conveys some of the reasons why it is crucial for Christians to read the Old Testament. Why else should we read the Old Testament? Leave your thoughts in the comments below.Tweet