Beginning on April 11th, we will begin a 5 week series called “The Gospel According to the Pentateuch.” The Pentateuch, if you do not know, is the name given to the first five books of the Old Testament; Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy. This is, of course, a lot of material to cover in series that is only five weeks long. Nevertheless, an overview of the collection of books that are sometimes referred to as “The Old Testament of the Old Testament” can be helpful because of how foundational they are to the rest of the Old Testament. As we start this study, it might be worthwhile to consider some basic reasons for studying the Old Testament as Christians. So here are six reasons, adapted from Sidney Greidanus’s book Preaching Christ From the Old Testament.
1) The Old Testament is part of the Christian Canon
The first reason for studying the Old Testament is that the church has accepted it as a part of it’s canon. It makes up the rule and standard of the faith. When the writer’s of the New Testament referred to “scripture” it was our Old Testament that they had in mind. Thus commands like “give attention to the public reading of scripture” (1 Tim 4:13) or reminders that “All scripture is inspired by God and useful for teaching…” (2 Tim 3:16-17) are meant to push us to study and understand our Old Testaments and think of it as equal to the New Testament.
2) The Old Testament Discloses the History of Redemption Leading to Christ
The Old Testament shows us God’s acts of redemption in a history that stretches from the creation to just prior to the coming of Christ. Therefore, the coming of Jesus is the culmination of this history. Just as the Old Testament is an incomplete story without the fulfillment found in the New Testament, the New Testament is incomplete without the preparation of the Old Testament to build upon.
3) The Old Testament Proclaims Truths Not Found in the New Testament
The New Testament does not repeat everything that the Old Testament teaches. Often, it simply assumes it. If we were to only read the New Testament our theology would be shallow and incomplete.
4) The Old Testament Helps Us to Understand the New Testament
Because the New Testament assumes things from the Old Testament, we must study the Old in order to understand the New. Blood, Covenant, The Kingdom, Salvation, Prophet, Priest, King, Atonement, Law, Faith, Hope, Love, Christ, Son of Man, good Shepherd, and Servant of God (just to name a few) are concepts that would make no sense to us unless we understand the Old Testament background.
5) The Old Testament Prevents Misunderstanding the New Testament
We will inevitably misunderstand our New Testament without understanding the Old. This has been a problem for the church since the first generations after the New Testament were written. The Church spread out into the Greco/Roman world and people therefore imposed their Greco/Roman assumptions onto the New Testament. These were not the assumptions that sat beneath the New Testament though. This resulted in a misunderstanding and sometimes even a perversion of the New Testament. This problem continues even today as people bring their own assumptions to the New Testament. The only solution is to immerse ourselves in what the New Testament assumes; the Old Testament.
6) The Old Testament Provides a Fuller Understanding of Christ
Jesus taught that the Old Testament witnessed to him. In his life he also lived out of, fulfilled and taught the Scriptures. Jesus tells us that we must understand the Old Testament to understand who he is.
“Beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them the things about himself in all the scriptures.” – Luke 24:27