Why Should Christians Read the Old Testament

God’s Word is Precious

“Why do they put that old book with the New Testament?  It is not like we need it.”

The Old Testament can be intimidating.  There is a definite learning curve involved in reading it.  It is longer than the New Testament and contains unfamiliar names and terms.  Yet, it is no less valuable.  It is God’s Word just as filled with His Spirit as the Gospels.  It is, therefore, more valuable than gold.  You should get to know the Old Testament despite the trendy dismissal of it in some circles today.

I was browsing through a rack of Bibles at a local store when a fellow Christian walked up.  We struck up a conversation about the wonderful array of Bibles available.  I was enjoying discussing the types of translations and different layouts of each.  Then they dropped a bomb on me I was not expecting.  They could not for the life of them see why the Bible included the Old Testament.  They did not think a Christian should be concerned with that old book.

If you are surprised by this sentiment, join the club.  My jaw dropped and I did not know what to say for a moment.  This person is not alone in their feelings.  There are many in the church who feel the Old Testament is best to be avoided.  They are just not as open about it.  It is an ancient book supplanted by the Gospels.  It is less important than the New Testament.  It is just for the Jewish people.  There was even a famous pastor who encouraged you to be unhitched from the Old Testament.  The most extreme claim it is filled with atrocities and genocide.  The general attitude is since you have the Old Testament, why would we need the Old? Why-Read-The-Old-Testament

Jesus answered this question on the day of His resurrection.  He just completed the most important act in all of history – His death, burial, and resurrection.  The whole world is open and available to Him as the King who conquered death.  He will go on to teach His disciples and appear to many.  Yet, Jesus makes certain to make a stop on the Road to Emmaus to hold a Bible study…of the Old Testament.  It is likely the most perfect study of Scripture of all time and the New Testament was not yet written.

The Greatest Bible Teacher Teaches

25 He said to them, “How foolish you are, and how slow to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Did not the Messiah have to suffer these things and then enter his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he explained to them what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself.

Luke 24:25-27

The Risen Lord Jesus decides by His perfect will to meet up with two disciples as they are discussing the events of the last few days.  Jesus joins in and asks what they are talking about.  The subject of their conversation is startling.  It is Jesus’ failure.  They are talking about how they had hoped that Jesus was the Messiah, but all of their hopes are now dashed.  He died and they are giving up.  He must not have been the King they thought He was.  They are going away confused and sad.

Jesus failed them and they are telling Jesus about it.

Can you imagine how these disciples felt when they later realize they have been talking with Jesus?

A Gentle and Patient King

Jesus does not remind them of His words of the last three years of ministry in response.  He does not quote the Sermon on the Mount or the times He taught about His death and resurrection.   He also does not rebuke them for not seeing the work of God, the Risen Jesus walking with them.  He is patient and kind to His lost sheep.  Jesus leads them through what was likely the greatest Bible study of all time instead.  He does so using only the Old Testament.

Jesus takes them on a journey through the Old Testament.  He shows how Jesus of Nazareth is the real Savior they hoped for but did not understand.  The Gospels had not yet been written at this point.  Did you realize the Old Testament testifies to Jesus?  He says to the Pharisees that search the Scriptures because in them they thought they had eternal life, but it is the very Scriptures that testify to Jesus.Why-Read-The-Old-Testament2

Jesus came not to do away with the Old Testament but to fulfill it.  He takes all of the prophecy and types and shadows in it and brings them to perfection in one man, Him.    Yet there are many in the Body of Christ who have no interest in the Old Testament or even worse believe that it has no relevance for the church today and therefore have no idea of what is in it.  Those who forsake studying the Old Testament are greatly missing out.

Jesus Relied on the Old Testament

Jesus relied on quoting from the Old Testament to provide His defense as He was being tempted by Satan.  He referred to the prophet Jonah being three days in the belly of a whale to teach about the Resurrection .  Jesus cited Noah and the Ark to teach about the End Times and His second coming.  When Jesus hung upon the cross He quoted, among other things, Psalm 22:

My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?

This does not even mention how often the Apostles quoted the Old Testament.  Our often cited verses about the Word being powerful, being God-breathed, and the Word of God originally were talking about the Old Testament.  The Bereans were checking Paul’s teachings with the Scriptures available at the time – the Old Testament.

Jesus directly quotes the Old Testament at least 78 times in the Gospels but there is much more than quotations.  The pictures and symbols are all over the New Testament and stunningly beautiful.  You cannot understand the depth of the work of Jesus without understanding the pictures and allusions presented. The Old Testament provides the shadows of things brought beautifully to life in Jesus.

Mary Magdalene goes to the empty tomb after the Resurrection.  She looks in and sees angels at the head and foot of the place where Jesus had been laid.  This is where the blood of Jesus would have been poured out as His body laid there in death.  She saw His linen grave cloves laying upon the slab where Jesus had been.  This is a striking picture in itself.  But when you add in the symbolism from the Old Testament, it is magnificent.   It is a picture of the Mercy Seat of God in the Holy of Holies in Jerusalem.  This is the top of Ark of the Covenant.  It is where a man dressed in linen, the High Priest, sprinkled blood on the flat place on the Ark’s top on the Day of Atonement in order to secure God’s forgiveness of sin.  It was flanked on the sides by two angels overlooking it – one at the head and one at the feet.

The center of the sacrificial system of the Old Testament pointed to the perfect fulfillment in Jesus.  What the Day of Atonement offered for Israel for a year was fulfilled through Jesus for all mankind for eternity.  Examples could go on and on.  You completely miss out on the significance without an understanding of the Old Testament.Why-Read-The-Old-Testament3

The teachings of God contained in the Old Testament are more than just backdrop for the New Testament,  They are the very Word of God recorded for a reason.  In the actions of the people throughout the Old Testament period, from Adam to Noah to Abraham, you can see the work of God in their lives.  You observe how each followed God or chose to strike out on their own and the consequences that followed. You also get to see all of the pictures, symbols, types, and shadows of the Old Testament fulfilled in Jesus.  The Glory of God is on display.

It is great you love to read about the life and times of Jesus and of the early church.  The New Testament truly is the account of the Messiah revealed.  The Old Testament is just every bit of God’s Word and it is there for a reason.  You will love Jesus and the New Testament more through cherishing the Old.

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