We live in the New Testament age; so why do we still study the Old Testament? It is important that firstly we remember that the Old Testament is as much the inspired word of God as the New Testament. Secondly, we need to be able to discern what we can learn from the Old Testament.
We can readily find reasons for studying the Old Testament. We shall look at them briefly.
Firstly, the Old Testament was written for our learning. “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope (Romans 15:4).”
The lives of the Old Testament characters are examples and warnings to us. “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come. Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall (1Corinthians 10:11-12).”
There are important lessons to learn from the history of the Bible. The ancients experienced many of the struggles we do today, albeit in different forms. They struggled with sins, doubt and disobedience. They experienced the triumph of faith. Which of these do Christians across the world not experience today?
The following reasons are gleaned from 2Timothy 3:15-17. Some dubbed it, ‘The Seven-fold Work of the Word.’ “And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness: That the man of God may be perfect, throughly furnished unto all good works.”
The Scriptures that Paul affirmed as inspired, and which Timothy had known from young, is what we call today, the Old Testament.
It is able to make one wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. “The law of the LORD is perfect, converting the soul: the testimony of the LORD is sure, making wise the simple (Psa 19:7).”
It is not the Law of Moses that saves but the Messiah and His gospel the Law was pointing to. Jesus rebuked the Pharisees, “Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come to me, that ye might have life (John 5:39-40).”
“The Old Testament is the New Testament concealed; and the New Testament is the Old Testament revealed”, so the ancient saying goes. Studying the Old Testament helps us to better understand and appreciate God’s great plan of salvation.
It is profitable for doctrine. We can learn much about who God is, what He has done for us and what He requires of us to do in the Old Testament. God does not change. He required faith coupled with obedience in the past as He does so now.
It is profitable for reproof. How often have we read of the ancient people of God losing sight of the covenant they shared with God, and He reproofed them for it? Today, as we journey to our heavenly home, we encounter similar pitfalls and temptations. The word of God continues to chastise us when we have erred.
It is profitable for correction. When the people of God strayed, He did not leave them in the lurch. He corrected them as a loving Father does His erring children. He showed them the way of repentance. Thank God that His loving kindness never ceases!
It is profitable for Instruction. The Scriptures teach us the way of holiness, without which no one can see the Lord (Hebrews 12:14). The psalmist declares, “Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful (Psalm 1:1).”
It trains us to be perfect, i.e., spiritually mature. As we submit to God to obey His will, we gradually grow into family likeness with Him. In the Old Testament, God set apart Israel to be “a kingdom of priests, and an holy nation (Exodus 19:6).” Today, we who are in Christ are “a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people”, that we “should shew forth the praises of him who hath called (us) out of darkness into his marvellous light (1Peter 2:9).”
It thoroughly furnished us unto all good works. “He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God (Micah 6:8)?” God still requires His people today to do good. “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Ephesians 2:10).”
Yes, we should still study the Old Testament for its richness and benefits. There is so much we can learn from the Word of God. Let us not neglect it.