The Lord Jesus declared on the cross, “It is finished (John 19:30).” He has completed the work His Father has sent Him to do—to be the propitiation for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2).
“For where a testament is, there must also of necessity be the death of the testator. For a testament is of force after men are dead: otherwise it is of no strength at all while the testator liveth (Heb 9:16-17).”
By His sacrificial death Jesus has fulfilled the covenant made at Sinai with the children of Israel and established a second, better covenant.
Today we are amenable to this New Testament established by the blood of Christ. No longer are we to keep the ordinances of the old. But even so the Old Testament scriptures remain an indispensable part of our Christian heritage.
The question often asked is: what purpose did the Old Testament, or the Law of Moses, serve?
Paul went to some length to explain to the Galatian saints.
“Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made (Gal 3:19)…”
First of all, the law was given as an ‘instructor’ to teach what sin is. Paul explained the same point in Romans.
“…I had not known sin, but by the law: for I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet (Rom 7:7).”
Second, the Old Testament law was never meant to justify anyone; rather, it condemned everyone as sinners.
“…for if there had been a law given which could make alive, verily righteousness would have been of the law. But the scriptures shut up all things under sin (Gal 3:21-22)…”
The same law cannot both condemn and acquit a person at the same time; that is a self-contradiction. Paul has made clear in Romans that both Jews and Gentiles are under sin.
“What then? are we better than they? No, in no wise: for we before laid to the charge both of Jews and Greeks, that they are all under sin…for all have sinned, and fall short of the glory of God (Rom 3:9, 23).”
Thirdly, it is the faith, or the New Testament system, which alone can save.
“…that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe. But before faith came, we were kept in ward under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed. So that the law is become our tutor to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith (Gal 3:22-24).”
The law acted as a guardian, pointing and leading the way to the system of faith which does save—the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“For I am not ashamed of the gospel: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek (Rom 1:16).”
Besides its purpose of explaining what sin is and pointing the way to the gospel, the Old Testament also helps to instil hope in us.
“For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that through patience and through comfort of the scriptures we might have hope (Rom 15:4).”
How do the Old Testament scriptures instil hope in us? When we turn to the pages of the Old Testament we read about the many times God exercised His faithfulness toward His chosen people, Israel.
God did mighty works in their behalf—destroying the army of Pharaoh in the Red Sea, leading the children of Israel across the wilderness into the Promised Land, wiping out the Assyrian army that laid siege to Jerusalem.
We read also of the times God took care of individuals who trusted in Him and obeyed Him. The heroes and heroines of the faith, some of them unnamed, are all examples for our learning straight out of the Old Testament scriptures.
We are reminded time and again of the power and faithfulness of our God. Truly, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble (Ps 46:1).” Through the scriptures, we find the hope we need to carry on with our pilgrimage to our eternal home in heaven.
The Old Testament also serves as needful warning for us.
“Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted…Now these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages are come (1Co 10:6, 11).”
The Old Testament not only gives us examples to emulate but also examples to avoid. Along the Christian journey we find traps and pitfalls laid out for us. Not all of our predecessors in the faith successfully navigated the minefield which is this world.
The Old Testament scriptures remind us of the children of Israel in the wilderness, how so many of them never made it to Canaan because of their rebellion and unbelief. Truly we need to pay attention to these tragic examples.
We are today amenable to the New Testament of Jesus Christ. But let us remember the Old Testament forms part of our complete inspired scriptures from God. There is so much we can learn from the beauty that is the Old Testament scriptures.