A pastor asked me what I was preaching in church. I said “Luke in the morning and Micah in the evening.” He was flabbergast. He admitted that if he announced any OT book, his church would empty until he was back into the NT.
I am blessed to preach at a church which offers an evening service in addition to the morning services.
I’ve tried to make it my practice to take the morning to preach expositionally through the New Testament, and the evening for the Old(er) Testament.
This gives our people a full-orbed notion of the redemption plan. It also builds biblical literacy. For example, we just completed Ecclesiastes, and are plunging into a series on the minor prophet Nahum.
There are four reasons I can think of to pay concerted attention to the OT…
1. The OT, like the NT, is just as inspired and profitable.
Ignoring the OT betrays a leaky view of inspiration. It’s an inconstant inerrancy.
The life-verse of inerrantists is 2 Tim 3:16. But the “All Scripture” of our mantra is referring to the graphē (writings) Timothy had at his disposal, namely, the OT. Since every word of it was “breathed out by God,” it behooves us to treat every word with due respect its provenance.
One example of how Jesus viewed the plenary, verbal inspiration of the OT is shown when He uses the present tense of the word “is” to make a theological point from the OT; “I am the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” therefore there must be a resurrection since those men are alive; because God did not say “I was the God of the late Abraham…” Even today we understand that a lot can ride on what the definition of “is” is. 😉
2. The OT elucidates understanding of the NT.
There are passages and concepts in the NT which would be obscure without the OT. The Lamb of God declaration of John Baptizer, as well as the concept of substitutionary atonement would be a riddle without an intimate knowledge of the OT backdrop.
Sign of Jonah? Order of Melchizedek? Day of the Lord? Certificate of divorce? Sympathetic high priest? Bethlehem? Crowd of witnesses? Kingdom of God? Grafted in? Unequally yoked? Muzzled ox? A beast in a pit on the Sabbath? Hanged on a tree? Aaargh, my Gideon’s NT makes no sense.
Not to mention the earth-shattering paradigm shift of Gentile inclusion; ‘What’s all the hoopla about Greeks in church or Samaritans in society?’ you ask. Turn to Ezra-Nehemiah and I’ll tell you. How did legalism come to be the arch-nemesis of the gospel? Why did the Jews reject their Messiah? How come everyone thought Jesus would bring political liberation? Well, it’s a long story…called the OT.
3. The OT has been given as an example for NT believers.
We are told that the OT was given to us as an example so that we can learn from the way God dealt with Israel. As Paul said in 1 Cor 10:11 “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.”
For example, one of the most illustrative episodes in the Bible to show the Lord’s discipline of sin in the life of a believer, as well as the doctrine of Perseverance of the Saints, is found in the life of David.
Jesus frequently appealed to the OT examples when refuting the false doctrine of the Pharisees. It seems one of his favorite introductory comments was, “Have you not read…?” Bear in mind these were men who had literally memorized how many syllables were on each line of the OT pages; so yes, they had read about David and the show bread! It happened as an example.
4. The OT elaborates on ethics omitted in the NT.
The biggie here is abortion. The OT is the air support for many ethical issues (bestiality, necromancy, just war theory, euthanasia, onanism, polygamy, slavery, genocide, suicide), but it is the whole sea-land-air assault force against the Satanic sin of abortion.
Though the OT is not binding on believers it is always applicable (I dealt with this in my post, Bodily Fluids & Skin Diseases: How Is Deuteronomy Relevant to You?)
I’m not content with being au fait with Sunday school stories, I’m advocating an intimate knowledge of the OT that matches our view of inerrancy, inspiration, and the sufficiency of Scripture. Put more bluntly, we should know the older two-thirds of the Bible as well as we know its little brother.
Am I going too far?