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8 Truths About the Old Testament

We cannot "unhitch" ourselves from the very Word of God and his plan revealed in its pages.

"The Old Testament is like a richly furnished but dimly lit chamber." --Benjamin Warfield

“Beware of despising the Old Testament…Let us never listen to those who bid us throw it aside as an obsolete, antiquated, useless book...Much infidelity begins with an ignorant contempt of the Old Testament.“ --J.C. Ryle

"If you believed Moses, you would believe Me; for he wrote of Me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe My words?" --Jesus in John 5:46

"Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill... Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and so teaches others, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven." --Jesus in Matthew 5:17-19

"You study the Scriptures diligently because you think that in them you have eternal life. These are the very Scriptures that testify about me." --Jesus in John 5:39

"And He closed the book, and gave it back to the attendant, and sat down; and the eyes of all in the synagogue were fixed upon Him. And He began to say to them, 'Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing.'" --Jesus in Luke 4:20-21

Then he said to them, "These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled." --Jesus in Luke 24:44

As we continue our study of Hebrews, we are now entering chapter seven. The following four chapters (Hebrews 7-10) will focus on the superiority of Christ and a person we can hardly pronounce and even know less about – Melchizedek.

As we turn our attention over the summer to these chapters, I (Darin) thought it best to give a larger overview of why the Old Testament itself is not something we want to “unhitch” ourselves from as Christians. Rather, as our Savior did, to embrace it and see how it relates to the Father’s divine plan for the salvation of all those who would be saved. 

So, below, several reminders (not an exhaustive list, to be sure!) about the place of the Old Testament and what it means for us:

1. If a pastor or professor encourages you to unhitch yourself from the Old Testament, your response should be simple: Unhitch yourself from their preaching. Today, the Old Testament is demoted and even derided by professing Christians. Jesus says the Old Testament is ultimately about him (Luke 24:27). So, if you preach an Old Testament sermon without preaching Jesus, you're not only not preaching a discernibly Christian sermon, you're disavowing Jesus' own words. May we preach it as Scripture, as divine truth, as foretelling the Messiah, and for the glory of God.

2. If no one else says it, here are some truths about the Old Testament:

  • It is not sub-standard. Its ethics are not unholy.
  • It does not AT ALL teach a different God than the New Testament.
  • It was the Bible of Jesus Christ & his apostles.
  • It points in full to Christ.
  • It is God's holy Word.

3. I would never give someone a copy of the New Testament without a copy of the Old Testament. It would be like telling them only half a story.   Yes, if there is a lesson for us from the Old Testament, it is that man, including God’s covenant people, left to himself, will forsake God. And we hear today that the Old Testament is deficient. But God LOVES, for instance, when we rejoice in His triumph over evil (Joshua), sing Hannah's song (1 Samuel), pray and sing the Psalms, mourn fallenness (Lamentations), behold our glorious God (Ezekiel), and worship the wrath-bearing servant (Isaiah)—among many examples.

4. What was only promised and longed for in the prophecies of the Old Testament is wonderfully fulfilled in the New through the person and work of Jesus Christ. He is God's "Amen" to every promise! Jesus was and is the PERFECT FULFILLMENT of the Old Testament.  Jesus does not possess tiny hints--itty-bitty specks--of the warrior. The line of holy warrior-kings did not die with David or his sons. The Son of God crushed the head of Satan (Gen. 3:15). He rescued us.

5. The Gospel in the Old Testament can be explained as follows:  

--God is holy, we are sinful (Isaiah 6:1-6).

--Our sin earns death (Ezek. 18:20).  

--The Messiah will die for our sin (Isaiah 53:4-6).  

--God's Holy One rose from the dead (Ps. 16:10).

--You must repent of your sins (Ezek. 18:30-32).

--Eternal life or eternal death awaits (Dan. 12:2).

6. The entire weight of the prophetic expectations of the Old Testament were placed on the shoulders of the baby in the manger. Even a superficial reading of the Old Testament should be enough to demolish belief in a feel-good, doting-grandfather religion. The gospel of human potential is no gospel at all. "It is impossible for the blood of bulls and goats to take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4). With one sentence the entire Old Testament religious system is turned into a shadow of a coming reality. True saints in the Old Testament knew the sacrifices were pointers. Now we are called to tell all the tribes of the world that their sacrifices are, at best, pointers. One sacrifice (Jesus Christ, the God-man) avails.

7. The riddle of the Old Testament: "The Lord a God merciful & gracious...forgiving iniquity & transgression & sin, but who will by no means clear the guilty” (Ex. 34:6-7). How can God forgive sins without becoming unjust? Answer: the cross God judged Jesus so He can give us mercy. The Old Testament not only looks forward to the Messiah’s revelation of God, but also to His power to regenerate the human heart & make it a willing recipient of that revelation. As God declared through the prophet Jeremiah, “I will give them a heart to know Me” (Jeremiah 24:7).

8. People in the Old Testament were saved just like us: They looked forward to the cross; we look backward at it. Hebrews 11 is not just a list of heroes. It is a soteriological commentary on the Old Testament. God has always saved people the same way: by grace through faith in Christ. In the Old Testament, people were saved on credit by trusting in God's promise to send a Savior. In the New Testament, people are saved on debit by trusting in the Savior who came, and is coming again.

Christian, remember: We are going to hit some hard parts as we enter Hebrews 7-10. But… The whole Bible is about:

--Anticipation—Jesus is coming

--Gospels: Manifestation—Jesus has come

--Acts: Proclamation—Tell the whole world about Jesus

--Epistles: Explanation—How Jesus' lordship transforms His church

--Revelation: Consummation—Jesus is coming soon