Author: Ron Graham
Is the Old Testament Needed?
—Should Christians use it?
In this lesson we ask the question, Are the Old Testament Scriptures for Christians? We are considering whether the New Testament scriptures are sufficient today, or whether we need and must heed the Old Testament as well.
Imagine that somehow the Old Testament Scriptures vanished, and not a trace of them could be found anywhere in the world. Would we miss them?
Our previous lesson noticed that the scriptures Timothy had known since childhood —an obvious reference to the Old Testament scriptures— remained able to give Timothy the wisdom that leads to salvation. Those scriptures were still profitable for teaching, and able to equip for every good work (2Timothy 3:14-17). It would be a great loss therefore, if the Old Testament scriptures were no more.
However, I've rushed ahead. Let’s just backtrack, and allow an argument to be made for the idea that Christians don't need the Old Testament. Then we'll allow the argument that they do. Finally we will explain how both ideas are really in agreement even though they seem to be opposite.
1 The Case for No
Here are arguments that might be used to support the idea that Christians don't need the Old Testament scriptures...
- 2Cor 3:6-8 The Old Testament is a ministry of death.
- Colossians 2:14 Jesus erased the Old Testament. He nailed it to his cross.
- Hebrews 1:1-2 Today God speaks through his son. Therefore the Old Testament is for the people of times past.
- Hebrews 8:6,13 As Mediator of the New Testament, Christ has made the Old Testament obsolete.
2 The Case for Yes
Here are arguments that might be used to support the idea that Christians do need the Old Testament scriptures...
- Acts 17:2-3 18:24,28 Paul and Apollos preached from the Old Testament.
- Romans 15:4 Old Testament Scripture was written for our learning.
- 1Cor 9:9-10 It was written for our sakes.
- 2Timothy 3:15-16 Every scripture (including Old Testament) is profitable for our teaching and able to make us wise unto salvation.
- 2Peter 3:2 We are to be mindful of the words which were spoken previously by the holy prophets.
3 The Explanation
These arguments seem to be contradictory, but the Bible does not contradict itself. So how do we harmonise the scriptures above which seem to be supporting two opposite cases?
In one sense, the Old Testament is for Christians, yet in another sense it is not. It boils down to the difference between testimony and law. Isaiah says...
Bind up the testimony,
Seal the law
Among my disciples...
To the law and to the testimony!
If they do not speak according to this word
It is because they have no dawn...
The Old Testament is both these things...
- A law to be obeyed.
- A testimony to be believed
The Old Testament may be considered as a system of law to be obeyed. It contains a great many laws which God gave to the children of Israel. As such, it is no longer in force, because that old law was abolished and replaced by our Lord Jesus Christ when he died on the cross. This is where the case for "no" above holds true.
The Old Testament may also be considered as a testimony to be believed. As a testimony, it contains...
- The gospel of Christ,
- Essential historical facts,
- Messianic prophecies,
- Great examples of faith, and
- Timeless principles.