Most of us have heard the criticism, “You don’t believe in the Old Testament!” Most often this comes from a simple lack of knowledge as to the makeup and purpose of the Old Testament. Deeper than this is a misplaced understanding by them that there is a difference between the Old Law and the New Law and the fact that the Old Law was nailed to the cross (Col 2:14). Most frequently this is done in an attempt to go back to the Old Testament to try and justify certain activities today. The truth is however, that we do spend, as New Testament Christians, a great deal of our time, if not the majority of it, in the New Testament and it is possible that we appear to be, and may even indeed be at times, ambivalent toward the Old Testament scriptures. That being said, the Old Testament is certainly relevant, and I affirm essential, to the New Testament Christian today to understand God, His nature, salvation and the questions that heave plagued mankind from the beginning of time (i.e. where did we come from? What are we doing here? Where are we going?).
We believe in Genesis 1:1 and without it nothing else matters! Genesis 1:1-2:4 a tells us about God as Creator, He gives order to and cares for the creation. He should be worshipped as Creator and humanity is the central part of creation. We believe that we are spiritual beings created in the very image of God (Gen 1:26). We also learn how sin came into the world and how that sin separated us from God. It also tells us about His love, mercy and grace, His patience, forgiveness, wisdom and foresight.
We are also instructed in the knowledge of God’s wrath and sense of justice. In the “Flood Story” we see that God suffers, and judges reluctantly. God saves, remembers, creates, promises, and commits to theworld. In Genesis 12:1-3 God enters into a covenant relationship with Abraham that affects us even today. In that covenant we see the themes of God’s righteousness (Gen 15:6), His justice (Gen 18:25), as well as
testing and fear (Gen 12:1; 22:12).
We learn of the creation of a nation and their deliverance from bondage and oppression. We learn that God is in control and is a God of both goodness and severity. We learn of the Law that was given to the children of Israel (Ex 20-23) and the covenant God makes with them, making them His own special people. These laws that were given were both Apodictic (do or do not do) and Casuistic (if this, then that). We also learn
that Moses is a partner with the Lord (Ex 14:31): He faces the rejection of his own people (Ex 5:20-23; 14:10-12), and he mediates God’s power (Ex 14:15-16). Church leaders need to read and study these things often.
In the relationship between God and the children of Israel we learn a lot about the relationship that we share with God as His chosen people today. The Israelites murmured and complained when they should have been grateful and content. They failed to carry out the commandments of God, to be faithful and trusting. Through the Judges we learn how the people forgot about God and did evil, serving other gods.
God’s anger is kindled and He hands the Israelites over to their enemies. The Jews serve other nations for a number of years when God, in His mercy and grace, raises up a judge to deliver them. The Spirit of God comes upon that man and he leads the people of God and delivers them out of the hand of their enemies. The land once again is at peace, the judge dies, and the cycle starts all over again. Ultimately the children loose their inheritance altogether, but a faithful remnant always remains.
In the poetry we learn of acceptable and unacceptable attitudes of worship, service and devotion to God (Psalms). We learn of His wisdom (Job, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes). The prophets tell us of godly sorrow, humility, repentance, judgment and mercy. We learn of God’s will in caring for the lowly, poor, sick and needy.
The Old Testament tells us where we came from (Gen 1-2); it tells us why we are here (Eccl 12:13) and it tells us where we are going. In Galatians three we read, “Therefore the law was our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. But after faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor” (24-25). That Old Law, that was given to the Jews, was taken out of the way and nailed to the cross (Col 2:14) and
in Christ he has made out of two (Jew and Gentile) one special people, the Christian (Eph 2:15). Do we believe that the Old Testament is still relevant today? Absolutely! Every word of it! Be faithful!