What Good is the Old Testament?

Bible How do you view the Old Testament? If you grew up in Churches of Christ, you likely grew up in a Bible-oriented church. You probably learned the great stories of the Old Testament as a child only to be told, as you got older, they were interesting but altogether non-authoritative. They helped us understand history…and kept us interested in bible class. But, they didn’t hold any real sway over Christians. 

Of the various hermeneutical mistakes we (and other movements) have made, our “dispensational” view of the Old Testament may be the most damaging. A feaux-Marcionite approach allowed one to dismiss Scripture’s claims with a quick, “but that’s the Old Testament,” and avoid the majority of Scripture as directive for life. We exempt certain inspirational passages (like Psalms) and historical items we need to maintain (like Creation, the Ten Commandments), but we have always kept our distance from the Old Testament Scriptures. In so doing, we have distanced ourselves from the core teachings emphasized in the Old Testament, particularly God’s sovereignty and God’s thirst for justice. Even the language “old” testament shows our hand on this. When we diminish the "Old" Testament, we impoverish ourselves by closing off a large portion of God's self-revelation.

Obviously, everything changes when Jesus comes to earth. The incarnation, life, death and resurrection of Christ changes how sins are atoned for and gives us the perfect revelation of the Kingdom enfleshed, to name a couple of the biggest revolutions. We are now under grace, not law. I’m certainly not lobbying for a return to law over grace. Nevertheless, the Old Testament is not synonymous with “the law,” in a one-to-one way. It is God's Word, if we are to believe God's Word.

We must remember that Christ himself quoted and alluded to the Old Testament constantly, saying, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished. Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. ” (Matthew 5:17–20) It was also the Old Testament Paul spoke of as “God-breathed” and “useful,” charging Timothy to preach it. This is just the beginning of evidence for continuing reverence and application of the Old Testament for life. It’s everywhere. So, why this aversion to the Old Testament?

I know some who go so far as to make the argument that Jesus wasn’t really a Christian because the era of the church didn’t commenced until Pentecost. His life was helpful in the way the Old Testament is helpful, but we are only “bound” by Acts – Revelation.

Huh?

Do any of you find this hermeneutic still active? Why does it matter?

 

Dr. Tim Spivey is Lead Planter of New Vintage Church in San Diego, California. He is the author of numerous articles and one book, "Jesus: The Powerful Servant." A sought after speaker for events, Tim also serves as Adjunct Professor of Religion at Pepperdine University. Tim serves as a church consultant, and his writings are featured on ChurchLeaders.com, Church Executive magazine, Faith Village, Sermon Central, and Giving Rocket.

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