Why Believers Should Study the Old Testament

in-beginningThe story of God’s redemption of man and His creation is the greatest story ever told, but for some reason, a story that American Christians refuse to learn about in its entirety. It is not an exaggeration to say that the vast majority of American churches, both liberal and conservative, have made a conscious or unconscious decision to stay out of the Old Testament except for bits and pieces for reference material or an occasional fore into a Psalm. Rather than viewing the whole story of creation, fall and redemption as a unified piece, pastors today have focused almost 100% of their efforts on the Epistles and Gospels in the New Testament. The sad reality is that they are doing their flock a massive disservice and millions of Christians have an incomplete view of scripture, of God and His relationship with us. We say that we believe that all scripture is God breathed and profitable for the believer, but ultimately, the American church as a whole has decided to ignore almost 75% of it.

The simplest place to start in regards to the importance of studying the Old Testament is that it is God’s inspired words. If we truly believed that the Old Testament, just like the New Testament was given to the Children of God, whether to Israel or to those who are in Christ, why would we ignore so much of it? The Old Testament is God’s story of how, even in the face of complete and total rebellion of His people, He was constantly patient in the face of what should have resulted in total our destruction. God gave us the Old Testament in order for us to understand the Law and the need for a savior. Ultimately He gave us the Old Testament so that we can better understand who God is, His character and His will for us.

God, in no uncertain terms wants with a passion to know us and to be known by us. He gave us the whole Bible in order that He can show His People a small glimpse of His glory and magnificent mercy to a people who deserve none of it. Without the Old Testament, how would we know and believe that He is the creator and sovereign over all things? Without the Old Testament how would we know the extent of His patience with those who fall and kill their spirit with sin? In fact, how would we even know what sin is if it wasn’t for God giving us the Law so that we might know what it means to be holy in the sight of a holy God? The truth is that we wouldn’t. So many American Christians have a Sunday school understanding of the Law, of the origins of the sacrificial system, of redemptive history as a whole, which leads ultimately to a Sunday school understanding of God and what He has done through Jesus Christ.

mosespartsFinally, and arguably the most important reason why Christians should take the Old Testament seriously is that Jesus and the Apostles took it seriously. The Old Testament was the Bible that Jesus and the Apostles quoted from. Jesus Himself is the fulfillment of the Law and of the Old Testament and took great pains to show His followers (us included) that this was the case. If Jesus and the evangelists believed that this was important, why do so few of us think it is also? The truth is that the weight of Christ’s and the Apostles’ quotations of the Old Testament lends credence and relevance to them. A complete biblical foundation built on the whole Bible is important on a variety of reasons but most notably because we don’t know Jesus if we don’t know His story.

A Christian who says that they wish to know Christ through His Word must read the Old Testament because Jesus was there in Genesis 1 in the creation of all things (John 1:1). Jesus was there in Exodus in the redemption and salvation of Israel in the freedom from slavery. Jesus was there in the Law and the sacrificial system that would allow the sins of many to be atoned for. Jesus was there when He was spoken of by the Prophets in the hope of the final redemption of God’s people. Jesus is the culmination of the whole biblical narrative, but we choose, for a variety of reasons to ignore most of that story. The majority of Christians might not know that they need to take the whole of the Old Testament seriously, but it is our responsibility to teach them the truth. For their sake and the sake of the whole bride of Christ.

Michael Davis
Senior Editor of Veterans to Christ. Served as a Cavalry Scout from 2005-2009. Iraq Veteran.