Most Christians have read through most or all the New Testament (NT), but few have read the entire Old Testament. Why is it important for Christians to understand the Old Testament (OT)?
- Jesus claimed that the OT testifies about him (Luke 24:27/44, John 5:39). When we read the OT, we are reading about him!
- The OT was the Bible of Jesus and the apostles (Matt. 5:17; Acts 24:14; 2 Tim. 3:15)—their understanding of God came from the Hebrew Scriptures. Can we really understand their teaching without knowing the source of their beliefs that formed their worldview?
- Jesus is the God of the OT (John 1:1) and calls himself the “I AM” (Exodus 3:14) through the seven “I AM” statements in John 6-15.
- Jesus’ teaching comes from the OT. The Greatest Commandment came from Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. The sermon on the Mount clarified the true meaning of many OT verses. He did not come to destroy the Law but to fulfil it (Matthew 5:17-19). He only claims that one of his commands was a “new commandment” (John 13:34-35).
- The New Covenant fulfills the Old Covenant(s)—the New Testament (or covenant) describes how Jesus fulfilled the Old Testament (Heb 8:7-13). The NT authors quote the OT as the source of their authority. The OT describes the first four covenants (Adamic-Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic); the NT describes the New Covenant, which is partially described in the OT (e.g., Jer. 31:31-34)
- The gospel was first announced in the OT (Isaiah 61:1-2/Luke 4:16-21, Romans 1:1-2, Hebrews 4:2). By understanding the gospel of the OT, we can better understand the gospel of the NT.
- Paul commanded us to learn from the OT (Rom 15:4, 1 Cor 10:11) as an example of what to do and what not to do.