Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Unhitching from the Old Testament

There's a deliberate effort by some church leaders today to discourage people from reading the Old Testament. That's most of the Holy Bible! Why on Earth would a pastor or a church leader do this?

Some say it's because they can't relate to it. They think God was too angry and may even perceive Him as being cruel when they read the Old Testament. I can understand how they could think that. If you read parts of the Old Testament without understanding why God had to do some of the things He did, you might perceive Him as cruel as well.

I like Francis Chan's thoughts on that last one. To paraphrase Francis, he said "I wouldn't have thought to do some of the things the way God did them. But then again, His ways are higher than my ways. His thoughts are higher than my thoughts. Who am I to question God?"

Thoughts about the Old Testament from Andy Stanley

In his latest book, Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World, megachurch pastor, Andy Stanley says the problem with the modern church is “our incessant habit of reaching back into the old covenant concepts, teachings, sayings, and narratives”. Andy claims that the Old Testament has led to the "prosperity gospel, the Crusades, anti-Semitism, legalism, exclusivism, judgmentalism,” and more”. He then asked church leaders: “Would you consider unhitching your teaching of what it means to follow Jesus from all things old covenant?”

I have to fervently and respectfully disagree with Pastor Stanley's analysis. When you take the teaching of the entire Bible as a whole and rightly divide God's word, I don't see how he came up with these ideas. The idea that the Old Testament teaches the prosperity gospel seems like a stretch to me. But the idea that the Old Testament is the cause of the Crusades and anti-Semitism are just too far-fetched.

It's not my intention to cause any harm to Pastor Stanley's reputation or to his following. I've heard that no one works harder to bring people to a saving faith in Jesus Christ that Andy. And that’s admirable. So I'm assuming his intentions and motives are good. After all, he makes it clear that he thinks that the Old Testament is one of the top reasons why some people refuse to believe the gospel. I just feel strongly that pastor Stanley happens to be very wrong about giving up on the Old Testament.

Why we shouldn't unhitch ourselves from the Old Testament

Did you know that Jesus never quoted from the New Testament? Not even one time! Of course, the New Testament wasn't even written yet. The point I'm about to make is that Jesus did quote from the Old Testament.

The phrase "it is written" is used more than sixty times in the New Testament (all of them referring to Old Testament scripture). Many of these references were uttered by Jesus, himself. In fact, Jesus used this phrase to refer to Old Testament scripture 3 times when He rebuked Satan who was trying to tempt Him in the wilderness (see Matthew 4, verses 4, 7, and 10).

The Apostles also quoted liberally from the Old Testament. In fact, the Apostle Paul quoted from the Old Testament 13 times in Romans 3:10-17, alone. Because Paul was a Pharisee, he had memorized much of the Old Testament scriptures. This enabled him to write this gem:
What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.”
Romans 7:7 NKJV
The law that Paul refers to, is the law that God handed down to Moses. In particular, he was referring to the 10 commandments. I know that many Christians don't believe the 10 commandments are relevant anymore. I'm going to address that in my next blog post.

If you have a Bible with cross-references in the margins, take a look. You might be surprised at how many times the New Testament authors quoted or alluded to scripture from the Old Testament.

I realize that there are aspects of the Old Testament that Jesus has made obsolete. For example, the temple, animal sacrifices, and earthly priests are no longer needed since Jesus fulfilled the law. Certainly, someone can come to a saving faith in Jesus Christ without knowing anything about the Old Testament. But they would be missing so much of the richness that the bible has to offer.

The richness of the Old Testament

For example, we wouldn't have the wisdom of books like Proverbs or Psalms, if we disregarded the Old Testament scriptures. We wouldn't have the story of creation, either. We wouldn't have the many prophecies that point to Jesus as being the Messiah. Evangelist Amir Tsarfati said it was the combination of his knowledge of the Old Testament scriptures along with the Jesus film that brought him to Christ. As an Israeli, born in Jerusalem to a Jewish family, he didn't even have the New Testament.

The Old Testament prophecies that Amir read that brought him to a saving faith in Jesus were the same scriptures that the Pharisees and Sadducees of Jesus day apparently missed.

Another reason why Bible prophecy is important is that when you know that God has fulfilled His word to the letter in the past, you can rest assured that His prophecies about the future will also come to pass.
Remember the former things of old,
For I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like Me,
Declaring the end from the beginning,
And from ancient times things that are not yet done,
Saying, ‘My counsel shall stand,
And I will do all My pleasure,’
Isaiah 46:9-10
Speaking of future prophecies, if you've read through the entire New Testament you might remember that Jesus told the disciples what we need to look for, so we'll be ready when He returns for us (see Luke chapter 21). And those are good things to remember because Jesus said:
Now when these things begin to happen, look up and lift up your heads, because your redemption draws near.
Luke 21:28
There are end-time prophecies peppered throughout the New Testament culminating in the book of Revelation. But, did you know that there are also end-time prophecies in the Old Testament that have yet to be fulfilled? I find it very exciting to see the events lining up in our world today which indicate that those Old Testament prophecies will soon be fulfilled. These are a couple of prophecies from the Old Testament that I see shaping up before our very eyes:

  • Isaiah 17 - The city of Damascus, Syria will be completely destroyed in a single day, never to be inhabited again.
  • Ezekiel 38 and 39 - Prophecy about the specific nations that will invade Israel to take plunder.

Parting thoughts

If you've been avoiding the Old Testament for any reason, I hope you'll give it another try. If you're leading someone to Christ or mentoring a new Christian, however, I suggest that you ask them to read the New Testament first. Then have them read the entire bible from cover to cover. This way, they'll learn the gospel of Jesus and learn to really appreciate what the Son of God sacrificed for us before they get into the history of how God dealt with wicked people in the Old Testament times. The last thing I want is for someone to give up on Christ after they read about how God killed all but 8 humans on the earth or how He commanded the Israelites to drive out the inhabitants from the land before they've had a chance to digest the teachings of Jesus. Reading the New Testament first will also help them identify and understand the Old Testament scriptures that point to Jesus.

Related topics:

Destruction of Damascus
Signs of the End: The Ezekiel 38-39 War
15 prophetic signs fulfilled by Jesus


This message was inspired by the blog post, Why We Can’t Unhitch from the Old Testament by Michael Kruger

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