What do we do with the Old Testament?

I’ve reestablished my Goodreads account on the advice of a writerly friend, Tonya Kubo (https://www.tonyakubo.com). As part of that, I’m having to write a flurry of book reviews, and get them posted on the Goodreads site. I have in excess of a thousand books in my personal library. I won’t, however, be putting up reviews for all of them!

One review I posted this week was for Andy Stanley’s controversial book Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed for the World. This is one of the more polarizing works to be released in recent years. Many people loved it while others hated it.

What Stanley is trying to do with this work, is draw strong distinctions between what are commonly known as the Old Testament and the New Testament, even going so far as to propose that we refer to the Old Testament as the Hebrew scriptures, and the New Testament as the Christian scriptures.

In Stanley’s view, the Hebrew scriptures are not now, and have never been enforceable on me. I’m not a Jew. They were neither written to me nor for me. He feels no compulsion to defend the Hebrew scriptures in any way, and sees them as completely unnecessary for teaching and converting the world to Christ today.

Truly, I get what Stanley is saying, and to a point I agree, but I cannot take the argument to his logical end. He is adamant to make the point that “old” is not bad. Just obsolete – not applicable to our (Christian) context. The old model is set aside for the new model. He illustrates this concept by drawing a parallel to an old cell phone, and a new one. The old phone accomplished its purpose, still functions, but has been set aside in favor of the new cell phone.

What, then, is the current-generation believer’s relationship to the Old Testament?

For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope. – Romans 15:4, ESV

It is foolishness to assert that the Christ-follower can completely ignore the Old Testament and base our faith solely on the New Testament. In the quotation above, the apostle Paul, the man who wrote more of the New Testament than any other writer, relied heavily on the Old Testament Scriptures for his teaching and exposition as an apostle of the church – specifically the apostle to the Gentiles.

Don’t let the impact of that reality escape you. The apostle to the Gentiles, those to whom the Hebrew scriptures were not written says those scriptures were written for our instruction! This is the man – the apostle – who expounds doctrine that he received directly from Jesus.

For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. – Romans 15:4, ESV

The longest, and most doctrinally-packed epistle Paul wrote was his letter to Rome. In Paul’s epistle to the Roman church, he quotes from the Hebrew scriptures no less than fifty-six times, and that, despite the fact that the Roman letter is addressed predominantly to the Gentiles (Romans 11:13).

Similarly, Paul wrote to the church in the city of Corinth, and following a long discussion of the idolatry of the Jews following their exodus from Egyptian slavery, Paul said, “These things took place as examples for us…” (1 Corinthians 10:6a), also, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction…” (1 Corinthians 10:11a).

Biblical scholar J. P. Lange said it well, “The immediate design of the entire Old Testament Scriptures for the Jews does not preclude their universal purpose for all ages.” Remember, what we call the Old Testament IS the Bible that the apostle Paul carried.

Jesus made repeated reference to the Old Testament scriptures, referencing thirty-one Old Testament books in Revelation alone. I read once that the gospel writers reference Old Testament scripture on average, three times per chapter. The gospel of John goes so far as to say this:

Do not think that I will accuse you to the Father. There is one who accuses you: Moses, on whom you have set your hope. For if you believed Moses, you would believe me; for he wrote of me. But if you do not believe his writings, how will you believe my words?” – John 5:45-47, ESV

Then in Luke’s gospel:

And he said to them, ‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?’ And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. – Luke 24:25-27, ESV

And finally, again from Jesus:

But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.'” – Matthew 4:4, ESV

Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Victoriously in Christ!

– damon

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Damon J. Gray

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