The Role of the Old Testament

Because my focus in this blog is on the new covenant, the provisions of the new covenant, and the power for living found in the new covenant, it would be easy to dismiss the contribution of the Old Testament.  But let’s not be too hasty.  Instead, let’s investigate the role of the Old Testament in the lives of God’s children today.

I can think of at least five major categories of lessons in the Old Testament that inform our spirituality today.  1) The prophesies in the Old Testament about the coming Messiah are real faith builders today as we consider the incredible fulfillment of them in Christ Jesus.  2) The pattern in the Old Testament of the priesthood and the sacrifices are a foreshadowing of what Christ would be coming to do for us.  It provides a foundation for understanding that Christ is a priest forever and that His sacrifice was final and sufficient.  3) The numerous warnings concerning sin are a schoolmaster to us – a kind of “what not to do” – particularly through the example of the children of Israel.  4) The wisdom literature of the Proverbs etc. gives valuable instruction on how to live wisely in this world that God has created.  And finally 5) the patriarch’s example of faith in the Old Testament is to be emulated by New Testament believers.  The Christian life – energized with a new freedom and power wrought by Christ’s death on a cross – is still lived by faith.

What became “old and obsolete” (Heb 8:13) about the Old Testament is the arrangement between God and man concerning our sin.  What has “faded away” (II Cor 3:11) is the works-based righteousness found in the Law.  And what became “new” was a righteousness based on faith in Christ and the promise of transformation in us when we believe His gospel message.

The details of the change in covenants between the old and the new regarding our arrangement with God are left here for another day.  For now, let’ s explore the five categories of lessons that await us in the Old Testament today.  We will start with the prophesies of the coming Messiah next time.