March 07, 2022 by Linda Opp
Several years ago a well-known preacher announced that Christians need to “unhitch” the Old Testament from the New, and rely solely on the resurrection to inform their faith, especially when it comes to evangelism.
The Old Testament has taken a beating lately because some Christians don't like what they perceive as the angry God portrayed there, some of the incomprehensible (to us) laws, and the bloody wars and stonings.
Admittedly, our 21st-century minds have difficulty at times with what we're reading. We can't discount the objections to some pretty strange things, but we have the responsibility to find answers to our questions. Throwing out the Old Testament isn't the answer. Even in conservative churches, where most everyone would agree about the importance of the whole Bible, the Old Testament is often treated like an embarrassing relative - we're not sure what to do with it, so we acknowledge its presence but don't give it much attention or publicity.
This is a huge topic. It can't be dealt with in a few hundred words. But there are some foundational things to be said, which will put us on a good path to understanding the importance of the Old Testament.
Let's start with Jesus and the New Testament writers. They weren't unhitching their faith from the Old Testament – they were quoting it over and over, for a total of eight hundred fifty-five times. Twenty-seven percent of the New Testament is Old Testament quotes. And when it's not being quoted, it's being alluded to. It's obviously foundational to the New Testament message.
This is because it was the Bible these writers knew. Along with Jesus' resurrection, not separate from the resurrection, it was the bedrock of their faith. And because in order to have a complete revelation of God, you have to go back to where the gospel starts, in Genesis. There we read of the creator God, who stood back at the completion of creation, gazed at Adam and Eve, and declared his delight in them. Throughout the Old Testament God progressively reveals himself and his character, calling his people to join him in his mission for the whole world to know who he is. And he will accomplish it through the One who is coming.
Jesus is indeed the apex of God's revelation to us, and without the resurrection we have nothing. But he's not an Old Testament replacement. The New Testament writers, looking back at the Old Testament they knew so well, found him everywhere. The threads that bind the Old and the New together are numerous and strong, but our uneducated eyes are often blind to them.
Most of us aren't Old Testament scholars. We don't know Hebrew. So let me suggest a wonderful, easily understandable book to help us “re-hitch” ourselves to the Old Testament. It's called “Unveiling Mercy,” by Chad Bird, a year's worth of short devotionals, beautifully written, that will, to quote the copy on the back cover, “unveil how the mercy of God in the Messiah is spoken of from the very opening Hebrew word of the Bible, all the way to the closing chapter of Malachi.” Bird constantly illuminates the connections between Jesus and the Old Testament, and it's a wonder to behold.
Here's a taste: Bird says the opening three words of Genesis, “in the beginning,” is one word in Hebrew. At the beginning of the Bible, we are already pointed toward the Word, Jesus, by whom all things came into being. We see this in John 1:12, where John says, “In the beginning was the Word.”
Here's another: In Genesis 3:6, Adam and Eve eat from the forbidden tree. This is bad eating. But God turns the bad eating on its head. He instructs Israel to eat the Passover lamb and gives them manna and quail to eat in the desert. Jesus, at the Last Supper, says, “Take, eat; this is my body.” And God's people look forward to the marriage feast of the Lamb. More good eating. Without the Old Testament, we wouldn't understand the significance of the bad or the good eating.
In the Old Testament, we see the Son, revealed by the Father, through the Spirit. It's our heritage, our foundation, our portrait of God's work and revelation through the ages. We need the Old Testament. Let's learn to love it.