The Old Testament’s Value
[Reading time: 3 minutes] The Old Testament portion of the Bible includes descriptions of the old covenant God made with the nation of Israel. It’s important that we distinguish between the Old Testament and old covenant and understand their significance to Christians today. As we’ve seen in other articles of this series, the old covenant was relevant only to Israel, not to Gentiles.
If the Old Testament weren’t part of the Bible, however, it would be easy to distort the New Testament and make it ineffective. The Old Testament shows general principles, spiritual laws, God’s relationship with man before Christ, the nature of sin and how it affects people, and insight to activities in the spiritual realm. It teaches, rebukes, corrects, trains and encourages us so we might have hope and be thoroughly equipped for every good work (Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16). The Psalms are valuable expressions of praise, worship and petition. The wisdom of Proverbs is relevant to every age and culture. The end-times prophecies are still pending. Initially, what we call the Old Testament was the only Bible the first century church had until the books of the New Testament were written.
Jesus said “every teacher of the law who has become a disciple in the kingdom of heaven is like the owner of a house who brings out of his storeroom new treasures as well as old” (Matt. 13:52, NIV). As he said, there are old treasures in the law; that is, the law of Moses.
God’s nature hasn’t changed since the Old Testament, though the old covenant required him to punish sinful behavior. In his covenants with Old Testament individuals such as Noah, Abraham and David, we see more of the loving side of God’s nature (Gen. 9:1-11; 17:4, 7-8; 2 Sam. 23:5; 7:16).
Human nature hasn’t changed since Adam and Eve sinned in the Garden of Eden, so the human stories of the Old Testament are still insightful. The narrative about the people of Israel rebelling against God after he delivered them from Egypt is an example of human nature and a warning for us (1 Cor. 10:6, 11). The Old Testament prophets serve as examples of patience in the face of suffering (James 5:10). The destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is an example of what will happen to the ungodly (2 Pet. 2:6; Jude 7).
God’s covenant with Israel, including the law of Moses, isn’t relevant to Christians, yet the law itself will endure until heaven and earth disappear (Matt. 5:17-18). The law still applies to the ungodly because it defines sin and mandates punishment for it (1 Tim. 1:9-10). It makes people conscious of sin and leads them to Christ so they can be justified by faith (Rom. 3:20; Gal. 3:24). So the ten commandments and the law still have value for non-believers. The New Testament, however, supersedes every point of the “Big Ten.”
The Old Testament continues to have great value for everyone, regardless of their spiritual condition. For Christians, it provides a foundation and background for our covenant with God. For non-Christians, it demonstrates that man has never been able to qualify for God’s grace and still needs a Savior.