Is the Old Testament relevant today? Part 1

By WND Guest Columnist

By Alex Dziemianowski

Note: This is Part 1 of a two-part series.

“For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.”

– Romans 15:3–4

Is the Old Testament relevant?

That is a question raised within some Christian circles.

It might prompt a follow-up question of our own, namely: “What portions of the Old Testament are we talking about?”

I would argue that it is all relevant, every “jot and tittle.” I would further argue that it is all essential for a deeper understanding of God and His Word.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27-31).

The “whole counsel” of which Paul spoke is “shunned” when large portions of the Old Testament are ignored. The result is the loss of context in which Jesus came, lived, died and rose again.

It’s not that we lose the Gospel message by leaning exclusively on the New Testament, but we do lose resolution, context and depth of meaning when the Old Testament foundation is ignored. We also lose proof.

Do you want a deeper understanding of the Last Supper and redemption through the blood of Christ? Study the Old Testament account of Passover and Israel’s deliverance from Egypt. Connect Jesus to His Jewish roots.

Every disciple at the Last Supper would have had intimate knowledge of the Passover Seder, which they were commemorating with Jesus.

Jesus raised the cup and said, “Drink from it, all of you. For this is My blood of the new covenant, which is shed for many for the remission of sins” (Matthew 26:27–29).

The disciples would have immediately known that Jesus was raising the third cup of the Passover Seder. The significance? In the Seder this cup corresponds to God’s declaration, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments” (Exodus 6:6).

Jesus was connecting His work and blood with the Passover Cup of Redemption.

The next morning, as Jesus was crucified, perhaps the disciples were thinking back to the Last Supper when Jesus raised the Cup of Redemption. Maybe they were thinking further back to the first Passover and when God said, “I will redeem you with an outstretched arm.”

Imagine the powerful imagery confronting the disciples as they witnessed Jesus with “outstretched arms” on the cross redeeming all who come to Him. All in perfect fulfillment of the Old Testament Passover.

John the Baptist called Jesus, “The Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29)! Jesus is our Passover who was sacrificed for us (1 Corinthians 5:7).

Why is He called Lamb of God? What is the connection of Passover to Christ?

The intent here is not a study of Passover but to highlight why the Old Testament is important.

There is much more that could be explored regarding Passover typology and Christ, such as the meaning of the unblemished lamb, the inspection of the Lamb, applying the blood, where the Passover lambs were sacrificed, death passing over, instruction that the lamb’s legs were not to be broken, or Jesus’ reference at the Last Supper to the Jewish marriage custom.

We have not begun to consider the meaning of Jesus’ resurrection on the Feast of First Fruits, the celebration of the early spring harvest when Israel’s first and best were offered to God. Jesus, the first and best of the resurrection. The First Fruits of Christ’s resurrection points to the greater harvest to come pictured in the Feast of Pentecost 50 days later. Pentecost, another harvest feast and the day when Moses received the Law. It is also the day when the Holy Spirit poured out on followers of Christ. The greater harvest is salvation and future resurrection of lost sinners that Christ’s First Fruits offering would reap.

This context and perspective are lost without the Old Testament.

There are literally hundreds of Old Testament references in the New Testament. The New Testament contains 27 books with a total of 260 chapters and 7,956 verses. According to the Blue Letter Bible Online, there are a whopping 855 old Testament references in the New Testament.

On average every chapter in the New Testament contains three or more Old Testament references. One out of every nine New Testament verses contain a reference to the Old Testament!

Why would the New Testament writers rely so heavily on the Old Testament? They obviously thought it was important for their audience to understand the truths it contains. They certainly did not ignore the Old Testament!

And neither did Jesus.

Jesus frequently made reference to the Old Testament and characters such as Noah, Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, Jonah, Abel and Zechariah. Who are these people? Don’t we want to understand why Jesus was making these references?

Jesus said, “Do not think that I came to destroy the Law or the Prophets. I did not come to destroy but to fulfill” (Matthew 5:17).

Remember after the resurrection when Jesus walked with two disciples on Emmaus road? These disciples were hoping that it was He, Jesus of Nazareth, who would redeem Israel.

Then He said to them, “‘O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe in all that the prophets have spoken! Ought not the Christ to have suffered these things and to enter into His glory?’ And beginning at Moses and all the Prophets, He expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:25–27).

Jesus showed from the Old Testament the things that point to Him!

The early church relied on the Old Testament, along with signs and wonders, to advance the Gospel message.

On one occasion, standing before Governor Felix and his accusers, the Apostle Paul confessed belief in all things written in the Law and in the Prophets (Acts 24:14). Paul’s crime? Spreading the good news of Christ throughout the Roman world.

Here, with his life on the line, standing before the legal authority and those who wanted to kill him, Paul substantiates his faith in Christ by pointing to the Old Testament.

One of the points of contention between Jesus and the religious authorities was His claim of deity, for which they sought to kill him on multiple occasions.

The Apostle John harkens back to Old Testament prophecy to show that Jesus is God. John references the vision where Isaiah was brought into the throne room of God (Isaiah 6). John reveals that it was Jesus, God the Son, sitting on the throne in all His glory (John 12:37–41).

The Bible is almost 30% prophecy, much of that in the Old Testament. One of the reasons God gave the prophetic Word was to prove He is God. In Isaiah it says, “Remember the former things of old, For I am God, and there is no other … Declaring the end from the beginning, and from ancient times things that are not yet done” (Isaiah 46:9).

Here God explicitly commands that we are not to ignore the old, the things He previously revealed, because in the old God declared what would happen before it happened.

This is confirmed in hundreds of prophetic passages about people and places and the rise and fall of kingdoms, end times and the future Messiah. God revealed monumental things in advance, in His providence working out all things according to His plan and for His glory. Doing so proves that He is God and that we can trust in Him.

We can say without exaggeration that Bible prophecy is history written in advance. It is proof that God and the Bible are true.

Alex Dziemianowski is married and father of two children. He attended Rutgers University and Philadelphia College of Bible and works in Information Technology.

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