The Old Testament…Why Do Christians Still Love It?

I am about two months away from finishing an entire year of preaching nothing but the Old Testament on Sunday mornings at my church. That is how much it means to my pastoral soul. It is reasonable to wonder why. If our Old Testament is filled with covenants, rituals and laws that are obsolete, why do we still make so much of it in orthodox Christianity? Here is a partial list of reasons:

First, and of utmost importance, both Peter and Paul in Acts preached on the resurrection. And, significantly, both used numerous O.T. passages like Joel 2, Habakkuk 1 and Psalm 16 as their texts.

When John in Revelation referred to the “new heaven and new earth” he was also quoting something already prophesied in Isaiah 65.

Also, when John in Revelation said God would “wipe away every tear from their eyes,” he was quoting Isaiah 25.

Paul in Romans 3 states that “all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God”. However, he first cites eight Old Testament passages, including Ecclesiastes 7:20, as proof. Additionally, most of them are from Psalms, their hymnbook. Which is surprising except for the fact Psalms is the most quoted Old Testament book in the New.

When Christ showed up to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus (Luke 24), he rebuked them for not knowing about the Messiah’s suffering and resurrection from the Old Testament.

The Armor of God in Ephesians 6 is heavily influenced by Isaiah 59 and 52.

One of Christ’s most common anti-pharisaical teachings is that he desires mercy over sacrifice, which is from Hosea.

The repeated Old Testament phrase “The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob” teaches us about our own resurrection (Matthew 22:32).

Paul once preached Gentile worship, including musical worship, based on 2 Samuel, Deuteronomy, Psalms and Isaiah.

You truly cannot fully appreciate or understand Hebrews without Leviticus.

Also, John the Baptist calls Jesus “the Lamb of God, who comes to take away the sins of the world,” which doesn’t make sense without the Passover Exodus and the scapegoat in Leviticus.

Isaiah 53 explains Christ’s atonement with details as rich as any New Testament passage, aside from not giving Jesus’s name.

Hebrews 11-12 proves that the faith of Old Testament characters matters to our discipleship.

Conversely, 1 Corinthians 10 proves that the failures of Old Testament characters matter to our discipleship.

Because the basis for marriage is found in the Old Testament, which Jesus endorsed.

Psalm 22 explains crucifixion a millennium before Jesus was crucified.

Nehemiah teaches that God’s people shouldn’t just care about “church” but about the systems of the city. The small businesses, the schools, the police station and fire station all matter greatly. Because they are directly tied to the welfare, peace, health and prosperity of the city.

In the same way, Jeremiah 29 teaches that even if you end up in a place that you are supposed to hate, you are still to seek the welfare, prosperity, health and peace of that place.

Job has taught me more about responding to God when suffering than any other book. Furthermore, it has taught me about how to respond to others when they suffer.

I have learned more about waiting on God from Abraham, Genesis Joseph, Moses, and King David than any New Testament character.

You learn the deity of Christ when you filter John 8:59 through Exodus 3:13-14. And John 1:14 through Zechariah 2:10. As well as John 1:3 and Colossians 1:16a through Isaiah 44:24. And also Philippians 2:9-11 through Isaiah 45:23. And Mark 14:62 through Psalm 110:1 and Daniel 7:13-14. As well as John 10:11 through Psalm 23:1.

Biblical love for God and man (Matthew 22:37) as well as biblical holiness (1 Peter 1:13-16) are based on Old Testament texts.

When you read Jesus’s genealogy in Matthew 1, you come across Ruth. And that is a story of redemption you have to read to believe. You may be stunned God included Gentiles in Jesus’s ancestry.

When you read Jesus’s genealogy in Matthew 1, you come across Tamar and Bathsheba. And those are stories of God’s grace that you have to read to believe. You may be stunned that God included adultery in Jesus’s ancestry.

Indubitably, no passage in the Bible explains how God created us in his images as well as Genesis 1. We find the riches passages about creation in the Old Testament (Psalm 104, Job 38-41, etc.).

According to Hebrews (twice), Jeremiah 31:31-34 is the first mention of our new covenant with God.

Because Jesus was the perfect Rabbi, he used the Scriptures to teach. For instance, when he taught the parable of the sower, he almost certainly was thinking of Isaiah 55.

In the same way, when Jesus claims that he came to set family against family in Matthew 10:34, he was thinking of Micah 7:6.

Also, when Jesus gave the parable of the lost sheep, he was certainly thinking of Ezekiel 34:11-12, Psalm 119:176 and Jeremiah 50:6.

Similarly, when Matthew wrote that the crowds were like sheep without a shepherd, he was quoting 1 Kings 22:17 and 2 Chronicles 18:16.

Jesus claimed multiple times that Jonah was intended to point to Him.

Jesus’s teaching about the sheep and the goats in Matthew 25:31-46 was foreshadowed in Ezekiel 34:17.

Furthermore, we learn in Matthew 25:31-46 exactly what Proverbs 19:17 teaches.

After you read the story of Christ’s death and resurrection in the Gospels, and then read the story of Abraham offering Isaac in Genesis 22 (as well as the commentary on it in Hebrews 11:17-19), it will amaze you how God works through prophecy and storytelling. And how unlike every other god He is.

Jesus on at least two occasions in John referred to “living water”. Jeremiah and Zechariah both did the same thing centuries prior.

Not included here are the vast majority of 300 or so direct citations of the Old Testament in the New. Or the hundreds of unmistakable allusions.

Finally, Jesus lays down the authority of every section of the Old Testament in Luke 24:44. As a result, Jesus affirms the entire Old Testament as the Word of God. And that it is all about HIm.

There are many others, of course. Therefore, we welcome our readers to share below some that God has discipled you with.

Gowdy Cannon

I am currently the pastor of Bear Point FWB Church in Sesser, IL. I previously served for 17 years as the associate bilingual pastor at Northwest Community Church in Chicago. My wife, Kayla, and I have been married five years and have a 1-year old son, Liam Erasmus. I have been a student at Welch College in Nashville and at Moody Theological Seminary in Chicago. I love The USC (the real one in SC, not the other one in CA), Seinfeld, John 3:30, Chic-Fil-A, Dumb and Dumber, the book of Job, preaching and teaching, and arguing about sports.

4 thoughts on “The Old Testament…Why Do Christians Still Love It?

  • October 21, 2020 at 12:37 pm
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    This is good stuff, Gowdy!

    Reply
    • October 21, 2020 at 2:11 pm
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      Thank you, Steve. Hope the translation works out. You and the others you mentioned would do it much better than I, but let me know if I can help. Often at Northwest, I’d translate a document and then let the professionals edit it to up to snuff. It was a good system because typically my teammates didn’t like translating from scratch but they gladly corrected my effort. It was always so humbling. LOL.

      Reply
  • October 22, 2020 at 11:36 pm
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    Perhaps more troublesome though is that Stanley also has a section where he seems to suggest that failure to replace the Old with the New is responsible for some of the atrocities done in the name of Christianity throughout history, that somehow in the Old Testament one can find an apologetic and justification for the violence done toward others. This just could not be further from the truth. One cannot go very far in the Prophets (and elsewhere) without reading again and again God’s displeasure with the people of Israel for violence that they betrayed against others, principally against the poor, the needy, and the marginalized. In fact, the greatestindictment against Israel in the Old Testament stems from the fact God had established His Nation, comprised of the children of Abraham, to be the means by which He would bless and reach the other nations on Earth, but Israel continually acted selfishly. Israel was to be the light to the nations and when they repeatedly failed in this task, God sent in foreign invading armies to remove His people from the land that He had promised them. The point is that those who attempt to justify violence with the Bible, now as well as in biblical times, are sinning, are gravely misreading and interpreting God’s Word, and have fundamentally misunderstood the purpose and mission of God’s people. That was as true in the Old Testament as much as it is in the New Testament.

    Reply
    • October 27, 2020 at 10:36 am
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      Great points. I had forgotten about Stanley when I was writing this, but that is a good motivation to discuss the importance of the O.T. There is no doubt you get huge doses of God’s care for unloved and overlooked people from OT, especially the prophets.

      Reply

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