Two Mondays ago was the first meeting of my Bible survey classes I’m teaching this Fall (for an intro to these, see my earlier post). I have 12 students in my Sr. High survey class and 6 in my Jr. High one. I had a good time with them, although it was too short. Less than one hour is just not enough time to adequately explain why we should study the OT as Christians and then provide an overview of the OT. Thankfully, I’ll have future weeks to tie in the particular book(s) we are studying with how it/they fit in with the overall picture.
I think it would be of benefit to you if I share the 8 reasons I gave to my students for why we as Christians should study the Old Testament and some explanation:
- It is roughly 2/3 of our Bible
I had my students put one finger at the start of the OT and another at the end, and then hold up their Bibles. For those who had no notes in their Bible, it was quite a visual: the vast majority of the book they were holding was the OT! I’d encourage you to try the same exercise.
My point was that Christians have always considered the OT a part of our Bible. The OT is revelation from God just like the NT. It deserves our study.
- It answers life’s basic questions
While the New Testament provides some explanation, we would not have full answers to many of life’s basic questions without the OT. Questions like: Where did we come from? Why is the world so messed up? Is there any hope in life? Is there life after death? Why do we wear clothes? The OT provides answers to these and so many more.
- It presents doctrine in story form
It’s important to have correct beliefs about God and His creation. We learn a great deal, for example, from Paul’s letters, which in many places are like one statement of doctrine after the next. The Old Testament also teaches us doctrine, but it often does so through the stories contained therein. My point is that truth can be learned from both the propositional sections of Scripture as well as from the narrative sections. For teenagers, the drama of stories often can be quite engaging and enjoyable.
- It illustrates the seriousness of sin
All throughout the OT we see that God takes sin seriously. There are consequences when God’s people choose not to obey Him. When you realize that the Old Testament covers a period of at least 4000 years, most of which tells of God’s people in rebellion against Him, you begin to realize that sin has consequences at all times, even up to the present day. God still takes sin seriously. It really does matter when we choose to disobey.
- It comforts & encourages us (& challenges us too!)
For this point, we read 1 Corinthians 10:1-6. There Paul brings up the Israelites and the events surrounding the Exodus and says that “these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did” (v. 6). So, the OT provides us bad examples we should not emulate. But, it also provides much encouragement that builds our trust in God. Think of the Psalms, for example.
- It helps us appreciate the NT more
If the Israelites at the time of Jesus did not have the OT’s record of their history, most of the ministry and teaching of Jesus would have made little to no sense to them. Think about it. If there were no expectations of a Messiah, and if there were no prior revelations about God entering into covenant with His people, how could one make sense of Jesus’ life? Or of His last supper with the disciples?
- It helps us better see & understand Jesus
This was a new concept for just about everybody. I made the case that not only is Jesus predicted in the OT, but also spoken of through events, people, etc. and that He is even present at times. This probably is a startling claim for many of my readers, but I invite you to give this thought a fair hearing. In future posts, I hope to expand more on this point.
- It was Jesus’ (& His Disciples’) Bible
When the early church preached Christ crucified, they did so using the OT. There was no NT that had been written or compiled yet. So, when Paul went around to synagogues in various cities, he preached Christ from the OT in light of His crucifixion and resurrection. People got saved from “sermons” on the OT text! When Jesus’ spoke to crowds and quoted Scripture, it was the OT that He spoke of.
Can you think of any more reasons why we should study the Old Testament? Please share. I’d love to hear your thoughts.