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Why Study the Old Testament

Why Study the Old Testament?

By: Scott Morton

One of the biggest questions that people often ask is why do they have to study the Old Testament, if the things written there do not directly apply to the believer today? This is even asked among those in the grace movement. I have discussed this with some people who study the Bible and have seen some concerning things. There are many people that are Bible students that seem to lack even a basic knowledge of what some of the books of the Old Testament are about.

This article is not intended to insult any person. It is intended to show the importance for the Old Testament, and why it is that those who follow the principles that Paul lays out in 2 Timothy 2:15 should have some knowledge of these books. There are several reasons that we are going to see that a person should study the Old Testament and have at least some knowledge of what these passages say.

1. These things have been written for our examples.

On the surface, this seems to be something that is contradictory to what we know. Paul was given some things that had been kept hidden since the world began (Romans 16:25) and the things that he was given were not written in the Old Testament. How can it be that some of the things in the Old Testament could be considered to be examples for us?

The answer is that Paul is the one that says this. By looking at what Paul records in 1 Corinthians 10:1-6, we see that Paul says this is true.

1 Corinthians 10:1-6

Moreover, brethren, I would not that ye should be ignorant, how that all our fathers were under the cloud, and all passed through the sea; 2: And were all baptized unto Moses in the cloud and in the sea; 3: And did all eat the same spiritual meat; 4: And did all drink the same spiritual drink: for they drank of that spiritual Rock that followed them: and that Rock was Christ. 5: But with many of them God was not well pleased: for they were overthrown in the wilderness. 6: Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.

Paul clearly states here that the things written were for our example. He is talking about things that are recorded in the book of Exodus. How can a person understand the example if they do not have an understanding of what was recorded in the original passage? It just is not possible. He also gives us the idea that the things that have been recorded are for our learning, which follows the same though process.

Romans 15:4

For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.

2. Paul often quotes things from the Old Testament.

It would seem to be a natural thing to say that a person should have some understanding if there are some direct quotes that Paul is using. Paul does use some things from the Old Testament in order to help explain some truth that a member of the Body of Christ should know. The important thing that we need to realize is that he does not use the text exactly as it was originally written. He takes what is written and makes some slight adjustments in order to apply to our situation. Let us take a look at an example in order to see what it is that he is doing:

1 Corinthians 2:9

But as it is written, Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither have entered into the heart of man, the things which God hath prepared for them that love him.

We see in this passage that Paul is talking about the things that God has prepared for mankind. He is using the text to help explain this issue to the saints. Now let us look at the original text that this came from in order to see what it is that the original writer was trying to say.

Isaiah 64:4

For since the beginning of the world men have not heard, nor perceived by the ear, neither hath the eye seen, O God, besides thee, what he hath prepared for him that waiteth for him.

Are these passages saying the same thing or are there slight differences that can be seen? There are some slight differences that can be clearly seen. The biggest difference is that Isaiah talks about the things being prepared for those that are waiting for Him, but Paul talks about the things being prepared for those that love Him. It does change the meaning in a little way, but it also shows that Paul was able to see that there are some things that Paul can pull out from the Old Testament to apply to the saints today.

3. It helps saints to be able to understand the basic dispensational differences (example: law vs. grace).

This is something that should be clear to anyone. When a person starts to apply the idea that Paul presents in 2 Timothy 2:15 to their Bible study, the idea of there being differences in what is being discussed. When Paul talks about things being new in the current dispensation, how can a person understand this if they don't have an understanding of what was there before? This is something that people don't seem to understand.

Paul uses some of this terminology in Galatians 3:10-19 in a discussion related to the law and what it is all about. Paul gets into a discussion of the law and the fact that man was not justified by the law. He then gets into a discussion about the reason that we were removed from the law and the original reason that it was added. How can a person have a proper understand of what Paul says here without understanding the Old Testament?

Galatians 3:19

Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

Paul also has another discussion similar to this in 1 Timothy 1:7-11. He states that there are those that desire to be teachers of the law. Can a person be a teacher of the law or have an understanding of why we truly do not need to be under the law, if they have never read or studied that section of the Bible?

4. There are some things that could be labeled as being interdispensational truths.

This is one of the hardest things to actually defend. The idea of an interdispensational truth is something that unfortunately is over used by members of the Body of Christ. People often find things in the Old Testament that they want to have applied to believers today, but really do not. Since they feel it is something that is true today, they will label it as an interdispensational truth.

The key fact to remember about whether something is an interdispensational truth is the fact of if this truth affects other truths that are truly part of the dispensation you are dealing with. For example, if something that a person says is an interdispensational truth affects the grace of God, then there is no way that it a truth for us today. An example of what would be considered to be an interdispensational truth can be found in the following passage:

Psalm 139:7-8

Whither shall I go from thy Spirit? Or whither shall I flee from thy presence? 8 If I ascend up into heaven, thou art there: if I make my bed in hell, behold, thou art there.

This is a passage talking about the attributes of God, in particular his omnipresence. This is something that never changes and is true no matter what dispensation you are in.

After looking at all of these issues, it becomes clear as to why these books are important. Hopefully, people can start to have a greater appreciation for these books and will start to have a willingness to explore some of these books.

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