The Old Testament is profitable for Christians today. Understanding and applying the Old Testament can at times be challenging because it was written to God’s covenant people, the Jews. Important to understanding the Old Testament is remembering that Christians today are not the same as the Jews of 3,000 years ago.
Israel is not the church and Israel is not America. One cannot immediately apply the Old Testament commands to the New Testament Christian. Old Testament commands must be read with the understanding that Jesus has completed the Mosaic law (Ephesians 2:15) and brought in a new covenant with His people. The Old Testament reader cannot claim the promises given to the Jews as if they are promises to the church. One cannot view the judgments and blessings of the nation Israel as if God is going to do the same to America. Understand the Old Testament by recognizing who it was written to and why.
The Old Testament is not a book of puzzles that can only be figured out once the person has found the hidden key. The Old Testament must not be read as if it contains hidden truths that can only be discovered by modern technology or by interpreting secret codes. The Old Testament does not contain special meanings that were unknown until the church came along. The Old Testament is not the New Testament concealed in allegory, nor does the New Testament reveal the true, undiscovered meanings of the Old Testament.
Some things in the Old Testament are made more clear by the New Testament. Some things not revealed in the Old are made known in the New Testament. The Old Testament is best understood in light of the New Testament, but the meaning of the Old Testament is the same whether it was read before Jesus’ birth or two thousand years after His resurrection.
When reading the Old Testament the kind of book being read shapes how the book is understood. The book of Proverbs is not to be interpreted using the same methods as the book of Obadiah or the book of Genesis. History is different from poetry. Poetry is different from prophecy. Prophecy is different from the Psalms. The Psalms are different from the Law. These differences are very important. A command cannot be interpreted as if it is a promise. A Proverb should not be understood as if it was a prophecy. A detailed a look at how to understand specific kinds of Old Testament literature would take much more time and space than this article allows. Understand the Old Testament one book at a time according to the individual books literary genre.
Read the Old Testament as true history that is intended to teach of the glory of God, the plan of God to redeem a people to Himself, the Sovereignty of God and the holiness of God. The Old Testament is understood by following the normal rules of understanding written language. Look for purpose of the author in writing each book, or in some cases each section of the book. Understanding when the book was written and why it was written. Care must be taken to rightly understand what God said to the Israelites. Just like the New Testament the Old cannot mean something it never meant. Once the original intent and meaning of an Old Testament passage has been understood then principles can be drawn from the intended meaning and applied to New Testament Christians.
Every book of the Old Testament is of great profit to the believer today. Sometimes the Old Testament requires more work to understand how it applies to our lives today. Find good study materials, like commentaries and bible studies, to help. Study of the Bible takes work, but the Old Testament is no less profitable because of the energy required to mine its rich treasures.
On the last two Sundays of March the Everlasting Truths broadcast team aired two hours of discussion about Biblical creationism. Biblical creationism is the belief that the account of creation found in Genesis 1 and 2 is an accurate record of historical events that occurred as described in those two chapters. To some, this may seem to be a lot of time invested in something that is, at most, of secondary importance. If science has discovered life evolved as a product of chance mutations occurring over millions of years, why should Christians get in a lather and say that science is wrong? At first glance creation may seem to be unimportant in view of larger message of the Bible. In reality, the creation account of Genesis is vital to the rest of the Bible. A misunderstanding at the beginning threatens a correct understanding of the rest of the Bible.
A misunderstanding of the account of creation has profound impact on how views the Bible (and how one views the Bible has a profound impacton how one interprets the creation passages) and how one thinks about Jesus. Not that everyone who misunderstands Genesis will have a wrong understanding about Jesus and the Bible, but the logically consistent result of a rejected or wrongly understood Genesis is a wrong understanding of the Bible. Genesis is foundational to the rest of the Bible’s teachings. A wrong understanding of Genesis leaves the Christian with a weak foundation on which to build a Biblical theology. Without a sound Genesis foundation the Christian is forced to construct extra-Biblical buttresses and supports to uphold certain other doctrines.
Despite some arguments to the contrary, no grammatical or contextual reasons exist to conclude Genesis 1 and 2 are intended to be anything but historical fact. The words chosen and the structure of the verses show an obvious intent to declare a historical event. The later chapters of Genesis continue to communicate historical realities with the purpose of connecting the events of thousands of years ago to present day readers. The book of Genesis was written to provide the historical background of sin and the people of God. The book of Genesis was written as part of the basic foundational information needed for a right understanding of God and His plan to deliver men.
The events of Genesis 1 and 2 have an intentional connection to the rest of the history of Genesis. To doubt the creation accounts historical accuracy or to reframe it as an allegory leaves no rational basis for concluding any of the rest of Genesis is not also allegorical. If creation did not occur as described, did man sin as described? What about the flood of Noah, did that happen or is it an allegory for something else? How about the events at the Tower of Babel? Did the world rebel against God (again) and suffer God’s punishment of confusing language and dispersing the family groups, or is it a symbol of something else? If Babel in Genesis 11 is allegory, is Abraham in Genesis 12 also allegory? What about Isaac and Jacob? Is all the history of Genesis, the first 50 chapters of the Bible, just a massive picture of some other reality?
This same question also affects the rest of the Bible. When the Bible describes impossible historical events, are those just allegorical accounts that do not communicate genuine facts? If the plain language of Genesis 1 and 2 can be discarded because it is difficult, conflicts with prevailing scientific knowledge and is scorned by most of the American elite, then what reasonable basis does anyone have to keep any of the other difficult, unpopular truths of the Bible. It is no exaggeration to say that a rejection of Biblical creationism leaves one without the sound foundation necessary to accept the rest of the Bible as true. At best, the reader’s acceptance becomes an arbitrary decision based upon the individual’s subjective conclusion of the importance of a Biblical feature.