I remember the first time that I heard the teaching to "untether yourself from the Old Testament." I felt uncomfortable with the saying. Was the Old Testament merely a ball-and-chain holding me back from truly loving Jesus and showing Him to the world?
Do not think that I have come to destroy the Law or the prophets. I didn’t come to destroy but to fulfill. Matthew 5:17
You may have seen this verse used many times when people say that we do not need to bother with the Old Testament anymore. But there is a problem with using the verse like that—we know that because of what Jesus says next:
Therefore whoever shall break one of these least commandments and teach others to do so shall be called least in the Kingdom of Heaven, but whoever shall do and teach them shall be called great in the Kingdom of Heaven. Matthew 5:19
So, which is it? Do we keep the law or don’t we? It seems like we find Christians arguing about these two extreme positions.The ones who say we don’t need the Law and the others who say without it we can’t be right with God. Both of these can quote verses to "prove their point." But that is the problem. Their positions are ignoring and actually contradicting the other verses that go against their stance. That is why both are incorrect because the Bible never contradicts itself.
So what is the correct answer? Well, the Bible itself gives it to us:
So that the Law has become our tutor to bring us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. Galatians 3:24
This verse pretty much sums up why we need the Old Testament. We cannot understand our sin or our need of being saved from it without the Old Testament.
…However, I wouldn’t have known sin except through the Law. For I wouldn’t have known coveting unless the Law had said, “You shall not covet.” Romans 7:7
We need the Old Testament to teach us about our true nature and also about God’s true nature.
The Law has definitely taught me about my true nature. Here’s how: I decided to try to dedicate an entire day to God, you know, like, the Sabbath. I wanted to put away any distractions and focus on Bible study, praying, etc. What did I learn? Well, that I am absolutely pitiful at denying myself of things I like to do. I found myself watching the clock looking forward to when I could do what I wanted to do to get things done or go shopping or whatever.
I did to God what many married couples or even friends do to each other. When one doesn’t want to do what the other wants to do, the one giving in will sometimes complain or expect something in return or make the experience miserable. That would be the description of my so-called "Sabbath keeping!" Instead of making me righteous, it led me to the understanding that I am very self-centered. It has been my personal tutor to see myself as God sees me and helped me to better appreciate the immense mercy of God who still loves me!
The Old Testament also let me know that I am not the only one who did this. Apparently, it is the attitude that most people had when they “obeyed” the Sabbath:
Saying, “When will the new moon be gone, that we may sell grain? And the Sabbath that we may market wheat…? Amos 8:5
God is teaching us about what is truly in our hearts --- about His great mercy and love --- and why we need a Savior.
Just as this one little thing showed me that "keeping" the Law can NEVER make me righteous because of of my sin, we now can understand that ignoring it is also not good at all. When we do this, our relationship with God suffers badly. I truly believe this is why the western church has become so weak. Without the Old Testament, we would not know much at all about the holiness of God. We would fail to understand our deep lack of it within ourselves.
Ignoring the Old Testament has led the church to only teaching half of the truth. The focus is now on how much God loves us and how favored we are. Children are taught that it doesn’t matter if they are famous in the world because they are famous with God. We are taught that Jesus was pleased to die for us. While this is in essence true, it is completely one-sided.
Many might ask what’s wrong with only half? At least people are getting some of the Bible. But are they really? We can see the problems within the church. It has been flooded with the non-Christian teaching of self-esteem which is nothing but glorified narcissism and self-love.
The holiness of God and His requirements of us are rarely considered. If we only hear that God loves us, it naturally leads us to believe that we are worth loving. The result is an attitude of self-righteousness and entitlement.
Again, the Old Testament gives us a visual of this problem:
Ephraim mixes himself among the nations. Ephraim is a pancake not turned over. Hosea 7:8
We’ve all seen a pancake poured on a griddle and the liquid top is all bubbly and the bottom is golden and crispy ready to be flipped. But would anyone eat it like that? Of course not! Half cooked is disgusting. That is the result of half-knowledge also.
What people need to hear is what the entire Bible teaches in both the Old and New Testaments. And this is it: We do not deserve it, and we cannot earn it, but the One and Only Holy God who created the universe loves us anyway and saves us and teaches us how to become more like Him in our hearts and spirits. We can only do this through the means supplied to us—the entire Bible.
Years ago when Jenn was just a toddler, I used to babysit to earn some spending money. I worked for several very wealthy families. While the wives did their social things, played tennis, and went shopping, I would come over and watch their kids. Needless to say, the children were extremely spoiled and entitled. I even had one tell me that I was his servant! Anyway, there was one particular little one who was very angry. I remember seeing him viciously pretending to kick his mother and she was saying, “Oh, you’re a good boy! You know that. Good boys don’t do that.” This young child ignored her and continued. Of course, I was also given this same type of treatment.
One day, this little one put his face about an inch away from mine and stuck his tongue out and was mocking me because I was intending to put him in time out for misbehaving. When he did this, I put my hands on his face and kissed his forehead and said to him, “No matter what you do, Jesus still loves you.” I then said that he was going to sit in a time out because of his awful behavior. His eyes got huge and he gave in. He was angry at having to sit, but he let me hold him on my lap as I explained to him that Jesus loved him no matter what, but that Jesus wanted him to stop and ask for forgiveness for his terrible behavior.
To my surprise, this little boy did just that! After that, I had no problem with him. My worst child to babysit became the easiest! This young boy obviously knew he wasn’t a “good boy” but Jesus loved him anyway. The entire story of who God is and how He sees us led a little boy to salvation through Jesus.
God loves those who do not deserve it just as He says that He does. But we will never grasp this concept without both the Old and New Testaments.
Have you noticed your church ignoring the Old Testament? How has this impacted your belief about the Old Testament?