Building Sermons: Pt. 2 Why the O. T. is Relevant for Today

In one small town, Pastor Jones [not his real name] personally challenged another minister, Reverend Smith [not his real name], to a public debate on the value of the Old Testament for believers today.

Pastor Jones had spoken so often against its use that every citizen in the community knew the man's position. Reverend Smith, however, held the opposite view. Further, he disapproved of Gospel ministers debating one another in public. As Smith sought to end the conversation by declaring his views, Jones pressed his proposal, declaring, "The Bible says, ‘Debate your cause with your neighbor.'" His quotation appears in Proverbs 25:9. In making his challenge, he had disproved his own position.

The fact is, the Bible is one Book. A writer early in America's twentieth century revival, Myer Pearlman, noted the Bible's unity. He wrote that it is "a collection of sixty-six books written by about forty different authors, among whom were kings, prophets, priests, a shepherd, and fishermen," writing poetry, proverbs, genealogies, law, prophecy, doctrine, and biography, and yet the book is one.[1]

Any system of hermeneutics that interprets the Bible as if it consists of two books, containing opposing theologies, does violence to its unity.

Even worse, such an interpretation suggests that there are two Gods, one of the Old Testament and another of the New; or, if one God is the Author of both, then He changed His mind much between Malachi and Matthew. That interpretation builds a high wall between the two portions of the Word of the Lord. To follow such an approach is to allow man to discard everything in the first thirty-nine books that is not reaffirmed in the last twenty-seven.

Some err in doing just that when, for example, they declare that the very scant references to instrumental music in the New Testament indicate that instruments should not be used in worship today. Since God is unchanging, the abundant indications in the Old Testament that He loves devotion expressed with instruments make clear that He still loves such instrumental worship music. Others make a similar mistake when they argue that tithing is not for today because it is not taught explicitly in the New Testament.

A proof text for this erroneous hermeneutic is Heb. 8:13, cited loosely and incorrectly as declaring that the Old Testament "has been done away with."

That reference, however, does not concern the first thirty-nine books of the Bible. The Jewish title for that collection of books is in Luke 24:44, "the law, the psalms, and the prophets." Rather, the writer of Hebrews speaks of the differences between God's dealing with man under the old covenant and the new. In the same way the references to the "new testament" in Scripture do not point to the last twenty-seven books of the Bible but to the new covenant.

The Lord reveals Himself progressively as the pages of His Word unfold. Thus, the reader gains a fuller understanding of the nature of God as he continues reading the Bible from beginning to end. For example, the Old Testament makes clear that God demands blood sacrifice, and the New shows that now man presents his blood offering by approaching the Father "in Jesus' Name." In short, the New Testament helps to clarify the Old. An oft-quoted saying declares, "The New is in the Old concealed; the Old is in the New revealed."

To understand Scripture, then, one must remember that the Bible of the first century Church was the Old Testament.

Most scholars conclude that the version used by the Church of that time was the Septuagint, a translation of the Hebrew into a Greek copy of God's Word. In time, of course, Christians also came to regard apostolic writings as Scripture. To the Colossians, Paul wrote, "Now when this epistle is read among you, see that it is read also in the church of the Laodiceans, and that you likewise read the epistle from Laodicea" (4:16). It took some decades, however, for those apostolic writings to be composed, collected, and circulated among believers in becoming today's New Testament. Since that time, Christians have been privileged to enjoy the entire Bible, a book infallible, consistent, and indivisible.

Selected Bibliography

Pearlman, Myer. Seeing the Story of the Bible. Springfield, MO: Gospel Publishing House, 1930.