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May 2017 Issue

Faith and Faithlessness in the Desert

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Theology Matters

Why the Old Testament Still Matters

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The Religion News Service reported in January that a German toy company produced a Martin Luther figurine to celebrate the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. The small plastic figure holds a quill in one hand and an open Bible in the other. The left page of the Bible says, “Books of the Old Testament. END.” On the right page it says, “The New Testament, translated by Doctor Martin Luther.”

The common designation of the first 39 books of the Bible as the Old Testament could lead us to draw the wrong conclusion. We might think that these books have less value or that they are less inspired than the New Testament. We should remember that the Old Testament was the Bible Jesus knew. He said that Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35). He also said that He had not come to destroy the law but to fulfill it (Matt. 5:17).

The Old Testament was the Bible from which the Apostles first preached the gospel. Paul makes it clear that the Old Testament has ongoing value for the church, citing several incidents from the book of Numbers: “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (1 Cor. 10:11).

God has revealed Himself and His redemptive plan progressively across both Testaments. As a result, the two Testaments do have some important distinctions. They are equally the inspired Word of God, but they do not both serve the same purpose. The Old Testament sets the stage for the person and work of Jesus Christ, looking forward to a redemption that is needed and is yet to come. The New Testament looks back on a redemption that has been accomplished through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Because of this difference in perspective, not all of the Old Testament commands still apply to us today. Those who are in Christ are no longer bound by the regulations of the Law of Moses (Rom. 6:14–15; Gal. 3:24–25).

Through the laws and teachings in the Old Testament, we see our sin and need for the grace that comes through Jesus Christ. Through its predictions it confirms that Jesus is Israel’s promised Messiah. Through its examples of obedience and disobedience it shows us a life of faith.

Author - John Koessler

By John Koessler, Chair and Professor of Pastoral Studies

John Koessler serves as chair and professor in the division of applied theology and church ministry at the Moody Bible Institute in Chicago, Illinois. He is married to Jane and has two sons, Drew and Jarred. John is the author of The Radical Pursuit of Rest (InterVarsity), The Surprising Grace of Disappointment (Moody) and True Discipleship (Moody). John has written several other books and articles and serves as a contributing editor for Today in the Word.

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