Is the Old Testament Relevant for Us Today?
These things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come.
–1 Corinthians 10:11
Many people have difficulty knowing how to interpret the Old Testament. The secular media tries to trip me up on this point all the time, asking me, “Why do Christians selectively obey the Bible? You obey some parts and discard other parts of the Bible.” Have you ever had people ask you that question? Usually, they’re referring to Old Testament commands. They say, for example, why do you believe homosexuality is wrong? Leviticus 18:22 says, “You shall not lie with a male as one lies with a female; it is an abomination.” Do we believe that’s still true today? Yes, we believe that’s true. Yet one page later, Leviticus 19:19 says, “You shall not breed together two kinds of your cattle; you shall not sow your field with two kinds of seed, nor wear a garment upon you of two kinds of material mixed together.” This verse says you can’t wear two kinds of material mixed together. You can’t wear a cotton-polyester blend. We don’t believe that command applies today. Now ask yourself, “Why is one Old Testament command true for today, but one page over we say, ‘This no longer applies’?” Why do we selectively obey the Bible?
The simple answer to that question is this: the only commands of the Old Testament we follow today are those commands repeated in the New Testament. We don’t live under the old agreement. We are not Jews living in Israel before Christ. We don’t obey those laws. The only laws we obey from the Old Testament are those that have been repeated in the New Testament. When we turn to the New Testament, we find prohibitions against homosexuality, adultery, lying, stealing, and taking the Lord’s name in vain. All those things are repeated in the New Testament, and that’s how we determine what we are going to obey.
You may be wondering, “What is the value of the Old Testament? If the only parts of the Old Testament that apply to us today are those parts repeated in the New Testament, why read the Old Testament at all?” Believe me, I ask myself that question when my read-through-the-Bible program lands me in Leviticus. J. I. Packer said the bridge that links the Old Testament with us today is God. He wrote, “The link is God himself. For the God with whom they had to do is the same God with whom we have to do.” God does not change. The value of the Old Testament is what it teaches us about God.
You may wonder, “What does this have to do with the exclusivity of the gospel?” Everything. Because when we are talking to people about the way to God, we have to figure out which God we are talking about. You have to make sure that the God you are trying to approach is the God of reality, not the god of your imagination.
Today’s devotion is excerpted from “The Old Way Was One Way” by Dr. Robert Jeffress, 2015.
J. I. Packer, “Knowing God,” 20th anniversary ed. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), 76.
Scripture quotations are taken from the NEW AMERICAN STANDARD BIBLE®, Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission.