The Old Testament causes much consternation among North American evangelicals. Although historically Christians have embraced the Old Testament as being absolutely essential to the Christian life—I believe the first person to do this was Jesus—somewhere along the way, we got scared of it.
We started reading into the New Testament a kind of sentimental love that isn’t there. We started seeing the actions of God in the Old Testament as harsh and mean. And as our sentimentalism took root, we found ourselves asking, “Can’t we just skip this?”
Here are three reasons to keep the Old Testament front and center:
1. To understand God’s actions in the world.
To not put too fine a point on it, when you lose the Old Testament, you lose the gospel. Period.
The Old Testament is the historical backdrop for everything we see in the New. The gospel takes place within the framework of the covenants established with Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses and David, and fulfills them. If you do not have the Old Testament, you cannot understand why Christ came to die. We lose the foundation for his death and resurrection.
But when you maintain a solid grasp on the Old Testament, you not only keep the gospel’s foundation, you get the fuller picture of God’s actions in the world. The entire Bible tells the story of God’s war against sin—from the first promise of the coming of one who would crush the head of the serpent until the consummation of the new creation, this is what God is doing.
When you lose the Old Testament, you lose the reason for God’s actions in the world. You lose the gospel. So read the Old Testament.
2. To understand the character of God.
When we skip the Old Testament, we lose a clear picture of who God is. In his Christianity Today article addressing this very subject, Mark Gignilliat puts it well:
“We do no favors for God or ourselves when we lessen his severity, even in our attempts to make him acceptable to nonbelievers. While many of our worship songs today speak of touching and seeing God, most biblical characters did not line up for such an opportunity. Isaiah knew his life was over after seeing Yahweh. Jacob never walked the same way again. Job asked for a day in court with God and then regretted it.”