After 23 years of reading through the Bible at least once each year, I marvel even more at its incomparable and inexhaustible profundity! It is amazing to me that God continues to teach me and show me glorious things from passages that I have read carefully so many times.
In fact, I now genuinely believe that I actually know only a very minute fraction of the truth that the Spirit has given in His word. This growing awareness of how little I know at times stirs a deep longing in my soul for wishing that I knew so much more than I do.
My sense of limited knowledge is especially keen right now concerning the Old Testament. Studying numerous passages in the Old Testament, I have found glorious truths that have spoken powerfully to me and provided answers to concerns that I have (for example, see this post about how God’s dealings with a Philistine king should affect our praying).
The Immense Importance of the Old Testament for New Testament Believers
Through what God has been showing me from the Old Testament recently, He has rekindled in me a profound sense of the importance of the Old Testament for us as New Testament believers. Several New Testament passages speak directly to this matter.
Although most believers know that Paul provides vital teaching in Romans 14 about how to handle questionable matters among believers, many overlook that his teaching on that subject continues into Romans 15:1-7. In this overlooked teaching, Paul asserts that the entire Old Testament was written to profit us as New Testament believers:
Rom 15:4 For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.
Apart from our thorough reception of the entire Old Testament, we will thus lack what we need to know in order to handle debatable matters properly (for example, see this post concerning the issue of abstaining from alcohol). We also will not have the patience, comfort, and hope that God wants us to have.
1 Corinthians 9:9-10; 10:1-6
In his even longer treatment in First Corinthians of how to handle issues of Christian liberty (8:1-11:1), Paul similarly asserts that what was written in the Pentateuch was written for us:
1Co 9:9 For it is written in the law of Moses, Thou shalt not muzzle the mouth of the ox that treadeth out the corn. Doth God take care for oxen?
10 Or saith he it altogether for our sakes? For our sakes, no doubt, this is written: that he that ploweth should plow in hope; and that he that thresheth in hope should be partaker of his hope.
Based on this Mosaic teaching, Paul argues for what was right for the Corinthians to do for him and others who had ministered to them spiritually (1 Cor. 9:11-14). He thus teaches us again that handling issues of Christian liberty properly requires that we profit properly from what the Old Testament teaches us!
Furthermore, writing about many events that happened to the children of Israel in the Exodus and during the wilderness wanderings (1 Cor. 10:1-5), Paul later reveals a crucial function of the examples in the Old Testament:
1 Co. 10:6 Now these things were our examples, to the intent we should not lust after evil things, as they also lusted.
New Testament believers are supposed to learn from their example not to lust after evil things, as they did! If I, therefore, do not read repeatedly about what happened to them, I will be lacking vital instruction given by God to keep me from lusting after evil things that I encounter in areas that pertain to Christian liberty.
Like Paul, the writer of Hebrews declares the value of the Old Testament for New Testament believers:
Heb 12:5 And ye have forgotten the exhortation which speaketh unto you as unto children, My son, despise not thou the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when thou art rebuked of him:
6 For whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and scourgeth every son whom he receiveth.
In verse 5a, the writer of Hebrews says that his readers have forgotten the exhortation that speaks unto them as to children. He then quotes Proverbs 3:11-12. Based on this teaching, we know that Proverbs 3:11-12 is our Father’s exhortation to us as New Testament believers and not just teaching that was for the Old Testament believers to whom Proverbs was first written!
We Must Profit Fully from the Entire Old Testament
The passages treated above reveal that the Old Testament is of essential importance for New Testament believers. This is especially true for us concerning the debatable matters that so vex God’s people today.
Many believers today lack fullness of knowledge about sinful things that they must not partake of or do because they do not receive properly the full value of the Old Testament. Paul makes clear that the New Testament does not exhaustively list all the evil deeds of the flesh (cf. “and such like” [Gal. 5:19-21]), and we learn of many such evil things only by thoroughly profiting from the Old Testament.
For example, in the area of music, it is the Old Testament, and not the New, that gives us clear understanding that there are sinful styles of music that God does not accept in the worship of His people (see Is Scripture Silent about Musical Styles That are Inherently Unacceptable to God?). Through unawareness of or lack of thorough attention to this Old Testament teaching, many believers today lack this vital understanding.
We must profit fully from the entire Old Testament the way God wants us to (2 Tim. 3:15-17). The only way we will do so is if we individually read the entire Bible over and over again throughout our lives.
Are you profiting from the Old Testament the way God wants you to?