Thoughts to Ponder

Is the Old Testament still relevant today?

Many Christians think that all they need is the New Testament. They seem to think that the Old Testament does not apply to us in this age. They might enjoy the Psalms or even have a favorite verse or two, but over all they don't think that it was written for or to them.

The Old Testament was written for the Israelites and to the Israelites but that does not mean that there is not universal relevance in it for us. People short change themselves if they don't study the Old Testament. For one God reveals a lot about Himself and about mankind in the Old Testament.

Here are a couple of examples. (Ezekiel 18:20 NIV) The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him. We will answer for our own sins. Lack of knowing passages like this is what causes Christians to get off track and believe in things like generational curses. Many Christians are trying to break generational curses instead of working on their relationship with God.

Psychology tries to tell us that we are born pure but are corrupted by outside influences. Now every Christian should realize that this is a lie, but yet many Christians will go so far as to say that they believe most people are good at heart. Again they fall into this error because they don't know God's word: (Genesis 8:21 NIV) The LORD smelled the pleasing aroma and said in his heart: "Never again will I curse the ground because of man, even though every inclination of his heart is evil from childhood. And never again will I destroy all living creatures, as I have done." God says that we are all evil from childhood. Not because of outside influences but because our nature is evil.

God goes even further and tells us that no one can understand our hearts except Him. Yet people flock to so called counselors who claim to be able to tell a person why they act the way they do. God is not timid about what He thinks of such advice and those who trust in it. (Jeremiah 17:5-9 NIV) This is what the LORD says: "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength and whose heart turns away from the LORD. {6} He will be like a bush in the wastelands; he will not see prosperity when it comes. He will dwell in the parched places of the desert, in a salt land where no one lives. {7} "But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. {8} He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit." {9} The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it? We can all look around and see people who have suffered for years, who have gone to counselors, classes, doctors, etc.. Yet they never seem to get any better. Aren't they like a bush in the wasteland?

The Old Testament is very relevant for us today. We need to read it and glean what God has set out for us. I think that many Christians have either never thought about it or they think that somehow, Jesus passed out the New Testament to people while He walked this earth. That is not true. Paul's letters to the different churches are the earliest New Testament writings. The Gospels came after Paul's letters.

So when you read something like this: (Acts 17:10-12 NIV) {10} As soon as it was night, the brothers sent Paul and Silas away to Berea. On arriving there, they went to the Jewish synagogue. {11} Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. {12} Many of the Jews believed, as did also a number of prominent Greek women and many Greek men. You have to realize that what the people were checking the message against was the Old Testament, because the New Testament had not been written yet.

If God compliments the Bereans and calls them more noble because they checked the Old Testament to see if what they were being told was true, shouldn't we do the same? We should check what we are taught against the New Testament but also against the Old Testament.

Now there are lots of things in the Old Testament that don't really pertain to us. Such as the instructions for building the Tabernacle, or even the Law of Moses. However, people again stray when they think they can reject what the Old Testament says out of hand. For example people will say that we do not live under the Law, we live under grace. Well that is true, but what does it mean? People will try to tell you that it means we don't have to be concerned about things like the 10 commandments any longer because that is the Law and we are not under the law anymore. Well these same people might be surprised to find that the New Testament confirms all but one of those 10 commandments. The only one which is not confirmed for us by a new commandment in the New Testament is to keep the Sabbath.

This may come as a shock to many Christians, but it shouldn't. Let me give you just a couple of passages which talk about commandments: (John 14:21 NIV) "Whoever has my commands and obeys them, he is the one who loves me. He who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I too will love him and show myself to him." And (1 John 2:3-6 NIV) {3} We know that we have come to know him if we obey his commands. {4} The man who says, "I know him," but does not do what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in him. {5} But if anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him. This is how we know we are in him: {6} Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.

You might wonder why the commandment to honor the Sabbath was not included. I think you can find your answer in the Old Testament: (Exodus 31:15-17 NIV) {15} For six days, work is to be done, but the seventh day is a Sabbath of rest, holy to the LORD. Whoever does any work on the Sabbath day must be put to death. {16} The Israelites are to observe the Sabbath, celebrating it for the generations to come as a lasting covenant. {17} It will be a sign between me and the Israelites forever, for in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, and on the seventh day he abstained from work and rested. It was to be a lasting covenant between God and the Israelites. I am not saying that we shouldn't keep the Sabbath holy, but it is not commanded to us in the New Testament.

My point to all of this is that God is consistent. He does not change. When He says something, you can live by it, whether it is said in the Old Testament or the New Testament. Yes God is dealing with people through grace instead of the Law, but He has not changed. Paul tells us that the Law was never meant to justify people but rather to bring people to Christ: (Galatians 3:23-25 NIV) {23} Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. {24} So the law was put in charge to lead us to Christ that we might be justified by faith. {25} Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

"We are no longer under the supervision of the law" but does that mean the whole Old Testament is null and void as far as we are concerned? No, like I said God is consistent and He does not change.

Now look at a few passages of Scripture with that in mind: (Hebrews 10:26-29 NIV) {26} If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, {27} but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. {28} Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. {29} How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? This is a warning to those who think that they can continue to sin after salvation.

Paul also warns us about the same thing: (Galatians 5:19-21 NIV) {19} The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; {20} idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions {21} and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Now look at what God said in the Old Testament, and you will see that He is very consistent: (Ezekiel 18:20-24 NIV) {20} The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be charged against him.

{21} "But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. {22} None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. {23} Do I take any pleasure in the death of the wicked? declares the Sovereign LORD. Rather, am I not pleased when they turn from their ways and live?

{24} "But if a righteous man turns from his righteousness and commits sin and does the same detestable things the wicked man does, will he live? None of the righteous things he has done will be remembered. Because of the unfaithfulness he is guilty of and because of the sins he has committed, he will die.

We cannot base our theological stand only on passages we like and ignore the rest of Scripture. God is consistent in both the Old Testament and the New Testament. If some teaching goes against that consistency in either of the Testaments it should be rejected. We are to live holy lives. To preach anything other than that is to go against what God's word says. (Galatians 6:7-8 (NIV) {7} Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. {8} The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. We cannot mock God by obtaining grace and then trampling the Son of God under our feet. Yes we all stumble and God understands that but stumbling is much different than purposely leaving the path. (1 John 1:9 NIV) If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness. Confessing implies repentance and repentance requires a turning from that sin. Don't let anyone tell you that your Christian 'freedom' includes the freedom or right to freely sin without consequences. Know God's word, it contains all the sign posts you need to stay on the right path. (Hebrews 12:14 NIV) Make every effort to live in peace with all men and to be holy; without holiness no one will see the Lord.

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These devotionals are written by Ralph Dettwiler, and reflect his views.

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February 2002