The Old Testament is divided into 5 parts: Law, History, Poetry, Major Prophets and Minor Prophets (see the article “The Bible”). The Old Testament is the Old Covenant; a covenant that God made with His people who lived hundreds of years ago. Sadly there is much misunderstanding about our relationship to the Old Testament today. Many people believed we are still under the Old Law. However, a study of the New Testament shows this is not correct. There are several passages which tell us plainly that the Old Testament is no longer the law we live under. Christ came to fulfill the law and to take it out of the way. In Mt. 5:18 Jesus said, “For verily I say unto you, Till heaven and earth pass, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass from the law, till all be fulfilled.” Then in Luke 24:44 we read, “And he said unto them, These are the words which I spake unto you, while I was yet with you, that all things must be fulfilled, which were written in the law of Moses, and in the prophets, and in the psalms, concerning me.” On the cross Jesus said: “It is finished” (Jn. 19:30). When Jesus died on the cross He fulfilled the Old Testament and took it out of the way. It is no longer binding on us today. In Col. 2:14 Paul wrote: “Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.” Christ then instituted a new law; the New Testament. We cannot be under both the Old Testament and the New Testament at the same time. Some would then want to know of what benefit is the Old Testament today?
In Romans 15:4 Paul writes, “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (NKJV). The KJV renders the verse, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Paul had just quoted a passage from the Old Testament and adds that those things were recorded not only for those who lived under the Old Law, but there are great lessons there for those of us living in the Christian Age and under the New Testament. The things written aforetime were the Old Testament Scriptures. These Scriptures were preserved for our learning; from them we get needed exhortation; admonition. Robert R. Taylors in his commentary on Romans writes on this passage: “Through patience (steadfastness) and comfort (sympathy, aid, help) of the Scriptures we possess the holiness of hope.” We are under Christ’s Law revealed in the New Testament and not the Old Testament or the Old Law. However we receive a great deal of help from the Old Testament Scriptures.
The following are some purposes of the Old Testament (Thoughts gleaned from Roy H. Lanier, Sr., Three Years of the Gospel Preacher, Vol. 1)):
1. God. We learn about God as creator, ruler, and preserver of all. We learn a lot about God’s character from the Old Testament
2. The Universe. The Old Testament gives us the only reasonable and believable explanation of the existence of the universe.
3. Man. The Bible tells us that God created man in his own image and also tells us where we came from why we are here and where man is going. We also learn much about our relationship to God and to other human beings.
4. Sin. The Old Testament tells us the origin of Sin and shows how sin came into the world. We also learn that sin can be forgiven.
5. Christ, the Messiah. The Old Testament contains many promises of the coming Messiah. Reading the New Testament we can clearly see that Jesus of Nazareth is the Messiah predicted by the Old Testament.
We are under the New Law, the gospel, found in the New Testament. However in our study we do not want to neglect the Old Testament for there is a wealth of information there to help us in living the Christian life.