It was polite but I could still detect an edge to the question. Even after 15 years I still remember it. He was regular attender and a faithful giver so I really didn’t want to offend him. The question he asked rather bluntly was, “Are we a church or a synagogue?”. I assume he asked because I had been preaching out of the Old Testament for several weeks (it was a series) and he really wanted sermons on the New Testament. It did give me motivation to consider how much time should be given to the Old Testament Scriptures. Did not Jesus say to go and teach all nations “… whatsoever I have commanded you”? (Matthew 28:18-20). He didn’t say to go and teach what Moses commanded!
This is true but here are a few things that I have concluded over the years and observed about how the church should view the importance of both Testaments:
“Young people today do not know the God of the Old Testament. Therefore they do not feel the need for the Gospel in the New Testament.”
1. Both Old and New Testament find their main topic in the Person and Work of Jesus Christ.
Luke 24:27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. ESV
2. Paul never taught any thing, especially the Gospel, that is not found in the Old Testament
Acts 26:22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: ESV
3. Many of the Old Testament stories are to be told and retold as a part of the systematic teaching for us and our children so we do not repeat their sins.
Ps 78:5-8 He established a testimony in Jacob and appointed a law in Israel, which he commanded our fathers to teach to their children, 6 that the next generation might know them, the children yet unborn, and arise and tell them to their children, 7 so that they should set their hope in God and not forget the works of God, but keep his commandments; 8 and that they should not be like their fathers, a stubborn and rebellious generation …” ESV
These Old Testament stories impart a reverence for God and His ways that we can never get away from no matter how old we are.
4. The Old Testament functions as a kind of “pre-evangelism” for sinners.
I once heard a President of New Orleans Southern Baptist Seminary speak on this generation. He made this statement on efforts to do evangelism, “We are trying to reap a harvest in an unseeded generation”. Bingo. Young people today do not know the God of the Old Testament. Therefore they do not feel the need for the Gospel in the New Testament.
“Let us teach the whole Bible. Let us reverence it, both Old and New Testaments and thank God for it.”
5. Finally, Paul makes a most amazing statement by saying these things written of in the Old Testament were actually events designed and written down for the church more than for Israel.
God actually designed these events in the Old Testament so they would be read and preached by the church. Note how Paul puts it:
1 Cor 10:11-12 These things happened to them as an example[for us], but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.
Kyle Idleman, a pastor of South East Christian Church in Louisville, Ky told the story about traveling as a missionary for a few weeks to a third world country. He took his daughter who was about eight years old at the time. In this undeveloped country, undomesticated dogs ran wild in the fields and in the cities. His daughter was used to petting dogs and she would try to walk right up to them and pet them. He solemnly warned her not to approach these wild dogs. She still did it. Finally, one night, he got out the computer and brought up on the screen some pictures of children who had tried to make friends with some of these temperamental and half starved canines. He didn’t hold back. She was shocked and horrified but as a father, he felt it was necessary to see what could happen if she continued to ignore his warnings. Afterwards, he said, “I never had another problem with her and the dogs”.
In the same way, we are to use the stories of the Old Testament for the instruction and warnings to the church.
Therefore, let us read the whole Bible. Let us teach the whole Bible. Let us reverence it, both Old and New Testaments and thank God for it.