Is the Old Testament Important?

(This is more or less the prompt on which I’m supposed to write an essay for theology class. Figuring I could kill two birds with one stone, I thought I’d share my answer to this question right here.)

The Old Testament ought to be the subject of careful study and meditation for Christians. It chronicles the acts of God towards the nation of Israel. It records an extremely detailed (sometimes monotonous) history of the Jewish people. It is unique in the fact that the historical accounts are recorded with meticulous accuracy. At first glance, much of the Old Testament seems irrelevant to modern Christians. We shouldn’t be so quick to dismiss its value and usefulness.

It’s true that the New Testament is the most important proclamation of the Gospel that God has given us. It clarifies the promises that God made in the Old Testament. It reveals to us the identity and actions of the Messiah. However, without the Old Testament, the New Testament would hardly have a foundation to build upon. So much of the New Testament is a fulfillment of the Old – it completes the entire narrative of God’s love towards all people.

The Old Testament gives us much of the needed information we need to understand the New. In it, God reveals the creation of the earth, His covenants with Abraham and Moses, the Messianic prophecies of the prophets, and how He brought His plan of salvation into action.

The book of Genesis reveals to us why we are sinful and naturally enemies of God. It tells us how the first man, Adam, brought sin into the world through his disobedience. This event is referenced by Paul many times throughout the New Testament. One such example –

“Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death through sin, and so death spread to all men because all sinned…”
Romans 5:12 (ESV)

The written account of the Fall of Man provides the reason we need a savior. In a sense, the first few chapters of Genesis set the narrative for the entire Bible. Not only do we see the origin of sin, we also see the very first promise of God’s plan of salvation:

“I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.”
Genesis 3:15 (ESV)

God gives the promise of the Messiah in the first book of the Bible. The rest of the Biblical narrative explains the means by which God accomplishes His plan. The rest of Genesis chronicles the covenants God made with our fathers in the faith. To Abraham, He promised that all nations would be blessed through his offspring, Jesus. God changes Jacob’s name to Israel, which would become the name of His chosen nation. We see how this nation grows and develops. We see the times they obey and disobey God.

In Exodus, God reveals the Mosaic covenant, the laws through which He would bless Israel. The giving of the Law is very important to all Christians – it shows how sinful we are, and describes what Jesus has fulfilled for us with His perfect obedience to the Law.

In the books of the prophets, God speaks of sending a Messiah who will suffer for Israel and all people. It gives us a clearer picture of who Jesus is and what He has accomplished for us. These prophesies give us exceeding confidence that Jesus is the Messiah.

There is a whole wealth of information to be found in the Old Testament. It is a beautiful account of God’s love and faithfulness. For these reasons, God blesses us and works faith in our hearts as we read His words in the Old Testament. Ultimately, it points us forward to the work of Christ on the cross. As Jesus tells us –

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.”

Matthew 5:17 (ESV)