Christian, Study the Old Testament!
While preparing for a five week study through the book of Jonah on Sunday nights at EQUiP, I began to think about some of the arguments that have been given to me about why Christianity cannot be real. 99.9% of the time, I encounter someone that believes Christianity can't be real because of the stuff the God of the Old Testament does, the laws of the Old Testament, etc. In other words, most atheist or agnostic people I encounter have a problem with the Old Testament. The God of the Old Testament is often disassociated with the God of the New Testament and considered to be: primitive; crude; ethnocentric; and an angry cruel God.
As Christians, we know that Jesus came to fulfill the law of the Old Testament, and often profess "all you need is Jesus!" While this is definitely true, does it necessarily mean we should eliminate the Old Testament?
Mark Dever describes this thought process in two very good illustrations. He states: (1) Studying the Old Testament compared to studying the New...is like eating a fish with bones when you could have the boneless filet; and (2) Studying the Old Testament compared to studying the New...is like watching the big game from bad seats with a blocked view when you could be standing on the field. (Dever, What Does God Want of Us Anyway?, p. 64)
From history, we find a man with a similar thought process named Marcion. He rejected the Old Testament "because its God seemed too cruel, wrathful, and inconsistent with the God revealed in Jesus of Nazareth" (Dever, What Does God Want of Us Anyway, p. 65). In addition to rejecting the Old Testament, Marcion also rejected most of the New Testament except for parts of the Gospel of Luke, and 10 of Paul's letters. This approach was ultimately deemed heretical. It was also a method utilized by the Nazis in an attempt to rid Christianity of its Judaic roots.
When someone refers to the Gospel of Luke as being credible, but not affirming any more of the Bible, my thoughts immediately turn to Luke 24:44-48:
Then He (Jesus) told them, "These are My words that I spoke to you while I was still with you - that everything written about Me in the Law of Moses, the Prophets, and the Psalms must be fulfilled." Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures. He also said to them, "This is what is written: The Messiah would suffer and rise from the dead the third day, and repentance for forgiveness of sins would be proclaimed in His name to all the nations beginning at Jerusalem. You are my witnesses of these things."
Jesus taught that the Law of Moses (the Torah), the Prophets (the Nevi'm), and the Psalms (Ketuvim) were good for teaching about Him. Paul further defends this notion in his second letter to Timothy writing:
All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work (2 Timothy 3:16-17).
So Christian, can you learn something from the Old Testament? Yes! In fact, Jesus and the apostle Paul not only used it for teaching, but recommended you do the same! So take comfort in knowing that there's plenty of Old Testament back there to delve into. But if you are not sure where to start, let me invite you to join us on Sunday nights in January at Old Fort Baptist Church, where we will be walking through the book of Jonah. See you next Sunday!