“Some of my friends think the church of Christ doesn’t believe in the Old Testament because we call ourselves ‘New Testament Christians’. Please explain what that term means and show the importance of studying the Old Testament.”
We call ourselves “New Testament Christians” because that is the only kind of Christian there is. There were no Christians under the Old Testament. And if one tries to follow the Old Testament today, he is: “. . . severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace” (Galatians 5:4; New American Standard Bible).
The Bible clearly reveals that the Old Testament was taken away at the death of Jesus. . .
“For when the priesthood is changed, the law must be changed also . . . the former regulation is set aside because it was weak and useless (for the law made nothing perfect)” (Hebrews 7:12, 18, 19; New International Version)
God promised through the prophet Jeremiah (about 700 years before Christ), a new covenant (Jeremiah chapter 31). This is quoted later in Hebrews 8:8b – 13. . .
“The days are coming, declares the Lord,
when I will make a new covenant
with the people of Israel
and with the people of Judah. . . I will forgive their wickedness and will remember their sins no more.” By calling this covenant “new,” he has made the first one obsolete. . .”
Then, speaking of the death of Jesus, “For this reason Christ is the mediator of a new covenant” (Hebrews 9:15). That is the reason the apostle Paul wrote of Jesus, “He forgave us all our sins, having canceled the charge of our legal indebtedness, which stood against us and condemned us; he has taken it away, nailing it to the cross” (Colossians 2:14). This is made clear in Romans 7:1 – 7, 2 Corinthians 3:7 – 11, etc.
The Old Testament was fulfilled in Christ and it has now been taken away. We do not live under that law. If we did, we would be obligated to keep the Sabbath day, make a trip to Jerusalem three times a year for the feast celebrations and sacrifices, etc. This Mosaic law has been removed by the death of Christ on the cross. Notice, “the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ” (John 1:17). Today we live under the New Testament, that which is given by Christ.
Does all that mean that the Old Testament Scriptures are not important for us today? Of course not. We should constantly study the Old Testament. The reason? “. . . Everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
In the Old Testament, we learn so much about the nature of God and how He deals with humankind. We learn valuable lessons from the history of Israel. Paul also notes, “These things happened to them as examples and were written down as warnings for us, on whom the culmination of the ages has come” (1 Corinthians 10:11). Other passages (2 Timothy 3:15 – 17; 2 Peter 1:20, 21; etc) also show the need for studying the Old Testament.
But to know how we are to serve God today, we must turn to the New Testament. It is in the New Testament that we learn what the Lord wants us to do to be saved, how to live the Christian life, the hope that Christ gives us, etc. In fact, God gives us “. . . every spiritual blessing in Christ” (Ephesians 1:3b) and all these are revealed in the New Testament Scriptures for those who live according to the New Testament. Yes, we are “New Testament Christians”. There is no other kind.
Studying the Old Testament can be daunting and confusing. This is one reason why I created “Refresh My Heart In Christ – Bible Study Blog”. I didn’t want a novice or a new convert to be overwhelmed with exegesis, hermeneutics and extensive theological/existential discussions when approaching the material. Instead I am gently presenting the Bible text in chronological order while following a simple design: a short, manageable Scripture text and a series of relatable, lighthearted and inductive questions about the text.
I invite you and your friends to check it out and let me know what you think. Thanks for the opportunity to offer my comments on this topic!