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Question #131

Do we need to read the first five books of the Old Testament?

I am a bible class teacher in the Church of Christ. A student asked me the following question: "You mentioned that the "Law of Moses" is not our rule to heaven, so does it mean that we do not have to read the first five books of the "Old Testament"? "Please explain further". Help me to give a comprehensive answer to the student.

The Answer:

This question is based upon the Biblical truth that today Christians are not under the Law of Moses. This is established, among other passages, by Ephesians 2:11-22 and Colossians 2:13-15. Since the Christian is no longer under the Law of Moses as a guide for faith and practice, then what use, if any, are we to make of it?

Romans 15:4 gives instruction in this regard: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope.” Paul makes the same point in 1 Corinthians where, after listing Old Testament examples of unbelief, disobedience and murmuring, states 1 Corinthians 10:11, “Now all these things happened unto them for ensamples: and they are written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the world are come.” Further insight is given in Galatians 3. Space is not taken here, but please read the entire chapter. Central are the truths that the law does not save (this does not mean that baptism is not essential to salvation, see, Gal. 3:26-27), that Christ has redeemed us from the curse of the law, and that the law was a schoolmaster to bring us to Christ.

The fact is that we cannot fully understand and appreciate the New Testament without a basic knowledge of the Old Testament. It was written for our learning to lead us to Christ. It is filled with “types” having “antitypes” in the New Testament. It is filled with examples of how God deals with those who do not obey His commands without subtraction or addition. A good example of that is Hebrews 8:5 where God’s admonition to Moses in the building of the tabernacle was repeated – he was to make all things according to the pattern that he was showed by God. The reason in the context is that the tabernacle and its furnishings were “shadows” of the reality that was to come. The entire book of Hebrews uses the Old Testament to demonstrate the “better” dispensation of Christ that was foreshadowed in the Old Testament.

Another example is the entire book of Revelation. There is no way to understand Revelation without an understanding of the Old Testament books of Daniel and Ezekiel. Both books are extensively quoted in Revelation. See the commentaries on Daniel and Revelation and the lessons on Ezekiel at this web site.

Remember Acts 8 and the conversion of the Ethiopian Nobleman. He was riding in his chariot reading Isaiah the prophet. Phillip began at the same place, i.e. in the prophecy of Isaiah, and preached unto him Jesus. There is no greater prophecy of the coming Messiah that Isaiah 53.

Remember Jesus on the road to Emmaus, Luke 24:25-27: “Then he said unto them, O fools, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken: 26 Ought not Christ to have suffered these things, and to enter into his glory? 27 And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, he expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning himself.” There was no better way to identify who He was and what He was than to begin in Moses and the Prophets and recount all that the scriptures said concerning Him.

That could have been a long walk and long talk. One writer states that he has conservatively identified 294 direct New Testament quotations of the Old Testament, 7 quotations that are added to the 294 by “and,” 19 paraphrases of Old Testament passages, 45 passages that are so similar to Old Testament passages that there can be little doubt that the writer had the Old Testament passages in mind. This adds to a total of 295 Old Testament passages occupying 352 New Testament verses. This means that 4.4 percent of the New Testament directly or indirectly references the Old Testament, which is 1 out of every 22.5 New Testament verses.

It all begins no later than Genesis 3:15, which is the first Old Testament Messianic prophecy: “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel.” The entire Bible is a record of the working of God to bring this great event to pass in the fullness of time. “But when the fulness of the time was come, God sent forth his Son, made of a woman, made under the law, 5 To redeem them that were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of sons. 6 And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father.” Galatians 4:4-6. Hear also Ephesians 1:3-14: “Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in heavenly places in Christ: {places: or, things} 4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love: 5 Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will, 6 To the praise of the glory of his grace, wherein he hath made us accepted in the beloved. 7 In whom we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace; 8 Wherein he hath abounded toward us in all wisdom and prudence; 9 Having made known unto us the mystery of his will, according to his good pleasure which he hath purposed in himself: 10 That in the dispensation of the fulness of times he might gather together in one all things in Christ, both which are in heaven, and which are on earth; even in him: {heaven: Gr. the heavens} 11 In whom also we have obtained an inheritance, being predestinated according to the purpose of him who worketh all things after the counsel of his own will: 12 That we should be to the praise of his glory, who first trusted in Christ. {trusted: or, hoped} 13 In whom ye also trusted, after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation: in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with that holy Spirit of promise, 14 Which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of his glory.” Paul us telling us that God’s scheme of redemption is the gospel story – the mystery of His will that has now been revealed and that all things in heaven and on earth have been gathered together in Christ.

There is no more wonderful story. It is indeed the greatest story every told. In fact, the words of the Queen of Sheba concerning the wisdom of Solomon are more apropos to the story of man’s redemption. They are paraphrased in an old gospel hymn: “The half has never yet been told.” 2 Chronicles 9:5-6.

Man’s sin in the Garden of Eden, then as now and forever, separated him from God. Isaiah 59:2. Man was removed from the Garden of God. Gen. 3:24. The entire remainder of scripture tells of God’s working to bring man back to His garden and His fellowship. Praise God, He has done it, Revelation 22, through Jesus Christ. “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” Acts 4:12. But man must always remember that to be saved through Christ he must do the will of God. Matthew 7:21 -27.

God's Plan of Salvation

You must hear the gospel and then understand and recognize that you are lost without Jesus Christ no matter who you are and no matter what your background is. The Bible tells us that “all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23) Before you can be saved, you must understand that you are lost and that the only way to be saved is by obedience to the gospel of Jesus Christ. (2 Thessalonians 1:8) Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” (John 14:6) “Neither is there salvation in any other: for there is none other name under heaven given among men, whereby we must be saved.” (Acts 4:12) "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." (Romans 10:17)

You must believe and have faith in God because “without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him.” (Hebrews 11:6) But neither belief alone nor faith alone is sufficient to save. (James 2:19; James 2:24; Matthew 7:21)

You must repent of your sins. (Acts 3:19) But repentance alone is not enough. The so-called “Sinner’s Prayer” that you hear so much about today from denominational preachers does not appear anywhere in the Bible. Indeed, nowhere in the Bible was anyone ever told to pray the “Sinner’s Prayer” to be saved. By contrast, there are numerous examples showing that prayer alone does not save. Saul, for example, prayed following his meeting with Jesus on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:11), but Saul was still in his sins when Ananias met him three days later (Acts 22:16). Cornelius prayed to God always, and yet there was something else he needed to do to be saved (Acts 10:2, 6, 33, 48). If prayer alone did not save Saul or Cornelius, prayer alone will not save you. You must obey the gospel. (2 Thess. 1:8)

You must confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God. (Romans 10:9-10) Note that you do NOT need to make Jesus “Lord of your life.” Why? Because Jesus is already Lord of your life whether or not you have obeyed his gospel. Indeed, we obey him, not to make him Lord, but because he already is Lord. (Acts 2:36) Also, no one in the Bible was ever told to just “accept Jesus as your personal savior.” We must confess that Jesus is the Son of God, but, as with faith and repentance, confession alone does not save. (Matthew 7:21)

Having believed, repented, and confessed that Jesus is the Son of God, you must be baptized for the remission of your sins. (Acts 2:38) It is at this point (and not before) that your sins are forgiven. (Acts 22:16) It is impossible to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ without teaching the absolute necessity of baptism for salvation. (Acts 8:35-36; Romans 6:3-4; 1 Peter 3:21) Anyone who responds to the question in Acts 2:37 with an answer that contradicts Acts 2:38 is NOT proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Once you are saved, God adds you to his church and writes your name in the Book of Life. (Acts 2:47; Philippians 4:3) To continue in God’s grace, you must continue to serve God faithfully until death. Unless they remain faithful, those who are in God’s grace will fall from grace, and those whose names are in the Book of Life will have their names blotted out of that book. (Revelation 2:10; Revelation 3:5; Galatians 5:4)