If Christians follow Christ under the New Covenant, then why read the Old Testament? There are actually many good reasons.
The grass withers and the flowers fade,
but the word of our God stands forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
When you ask someone why you should do something, do you get irritated when the answer is “because you should”?
It certainly seems that it would be beneficial for Christians to read the Old Testament. But just because something seems a certain way doesn’t mean that it is.
If Christians follow Christ and are under the New Covenant, does the Old Testament hold relevance for us today?
The answer may seem obvious for people who grew up in church, but for a newer believer who didn’t, it could be a sincere question.
So, let me attempt to answer the question of why we should read the Old Testament with a real answer. Or actually, 4 real answers why we should read the Old Testament.
Maybe these will get your juices flowing and you can think of some additional reasons. But at the very least, I hope these 4 reasons to read the Old Testament resonate with you.
The New Testament Honors the Old Testament
We actually read a lot of the Old Testament when we read the New Testament.
There is no one absolute resource of all the quotations of the Old Testament in the New Testament, but almost all online sources would agree there are a minimum of 200 times in the New Testament there is a quote used from the Old Testament.
The article “How many Old Testament references are there in the New Testament?” states the value in this well. In it, the author says that these references “reflect God’s desire to assure us of the continuity, truthfulness, and absolute necessity of His word.”
Because the New Testament quotes The Old Testament so often, it bears witness to its foundational nature. By relying so often on the Old Testament, the New Testament shows the value for Christians to lean on it for even more of God’s wisdom and guidance.
The Old Testament Answers Big Questions
If we don’t put much thought into it, it is tempting to say we don’t need to read the Old Testament because it revolves around Israel before the time of Christ. And therefore, as believers, we can get everything that we need from the New Testament.
But to say that is to leave out a large portion of the book of Genesis. The sons of Israel – the beginning of the tribes of Israel – don’t appear until much later in the book. The name Israel doesn’t even appear until chapter 32 (Genesis 32:29).
The arguments for trusting historical depictions in the Bible as historical go way beyond the scope of this article. Simply put, I believe that we can trust the Bible when it describes history as actual history. When we read the Old Testament, we learn the beginning of all things.
If you have the faith to accept this, then you have real answers to the origins of our universe, our planet, and ourselves. You understand there was an early human time period we know little about and the worldwide calamity that virtually wiped it out. You learn how the early nations developed and spread, and you learn why we have multiple languages today.
Most importantly, you understand that sin entered this world through a real event, and it had devastating consequences. Sin that separates us from God. And even that early, a reference to the one who would one day take upon Himself the sins of the world (Genesis 3:15).
I would rather rely on the Bible to answer big questions than on my ability to make the Bible fit my perceptions.
The Old Testament Speaks to Current and Future Events
Although completed over 2,000 years ago, there are still events that we read about in the Old Testament that are happening or have yet to happen.
The later half of the collection of writings that make up the Old Testament are often referred to as the Major Prophets and the Minor Prophets. Many of the prophecies contained in those books are about events that are still yet to happen.
Daniel, Isaiah, Ezekiel, and Zechariah in particular contain several prophecies that have yet to be fulfilled. Many of these prophecies being echoed in the book of Revelation.
There are some prophecies that have been recently fulfilled. The return of the Israeli people to their homeland, something that happened within the lifetimes of many still alive today, was predicted in Ezekiel 37.
Others have yet to be fulfilled but are believed to be coming soon. The 3rd Temple, which many believe must be in place for some of the prophecies in the book of Revelation to be fulfilled, is referenced at length in Ezekiel 40.
Both the Old and New Testament are Inspired by God
I saved the best for last. Frankly, this reason to read the Old Testament is the ace in the hole. If I had mentioned it first, you may not have kept reading!
The truth is that all scripture is inspired by God (2 Timothy 3:16-17). The same, one true God that inspired the New Testament also inspired the Old Testament. If we are willing to put our trust and faith that the New Testament is true, we should be able to apply the same standard to the Old Testament.
It’s one thing to say that the collection of writings that make up the Bible are God’s inspired word. You can trust that this claim is not made lightly. Here is another good article that sums up how we got to the 39 Old Testament and 27 New Testament books as inspired scripture.
Sometimes, abiding with Christ happens when we read the Old Testament, because we’re reading the inspired words of the same God that reveals Himself to mankind across time.
If you have ever thought about why Christians read the Old Testament, I hope this article has given you something good to reflect upon.
More verses about the Bible as God’s word: