QUESTION: Why is the Bible made up of the Old and New Testaments? Isn’t the New Testament more important?
ANSWER: The Bible is God’s Word, the inspired record of how God has revealed Himself to man. God has dealt with mankind in different ways at different times in man’s history. Throughout the Bible and throughout human history Christ is the center, the focal point of God’s revelation of Himself to man. His rejection, death, resurrection and glorification mark a distinct turning point in the ways of God with man.
The Old Testament looks forward to Christ’s coming. Beginning with creation and going on to God’s dealings with individuals and then with an earthly nation, Israel, God gives us many pictures and prophecies that keep pointing forward to Christ. At the same time, using repeated examples, God graphically depicts man’s sinfulness and consequent need for the Savior.
The New Testament presents this promised Savior to us: God’s own Son came in person into our world. When Israel, God’s earthly people, rejected and crucified Him, God brought into being something altogether new, the Church – although this had been His purpose in His divine counsels before the world’s foundation. Much of the New Testament brings this subject, which was a mystery not touched upon in the Old Testament, before us. In contrast to Israel, an earthly people, the Church is God’s heavenly people, though now still upon earth. Its tremendous privileges and explicit instructions, as to how this heavenly people should live on an earth where its Head has been and is still rejected, are a vital part of the New Testament.
The two Testaments form one whole. The Old Testament lays the foundation upon which the New Testament builds. Neither is complete without the other. They are interlocking. Since we tend to view things from our standpoint and because the New Testament deals in large part with the dispensation we are living in, our human tendency is to view the New Testament as more important than the Old. When presenting the gospel to someone we usually begin with the New Testament, for it presents Christ’s work to us as a concretely finished work that we can look back upon rather than as something we are looking to God to accomplish for us some day. To lead someone to the Lord, the New Testament is generally quite sufficient.
But a Christian’s spiritual growth will be hampered greatly if he spends time only in the New Testament, neglecting the Old. God wants us to “grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 3:18). When Paul speaks of “the Holy Scriptures which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ,” he is referring specifically to the Old Testament, for the New Testament had not yet been written when Timothy was a boy. But he immediately goes on from there to tell us that “All Scripture” (the Old and New Testaments) “is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:15-17).
The Lord Jesus greatly valued the Old Testament. As a boy of twelve, His father’s business for Him was to be where older men were engaged in serious discussion of its teachings (Lk. 2:46-49). “It is written,” He told Satan, quoting from it each time the tempter tempted Him. The New Testament writers all were intimately acquainted with the Old Testament and referred to or quoted from it hundreds of times. May the Lord help us value and acquaint ourselves with both the Old and the New Testaments.
Answered by Eugene P. Vedder, Jr.
With permission to publish by: Sam Hadley, Grace & Truth, 210 Chestnut St., Danville, IL., USA. Website: www.gtpress.org