Discover How to Embrace the Sections of the Bible
Most Christians know more about the New Testament of the Bible than the Old Testament. With this focus on the New Testament, where does the Old Testament fit in? How can we reconcile the Old and New Testaments of the Bible?
New Testament Only
Most people who read and study God’s word tend to focus on the New Testament. They have some go-to passages that they read often, and they’re usually in the New Testament.
Some go as far as to dismiss the Old Testament. They say it no longer matters, since Jesus fulfilled it (Matthew 5:17).
Once when leading a small group Bible study, I asked everyone to turn to an Old Testament passage. This request appalled one of our younger members.
“We’re Christians,” she said. “The Old Testament no longer applies to us, so we shouldn’t be reading it.”
I don’t recall how I responded, but the Holy Spirit gave me the right words to say. She accepted my reasoning and looked up the passage. At the end of our study, she thanked me for the insight she learned from our Old Testament reading.
Most every book in the Bible’s New Testament quotes or references Old Testament passages. By knowing what the Old Testament contains, we’re better able to comprehend the nuances of the New Testament.
For example, without knowing Old Testament Scripture, the book of Hebrews is a most challenging read.
Though this young woman’s view was extreme, many people share a similar mindset. They focus on the stories about Jesus and his church, while they ignore everything that happened prior to that time. What they need to do is learn how to reconcile the Old and New Testaments.
The opposite perspective is applying the same importance to both sections of the Bible. The purpose of Scripture is to reveal God to us.
This happens in the Old Testament that reveals Father God and points us to the coming Savior, his Son. The New Testament opens with a focus on Jesus and then talks about his followers and early church.
They don’t need to reconcile the Old and New Testaments because to them both carry equal importance. Yet this isn’t without its own dangers. We need to take care not to build a theology based on Old Testament principles that Jesus fulfilled.
For example, the Old Testament overflows with rules for people to follow and the warning of judgment and punishment when they fall short.
This is to point us to the need for a better way. In doing so, it foreshadows salvation through Jesus by his ultimate sacrifice to pay for our sins, a sacrifice to end all sacrifices.
Therefore, as followers of Jesus, we’re no longer under the law of the Old Testament and the threat of its punishment. Instead, we are saved by grace through faith. We don’t need to work to earn it. We just need to receive it (Ephesians 2:8-9).
Yet too many practitioners of the Christian faith today still try to earn their salvation as the Old Testament proclaims, while not adhering to Jesus’s better way.
Instead of applying equal weight to both testaments of Scripture, they need to reconcile the Old and New Testaments of the Bible.
Yet some people push back against this, citing Paul’s words to his protege Timothy that all scripture comes from God and is useful to us (2 Timothy 3:16). Saying “all scripture” confirms that both the Old and New Testaments are important, right?
Not so fast.
At the time Paul wrote this, we did not have the New Testament of the Bible. Yes, some of the books and letters did exist at that time, but it would be a couple of centuries before they were codified into the cannon that we now call the New Testament.
So when Paul said “all scripture” he referred to the Scripture that existed at that time. This would be what we now call the Old Testament and the Apocrypha.
The Septuagint Bible—the Greek translation of Scripture in use during Jesus’s time and which he quoted from—included the text that we now call the Apocrypha, along with the rest of the Old Testament.
Though these books have remained in some Bibles, Protestants removed them from theirs a couple of centuries ago. Yet the Old Testament and the Apocrypha are what Paul referred to when he said, “all scripture.”
Therefore, to properly reconcile the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, we must also include the Apocrypha in our consideration.
When we reconcile the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, we must balance the truth that Jesus came to fulfill the law and the prophets with Paul’s teaching that all Scripture applies. This includes the Old Testament, the Apocrypha, and the New Testament.
All three of them point us to Jesus. And that’s the goal.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.