The Old Testament is relevant for the Christian life because it is Christian Scripture. We are children of Abraham by faith, so the earlier covenants and redemptive acts of God are part of our history. We need the warnings and exhortations of the Old Testament. We need its songs and proverbs. We need to know about its prophets and kings. The Old Testament tells of saints before the cross, and they form a cloud of witnesses as we run the race after the cross.
The New Testament proclaims the arrival of the Messiah. With the coming of Jesus, God has kept Old Testament promises and prophecies. And with four Gospels, Acts, twenty-one letters, and Revelation, we have twenty-seven books pertaining to the advent of Christ and the mission of his church.
So let’s ask ourselves a question: how many Christian books are in the Bible? Only twenty-seven? No, not just twenty-seven. We do not have a Bible that’s divisible into Jewish and Christian books. Don’t think of the Old Testament as thirty-nine Jewish books and the New Testament as twenty-seven Christian books.
The whole Bible is Christian literature. Both the Old and New Testaments are for our discipleship. Followers of Jesus have sixty-six books because the Old Testament is Christian Scripture. Consider these seven truths:
First, the New Testament did not arise in a vacuum but within a theological and historical storyline that had been unfolding for many centuries. The New Testament is not beginning a new story from scratch. Rather, the New Testament is continuing the Old Testament story.
Second, the New Testament books are filled with Old Testament background. The teachings, parables, and miracles of Jesus are laden with this background. The titles, mission, and death of Christ must be understood in light of earlier Scripture. The New Testament authors use language of prophetic fulfillment that fuse their accounts with the Old Testament. As my friend Josh Philpot once said, “The single most important literature for understanding the New Testament is the Old Testament.”
Third, Jesus claimed that the Old Testament was about him.