Is the Old Testament applicable to the Christian life? Dr. Mark Futato explains how the Old Testament Scriptures continue to give encouragement and hope to New Testament believers.
A question has always been raised through the history of the church, and in today’s church in the United States, it’s a burning question. And that’s the question as to whether or not the Old Testament is at all applicable to the Christian life.
New Testament Evidence
You’re not ready to preach if you don’t see how that Old Testament text was designed to encourage the people of God.Well, it’s a big question. It can be looked at a lot of ways. I think the answer is very simple: yes, it is. Why do I think that? Let’s look at just one verse. This is out of the book of Romans, 15th chapter, 4th verse. Paul says, “For everything that was written in the past.” Now when he says everything that was written in the past, he is not talking about Plato, Aristotle, Euripides. He’s talking about the Old Testament. We could rightly paraphrase this, “For everything that was written in the Old Testament.” And then Paul goes on to say, “was written to teach us,” not “was written for them.” He says it was written to teach us “so that through the endurance taught in the Scriptures and the encouragement they provide we might have hope” (NIV).
Old Testament Encouragement
Everybody needs hope. Everybody needs the belief that in some way tomorrow is going to be better than today.Now, I think part of the reason why the question is raised as to whether or not the Old Testament is applicable is because the Old Testament hasn’t always rightly been used. This is a North Star verse for people who went to study and use the Old Testament in their own lives and preach it and teach it and counsel it into the lives of other people. Notice, Paul says, that the Scriptures were given for our encouragement. I simply tell my students, if you’re preparing a sermon on an Old Testament text and you’re done, you need to ask yourself this question: “How does my sermon out of this text encourage God’s people?” And if you don’t have a clear answer to that question, you’re not done preparing. You’re not ready to preach if you don’t see how that Old Testament text was designed to encourage the people of God.
Hope for God’s People
Paul clearly says in this one verse—we can just make it our North Star, our guiding star—everything that was written in the Old Testament was written to teach us as New Testament believers. And it was to teach us not just in any generic way, but to teach us in such a way that we’re going to be encouraged by those Old Testament Scriptures. Those Scriptures are going to give us hope. Everybody needs hope. Everybody needs the belief that in some way tomorrow is going to be better than today. And the Old Testament Scriptures were designed to encourage us and to give us hope. And that’s why Paul goes on a few verses later to say to New Testament believers, based on this Old Testament teaching, “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you might overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15:13). The answer to the question is simple: yes. The Old Testament is applicable to the life of New Testament believers.