Vol. 5, No. 1
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It amazes me how often people question the wisdom of studying the Old Testament. Surely we should understand that we are no longer under the Old Law but under the New (Hebrews 8:6-13), but this does not discount the usefulness of that Old Law. Others might complain that the Old Testament is boring and long. There are even those who appear to be pious because of how they emphasized that there is so much to learn in the New Testament that we should really learn it first since it is what we are under. All of these reasons appear good on the surface, but not one of them respects the true value and need of studying the Old Testament as God has told us to do.
Paul, writing to the church at Rome, said, "For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope" (Romans 15:4). The great apostle said this immediately after quoting Psalm 69:9. Therefore, there are many principles that we should learn from Paul's use of the Old Testament. Paul wrote about and recognized that the Old Law had been nailed to the cross (Colossians 2:14), but he said that there was still a place for it. In fact, he shows us that by understanding it, we can gain greater insight into our hope. The Old Testament teaches many of the same principles as the New, and we can learn from it by applying these principles. It is filled with exciting stories of men and women who risked their lives and gave up physical pleasures in order to please God. The stories of Joshua leading the Israelites into battle are filled with action and adventure, as are those of David. It tells us of the beautiful love stories of Jacob and Rachel, and Ruth and Boaz. The Bible is not dull by any means. The beauty of Hebrew poetry throughout the Psalms is obvious, and the prophets discuss the nature of God. The New Testament is filled with quotations and references to the Old Testament. How are we to truly understand these references in context if we do not know the background of that quotation or account? How can we appreciate the impact of Hebrews 11 if we know nothing of what these men and women have done? When Paul uses Abraham as a great example of faith, it is assumed that we should know what he has done and that Paul was simply pointing out what caused him to do it (Romans 4). The great flood shows that God will be just and yet provide a way to escape his wrath. The saving action of Noah and his family from that terrible destruction is then equated by the apostle Peter to the saving action of baptism today (1 Peter 3:20-21).
The Old Testament was written for our learning. It gives us the background that we must have if we are to understand the teachings of Christ and his inspired apostles and prophets. A failure to study the Old Testament shows that one really has no desire to understand the New. The Bible is one book, a beautiful unfolding of the scheme of redemption. Brethren, let us not cast aside anything that God has written, but let us use it and learn from it that we might be more pleasing to God (2 Timothy 2:15; Acts 17:11).
Faith in an essential element in our response to God. "But without faith it is impossible to please him: for he that cometh to God must believe that he is, and that he is a rewarder of them that diligently seek him" (Hebrews 11:6). Faith is defined in Scripture as "...the substance of things hoped for and the evidence of things not seen" (Hebrews 11:1). Living faith is the operative agent in man's obedience to God. It is faith that leads to action. Faith and works are inseparably linked. One is ineffective without the other (James 2:14-26).
Given the importance placed on faith in Scripture, it is imperative that we understand the meaning of faith. Faith is often seen as the proverbial "blind leap into the dark," a crutch for weak individuals. But, nothing could be further from the truth.
Superstition results from ignorance and fear of the unknown. They originate in ignorance. Faith is often associated with superstition. In fact, one of the definitions provided in Merriam Webster's Collegiate Dictionary for faith is "firm belief in something for which there is no proof." I suspect that to be the definition many people attach to "faith" in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. Nothing, however, could be further from the truth.
Faith, as used in Scripture, is not belief without proof, but belief based on evidence. Peter admonished Christians to provide reasons for their faith, because our faith is reasonable (1 Peter 3:15). Our faith in Creation, in the Bible, in Jesus Christ, in the resurrection, in eternal life rests on a solid foundation of evidence.
Given what we know about the universe, faith in God is far easier to sustain than faith in the Big Bang or any other evolutionary hypothesis. The same can be said for our belief in the Bible as the Word of God and our faith in Jesus Christ as the Son of God. I have no doubt that faith will always be under assault by non-believers, but I also know that faith has nothing to fear from truth. As our knowledge increases, our faith will grow proportionately. "So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God" (Romans 10:17).