by Dr. Robert Nix, BBI President
NOTE: The following excerpted article originally appeared in the Fall 2021 Edition of the BBI Bulletin available here. It has been republished to promote ease of sharing and digital distribution by our supporters and Champions of Grace.
Over my fifteen years of serving at Berean Bible Institute, I have taught many different courses. I must admit, during this time, there are courses that I enjoyed teaching more than others. To my surprise,
one thing that I have discovered is that I enjoy teaching Bible Exposition courses covering the Old Testament.
I think one of the reasons I enjoy them so much is that they force me to dig deeper in my course preparation and examine subjects one might not ordinarily study. I also find that the students that take these courses are often surprised at how much they learn. Throughout the years I have heard a number of students make comments concerning how much they gained by digging deeper into understanding these writings, viewing them from the perspective of God’s overall dealing with the nation of Israel, while also noticing the many truths that are still important for us today.
In this article, I want to look at several reasons why it is essential for believers living in the Dispensation
of Grace to read, study, and understand the Old Testament. I will be using the broadly understood term “Old Testament” to refer to what the Apostle Paul called the “Holy Scriptures” which consisted of the Pentateuch, the Historical books, the Poetic books, and the Prophets. It is important to consider that Paul, the Apostle of Grace, quoted from the Old Testament over one hundred times in his epistles, using them to teach principles, provide application, show contrast, and give context for the truth revealed to him by the risen Savior. Paul’s usage of the Old Testament alone should be enough to encourage us to study and understand how important these writings are for believers today, and that they provide context
for the rest of the Bible.
The first reason that believers need to read and study the Old Testament is that Paul declares that “all Scripture is given by inspiration of God and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction and for instruction in righteousness” (II Tim. 3:16). I believe when Paul makes the statement that “all Scripture is
given by inspiration” he is including his writings, as well as the Old Testament. In the previous verse, he makes reference that the “Holy Scriptures” were used in Timothy’s life to “make you wise for salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus.” Paul’s reference to the Holy Scriptures refers to the fact that it was Timothy’s upbringing in the Old Testament that prepared him to receive the gospel message about Jesus Christ that Paul proclaimed. We see something similar as Paul invited the Jews in Rome to visit him while he was under house arrest. We are told in Acts 28:23 that they came to his lodging and he attempted to persuade them concerning Jesus from Moses and the Prophets. Even though Paul had received the Mystery, not prophesied in the Old Testament (Eph. 3:3-5), he relied on the Old Testament to convince the
Jews who Jesus was and what He came to accomplish. Paul also reminds us that the Old Testament provides context for what God is doing today regarding the redemption provided through Jesus Christ Rom. 1:1- 3). God has inspired the whole Bible, and the whole Bible is profitable for us today.
“…these writings provide the believer with instruction, or learning, as well as endurance, comfort and hope.”Dr. Robert Nix
The second reason why we must study and understand the Old Testament is that these writings provide the believer with instruction, or learning, as well as endurance, comfort, and hope. Romans 15:4 states, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and
comfort of the Scriptures might have hope.” Paul uses the word “learning” here in this verse, much like he used the word “instruction” in II Timothy 3:16. Notice that he sees a connection between our learning and the receiving of patience, comfort, and hope through the Old Testament. We must remember that it is in these Old Testament writings where we find God’s original purpose for mankind. Man was created to have a relationship with his Creator and oversee His creation. He was to populate the earth and have an ongoing fellowship with God. We also learn that there was a problem. Man rebelled and sin entered the world and, as Paul puts it, “through one man, sin entered the world, and death through sin” (Rom. 5:12). The first family was cast out of the Garden of Eden having rebelled against the command of God, and sin has been passed down ever since. However, despite man’s rebellion, God, in His mercy and grace, made provision for man’s sin that would ultimately be fulfilled in the perfect sacrifice for sin, the Lord Jesus Christ. There are hundreds of prophecies in the Old Testament of the coming sinless sacrifice and Savior, the Lord Jesus. Ironically, it is also prophesied that the Savior would be rejected by His chosen people (Israel) and would be crucified, buried, and rise again. We understand today, as part of the Mystery revealed to Paul, this rejection of their Messiah by the nation Israel has led to their being set aside for a time, allowing God to reveal His heavenly purpose through the creation of the Church, the Body of Christ. It is in these truths and many more that we find that God has a plan for mankind and keeps His promises. Israel’s rejection of the Lord Jesus does not in any way mean that they are permanently set aside. For in the Old Testament we also learn that the Lord Jesus will one day return for the nation and establish His rule and reign on the earth. As we study the Old Testament, we see the character of God, the love of God, the judgment of God, the grace of God, the mercy of God, the power of God, and the promises of God. And, I might add, it is also in these books that we are introduced to the heart of man and his propensity for sin, rebellion, and ungodly behavior.
A third reason it is important to study and understand the Old Testament is that it gives us examples to learn from and live by. In these writings we see men and women of faith who, against all odds, stood for God against opposition in order to accomplish great things through their faith and the intervention of God. There were leaders who put their lives on the line to stand for the truth that they received from God. Men and women like Noah, Moses, Joshua, Rahab, Abraham, Hannah, Samuel, David, Daniel, Esther, Mordecai,
Ezra, Isaiah, Jeremiah…you get the picture? If you want an inspired list you can go to Hebrews 11 where
the writer tells us that the world was not worthy of these great champions of faith (11:37-40). They were
incredible examples of what it looked like to stand for God when others around them were turning away.
Along with these examples of great men and women of faith are the examples of sinfulness and rebellion that also serve as examples from the Old Testament. Paul highlights several instances in I Corinthians 10 where the children of Israel rebelled by lusting after evil, practiced idolatry, participated in the sexual perversion of the nations around them, and complained against God and Moses. Paul makes it crystal clear that these evil deeds serve to give us examples that we should not lust or rebel against a righteous God by “lusting after evil things” (I Cor. 10:6,11).
“Finally, I want to encourage you to dive in and enjoy all of God’s Word.”Dr. Robert Nix
Finally, I want to encourage you to dive in and enjoy all of God’s Word. It is profitable for doctrine, for
reproof, for correction, and instruction in righteousness, that each believer will become fully equipped for every good work of service to our Lord (II Tim. 3:16,17). The Psalmist tells us that it “is a lamp unto my feet and a light unto my path” (Ps.119:105). It provides the believer with the strength to endure and the promise of hope in God. It warns us of the deception and pain that sin brings when one turns away from God’s way and follows the world. And most importantly, it reveals the character, will, and plan of God. As we study it in context, understanding what God is doing today in the Dispensation of Grace, we grow in strength and hope to serve our Lord in a lost and dying world.