Occasionally, someone will pose the question, “The Church of Christ doesn’t believe in the Old Testament, do they?” Often, this misunderstanding is the result of someone who has tried, with little success, to explain the difference between the Law of Christ and the Law of Moses. This could, unfortunately, also could be the result of the Christian’s misunderstanding based on those who have influenced them in the past.
The denominations are not the only ones who sometimes misunderstand the value and purpose of the Old Testament. Christians tend to fight the extreme positions that denominations often take with positions of equal, but opposite, extremes that also miss the truth of God’s Word. One example is the idea that we live under a New Covenant and therefore we don’t need to study the Old Testament. This idea is just as wrong as wrong can be. By studying the Old Testament, we can; (1) learn from the examples recorded (1 Cor. 10:11); (2) have true hope (Rom. 15:4), and (3) be wise unto salvation (2 Tim. 3:14-15).
As we read of the experiences of Israel, both during times of obedience and rebellion, we must remember we are serving the same God as they. A God who never changes (Mal. 3:6; Heb. 13:8). It is through reading both the Old and New Testament that we may come to a full understanding of the God we serve. The Old Testament illustrates for us how “God is love” (1 Jn. 4:8, 16) as we read of His willingness to forgive Manasseh (2 Chron. 33:10-13) and how He delivered Israel time after time after their repentance. We also can understand how “God is a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29) as we read of the judgments that came on Israel and other nations.
There are principles that were true before the Law, during the Law, and still true today. An example is the principle of the foundation of marriage, which rests, not on the New Testament, but the Old Testament. When questioned on this subject by the Jews, Jesus, instead of introducing a new law, asked them “have you not read?” (Matt. 19:4). He referred them back to the original creation account as the basis of marriage. Even the different roles of men and women today are founded on the account in Genesis (1 Tim. 2:11-14). It does not make any difference which covenant we may live under; the order of creation and the general roles of men and women will never change.
In His discourse on dealing with a sinning brother in Matt. 18:15-17, Jesus repeated a principle found in Deut. 17:2-6 when He said: “If your brother sins, go and show him his fault in private; if he listens to you, you have won your brother. But if he does not listen to you, take one or two more with you, so that BY THE MOUTH OF TWO OR THREE WITNESSES EVERY FACT MAY BE CONFIRMED. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector.” Because of the evil influences exerted on man’s nature, there will always be the danger of someone wanting to accuse others falsely in this corrupt world. Therefore, this principle from God will always apply. In Rom. 2:5-6, Paul did not mind referring to Deut. 32:34, nor quoting Psalms 62:12 and Prov. 24:12 when he said: “But because of your stubbornness and unrepentant heart you are storing up wrath for yourself in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God, who WILL RENDER TO EACH PERSON ACCORDING TO HIS DEEDS.” Paul quoted the Old Testament with confidence and applied it to our time even though he clearly understood the covenants had changed. He knew there are principles in the Old Testament that will never change while this earth remains.