We Must Teach the Old Testament Systematically—Not Superficially

(Read Part 3)

In this ongoing series on developing a Biblical philosophy of ministry, we are dealing with some hot contemporary issues.

Order Dr. Andy Woods’ new book, “The Middle East Meltdown.”

What you will discover is that there is a lot of disagreement in churches today—not so much over their doctrinal statements. The disagreement is over how they have decided to do ministry—ministry practicum or a philosophy of ministry.

This is important and significant to me because issues nearly identical to these that we are discussing are confronting all sectors of conservative Christianity, even if you are in the Bible church movement or a Baptist church or a Calvary Chapel or some other type of evangelical church. These ideas have been circulating for decades. To put it another way, the devil never takes a holiday. He continues to foster attacks upon literal interpretation, verse-by-verse Bible teaching and the exposition of Biblical prophecy, in particular. And these issues keep recurring.

Let me be clear: These are issues to which all churches need to respond. If your church is not currently facing them, be ready because they are coming. You are bound to face them eventually.

Nine Troubling Ideas

We are breaking this topic down into nine troubling ideas. You can review the first three in the previous articles in this series, and I will touch on that further before the end of this article.

This week we come to the fourth major point that we need to deal with, which is as follows:

Old Testament teachings are no longer seen as relevant for the life of the church today.

This fourth point flows from our third point, which is that there is a shift away from—and a redefinition of—“the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, NKJV).

Of course, we know that a book like Leviticus would be a very difficult book for a new believer to master, with all of its dietary laws and other ancient customs.

Furthermore, none of this applies directly to us today in this age of grace and the church. So why even go into all of that detail?

According to some, Old Testament books are basically irrelevant to the church.

But here is the Scripture that this brings to my mind:

If the foundations are destroyed,
What can the righteous do? (Ps. 11:3)

If you want to destroy a house, you do not change the wallpaper or graffiti the walls. That can damage a house, but it cannot destroy a house. You destroy a house by attacking the foundation that the house is built on.

We lived in Dallas for a number of years, and there are many foundation problems in the Dallas area. We would wake up in the morning and find a giant crack through one of our walls. It was not the wall’s problem. It was not the carpeting. It was a foundation issue!

When you jettison or even marginalize the Old Testament—although you may still believe that it is inspired—you are achieving the same result as liberalism, methodologically, even though you are not a theological liberal yourself.

If you are to deny access to the Old Testament to people, they have no basis for appreciating the concepts in the New Testament.

For example, how can I ever understand my need for Christ if I do not first understand that Adam sinned in the garden of Eden and brought in perpetual death and separation from God through sin? That is the foundation!

The gospel is more clearly presented in the New Testament—although I think you can find the gospel in the Old Testament. But there are still aspects of New Testament theology that require an understanding of the Old Testament.

For instance, the New Testament uses the word redemption. But what does that mean? I would not really be able to understand that term unless I had the Exodus narrative as background, showing me how God purchased His people, the nation of Israel, out of bondage in Egypt and brought them to faith and led them in the way of sanctification.

The Apostle Paul is assuming that we understand these things when he talks about redemption. But the only place that you can get that understanding is in the Hebrew Bible.

Now, let us consider the book of Revelation.

There are 404 verses in the book of Revelation. Interestingly, there are no Old Testament quotes in the book of Revelation, but there are many Old Testament allusions in the book of Revelation. And 278 of Revelation’s 404 verses are allusions back to the Old Testament. That is how you demystify the book of Revelation.

People say, “I cannot understand the book of Revelation.” Well, if most of it is a recapitulation of the Old Testament, what you are conceding and admitting is that you do not really know much about the Old Testament!

How do you understand Hebrews without Leviticus? Revelation without Daniel? The gospel without Genesis 3?

The bottom line is that you simply cannot teach the whole Bible without teaching the Old Testament. It would be like trying to learn how to do multiplication and division without first learning addition and subtraction. You cannot do it. You cannot write a paragraph unless you know how to write a sentence, you cannot write a sentence unless you know how to spell words and you cannot write a word unless you learn the alphabet. If we are expecting people to just pick up all of the truths found in the Old Testament—at the New Testament level—we are asking them to do something that is impossible.

Some of the Old Testament is frightening. To be honest with you, some of the New Testament is frightening, too, But we are called as Bible teachers to teach all of it. As we are faithful to that, God is going to connect the dots for a lot of people.

Time to Review

We have now covered the first four of nine major troubling ideas with which we are dealing in this series.  Here are the first three, in review:

  1. There is a tendency to reach the youth at the expense of the truth.

  2. There is no longer an emphasis on Bible prophecy.

  3. There is a shift away from—and a redefinition of—“the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, NKJV).

All of these points fall together like dominoes in a row. You knock one over, and the rest begin to topple.

We are just getting started in this series. Next week, we will go back and review the four points that we have covered so far, and consider their impact all together in the larger context before going forward to points five through nine.

May God give you wisdom and discernment as you study with us and apply these lessons in your own local church and ministry.

Editor’s Note: This blog was compiled with the assistance of Paul J. Scharf,
editor in chief of Dispensational Publishing House,
and is taken from the videos that you can watch in their entirety below.


Read more articles by and about Dr. Andy Woods

(To be continued)

Dr. Andy Woods is a prolific author and speaks nationally on Bible prophecy and related issues. He is senior pastor of Sugar Land Bible Church in Sugar Land, Texas, and the new president of Chafer Theological Seminary in AlbuquerqueN.M. We greatly value the opportunity to work with him as a contributing author to Dispensational Publishing House.

Copyright © 2017 Dispensational Publishing House, Inc.

All Scripture quotations, unless otherwise indicated,
are taken from the New American Standard Bible®,
Copyright © 1960, 1962, 1963, 1968, 1971, 1972, 1973, 1975, 1977, 1995
by The Lockman Foundation
Used by permission. (www.Lockman.org)

 Scripture quotations marked (NKJV) are taken from the New King James Version®.
Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

2 Comments

  1. […] (Read Part 4) […]

Leave A Comment