By Morris W. R. Bailey
Our discussion of the subject of handling aright the Word of truth, has thus far focused on the proper distinction between the Old Testament and the New Testament, with emphasis on the fact that we are under the latter and not under the former. Paul said, “For ye are not under law, but under grace (Rom. 6:14). Because of the possibility of a false conclusion being drawn from this teaching concerning the Law, it is therefore appropriate that at this point we pause to consider the
Proper Use of the Old Testament Scriptures
It is virtually impossible to discuss any subject so thoroughly that no questions will ever be raised, nor objections filed against our conclusions. There are some who draw false inferences and raise objections when it is taught that we are not under the Old Testament. They will ask, “Don’t you believe that the Old Testament is true?” and, “If we are not under the Old Testament, of what use is it? Why study it?”
Well, of course we believe that the Old Testament is true. While we do not believe that we are commanded to build an ark, we do believe that Noah was thus commanded and while we do not keep the Sabbath day, we believe that it is nevertheless true that Israel was commanded to keep it.
Given by Inspiration
In 2 Timothy 3:16, 17 Paul said, “Every scripture inspired of God is also profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. That the man of God may be complete, furnished completely unto every good work” (A.M.S.).
In these words Paul placed the seal of divine inspiration on the scriptures. By the term “scripture” he would, of course, include such books of the New Testament as were written at that time. It would also most certainly include the Old Testament Scriptures which had been in use for some time, and which he elsewhere called the oracles of God (Romans 3:2).
Inspired Scriptures Profitable
Not only did Paul say that the scriptures are inspired of God; but he also said that such scriptures are profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness. It is my personal conviction that the matter of reproof, correction, instruction in righteousness more adequately describes the purpose of the New Testament Scriptures. There is, however, one function that is common to Old and New Testament alike. Both are profitable for teaching.
We may say, in fact, that the word, teaching, is broad enough to encompass the whole scope of the purpose of Old Testament revelation as far as we are concerned today. That it serves in the role of teaching is evident from the fact that time after time Jesus and the apostles quoted from the Old Testament as they taught the things relating to the kingdom of God. In the remainder of this article I shall point out some things that the Old Testament Scriptures teach that are indeed profitable.
The Story of Creation
The first thing that we shall notice that is taught in the Old Testament Scriptures, that is of profit, is the story of creation. In fact it is the first thing that we encounter, for the Old Testament begins with the sublime declaration that, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth (Genesis 1:1). This, I propose to show, is the only account of creation that has been offered that can be regarded as credible.
That reason, itself, calls for a creator is evident in the very nature of things. Allow me to illustrate.
I drive an automobile. It is a complex machine, composed of a chassis with four wheels for mobility, a body with seats for the comfort of passengers, and a motor to furnish power. It would be nothing short of insanity to suggest that this automobile did not have a maker. We could only pity the twisted mentality of anyone who would tell us that the automobile was the result of an explosion, or who told us that it was the result of a long evolutionary process that began with a tiny piece of metal, and aided only by resident forces and unguided by any intelligence evolved through various forms over millions of years to form the complex automobile of today.
Reason rebels at such a ridiculous suggestion. Reason tells us that someone made the automobile. But that is as far as reason can go. It cannot, tell who the builder was. For that we are dependent on some form of revelation. I lift up the hood of the car. On a nameplate I see the words. “Made By The Ford Motor Company.”
We have a universe. It is far more complex than any automobile. Reason tells us that it did not just happen. Nor is it reasonable to assume that it is the result of a long evolutionary process. Reason calls for an intelligent first cause. But reason cannot tell us who the maker is. For that information we are dependent on some form of revelation. The Old Testament Scriptures provide that information. Just as the nameplate on the automobile identifies the manufacturer, so Genesis 1:1 is the great nameplate that identifies God as the creator of the universe. In like manner Genesis 1:27 identifies God as the creator of man.
Furnish Examples of Outstanding Faith
In the fourth chapter of Romans Paul holds up Abraham as one who, “wavered not through unbelief, but waxed strong through faith.” He then said in verses 23,24, “Now it was not written for his sake alone . . . but for our sake also.” Thus from the Old Tes*ament we learn about faith that is pleasing to God.
The writer of Hebrews said, “By faith Abraham, when he was called, obeyed to go out unto a place that he was afterward to receive for an inheritance, and he went out not knowing whither he went” (Heb. 11:8). Again, “By faith Abraham, being tried offered up Isaac . . . .” The details are all found in the twelfth and twentysecond chapters of Genesis. From this splendid example of faith, we learn that the faith that avails in the sight of God is a faith that obeys. Moreover, it is unqualified obedience that asks no questions and raises no objections, but does what God commands regardless of the cost.
To the Romans Paul wrote, “For whatsoever things were written aforetime, were written for our learning, that through patience and comfort of the scriptures we might have hope.” Thus while hope looks to the future it draws inspiration from the past in the things written aforetime, that is, the Old Testament Scriptures.
Have you ever felt unjustly treated? Then consider the experience of Joseph. Hated by his brothers and sold by them down into Egypt. Then unjustly put in prison by the man whom he had faithfully served, because he dared to do right and refused to do wrong. However he was later able to see in all this the hand of God who can make “All things work together for good to them that love God” (Romans 8:28).
Have you ever suffered a series of calamities where it seemed that everything went wrong that could go wrong? Then consider the experience of Job. In one day he lost all his property and his family. As if that was not enough he was smitten with boils. But the end was not yet. He was taunted by friends and ridiculed by his wife. Yet he regarded these calamities as but God’s way of trying him (Job 23:10). His emergence from this trial as gold that had been tried is hope inspiring to all who suffer similar trials.
Have you ever had to stand alone for truth and righteousness? Then consider the experience of the prophet Elijah. In that great contest at Mount Carmel he was outnumbered by the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal. Yet the events of that day give us hope that God and one man are sufficient majority to meet any crisis.
The Necessity of Obedience
From the Old Testament we learn that God has always required obedience. In the history of Israel we see demonstrated the undying truth that, “Righteousness exalteth a nation; but sin is a reproach to any people” (Proverbs 14:34).
Disobedience Brings Punishment
From the Old Testament we learn that just as certain as it is that God requires obedience, so it is that disobedience is punished. In the tenth chapter of First Corinthians Paul cited some outstanding examples of disobedience on the part of Israel and its consequent punishment, and then added, “Now these things were our examples, to the end that we should not lust after evil things as they also lusted.” And, “Now these things happened unto them by way of example; and they were written for our admonition . . . .” (vs. 6, 11).
From various examples of disobedience we learn that it assumes various forms. Israel disobeyed God in rebelling against his commandment (Deut. 1:43). In offering strange fire, Nadab and Abihu disobeyed by substituting for what God had commanded (Lev. 10:1,2). In partially obeying God’s command to utterly destroy the Amalekites, Saul was reckoned as guilty of total disobedience (1 Samuel 15:19).
Yes, there is much to be learned from the Old Testament. May we ever heed its lessons recorded for our learning.
Truth Magazine XXI: 37, pp. 581-582
September 22, 1977