Thursday, February 18, 2021

Do We Need the Old Testament?

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Matthew 5:17

By the time Jesus preached the Sermon on the Mount, rumors had already begun to spread that he was starting a religious revolution. Many Jews—especially those in the religious establishment—had come to believe that Jesus wanted to scrap the Jewish religion. After all, Jesus ignored many of their time-honored customs, like ceremonial hand washing and fasting every Friday. Jesus did rebellious things, like healing on the Sabbath Day. Jesus shared meals with tax collectors, prostitutes and other sinners. No self-respecting rabbi would ever do that!  And if that wasn’t bad enough, Jesus didn’t tiptoe around the religious leaders and treat them like royalty. Now, THAT was inexcusable!

So, many Jews in Israel were confused about what Jesus thought about the Old Testament. Some were convinced that he wanted to abolish it altogether. And honestly, in our day, many Christians believe much the same thing. Many Christians believe that the Old Testament, especially the Old Testament Law, belongs on the ash heap of no-longer-relevant history. But to that, Jesus says in Matthew 5:17: “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets. I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” I really like the way The Living Bible paraphrases this verse: “Don’t misunderstand why I have come—it isn’t to cancel the laws of Moses and the warnings of the prophets. No, I came to fulfill them and to make them all come true.” 

One reason we can be certain that Jesus was the promised Christ was because he is the only person in the history of the world who fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophecies: He was born in Bethlehem of a virgin in the family line of King David (prophesied in Micah 5:2, Isaiah 7:14 and Jer. 23:5-6). He came out of Egypt, grew up in Nazareth and proclaimed good news to the poor and freedom for the captives. (Hosea 11:1; Isaiah 61:1). Jesus was led like a lamb to the slaughter. He was pierced. Men cast lots for his clothing. And he was raised to life. (Those are fulfillments of the very detailed prophecies in Isaiah 53 and Psalm 22.) And that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Directly or indirectly, Jesus fulfilled hundreds of Old Testament prophecies.

So, Jesus has no desire or intention of eliminating the Old Testament’s prophetic books, because they all serve as a huge neon arrow pointing right to Jesus. If you read the New Testament and aren’t convinced that Jesus is the Christ and the Son of the living God, then go back and read the Old Testament prophets. Read ALL of Isaiah 53. Read ALL of Psalm 22, and you’ll become convinced. Because, once again, the Old Testament prophets are a neon arrow pointing straight to Jesus. 

But what about the Old Testament law, the Torah? In the first five books of the Old Testament —especially Leviticus, Numbers and Deuteronomy—the ancient Jewish scribes counted 613 Laws of Moses. Didn’t Jesus come to scrap those laws? Obviously, we don’t slaughter sheep and goats anymore. We don’t wring off the heads of sacrificial doves. We don’t burn incense in temples, prosecute people who get tattoos, or stone to death children who rebel against their parents.

Well, keep this in mind. Those 613 laws fall into three categories: The Moral Law, The Civil Law, and the Ceremonial Law. The Moral Law contains laws like the Ten Commandments, which are timeless. They are to be obeyed by every follower of God in ALL times and places. The Civil Law contained specific laws for the nation of Israel to help maintain law and order. The Ceremonial Law contained the laws dealing with worship at the tabernacle and temple, including animal sacrifice.

Jesus came to reinforce the Old Testament Moral Law, and he came to FULFILL the intention of the Civil and Ceremonial Law. What does that mean? Theologian Warren Wiersbe explains it very well: “Jesus did not destroy the law by fighting it; He destroyed it by fulfilling it! Perhaps an illustration will make this clear. If I have an acorn, I can destroy it in one of two ways. I can put it on a rock and smash it to bits with a hammer. Or, I can plant it in the ground and let it fulfill itself by becoming an oak tree.”

So, did Jesus come to take a hammer and beat the Old Testament Law to a bloody pulp? Never! The Jewish people didn’t realize that for the past 1,500 years God had been planting those 613 Old Testament laws as seeds in the ground. If people were to step back and open their eyes, they would see that those 613 laws blossomed into a living, breathing neon arrow that pointed straight to Jesus.

We don’t need to slaughter sheep and birds anymore, not because those laws have been abolished, but because Jesus’ sacrifice has made them obsolete. We don’t have Aaron’s priesthood anymore that leads us in temple rituals, not because Jesus scrapped Aaron’s priesthood or the temple rituals, but because Jesus’ greater priesthood and superior ministry have made them obsolete. So, Jesus says in Matthew 5:18: “I tell you the truth, until heaven and earth disappear, not the smallest letter, not the least stroke of a pen, will by any means disappear from the Law until everything is accomplished.”

So, what are you and I supposed to do with the Old Testament Law? Should we take out a hammer and beat it to a bloody pulp? Never! It is God’s word. So, we read it. We study it. And we step back and marvel at the way it points straight to Jesus.

Dane Davis is the Pastor of Impact Christian Church. Please join us for our in-person worship service Sundays at 9 a.m. at 17746 George Blvd. in Victorville. Or, join us online at 10 a.m. on the Impact Christian Church YouTube channel or Facebook page. For more information, visit

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