JANUARY 23, 2024
“Why are some parts of the Old Testament still ‘applicable’ today while others seem to be irrelevant?”
This question, more than any other, has been the one that’s haunted me for most of my Christian life.
Maybe you’ve been afraid to acknowledge that at times you’ve personally been confused by this relationship between the Old and the New Testaments too. You don’t like it when the two friends you set up on a blind date break up. But at least you understand the relationship. It’s not like that with the Bible. The Old and New Testament’s relationship status fits firmly in the “it’s complicated” category.
I’m a pastor with a couple of earned degrees from theological institutions so you’d think the studying and resources I’ve had access to would have helped me find a suitable answer. To an extent there’s some truth in that, but by and large, what I stumbled on was a lot of insufficient answers that kept putting me back on my quest.
So, dear reader, can I invite you into a journey to find a fulfilling answer to this question?
Over the coming months I’m going to be writing some bite-sized posts to help you (yes, you!) answer this question with grace and truth, just like Jesus (see John 1:14)! If you choose to join me, I hope you’ll walk away feeling a bit more confident in your grasp of the Bible both for your own communion with the risen Jesus and also in conversations with seekers and skeptics who likely sense this seeming inconsistency too.
You won’t need a seminary degree, because I’ll break down complicated “isms” and “ologies” in ways even kids (Matt. 18:3) could understand.
Since you’ve read this far, let me give you our intro lesson:
The “tension” I’m highlighting here between the Old Testament and the New is referred to in academic theology circles as “continuity” and “discontinuity” (that’s a link to a book that many would find very boring, don’t worry, there won’t be a test!). It’s good to acknowledge that we’re not the only ones who have wrestled with this question. The academic study gets into the “theories” as to why some things taught and commanded in the Old Testament continue in the New (continuity, get it?!?) and why some discontinue (see, discontinuity!).
My friend Rusty says, “you have to name it to tame it.” So if you’ve been afraid to admit this tension has perplexed you, fear no more! We’ve named it and that’s half the battle. You’re not alone. You don’t have to be afraid to come to God with honest questions (that’s a link to a totally not boring book, in fact, you might want to buy that one, no one paid me to share that either!).
God delights when we trust Him enough to bring our questions to him. He’s not afraid of you wrestling and struggling with the Bible. He just reminded me the first guy to wrestle with Him in the Bible is a pretty big deal (Gen. 32:24).
So the next time you’re at a cocktail party or gathered around a fire pit with your non-church friends (let’s be honest, they’re usually more fun than the church friends!) and someone tries to ruffle your feathers by saying, “how can you believe that Bible nonsense, it’s full of inconsistencies. The Old and the New Testaments totally contradict one another!” you can respond with, “ahh yes, the age-old debate about the continuity and discontinuity of the two Testaments.” Your friend will immediately realize he underestimated your knowledge of the subject! You’ll have the upper hand!
Maybe the likelihood of the above situation is highly unrealistic.
Nonetheless, I hope you walk away today with a new tool in your belt to help you feel a little less intimidated by the Bible. Even more, I hope you’ll take a step closer to the Savior revealed in the Bible.