The importance of the Old Testament may be seen by reading the first verse of the New Testament. Here, in Matthew 1:1, we read,
“The book of the generation of Jesus Christ, the son of David, the son of Abraham”
One would expect the New Testament to say much about Jesus Christ, but it may come as a surprise to learn that Abraham is mentioned there about 75 times and David about 60 times. This certainly indicates that these two men constitute a prominent feature of New Testament teaching.
WHY SHOULD THIS BE?
To answer this question we must be guided by the way in which the New Testament constantly refers us to the Old Testament, by which it will become apparent that what the New Testament says cannot be understood without reference to the Old. For example, with regard to the involvement of David - when announcing the conception of Jesus by Mary, the angel declared that Jesus would be
“great and shall be called the Son of the Highest: and the Lord God shall give unto him the throne of his father David: and he shall reign over the house of Jacob for ever; and of his kingdom there shall be no end” (Luke 1:32-33)
It will be readily perceived that this statement is meaningless apart from an understanding of the Old Testament.
Acquaintance with the Old Testament will reveal that David was a God-appointed king of Israel and considered by God to be a “man after mine own heart” (1 Samuel 13:14 and Acts 13:22). Certainly he was a God-fearing and faithful king, leading his subject people into ways of righteousness and obedience to God. We read that, as a result of his faithfulness, God made an “everlasting covenant” with David which ensured that one of his descendants would occupy his throne “for ever” (2 Samuel 7:12-16). When this kingdom came to an end in the days of the last king Zedekiah, reference was again made by God to this promise he had made with David. Speaking of the overthrow of the kingdom and the removal of David’s throne, God said,
“It shall be no more, until he come whose right it is; and I will give it him” (Ezekiel 21:25-27)
Clearly, the words of the angel about the birth of Jesus (referred to above), make reference to these two promises and tell us that Jesus Christ is the one appointed by God to occupy David’s throne at some future time.
THE INVOLVEMENT OF ABRAHAM
This purpose of God also evidently involved Abraham. He lived about 900 years before David, and yet the things promised him by God were an essential part of those promised to David. In Romans 4:13, the apostle Paul tells us that God’s promises to Abraham meant that “he should be the heir of the world”, and we can read the details in Genesis 12:1-3; 13:14-17; 17:1-8; 22:15-18. It is clear that these promises involve possession of a land; exaltation over the nations; and a descendant of Abraham’s who would vanquish all enemies and have control over all nations.
The apostle Paul tells us who this descendant of Abraham is. Referring to one of these promises in Genesis, he says,
“And to thy (Abraham’s) seed, which is Christ” (Galatians 3:16)
Thus, the things promised to Abraham, like those promised to David, find their fulfilment in the person of Jesus Christ.
THE CALL OF THE GOSPEL
The ministry of Jesus is described as “preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God”, and a calling upon those to whom he preached to “repent, and believe the gospel” (Mark 1:14-15). This belief involved knowledge of the promises given by God to Abraham and David. These men, said Jesus, were already assured of a place in this coming kingdom (Luke 13:28 - David is described as a “prophet” in Acts 2:30). The disciples of Jesus were taught to pray,
“Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done in earth” (Matthew 6:10)
Their hope was centred on Jesus appearing again in the earth to establish this kingdom (2 Timothy 4:1).
The reason this kingdom is so prominent a part of Christian belief is to be found in the apostle Paul’s assurance that those who believe and obey the gospel will become involved in its establishment. Jesus had commissioned his apostles to “preach the gospel”, adding “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved” (Mark 16:15-16). Paul adds to this,
“As many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ… And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:27-29)
THE IMPORTANCE OF THE OLD TESTAMENT
Without the Old Testament, these matters of salvation would be meaningless. Popular religion has discarded the Old Testament as a “dead letter”. Their gospel, as a result, is empty and valueless, possessing no power for salvation. The “gospel of the kingdom of God” vested in the promises to Abraham and David, is the one true gospel of the Bible. Any other “gospel” brings a divine curse upon the preachers of it (see Galatians 1:6-9). As “the gospel is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth” (Romans 1:16), it behoves us to become acquainted with its message and to value the whole of the Bible, both Old and New Testaments, as the word of God.