Why you should do long preaching series in the Old Testament

I am planning to do some teaching through 1 and 2 Chronicles soon. It will be appearing on the Faithroots Podcast and there may also be a few accompanying articles.  My main aim is to provide an additional training resource for those using Faithroots to help equip them for urban mission and planting.  However, I also chose these books because I realised that:

  1. I can’t remember being in a church where these books have been preached through
  2. I’ve not given them nearly as much attention myself as I have other books of the Bible.

In preparation, I asked on social media if anyone else had preached on these books and if so, what commentaries/resources they’d found helpful.  One direct and honest answer that came back was “Why bother?” The person suggested that there wasn’t great benefit in spending too much time on Old Testament books as too many people simply don’t have enough of a grasp of the Gospel itself and the work of Jesus. Now, this isn’t a unique position, I believe for example that John Piper has argued for spending a greater amount of time preaching on the New Testament and not so much on the Old.  So I thought it would be worth pausing to explain why we want to give significant attention to Old Testament books and why working through the longer ones in a systematic, expository manner is worthwhile, even though it may take a lot of time.

I would like to add, up front that over the years I’ve been involved in teaching through Genesis, Deuteronomy, the books of Samuel and Kings as well as taking a life group through Daniel and Hosea. In doing so, we’ve experienced exactly the sort of pushback I’m referring to here.  On every occasion, though, as we’ve spent time in the Old Testament, the feedback has always been that it was helpful and fruitful. That perhaps is our first reason for preaching long OT series.  Experience tells us that such preaching series are pastorally fruitful. The other reasons will help tell us why.

The second reason is that the Old Testament, as we know it, is part of Scripture. We may have two Testaments in it but we have only one Bible. All of it, to quote Paul is “God breathed and useful” (2 Timothy 3:16.  We want the church to know the whole counsel of God, not just our favourite bits.

The third reason is that as we study the Old Testament, we find much wisdom for life. This comes as we discover the commands of God in Exodus – Deuteronomy and as we spend time mediating on Proverbs and the other wisdom books. There’s much to teach us there about being godly in the face of grief and suffering. 

The fourth reason is that the Old Testament plays a crucial role in convicting us of sin. This is a very good reason for spending a lot of time in the prophetic literature.  Recently I’ve been teaching through Isaiah and it is impossible not to be convicted of personal idolatry as you hear him challenge Judah. Those prophets have much to say about social justice and compassion for the poor and vulnerable too.

Fifth, Romans 9-11 show us that we are not detached from God’s people Israel. There is continuity between covenants. The church is ingrafted into Israel. This reinforces the point that The Law, Prophets and Writings are our Scripture too.

We have one Bible not two because there is one God.  The God in the Old Testament is the same God as in the New.  It was the heretics like Marcion who tried to scrap the OT.  We are sometimes tempted to think that the OT God is one of wrath and judgement and the NT one is the God of love and mercy. Careful study of all Scripture will show us that our view of both testaments is wrong. The God of the OT is loving and compassionate. The God of the NT is just.

So finally, this means that studying the Old Testament helps us to see God’s unfolding plan of redemption and points us to Jesus, the Cross and the empty tomb.  What did Jesus do with the first disciples after the resurrection? Look at Luke 24, he gave them an extended sermon/Bible Study, taking them through the whole of the Old Testament.

I would encourage churches to really dig into the Old Testament, not just to pick out favourite stories and Psalms but to study it in depth and really get to know it.  You’ll be rewarded for your efforts.

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