The Old Testament is imperative to Christianity like the chain of custody is vital to law enforcement

Is the Old Testament actually vital to modern Christianity?

Absolutely! Allow me to explain why this is true.

Evidentiary value

Police officers know the importance of the chain of custody as it relates to evidence. Vital items of evidentiary value can be lost at trial if there is an unexplainable gap in the chain.

As a result, cops should be sticklers when it comes to documenting the trail of handlers. As a matter of fact, professional sports teams employ retired peace officers to authenticate memorabilia due to their specific attention to detail in this area.

The Old Testament is vital to the Christian ‘chain of custody’

This might be a stretch—although I do not want to equate the importance of sports memorabilia with Scripture—but Christians should view the Old Testament similarly.

I mention this because a nationally recognized pastor recently said, “Christians need to unhitch the Old Testament from their faith” as if it’s invaluable or too difficult to explain and integrate with the New Testament.

Holy cow, I thought privately, I’m not a theologian, yet I know you cannot embrace the New Testament while discarding the Old.

Imagine trying to bake a cake, yet doing it without flour? Well, if the metaphor fits, wear it.

What’s the rub?

So what’s the rub? Why do fellow followers of Christ and some pastors seemingly struggle with God’s methods in the Old Testament? Admittedly, there are difficult questions regarding biblical text, but when confronted by challenging questions, our faith in God’s sovereignty—absolute dominion and control—should be fortified, not crumbled.

These are the “problems” that people seem to have with the Old Testament:

  • The God of the Old Testament is ruthless, cruel, and destructive toward humanity.
  • Grace doesn’t make an appearance until Jesus arrives on scene.
  • The Old Testament is out of date, out of touch, and a relic that should not be used by modern believers.

Elephant in the room

The elephant in the room seems to be God’s method of judgment in the Old Testament. While there are many examples, a few stand out. Wiping out all but Noah and his family during the flood (Genesis 6-9) as well as destroying the Canaanites (Joshua 6) are two frequent “criticisms” of God.

However, God’s critics overlook two elements that are always in play.

  1. When we see the same atrocities today, people argue, “Where is God.” We want immediate condemnation and judgment for heinous crimes. Well, you can’t have it both ways. God judged people for constant rejection of him as well as their vile acts against humanity. If you want God to judge injustice you can’t be mad when He does.
  2. God’s mercy offers people warning after warning to repent and turn from their rebellion—evil and wicked behavior.

The inhabitants of Canaan as well as those during the time of Noah were neither ignorant nor innocent victims of an angry God. They had been committing terrible atrocities knowing full well of the true and living God. Because they rejected Him and His forgiveness God harshly judged them. Their acts were so heinous and vile, had we had been seated in the grandstands we would have applauded their doom.

SIDEBAR: The Canaanite’s practiced “abominable customs”[1] and did “detestable things.”[2] They practiced idolatry, witchcraft, soothsaying, and sorcery. They attempted to cast spells upon people and call up the dead.[3] Their “cultic practice was barbarous and thoroughly licentious.”[4] Their “deities…had no moral character whatever,” which “must have brought out the worst traits in their devotees and entailed many of the most demoralizing practices of the time,” including sensuous nudity, orgiastic nature-worship, snake worship, and even child sacrifice.[5] As Moses wrote, the inhabitants of Canaan would “burn even their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.”[6] The Canaanite nations were anything but “innocent.” In truth, “[t]hese Canaanite cults were utterly immoral, decadent, and corrupt, dangerously contaminating and thoroughly justifying the divine command to destroy their devotees.”[7] They were so nefarious that God said they defiled the land and the land could stomach them no longer—“the land vomited out its inhabitants.”[8] & [9]

If you believe the God of the Old Testament is somehow different than the God of the New, you have not digested the final book of the Bible—Revelation. It is filled with a series of judgments on sin and a final judgment for those who reject God:

Then I saw a great white throne and Him who sat upon it, from whose presence earth and heaven fled away, and no place was found for them. And I saw the dead, the great and the small, standing before the throne, and books were opened; and another book was opened, which is the book of life; and the dead were judged from the things which were written in the books, according to their deeds. And the sea gave up the dead which were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead which were in them; and they were judged, every one of them according to their deeds. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. This is the second death, the lake of fire. And if anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.[10]

 Good news

However, there is good news. God will not condemn any who repent of their sin and follow Jesus as Lord and Savior. That is how you get your name written in the book of life. But He does not conform his methods to any culture, which seeks to “feel” or misinterpret Scripture as a way to salvation. Indeed, not! Rather, God desires that we follow His commands and find true and absolute redemption for sin.

Unchanging Lord

The writer of Hebrews (in the New Testament) expressed, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.”[11] If we believe in a triune God—Father, Son, Holy Spirit—we can reasonably conclude that God and Jesus were not involved in an ongoing dispute over His sovereign rule. So God’s sovereignty as discovered in the Bible does not conflict with grace that is more closely associated with the arrival of Jesus and His sacrifice on the cross.

Same message, different methods

This might be oversimplifying the complexity of the Bible, but the Old Testament essentially has the same message as the New Testament.

  • God speaks to His people.
  • People either respond in faith or they reject God.
  • With obedience comes blessing.
  • With disobedience comes judgment.
  • Major obstacle: Selfish people want to be their own god.
  • God’s merciful will prevails.

A prevalent problem as people try to understand the Bible is embracing the importance of faith in God directed by the Old Covenant in its time, and salvation by grace through Jesus as outlined in the New Covenant—Jesus’ work on the cross. Either way, repenting of sin and believing in God for salvation is the way people are saved in the Old AND New Testament.

Foundational truth of Scripture

Let’s expand our thoughts regarding the message of the Bible as outlined above. In doing so, consider these consistent themes found throughout God’s Word.

  • God’s creation.
  • God’s commandments and directions for an abundant life.
  • People respond to God in faith or rebellion.
  • God’s mercy and grace is offered regardless of the human desire to flee.
  • God’s constant pursuit of His creation.
  • God’s blessing and favor for obedience.
  • God’s eventual judgment for willful rebellion, regardless of countless attempts on His part offering a better way.
  • God condemns sin and evil and there are consequences as a result. Anyone trying to create another a god in his or her own likeness is compromising God’s precepts.
  • Death on earth is simply a step into eternity for the eternal soul of every person who will face one of two judgments—the Judgment Seat of Christ (people who’ve repented of sin and placed their faith in God alone for salvation), or before the Great White Throne Judgment (those who’ve rejected God). Individuals who yield and repent of their sin and believe in Jesus as Lord and Savior will spend eternity with God in heaven. All others have been self-condemned—through their own denial—to an eternal separation from God. He does not send anyone to hell; they choose it.

Human disconnect

We tend to ascribe to God our limited human perspective. If we want to have a better grasp of transcendent truths, we need to consider God’s eternal perspective.

For example, in our eyes, the death of a child is rightfully mournful. However, with God it is merciful. The soul of a child entering eternity will be of greater value to the little one than living a long, yet temporary life on earth.

In reality, we mourn for ourselves at the loss of a child, but the child is ultimately, better off. Since God has sovereignty over all things and is outside the continuum of time, he knows what life would look like for that child if he or she lived to old age. Furthermore, since God is sovereign, He knows the purpose of each person, while it might remain a mystery to us.

Consider the words of King David when he lost a child:

“While the baby was still alive, I fasted, and I cried. I thought, ‘Who knows? Maybe the Lord will feel sorry for me and let the baby live.’ But now that the baby is dead, why should I fast? I can’t bring him back to life. Someday I will go to him, but he cannot come back to me.”[12]

David’s words clearly provide hope that children yet to fully understand God’s ways are taken to heaven.

SIDEBAR: Noted pastor and theologian, John MacArthur, provides insight regarding the age of accountability this way:

I think the best way to answer that is to say this: There is no “age of accountability” identified in Scripture, as such. There is nothing in the Bible that says, “Here is the age and from here on you are responsible!” I think the reason for that is because children mature at different paces. That would be true from culture to culture, and from age to age in history. 

So the Lord in His wisdom didn’t identify a specific moment. God knows when each soul is accountable. God knows when real rejection has taken place; when the love of sin exists in the heart. When enmity with God is conscious and willful. God alone knows when that occurs.[13]

 The part of the equation that is rarely seen from a human perspective is the purpose of the placement of the child in the first place. It is part of our limited perspective into God’s sovereignty.

So even when humanity chooses evil and children fall prey to sin (another elephant in the room), God’s dominion is never knocked off course, regardless of our inadequate vantage point.

Transcendent law

The author of Hebrews tells us the Old Covenant is obsolete to Christians today.

“In speaking of a new covenant, He makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away.”[14]

Yet, do not make the mistake of believing the Old Testament is unnecessary. The reasons the Old Testament is vitally important is that portions of it set the stage for the New Covenant—part of the chain of custody!

Levitical and Mosaic Laws (Exodus 20 – Deuteronomy 34) were specific to a time and place in history and documented in Scripture. The law was given to the Jews at a certain time but it is applicable for all humanity, yet in ways that might be difficult to understand.

The difference between the Old and New Testaments is that Jesus perfectly fulfilled the law and at the same time took on the penalty for transgressing the law by His work on the cross. This is why it is unnecessary to practice ceremonial law and other elements that demanded such harsh and punitive measures for those who transgressed it.

Jesus said,

“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.”[15]

The law of God is still in effect. Without the covering of the cross the sinner is open to the full fury of God when He punishes those who transgress the law. Yet those in Jesus we have been freed from the law.

Consider the words of the apostle Paul,

“But now we have been released from the Law, having died to that by which we were bound, so that we serve in newness of the Spirit and not in oldness of the letter.”[16]

SIDEBAR: Author, speaker, and host of CrossExamined on American Family Radio, Dr. Frank Turek, describes Old Testament culture, where members of society lived under a Theocratic kingdom—a system of government in which priests rule in the name of God or a god—where penalties could be extremely harsh. As a result, parts of the Mosaic and Levitical law, which look barbaric today were actually improvements and afforded more rights than people had at the time.[17]

Origination of law

So possessing the Old Testament as a point of reference is just as vital as documenting every link in the chain of custody when booking evidence in the property room at your police department.

SIDEBAR: The Bible is comprised of 66 individual books (37 in the Old Testament and 29 in the New Testament). These books were written over a 1500-year period of time in three different languages on three continents by forty authors from every walk of life including kings, poets, scholars, musicians, shepherds, fishermen, a farmer, a tax collector, a physician, and a Pharisee. These books were eventually codified into the canon of Scripture. The word canon is a Greek word meaning “measuring rod,” which references the criterion used to determine which books would be included. It was an extremely rigid process.

 Moreover, one of the best ways to interpret the Bible is to look to other areas of Scripture that help reinforce and clarify the accuracy of God’s Word and his message for us. For further study on the canonization of the Bible, I’d recommend reading, “Jurisdiction: A Cop and a Pastor Talk About Life.” Specifically, Chapter 7, titled “The Breath of God” will provide an in depth review of the subject.     

Think of Old Testament Law as being specific to a time and geographical location in history, much like current law, whether in the form of local ordinance, state law, or federal statute. However, all of the ceremonial law and punitive judgments—part of the elephant in the room—do not transfer into the New Covenant of Christ because He fulfilled the Old Testament Law by taking on the judgment for all transgressions.

The apostle Paul recognized that the law was good, but he understood the absolute impossibility of living up to it. That’s why Christ’s work was so important. He perfectly kept the law and thus fulfilled God’s demands. Paul went on to teach that God’s standard for salvation was not keeping the law, but accepting the offering of Jesus extended through God’s grace. Grace is not possible without the law.

While people have issue with God’s chosen method of judgment in the Old Testament, while embracing His grace in the New Testament, as previously mentioned, they’ve also overlooked the final book, which is God’s Revelation to John. God’s character does not change. His patient call to repentance—turn from sin—might have different characteristics throughout Scripture, but make no mistake, He cannot, and will not, tolerate evil. He would not be a loving God if He did.

So people—primarily atheists and agnostics—who argue, “Where is God when bad things happen to good people,” do not like the God of the Old Testament who wiped out the Canaanites in response to the abhorrent and detestable things they did. That is an Old Testament example of God issuing judgment when “bad things happened to good people,” yet biblical critics don’t like it. However, we can’t have it both ways![18] For instance, if we approve of God judging the Hitlers, Stalins, and Bin Ladens of the world, we better be appreciate and understand His judgment of the Canaanites.

SIDEBAR: I find it ironic when godless people want to blame God for evil tragedies, yet never offer thanksgiving to Him for the many blessings that are frequently reaped. 

God is loving AND just

God is loving AND just. If justice is not part of his make-up then He is not loving. But He is God and we are not. We are His creation, not vice versa. Yet modern culture tries to reverse engineer the process by creating God in our own image. That is why we see churches and sects that have eliminated portions of the Bible they don’t like. Nevertheless, just because they’ve edited, omitted, or ignored a certain text from Scripture does not make it vanish—and God will ultimately judge them for it.

Biblical prophecy

Finally, consider this: the Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecies calculated that 27 percent of the entire Bible contains 1,817 predictive prophecies.[19] This is true of no other book in the world, and it is a sure sign of its divine origin. Not one of these prophecies that has passed its time to be fulfilled has failed to be spot on. That is what mathematicians call an anomaly, but it’s really a miracle.

The prophecies concerning the birth of Christ are noteworthy. Josh McDowell Ministry puts it this way:

One reason the Bible’s Old Testament is so important to Christians is that it contains prophecy — over 300 predictions, in fact — that, like the threads of a tapestry, establish the Messianic credentials of Jesus.

Put another way, the Old Testament is like an intricate jigsaw puzzle. The numerous pieces, on their own, are puzzling — until they are assembled enough to fill out the intended picture. Thus, the New Testament is the decryption key for unlocking Old Testament meaning.[20]

 As a result, the chain of custody is vital to law enforcement like the Old Testament is imperative to Christianity. Therefore, I’m confident the ENTIRE church should “remain hitched” to the ENTIRE Bible.

– Jim McNeff

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(Feature image: U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Eugene Oliver)

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Sources

[1] Leviticus 18:30

[2] Deuteronomy 18:9, NASB

[3] Deuteronomy 18:10-11

[4] Unger, Merrill F. (1954), Archaeology and the Old Testament (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan), pg. 175.

[5] Unger, pg. 175; Albright, William F. (1940), From the Stone Age to Christianity (Baltimore, MD: Johns Hopkins), pg. 214.

[6] Deuteronomy 12:30

[7] Unger, Merrill F. (1988), “Canaan,” The New Unger’s Bible Dictionary (Electronic Database: Biblesoft).

[8] Leviticus 18:25

[9] https://www.apologeticspress.org/APContent.aspx?category=6&article=1630, accessed November 19, 2019.

[10] Revelation 20:11-15

[11] Hebrews 13:8

[12] 2 Samuel 12: 22-23

[13] https://www.gty.org/library/articles/A264/the-age-of-accountability, accessed November 7, 2019

[14] Hebrews 8:13

[15] Matthew 5:17

[16] Romans 7:6

[17] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=b7XHqQ3J6eg

[18] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tFdGCyQqM1U

[19] J. Barton Payne – Encyclopedia of Biblical Prophecies (Baker Book House Publishing, 1980), 674–75.

[20] https://www.josh.org/jesus-fulfill-prophecy/?mwm_id=241874010218&mot=J79GNF&gclid=Cj0KCQiAno_uBRC1ARIsAB496IWFAE8LZfMrBbHMGsIlxkskLRFcpX9iyg2Ef_2GzER2lOe8eo_ttsYaAkFyEALw_wcB, accessed November 7, 2019.

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