The Gospel in the Old Testament
One of the earliest heresies that the church had to face was that of Marcion and his rejection of what we call the Old Testament today. Marcion went as far as to say that the God of the Old Testament was a wrathful and angry God and that the God of the New Testament was a God of love, acceptance, and peace. He went out of his way to emphasize the dissimilarities between the Hebrew Scriptures and the distinctly Christian Scriptures rather than to emphasize the unity between the whole of God’s word.
Such an error has not been unique to Marcion or the Marcionites. While Classic Dispensationalism does not outright reject the Old Testament as Marcion did, they do emphasize disparity between the Testaments, in particular in their view that Old Testament Israel was different from and not a precursor to the Christian Church…thus presenting Christ as having two distinct brides. This has arguably led to some churches identifying themselves as “New Testament Churches,” though I’m not exactly sure what that is supposed to mean. Most recently, the popular preacher, Andy Stanley, has taught that the church should “unhitch” itself from the Old Testament and that Christians are not required to obey the Ten Commandments. So much for God being the same yesterday, today, and tomorrow or that not an iota or a dot will fall away from the Law until the heavens and the earth pass away.
We, on the other hand, teach that the Bible is one, united book and that everything from Genesis through Revelation is perfectly consistent and that the New Testament but that it is impossible to really understand the New Testament without being well-grounded in the Old Testament (hence we give out full Bibles, not just New Testaments and Psalms when we evangelize people). Further, I would argue (as I have stated many times before) that the Gospel is found interwoven throughout all of the Old Testament, and again, the Gospel as seen in the New Testament doesn’t make much sense apart from seeing the Gospel in the Old Testament.
The Heidelberg Catechism puts this notion succinctly when it states (answer 19) that “God initially revealed it (the Gospel) in Paradise (this is a reference to Genesis 3:15), but afterwards proclaimed it through the holy Patriarchs (Adam, Seth, Enoch, Methuselah, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, etc…) and prophets (Moses and the Prophets of old), as well as foreshadowing it by the sacrifices and other ceremonies of the Law. In other words, as you read the scriptures of the Old Testament, you should see Christ showing up everywhere. The 19th Century preacher, Charles Spurgeon, argued that the Bible was like a roadmap where every verse leads to Christ if you know how to read the map properly. Amen and Amen to that.
And to those who would look for ways to “unhitch” from the Old Testament or to deny the continuity of the Scriptures from the beginning of Genesis to the end of Revelation, repent. You are not only robbing yourself of the richness and the fulness of God’s Word, but you are leading people astray from the whole Gospel. You will be held accountable for this (James 3:1).