When we let the New Testament shape our view of the Old, we discover Jesus and His Apostles saying the Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35) and that the Old Testament is all about Christ and His glory (Luke 24:25). It has great power to instruct us in the love of God and love of neighbor (Matt. 22:37–40) and to encourage hope (Rom. 15:4; 2 Tim. 3:16). In short, the Old Testament isChristian Scripture, an incomparable treasure for showing us Christ’s glory and for conforming us to His image. Indeed, it is part one of the great, epic story of redemption that climaxes in Jesus. Far from being irrelevant, the Old Testament gives us the key for knowing Jesus, our King, our Prophet, our Priest—categories we wouldn’t understand if it weren’t for the Old Testament.
When you invite folks to dinner, there are certain rooms you hope they won’t see because there wasn’t enough time to clean everywhere. Similarly, for many Christians, the Old Testament is not a gem to show off but a closet of problems that we hope our unbelieving friends won’t see or ask us about. But what if the Old Testament is actually one of our greatest treasures? What if some of its most problematic parts are actually part of its glory? In this article, we will step through several objections to the Old Testament and show how these issues actually point us to the glory of Christ.
Common Objections to the Old Testament
1. The God of the Old Testament is always angry and spiteful.
This objection is based on ignorance. In Exodus 34:6–7, the Lord describes Himself as “merciful and gracious, slow to anger, and abounding in steadfast love and faithfulness” (a text echoed repeatedly in the Old Testament). When provoked by His people’s sin, the keyword that keeps emerging is God’s compassion (Neh. 9:17, 19, 27, etc.). Some of the most soaring celebrations of God’s love are found in the Old Testament (e.g., Ps. 103).
But God is often angry in the Old Testament, and that anger is part of His glory. Far from being spiteful and compulsive, God is always angry for good reasons. He hates sin for how it offends His honor. Are you angry when people ignore God? Are you angry when the innocent are hurt? You should be. God is too.
In the gospel, God’s compassion and His righteous anger for our sins meet, for in God’s compassion He put forth His Son to bear the wrath that our sins deserved (Gal. 3:13). No wrath of God, no gospel.
2. The Old Testament encourages hatred toward enemies.
What about the destruction of the Canaanites under Joshua? What about the spiteful prayers against enemies in the Psalms (e.g., Ps. 139:19–22)? These can be troubling texts for us.
Yet, these texts show that God’s glory matters more than anything else. Those who defy God must be judged, and God used Israel as an agent of His justice against the Canaanites. If these texts offend us, the NT must offend us even more. Revelation depicts perfected saints praying for judgment (Rev. 6:10) and Jesus leading a more severe conquest than Joshua when He returns in glory (Rev. 19:11–21). These Old Testament texts, far from being outdated, actually point forward to the final judgment.
In God’s mercy, He warns before He judges, giving an opportunity for repentance (e.g., Josh. 2:10–11; John 3:4). Our present time is a time of warning, when we love our enemies and call them to faith in Christ (Matt. 5:44).
3. The Old Testament has a low view of women.
Actually, the Old Testament has a very high view of women, dignifying them as fellow image bearers with men (Gen. 1:27), as vital to God’s plan of redemption (3:15), and as heroic in faith and virtue (Ruth; Esther; Prov. 31:10–31).