Is the Old Testament Important for Christians Today?

Yes, the Old Testament is important because it kicks off the story that is continued by the New Testament. Without it, we wouldn’t have the vital background to Jesus’ first coming and the other accounts of the New Testament.

It’s natural for us as Christians to want to focus on the parts of the Bible that talk about Jesus’ life and sacrifice on the cross.

But without the foundation of the Old Testament, we risk misunderstanding some crucial things Jesus said and did.

This page will help you avoid those misunderstandings and understand how essential the Old Testament is. We’ll cover:

Let’s first look at why this part of the Bible still matters.

The Old Testament matters because it’s the Word of God

The Old Testament, which makes up about 75% of the Bible, was inspired by God. It’s His message to us—just as much as the New Testament is. Here’s what the apostle Paul had to say about it:

“All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness” (2 Timothy 3:16, NKJV).

When Paul wrote these words, the Old Testament was the only Bible.

Similar to Paul, Jesus recognized the lasting importance of the Old Testament. In Matthew 5:17–18, He specifically said His purpose was not to “destroy [do away with] the Law or the Prophets” (NKJV). The Law and the Prophets were terms used by the Jews to refer to different sections of the Hebrew Scriptures—their Bible.

After His death and resurrection, Jesus used the same Scriptures to show His followers that His sacrifice had been foretold by the prophets (Luke 24:27). And in His own words, all the Scriptures testify of Him (John 5:39).

If Jesus thought the Old Testament was significant in revealing Himself, then we too can better understand Him through the whole story of the Bible.

The Old Testament is the foundation for the New Testament

To understand the importance of the Old Testament, we have to realize that the Bible is a narrative from the creation of the world in Genesis all the way to the end of the world and its re-creation in Revelation. The New Testament completes that story, and over 10% of its contents are quotes from the Old Testament.1

Thus, it wouldn’t make any sense alone. The Old and New Testaments are inseparable.

Think about it this way:

If you were sitting down to read a book, you wouldn’t start it in the middle, would you?

It’s no different with the Bible.

If you start most of the way in, you won’t have any idea who Abraham and Moses are. Jesus’ allusions to the Israelites and other accounts in the Old Testament won’t make sense. And you wouldn’t even know why He had to come in the first place.

But seen as a whole story, the details fall into place—including the foundational details of life.

It answers basic life questions

The Old Testament answers the age-old questions humans have always wondered about:

  • Why are we here? 
  • Where did we come from? 
  • And how did we get into such a mess?

Genesis 1–3 shows us a God of love who created this earth and made humans in His image to rule over it. Being formed by the very hands of God gives our lives incredible value and meaning.

God placed the first couple, Adam and Eve, in the Garden of Eden, where He provided for their every need—physical, mental, social, and spiritual. They could have lived forever in selfless love and harmony with one another. And in face-to-face connection with God.

But for love to exist, God also had to give humans free will—the choice to follow His ways or not (Genesis 2:16–17).

Sadly, Adam and Eve chose to disobey God and believe the insinuations about Him (Genesis 3:1–5). By choosing a knowledge of evil, they experienced relational breakdown immediately—with one another and with God. They plunged our world into the chaos, suffering, and pain we see today.

But God didn’t give up on humans at this point.

He set in place a plan to send a Deliverer, someone who would show us who God really is and free humans from the mess they’d gotten themselves into.

It foreshadows Jesus Christ

The New Testament is all about Jesus coming to this earth as our Savior. But the Old Testament helps us to see why we need that Savior.

After detailing the Fall of humanity, it shows us how God gave a special promise, called a covenant, to send a Deliverer and to restore His people. He longs to be reconnected with us.

He made this covenant with many people—Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and then the nation of Israel, His chosen people who would share the truth of the Messiah with all nations. As a part of this covenant, He also gave them a special sanctuary, or temple, that foreshadowed how God would bring an end to sin and be with His people once again (Exodus 25:8). God instructed the people to make animal sacrifices for sin, symbolizing how Jesus would come and die for the consequences of our sins (John 1:29).

God remained faithful to His end of the covenant, but often, the Israelites drifted, or outrightly turned from God.

But God didn’t throw up His hands in disgust.

Instead, He was patient with His people, sending prophets to guide them, warn them, and remind them of the coming Messiah.

That’s why the Old Testament contains hundreds of prophecies that identified who the Messiah would be and what He would accomplish.

Here are just a few examples:

  • Isaiah 53 and Daniel 9:24–27 both prophesied the sacrifice Jesus would make to pay the penalty for sins. 
  • Micah 5:2 foretold the name of the town Jesus would be born in.
  • Isaiah 7:14 revealed who Jesus would be born to.
  • Psalm 78:1–2 predicted that Jesus would tell parables.
  • Isaiah 6:9–10 describes how people would struggle to believe what Jesus taught. 
  • Psalm 22 predicted the events of Jesus’ death.
  • Psalm 16:10 speaks of His resurrection.

The fulfillment of these prophecies in the New Testament gives us another reason to spend time in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible. More on that next.

It gives us confidence in God

As we see how the Old Testament prophecies came true, we gain confidence in God as a keeper of His promises. His Word is reliable.

Many of the prophecies—over 300 of them—had to do with Jesus. And there were others too:

God promised Noah that He would save him and his family from the flood. As a result, Noah’s family survived the global catastrophe and rebuilt society and civilization afterward (Genesis 6–9).

Then, God promised Abraham that his family would be numerous, despite the fact that he was old and childless and his wife was infertile (Genesis 15:1–6). Indeed, God gave Abraham a son, who became the nation of Israel and whose family line would eventually lead to Jesus. Through Jesus, Abraham became a spiritual father to everyone who chooses to follow God (Galatians 3:29).

And then there are some of the incredible prophecies in the book of Daniel, such as the 70-week prophecy and the 2,300-day prophecy, all of which have come to pass (Daniel 8–9).

Seeing the fulfillment of the things God promised helps us to have faith in the other things He has told us. We can trust that He will be faithful to His Word.

Because God is not just the God of the people in Bible times.

He wants to be our God today.

Let’s look at how we can study the Old Testament in a way that is relevant to our relationship with Him in the here and now.

5 steps to study the Old Testament stories

The Old Testament may seem a little more challenging to read than, say, the Gospels. But it doesn’t have to be. When we keep the narrative arc of Scripture in mind, remembering that the Old Testament is just the first part of the story, we’ll better see God’s plan and how we fit into that picture.

Here’s how you can get started:

1. Choose a passage

Decide on the passage you want to study. You could pick a book, a chapter, or a story you want to follow.

Where you start doesn’t really matter, but if you’re new to the Bible, consider starting in Genesis to get the whole picture from the beginning. Genesis contains mostly narratives, which also make it an engaging read.

The Old Testament contains 39 books of the Bible that are divided into five sections:

1. The Five Books of Moses (also called the Law or the Torah): From Genesis to Deuteronomy, these books cover the origins of this world, early history, and the experiences of Israel. Leviticus and Numbers contain laws that God gave to Moses for the people of Israel.

2. History: Consisting of twelve books from Joshua to Esther, this section encompasses the history of Israel, starting with their conquest of Canaan and going all the way to their captivity and release.
3. Wisdom or Poetry: This section, from Job to Song of Solomon, contains songs, proverbs, and other inspiration.

4. The Major Prophets: These books go from Isaiah to Daniel and cover major predictions written to the declining and captive Israelites.

5.The Minor Prophets: The minor prophets (Hosea through Malachi) are smaller books with prophecies for Israel, Judah, and even the surrounding nations. Many of them plead with the people to turn back to God.

2. Take note of details

As you read your passage of choice, notice things that are emphasized or repeated throughout it (you may even want to write them down). And ask yourself these questions:

  • What’s the setting of the story?
  • What events happened before and after? 
  • Who are the main characters?
  • What’s the plot?
  • What’s the narrator’s point of view?

One thing to remember is that the Old Testament contains many typologies. Typologies are events or people that represent future events or people.

For example, Adam was a typology, or type, of Jesus (Romans 5:14–15). Elijah was a type of John the Baptist (Matthew 17:11–13). And the way the Israelites left Egypt and went through the Red Sea parallels the way Jesus came from Egypt and was baptized when beginning His ministry.

These are just a few to get you going. Keeping an eye out for these typologies can be an intriguing activity as you read.

3. Understand the context

A passage might seem to indicate one thing when you read it on its own, but it could mean something entirely different when you understand the big picture—the whole story of Scripture.

For instance, the ceremonial law of Moses and guidelines given to the Israelites seem pretty strange. And you may wonder why God gave these laws. Why were some of the punishments so harsh, and why did God give instructions about war?

The key is recognizing that these laws were God’s way of working with a people who had come out of slavery and had lost sight of what it means to live by His law of love.

They needed specific guidance to transition into God’s ideal.

We see God’s ideal in the first couple chapters of Genesis: a world based on His law of love. But because of humanity’s fall into sin, God has to find ways to deal with the sinful situations humans get themselves into.

Sometimes, those methods may not reflect God’s ideal, but they’re the best way to get us back to that ideal.

Another aspect people struggle with is the way God is sometimes portrayed in the Old Testament. He may seem judgmental or wrathful—and not like the Jesus of the Gospels.

In this case, we have to keep in mind that God doesn’t change between Malachi and Matthew.

What we see in Jesus is a reflection of God (John 14:9).

And even in the Old Testament, God is merciful, forgiving, and compassionate, just like Jesus (Exodus 34:6–7; Psalm 86:15). His greatest longing was to free His people from sin and its harmful consequences so that He could reconnect with them.

At times, this longing may come across as “tough love,” but it’s ultimately God navigating sin and evil to bring us back to the best world possible.

4. Look for God’s perspective

Just because something happened in a Bible account doesn’t mean God approved of the action.

After all, it contains stories of people who did things that were immoral, violent, and downright disgusting—such as violence, murder, and rape.

But this doesn’t mean God approves of such actions. The Bible writers were simply describing the events that happened—not endorsing them.

As you read some of these accounts, try to figure out God’s perspective on the situation. What did He think about the actions of the characters?

If it isn’t clear in the story, it helps to back up and remember the big picture: God is dealing with evil to bring us back to His ideal of other-centered love.

5. Apply the principles to your life

Don’t miss this step! Here is where the things you’ve read and noted can now be applied to your life in practical ways.

You may want to answer some of these prompts:

  • What principles can you draw from the story? Was there a promise to claim, an action to take, or an action to avoid? 
  • What are some practical takeaways that could be relevant to your day-to-day life? 
  • How did the story shape your picture of God?

Fresh insights from an old book

The Old Testament is more than just a collection of history books. It is crucial to understand God’s ultimate purpose for humanity and His promise to restore our connection with Him. It lays the foundation for Jesus’ life and ministry and gives a glimpse into how God is dealing with sin.

And its lessons can still guide our lives today. As you ask the Holy Spirit to be with you in your reading, He will impress your heart with its freshness and relevance for daily life.

To dig deeper into the themes in the Old Testament and the picture of God we find there, head over to our intro guide to the Old Testament.

  1. Nicole, Roger, “New Testament Use of the Old Testament,” reproduced from Revelation and the Bible, ed. Carl. F. H. Henry (Grand Rapids, Baker, 1958), pp. 137–151. []

Related Articles 

Questions about Adventists? Ask here!

Find answers to your questions about Seventh-day Adventists

More Answers

Ellen White’s Writings and the Adventist Health Message

Ellen White’s Writings and the Adventist Health Message

How Ellen White Influenced the Adventist Health MessageSeventh-day Adventists are known for their emphasis on healthy living. And Ellen G. White was a significant influence in the development of this priority and practice among Adventists. She taught that caring for...

Health Clinics

Health Clinics

Ellen White and Adventist Healthcare—Ahead of Their Time Medical care in the mid-1800s was primitive, to say the least. Basic concepts we take for granted—such as proper handwashing or recognizing the dangers of bloodletting—were nonexistent. And doctors often had...

What Did Ellen White Teach about Vegetarianism?

What Did Ellen White Teach about Vegetarianism?

What Did Ellen White Teach about Vegetarianism?One thing you might have heard about Seventh-day Adventists is their emphasis on a vegetarian lifestyle. If you’re wondering why that is, it goes back to our church’s humble beginnings: As Adventists studied the Bible,...

How Ellen White’s Teachings Can Improve Your Health

How Ellen White’s Teachings Can Improve Your Health

 How Ellen White’s Teachings Can Improve Your Health Healthcare in the nineteenth century was said to leave “more disease than it took away” with its use of bloodletting and “medicines” like mercury and arsenic.1 As people questioned these methods, new approaches...

Change Your Perspective on Life with These 5 Mindsets

Change Your Perspective on Life with These 5 Mindsets

5 Biblical Mindsets to Change Your Life for the Better Sometimes, life is just plain hard. There’s no way around it. So would thinking about things differently really change anything? Our perspective on life, and everything it throws at us, affects more than we’re...

Bible Promises for When You’re Worried or Fearful

Bible Promises for When You’re Worried or Fearful

Bible Promises for When You’re Worried or Fearful The Bible is full of beautiful promises that can comfort us in a variety of situations. They can give us hope when we are hopeless, make us feel grateful for God’s love, and comfort us when we’re grieving or suffering....

12 Practical Ways to Overcome Worry

12 Practical Ways to Overcome Worry

12 Practical Ways to Overcome Worry DISCLAIMER: This content is for informational purposes only. It does not constitute any professional medical advice and is not intended as a substitute for professional mental health therapy. It’s easy to get stuck in a cycle of...

How the Bible Talks About Worry, Fear, and Anxiety

How the Bible Talks About Worry, Fear, and Anxiety

How the Bible Talks About Worry, Fear, and Anxiety Worry and fear are the ingredients of anxiety. It’s easy to see how the world isn’t perfect—and the anticipation of a bad event or experience (that may or may not even happen) can end up draining the peace and...

How to Calm Anxious Thoughts, Using the Bible

How to Calm Anxious Thoughts, Using the Bible

How to Calm Anxious Thoughts, Using the Bible You were expecting a phone call from your daughter half an hour ago, and she still hasn’t called. She’s also not answering your calls. You feel your heart thumping as your thoughts race: What if she’s been in a car...

What You Should Know About the Adventist Health Studies

What You Should Know About the Adventist Health Studies

What You Should Know About the Adventist Health StudiesYou may have heard that Seventh-day Adventists care about health. But what you may not know is that Adventists have been the subjects of long-term research into lifestyle and health. Since 1958, researchers from...

Benefits of Sunlight

Yes, There Are Health Benefits of SunlightDespite the bad reputation it’s gotten, sunlight is generally associated with positivity, as shown by songs like “You Are My Sunshine,” or phrases that refer to delightful people as having a “sunny disposition.” There’s a...

Why Your Body Needs Rest for Optimal Health

Why Your Body Needs Rest for Optimal HealthStruggling to think straight? Wondering why you can’t remember that important tidbit you heard earlier today? Feeling like your emotions are about to explode? These are just some of the symptoms that can reveal your need for...

The Seventh-day Adventist Diet: One of Our Key Longevity Secrets

The Seventh-day Adventist Diet: One of Our Key Longevity SecretsOats, avocados, lentils, tofu—probably not what you first think of in a standard American diet. But if you show up at the home of an Adventist, chances are you may be served one of these staples. Out of a...

Why You Need Fresh Air

Why You Need Fresh Air“When you can’t breathe, nothing else matters,” the American Lung Association tells us. We couldn’t agree more! Breathing in clean air is an essential part of caring for our bodies, which God has given us. Together with other health principles,...

Sabbath Meal

Everything You Need to Know About Sabbath MealsFor Seventh-day Adventists, sharing a Sabbath meal with friends and family is one of the most special and memorable parts of the Sabbath. That’s why we want to share with you all about Sabbath meals and why they’re such a...

Adventists and Healthy Living

Adventists and Healthy LivingWhat’s the Adventist “Health Message” All About? One thing Seventh-day Adventists are known for is their emphasis on living healthy lives. Since our bodies are living temples of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19, 20), we strive to stay...

Water’s Importance—Physical Benefits and Spiritual Applications

Water’s Importance—Physical Benefits and Spiritual Applications We all know that water is a substance we can’t live without.   Not only does it quench our thirst and keep us hydrated from the inside, but it’s necessary for hygiene and cleansing on the outside as well....

How Important is a “Day of Rest?”

How Important is a “Day of Rest?”

How Important is a “Day of Rest?”  Why God Created a Day for Downtime by Martin Casper Do you ever experience the feeling of complete overload? Do you feel like the only way you can get ahead is by slamming it 24/7? I hear these types of comments more and more...

7 Reasons Why a Day of Rest is Important

7 Reasons Why a Day of Rest is Important

7 Reasons Why a Day of Rest is ImportantWe live in a fast-paced world. It seems as if success is measured in how much you can do in a short amount of time. (Extra points for the service or product that is available 24/7). The idea that we will be more successful if we...

How do Adventists choose what to eat?

How do Adventists choose what to eat?

How do Adventists choose what to eat?Every day, parents go through the ritual of getting their kids to eat what is healthy and good while trying to steer them away from what can hinder the growth of their developing bodies. Nutritionists work with their clients to...

How do Adventists make movie and music choices?

How do Adventists make movie and music choices?

How do Adventists make movie and music choices?Cinema has come a long way since the first clips of motion pictures came to light in 1878. As the decades rolled on, film and music producers have created rivers of movies and albums for the masses. Today, watching movies...

Why are many Adventists Vegetarian?

Why are many Adventists Vegetarian?

Why are many Adventists Vegetarian?The diet intended for man is outlined in Genesis 1:29, “And God said, ‘See, I have given you every herb that yields seed which is on the face of all the earth, and every tree whose fruit yields seed; to you it shall be for food.’”...

Didn’t find your answer? Ask us!

We understand your concern of having questions but not knowing who to ask—we’ve felt it ourselves. When you’re ready to learn more about Adventists, send us a question! We know a thing or two about Adventists.

Contact Us