We in the Churches of Christ call ourselves “New Testament Christians,” as though there were another kind. But the point of the phrase is to emphasize our reliance on the New Testament and belief that the Old Testament has been “nailed to the cross.”
Well, we’re wrong. The Old Testament is still very much in effect. Not entirely in effect, course, but sufficiently in effect that we really can’t understand the New Testament if we treat the Old Testament as no longer binding at all.
The passage we so rely on is–
(Col. 2:13-14) When you were dead in your sins and in the uncircumcision of your sinful nature, God made you alive with Christ. He forgave us all our sins, 14 having canceled the written code, with its regulations, that was against us and that stood opposed to us; he took it away, nailing it to the cross.
God didn’t nail the Old Testament to the cross–he nailed the Law of Moses. But this is simply a metaphor for forgiving our sins. We violated the law and so stood damned. Jesus’ death nailed our sins to the cross–and the law that we broke–so that we stand justified.
Paul isn’t saying that the Law is gone–just that violations of the law are forgiven. There’s a big difference.
Consider how Paul uses the Old Testament in 1 Corinthians. He quotes or alludes to Old Testament teachings over and over again as though we should consider them authoritative–
(1 Cor. 1:19) For it is written: “I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.”
(1 Cor. 1:31) Therefore, as it is written: “Let him who boasts boast in the Lord.”
(1 Cor. 2:9) However, as it is written: “No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him.
(1 Cor. 2:16a) “For who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct him?”
(1 Cor. 3:19) For the wisdom of this world is foolishness in God’s sight. As it is written: “He catches the wise in their craftiness”;
(1 Cor. 3:20) and again, “The Lord knows that the thoughts of the wise are futile.”
(1 Cor. 5:6-8) Your boasting is not good. Don’t you know that a little yeast works through the whole batch of dough? 7 Get rid of the old yeast that you may be a new batch without yeast–as you really are. For Christ, our Passover lamb, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore let us keep the Festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and wickedness, but with bread without yeast, the bread of sincerity and truth.
(1 Cor. 5:13) God will judge those outside. “Expel the wicked man from among you.”
(1 Cor. 6:16) Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.”
(1 Cor. 7:4) The wife’s body does not belong to her alone but also to her husband. In the same way, the husband’s body does not belong to him alone but also to his wife.
(1 Cor. 9:9) For it is written in the Law of Moses: “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Is it about oxen that God is concerned?
(1 Cor. 10:1-5) For I do not want you to be ignorant of the fact, brothers, that our forefathers were all under the cloud and that they all passed through the sea. 2 They were all baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea. 3 They all ate the same spiritual food 4 and drank the same spiritual drink; for they drank from the spiritual rock that accompanied them, and that rock was Christ. 5 Nevertheless, God was not pleased with most of them; their bodies were scattered over the desert.
In the first 10 chapters, I count at least 12 obvious quotations or allusions to the Old Testament, each to make a point about Christianity.
When Paul speaks of “scripture” in 2 Timothy, he’s speaking foremost of the Old Testament:
(2 Tim. 3:16-17) All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, 17 so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.
Now, we are faced with something of a conundrum. We surely aren’t supposed to honor the commands to offer animal sacrifices or many other Mosaic practices. The New Testament is quite clear on this. How then do we know which passages matter and which are obsolete?
Part of the answer lies in the Sermon on the Mount–
(Matt. 5:17) “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.”
The Old Testament must be viewed with gospel eyes. The gospel–Jesus and his work–becomes the filter that tells us how to read the Old Testament correctly.