We need a balanced study of Scripture. There are Christians and churches that concentrate their attention on a limited section of the Bible. For example, some churches may seldom preach from anywhere except the Epistles. Individuals may spend all of their time in the Gospels or perhaps the Psalms. These churches or individuals might rarely, if ever, look at the books of the Law or the Prophets; in fact, their visits to the Old Testament may be limited and brief. These selective examinations of Scripture result in an unbalanced diet; while such study does provide many good things, it leaves out other essential nutrients.
How can we fully appreciate who God is if we do not see the Creator revealed in Genesis or if we do not learn the many amazing facets of His character revealed in the Psalms? How can we understand why salvation is needed without reading about the fall? How can we understand God’s hatred of sin without reading the books of the Law and the Prophets? Can we grasp His power to work out His plan in history or in individual lives without reading the books of History?
The Old Testament gives important background and foundation for understanding salvation. It reveals God’s working through millennia to design a plan, protect that plan, and perform that plan in spite of obstacles and obstinacy. We see a God who makes multiplied promises and then faithfully works them out in every detail. We see a God who faithfully loves His people and who very patiently does what is necessary to give them every opportunity to receive His salvation. We need that background in order to have full understanding of the message of the Bible.
New Tribes Mission recognizes this dilemma. As their missionaries present the Bible to new people groups, they use a chronological approach that starts at Creation. By including critical stories from the Old Testament, the listeners come to understand sin, sacrifice, forgiveness, and other concepts key to salvation. When they get to the account of Christ, they have a firm background that helps them be ready to believe and move forward. For these believers salvation is not simply a prayer to be prayed, but rather a life-changing decision rooted in true understanding. Sadly, our culture in America is progressively approaching the position of Biblical illiteracy; without an effort to study the whole Bible, many new Christians are lacking some of what they need for proper understanding of salvation and Christian living. (New Tribes offers a Sunday school curriculum designed to develop a base for understanding key concepts.)
Consider this sampling of passages that highlight the importance of a broad study of Scripture and its various parts.
“Then beginning with Moses and with all the prophets, He explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.” (Luke 24:27)
“’You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; it is these that testify about Me.’” (John 5:39)
“[Paul] was explaining to them by solemnly testifying about the kingdom of God and trying to persuade them concerning Jesus, from both the Law of Moses and from the Prophets, from morning until evening.” (Acts 28:23)
“For whatever was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, so that through perseverance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.” (Romans 15:4)
“Now these things happened to them [Israel] as an example, and they were written for our instruction.” (I Corinthians 10:11)
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable.” (II Timothy 3:16)
The psalmist in Psalm 77 was discouraged and fainting. He thought that God had forgotten him or was no longer the same. To combat his despair, he said, “I shall remember the deeds of the LORD; surely I will remember Your wonders of old. I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds.” (Psalm 77:11-12) Then he pondered the works of God, not in his personal past, but in history – the Flood and the exodus.
The psalmist of Psalm 119 had only the books of the Law and perhaps some of the history books, but he repeatedly spoke of their value to him. “The unfolding of Your words gives light; it gives understanding to the simple.” (Psalm 119:130)
Jesus repeatedly referred back to the Old Testament, including in Matthew 5, where He used what the people already knew (“You have heard that it was said”) as the foundation to teach them new truth.
When Stephen preached his sermon in Acts 7, he extensively reviewed content from the Old Testament (vs. 2-47) as important background for his challenge.
An understanding of the Old Testament, especially the Law, was important to the Hebrew believers. The author of Hebrews depends on their knowledge, as in chapters 5-10 he works to assure them that the new system is better and the new High Priest is worthy of trust.
The topics of salvation and Christian living are extremely important. As wonderful as the teachings of Jesus are, and as instructive as the epistle of James may be, however, a diet restricted to these sections of Scripture will produce spiritual malnutrition which leads to shallow Christianity. For a healthy, robust relationship with God, a Christian must have a well-balanced, complete diet.