The Gospel and the Old Testament feature at The Gospel-Centered Woman will give an overview of each book of the Old Testament along with recommended resources to help readers understand the role each of the Old Testament books plays in God’s plan to redeem His children through His Son. What does each book teach about God, His plan before time began to rescue His people, and His Son through which He would accomplish this?
Luke 24 is a key passage for unraveling how the gospel informs our understanding of the Old Testament (and how the Old Testament informs our understanding of the gospel). The setting is the road to Emmaus outside Jerusalem after Jesus’ resurrection. Two of Jesus’ followers walked along the road discussing all that had happened— Jesus’ ministry, His miracles, their former confidence that He was the one predicted by the prophets to free Israel from oppression, and His crucifixion which shook everything they thought they understood about Him. As they talked, Jesus drew near to them and began walking with them. They did not recognize Him even when He asked them what they were talking about. After they explained what had happened the last few days, Jesus responded …
25″ O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.
Later Jesus tells them,
44″ These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.”
Note that the climax of whatever specific things Jesus told them about Himself through the Old Testament was that Christ should suffer and rise again and that “repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in His name” in all places. This is the culminating message of the Old Testament. It is the gospel.
However, many well meaning Christians in our churches have a file cabinet view of the stories of the Old Testament. In that paradigm, the Psalms contain files of reassuring words for hard moments. Genesis’ file folder is full of interesting moral lessons. The Proverbs file is useful when one needs good advice. The Law and Minor Prophets? Many aren’t sure of their purpose, and the file folders containing those stories often gather dust. The separate file folder approach to the Old Testament misses the connections between those stories and the gospel that Jesus explained on the road to Emmaus in Luke 24. When we look for the gospel in the Old Testament, the separate file folders open up, and the characters stumble out of our filing cabinet, joining hands from Genesis until Jesus appears in person in Matthew. Each story feeds the next, teaching us of God’s good plan before time began to redeem His people.
A good practical tip for understanding the Old Testament as Jesus presented it is to look up Old Testament cross references in the New Testament when they appear. For instance, in Luke 4, Jesus read from Isaiah 61 and then said, “Today this is fulfilled in your hearing.” Another example is found in Hebrews, where the author quotes Jeremiah 31 in Hebrews 8. In Galatians, Paul points to Genesis again and again, and the examples could go on. Each of these cross references act like points in a connect-the-dot drawing. When we recognize the connections and draw lines between two points, a picture begins to emerge, in this case one that is ultimately fleshed out on the cross.
What greater tool can we give our churches and women’s ministries than an understanding of the connected, coherent story of God’s redemption of His people that begins with a divorce in Genesis and culminates in marriage in Revelation. May this series on the Gospel and the Old Testament be helpful to that end.