Why Study Jesus' References to the Old Testament
by Wayne Childress 10/15/2013 / Bible Studies
Scripture, during Jesus' time, was comprised of what we now call the Old Testament. It seems too many folks today think the Old Testament books are no longer relevant. Most of the people that do study the Old Testament focus on primarily on just two issues - the verses that point to the first coming of Jesus as the Messiah or the second coming of Jesus. I am not saying that these endeavors are not worthy studies; but, many folks are failing to see the very important role that the Old Testament plays, at least should play, in our daily relationship with God. The books we call the Old Testament contain a lot of information about God that is not in the New Testament. The "covenant" may have changed; but, God did not.
There are many reasons for studying Jesus' references to the Old Testament. One of the most pertinent is that it shows us how important Jesus considered the Scriptures (He referenced them quite a bit). His references let us know what He considered so important that He reminded people of it - reminded them of what was said before He came. How well do you know the Lord Jesus? Do you know Him well enough to know that during His lifetime He used the writings of the Old Testament and the influence of the Holy Spirit to guide His life? Do you follow His example like He told us to?
When we study Jesus' references to the Old Testament we also see the importance of knowing the Old Testament as well as possible so as to be able to counter Satan's attempt to twist Scripture against us - just as Satan tried with Jesus. We may never have, in this life, knowledge exceeding Satan's; but, we have something far greater. We have the same help Jesus had - just in a different manner. We have God's grace. Because there is so much misunderstanding of what that means we will define it again - Merriam-Webster's Dictionary: grace 'grăs [n] 1: unmerited divine assistance. Just as God aided Jesus through the Holy Spirit so too God aids us. The difference is Jesus deserved the help - we don't (See Note1). We have God's divine assistance through the Holy Spirit to ensure, if we listen, that we are guided by truth.
Another reason for studying Jesus' references to the Old Testament is that it may give us a clue as to which books He considered the most important, relevant, or valid. This doesn't mean we should disregard any book He didn't reference - John makes it clear we don't have a record of everything Jesus said and did (John 21:25).
To my knowledge, there are two very clear references Jesus made directly to the Scriptures that we do not have an exact verbatim version of in the currently accepted Old Testament books - nor to my knowledge are they found in any apocryphal book (I am far from perfect so if anyone has contrary information please let me know). A less direct reference is also found in Luke 24:25/26. The two direct references are found in:
The one believing in Me, as the Scripture said, Out of his belly will flow rivers of living water.
And said to them, So it is written, and so the Christ must suffer and to rise from the dead the third day and that He was buried and that He was raised the third day, according to the Scriptures.
Knowing that Jesus made a reference to a writing we do not have is disappointing; but, it is not a cause for alarm. We have an ample amount of writing in our present Old Testament to know God's expectations of us as our omnipotent Creator. We have the Gospel that Jesus taught to allow us to know what God's will is for us as our merciful and loving Father. Jesus Himself said that we have the Comforter (Holy Spirit) to guide us in all truth. By listening to the Holy Spirit and studying the Gospel that Jesus taught, including His references to the Old Testament, we can draw ever closer to being the loving and obedient children God wants us to be.
Jesus made it quite clear that He was here for one reason and one reason alone - to do the will of His Father - to do the will of His and our God. Hence, His frequent references to the Old Testament make perfect sense because the Old Testament is filled with information God provides us to know what His will is. The Old Testament is far more than a history book of the forming of the Jewish people. Studying Jesus' references allows anyone and everyone to concentrate and fine tune their studies of this holy collection of writings so that they can get the most benefit out them.
You don't need to be a biblical scholar to understand what God is trying to tell you. If you study the Gospel as taught by Jesus, and include the portions of the Old Testament that He references, and try sincerely to apply what you learn to your relationship with God and your life, you will find God's path for you. Do this and pray sincerely for the guidance of the Holy Spirit because you will suffer in this world for being a true follower of Jesus; but, you will gain an eternal, loving, relationship with God - and there is no greater achievement known for man.
In the next article I will delve into what I hope are some helpful tips on getting the most out of your studies of Jesus' references to the Old Testament.
In Brotherly Love,
Note1: That is why and how we are saved by grace - not by God forgiving all our sins; but, by God giving us undeserved help in obeying. So what does it mean that Jesus died for our sins? He died for those sins we commit as unbelievers - they are washed away by the blood of the Lamb. This is one part of God's grace - His unmerited assistance - to us to help become His children. We, when we become believers, are made spotless even though we don't deserve it. We are, however, accountable for sins we commit after that. That is why Jesus said we will be forgiven as we forgive. God, in His infinite love and mercy, knew we would still need help so He gives us even more grace - unmerited divine assistance - the guidance of the Holy Spirit - to help us obey - through love of God and not just obligation. To God belongs all glory!