Most preachers don’t preach from the Old Testament. They may spend a long time preaching through a single book of the New Testament or repeat its stories year after year (e.g. Christmas). But sadly, the first three-fourths of the Bible receive almost no attention at all.
Preachers neglect the Old Testament because they are lazy. It contains material that is difficult to understand and often seems irrelevant. So instead of doing the hard work of studying and applying it, they ignore it. They limit their preaching to the New Testament because it is “easier.”
When deciding what to preach, you may be tempted to dismiss the Old Testament as well. But there are several good reasons to preach from it on a regular basis.
A Practical Reason
The Old Testament is three-fourths of the entire Bible! Preachers sometimes start to feel like their preaching is redundant. This is inevitable if you only preach from the last one-fourth of the Bible. So why not open the Old Testament and preach some new material?
Paul says, “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17). What are these “useful” Scriptures that equip us for the “good work” of preaching? The Old Testament!
Think of what you’re missing when you don’t preach from the Old Testament. It is full of messages the first-world church needs to hear:
- The Law shows how God expects us to imitate His holiness because He saved us.
- The History Books show how God judges us when we break His covenant.
- The Poetry & Wisdom Books show how God expects us to revere Him in every area of life.
- The Prophets (Major & Minor) show how God hates it when we worship Him with our words but not our lives. He also hates it when we neglect the poor while making ourselves rich.
How much more powerful, practical, and personal would your preaching be if you incorporated these messages?
A Biblical Reason
Jesus preached from the Old Testament. The New Testament obviously hadn’t been written yet, so the Old Testament was His entire Bible! And if we believe He’s the greatest preacher who ever lived, why don’t we preach the same material He did?
He says, “I have not come to abolish the Law and the Prophets but to fulfill them” (Matthew 5:17). Unfortunately, many are trying to abolish the Old Testament by excluding it from their preaching calendar.
The apostles also preached from the Old Testament. They were eyewitnesses to Jesus’ life and ministry. But in addition to their eyewitness testimony, they cited the inspired testimony of the Old Testament to validate their preaching.
A Theological Reason
The Old Testament is about Jesus. This is the primary reason we should preach from it on a regular basis. If we don’t, our peoples’ understanding of who He is and what He expects from us will be incomplete.
He often applies the Old Testament to Himself. He rebukes the Jews, “You diligently study the Scriptures because you think that by them you possess eternal life. These are the Scriptures that testify about me” (John 5:39). After his resurrection, “he explained to [two disciples] what was said in all the Scriptures concerning himself” (Luke 24:27).
Paul reminds his readers of the gospel thus, “That Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).
It might be fair to ask, “If you can’t preach the gospel without using the New Testament, are you qualified to preach it at all?”
What other reasons are there to preach from the Old Testament? Share your thoughts with a comment below!
(Next month I will publish a post entitled “How to Preach from the Old Testament.” Be sure to follow my blog if you’d like to receive it!)