Devoted to the Propagation and Defense of New Testament Christianity
May 13, 1954

On Using The Old Testament


There is a very legitimate and proper use to be made of the Old Testament scriptures. The fact that Christ "hath taken it (the old covenant) out of the way, nailing it to his cross" does not mean at all that there is no value to be derived from a study of the inspired record. It has long been said that there can be no true understanding and appreciation of the New Testament without familiarity with the Old. Perhaps a better way to put it would be that it is impossible to understand the Old Testament without familiarity' with the New! For the sacrifices, ordinances, and prophecies there, finding their fulfillment under Christ, would be enigmatic and perhaps meaningless without the New Testament explanation of them.

But what of the man who appeals to the Old Testament scripture to advance some doctrine or teaching as binding and obligatory upon us today? What of the man, for instance, who appeals to the Abrahamic covenant in support of his doctrine of infant church membership, seeking to prove that because infants were in covenant relationship under that older regime, they are to be baptized under the Christian dispensation?

And what of the man who goes to the Old Testament to find some scripture in support of instrumental music in Christian worship? It is a very common practice to have men turn to the Psalms of David or to other Old Testament writings to defend their modern use of instruments of music in their services.

And what shall we say of the man who goes to the Old Testament scriptures to defend the practice of sprinkling? Over more than a score of years this writer remembers with what a shock he heard one of the greatest in the Presbyterian Church (U. S.) do that very thing. The man was seeking to defend the practice of sprinkling before a class of young preachers who had called in question the practice. His argument ran as follows:

1. It was God's law that the priests should enter into their 'priestly duties at thirty years of age. (Num. 4:3)

2. The priest was anointed by having oil poured upon his head. (Exodus 29:7)

3. Jesus Christ entered into his work at thirty years of age (Luke 3:23), hence became a priest at that time.

4. Christ himself announced that he had been anointed. (Luke 4:18)

5. Therefore, following the custom for anointing of a priest John the Baptist either poured or sprinkled water on Christ at his baptism.

Of course that whole involved argument was answered by one short statement from the Hebrew letter: "Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all." (Heb. 8:4) Christ was NOT a priest while on earth; he did NOT enter into his priestly office at thirty years of age; he was NOT consecrated with the usual priestly ceremonies and rituals.

But what of the attitude of the man who goes to the Old Testament to find support for such teachings? Why does he do it? And what are the implications in his act?

First of all, he goes to the Old Testament because he feels the need for authority to justify what he is doing — whether it be the use of instrumental music, the baptizing of infants, or the practice of sprinkling or pouring. Man recognizes that he ought to have (and therefore seeks) God's sanction for the things he does religiously. This is basic and fundamental. If man felt no need at all for authority or sanction for his acts in religion, he would feel under no necessity or pressure for seeking any divine statement or revelation on the subject. But he does feel that necessity; he does recognize the obligation to produce divine authority for his actions.

Secondly, by going to the Old Testament for his authority or sanction, man tacitly acknowledges that the New Testament does NOT authorize the particular thing he is seeking to justify. For if he could find clear and explicit authority in the New Testament, he would feel under no constraint at all to seek such from the Old Testament. Where is the man who goes to the Old Testament seeking some justification or authority for baptism? Or where is the man who will try to find some passages in the Old Testament which show that baptism was by immersion? On such clear and positively taught subjects, those who teach baptism and immersion recognize no need at all for trying to justify their actions by any appeal to Old Testament scripture. Baptism and immersion are so clearly taught in the New Testament that no further sanction is needed.

Where is the man who will try to go to the Old Testament to find justification for singing praises unto God? And why does he not go there? Is it not because the New Testament furnishes all the sanction he needs for such worship? But the advocate and user of instrumental music in the worship can find no such justification or authority for his practice in the New Testament. Hence, he loses himself among the Psalms of David and the temple musicians of Solomon's time.

The Old Testament has its proper and legitimate place. And that place is not to give authority and sanction for acts of Christian worship or service. — F. Y. T.