Below are some rules for studying the Old Testament that I got from Calvary Chapel's Bible College. These are great rules to follow.
May the Lord bless and increase your hunger for His Word!
Top Ten Rules for Studying the Old Testament
- One author, the Holy Spirit; many penmen - see 2 Tim. 3:16, 2 Pet. 1:21, Mark 12:36, Acts 1:16. Therefore this is a Spiritual Book, that must be approached and understood spiritually and only with the aid of the Holy Spirit. See 1Cor. 2:9-15. The natural man will see only the History, the blood, the polygamy, the killing, lots of rules - but we must pray as David did: Ps. 119:18 Open my eyes, that I may see Wondrous things from Your law.
- The OT is primarily about Jesus: Heb. 10:7, John 5:39, John 5:46, Including feasts, Col. 2:16-17
The OT is God Speaking: Thru Prophets, visions and figures of speech often explained in the NT. See Hos. 12:10, John 6:32-33, 1 Cor. 10: 4, Heb 1:1. Speaking and revealing through Jesus: John 1:18, 1 Tim. 6:16 (Compare with Ex. 33:18-23). When God appears in the OT who in the Godhead appears according to Jesus?
Guidelines for interpreting figures of speech:
- Always approach scripture literally. If it makes no sense to apply it literally, then it’s probably a figure of speech.
- Let the context and other scripture determine the meaning. Since God is the same in all dispensations (though He rules differently from dispensation to dispensation), His figures of speech generally are consistent throughout Scripture (i.e. follow ‘Rock’ throughout the OT & NT).
- Look for what is behind the figure; why is it used instead of ‘plain speak’, what is represented?
- Look for specific points of similarity and difference to aid in interpretation.
- Figures of speech do not typically determine doctrine, but rather reinforce and enhance Doctrines found in ‘plain speak’ or narrative texts.
- The OT was and is yet to be fulfilled. It is Prophesy, ‘forth-telling’ and ‘foretelling.’ About Jesus’ first and second comings; about Israel, and Gentiles. See Luke 4:18-21. Note what was not fulfilled from Isa. 61:2. Also see, Mat. 5:17-18.
- The OT is the beginning of the war between two ‘seeds’ that continues today. The two seeds are found in Gen. 3:15, the Seed of the Woman and the Seed of the Serpent. Follow the warfare of the two seeds throughout the OT that also continues throughout the NT.
Israel is Israel, the Church is the Church and Israel is not the Church, nor the Church Israel. Replacement Theology is heresy.
- The church is not revealed in the OT, that mystery was given to Paul to reveal, Eph. 3:1-7. Israel will be dealt with again by God: Rom. 11:25-27.
- The OT reveals (as a picture reveals) the NT, the NT explains, makes clear the OT pictures or models. The OT is predictive, the NT is fulfillment.
Much of the OT was written for our example and admonition (what not to follow or not do, versus what to do, 1 Cor. 10:1-11); our learning and our hope (Rom. 15:4). Not everything written in Scripture is condoned by God. Because something happens or people act in a certain way and there is no condemnation recorded does not mean God condones or approves of the behavior or action. The Law written is the determining factor for judging behavior, not God’s forbearance.
Cautions Regarding Applying the OT to yourselves and others
- Maintain your mental disciplines on the different emphases of the Dispensation of the Law versus the Dispensation we live in and under Grace. Rom. 6:14
- The major distinction between the teachings of law and the teachings of grace is seen in the varying order between the divine blessing and the human obligation.
When the human obligation is presented first, and the divine blessing is made to depend on the faithful discharge of that obligation, it is of, and in conformity with pure law.
- When the divine blessing is presented first, and the human obligation follows, it is of and in conformity with pure grace.
- In the case of the law, it is do something with a view to being something or to achieve some benefit; in the case of grace, it is be made something with a view to then doing something.
- The law said "If you will do good, I will bless you"; grace says, "I have blessed you, & our response in love & faith is: now do good."
- In the teachings of grace, the gracious, divine blessing always precedes, and is followed by the human obligation, and additional blessings are often bestowed in excess of the human obligation performed.
- This is the order maintained throughout the great doctrinal Letters of the New Testament. These Letters are therefore subject to a two-fold division. In the first division, the mighty undertakings of GOD for man are disclosed: while in the second division the saved one is besought and exhorted to live on the plane and position to which he or she has been brought in the exceeding grace of GOD.
- The citizenships are different under Law versus under Grace. Earth is in view under the law; Heaven is in view under Grace.
- Be careful about judging eternal life or eternal damnation based on the earthly performance of those under the Law. In the OT, under law it is predominantly concerned with the performance of Israel under the law in relationship to their God.
- The OT is fact. What it says happened, happened. What is says about the sciences is fact. What it says about the future that is behind us, happened. Its History is 100% accurate. What it says about the future ‘yet to come’ will happen.
- There are by some counts 4,105 NT passages that allude1 to and 352 passages that are a direct2 quote from the OT, many from the Greek OT or the LXX. This Bible is one book. To fully understand the New we must know the Old. 1Allude to example: See John 1:18, 2Direct Quote: See Matt. 3:3
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