Preaching from the Old Testament is not too popular these days. Some well-known, influential pastors have even discouraged the practice.[1] To call such efforts tragic would be an understatement—especially when one considers the theological richness of the narrative, prophetic, and wisdom literature of the First Testament (aka, “Old” Testament or Hebrew Scriptures). Bearing in mind the apostle Paul’s own reverence for “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27), how irresponsible it is that a man leading a multitude of souls would ever counsel other Christians against preaching and teaching the First Testament. Such negligence underscores a notable problem in American evangelicalism: though it comprises 75% of the book they carry to church on Sunday mornings, too many Christians are ignorant of the left side of their Bibles. Therefore, what follows is a mere four-point apologetic defending the relevance of the Hebrew Scriptures / OT and its rightful place in Christian ministry.


Reason 1: The Christian Bible Has Never Existed Apart from the OT

The canon of Scripture recognized by Protestant, Roman Catholic, and Eastern Orthodox traditions (the last two containing the Apocrypha) all contain the OT. Scholars have estimated that the NT—a corpus of literature containing only twenty-seven books— directly quotes, echoes, or alludes to the First Testament close to 900 times.[2] Clearly, the NT is reliant upon the OT. The same, however, cannot be said of the OT’s relationship to the NT. There was a time—in fact, 1500 years—that the Hebrew Scriptures existed as God’s Word apart from the NT. It was fully sufficient through multiple dispensations for God’s people to know His will. As the apostle Paul would say, it was to Israel (not the Church) that was given the covenants, the Law, the promises, and so forth (Rom 9:4). Yet, he is also clear that the OT bears relevance for the Church: “For what was written in former days was written for [the Church’s] instruction” (15:4). Today, more and more scholars are recognizing the simple fact that the Church has never operated apart from Israel’s Scriptures as the authoritative Word of God.[3] In a recent essay, Mark Gignilliat makes a striking analogy between Jesus’s dual natures and the two Testaments of Scripture.[4] Just as the Son of God existed as the Word of God before becoming the unified God-man, so the OT existed as the written Word of God before the NT was added, forming a unified Bible. Indeed, since its origin, never has the Christian Bible existed apart from the Hebrew Scriptures.

Reason 2: The OT is “God-breathed

 “All Scripture,” Paul wrote, “is God-breathed” (2 Tim 3:16).[5] For Christians familiar with the New Testament doctrine of inspiration, it may sound strange to hear that what Paul had in mind when he wrote his famous “inspiration” passage was what Christians today call the “Old Testament.” By conservative estimates, Paul wrote his final letter to Timothy in the mid-to-late A.D. 60s. By this time, only a portion of the New Testament was written, and it would take several centuries before the Church officially recognized the closed canon of Scripture. As such, Paul, a Jewish rabbi, wrote his “God-breathed” passage to his protégé Timothy, a Jew by birth (Acts 16:1), and made clear that the entirety of the Hebrew Scriptures was the product of God’s very breath.[6] It is also the OT that Paul had in mind one verse earlier when he explained that these hiera grammata (“sacred writings”) are “able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Tim 3:15).[7] For some, it may seem impossible that a person can legitimately come to saving faith in Christ solely through the OT. But that was precisely Paul’s point. Moreover, because the OT is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness so that the man of God may be complete, equipped every good work” (v. 17) every Christian pastor has a duty to include it in their teaching and preaching. Indeed, Paul would again have the OT in mind when he commanded Timothy to “preach the Word!” (4:2). Thus, a pastor who willfully neglects to preach or teach the OT to his church, or encourages its dismissal in any way, is willfully neglecting a clear command of God.

Reason 3: The OT Contains the Origin of the World, Humans, and the Gospel.

While other religious books merely assume the existence of earth and human beings, it is the OT that records the actual origin of the created cosmos. This, of course, includes the creation of all living things. In the book of “Genesis” (from a Greek word meaning “origin,” “source,” “beginning”), the formation of the world, heaven, animals, and human beings are laid out in detailed order (Gen 1–2). Further, it is in Genesis where we read of the origin of diverse languages, nations, and cultures (Gen 10). It is also in this first OT book where the birth of human sin is disclosed and where readers are first introduced to the coming Messiah, often referred to by scholars as the protoevangelium or “first gospel” (Gen 3:15). It is indeed the OT—not the NT—where we learn of the first Jew, Abraham, the very father of the nation of Israel, and the unconditional covenant God made with him that guarantees blessings to the entire world (Gen 12:1-3; 15:1–21; cf. Gal 3:7–9). In fact, Paul would later identify this covenant as “the gospel preached beforehand” (Gal 3:8). Thus, without a knowledge of the OT, Christians are left in the dark regarding their own origin, identity (both biological and spiritual), and promised inheritance as well as the reason for their need of redemption. Therefore, any Christian leader who willfully neglects the OT is willfully committing a derelict of pastoral duty.

Reason 4: Jesus Himself Appealed only to the OT, never the NT 

This final point should seem obvious enough (since the NT was written after Jesus’s earthly ministry). But it nevertheless warrants reflection. This is especially so considering influential leaders who charge their audience to “tone down” preaching or “unhitch” themselves from the OT. It is important to recall that Jesus was a first-century Jew living in Israel immersed in the Hebrew Scriptures. During His 40-day harassment from Satan, it was portions of the OT that Jesus quoted as a weapon in His defense (Matt 4:1-11). When asked what one must do to obtain eternal life, Jesus’ response was to appeal directly to the OT (Mark 10:19). As He was being interrogated concerning the greatest of all God’s commands, Jesus’s only response was to quote from and synthesize the OT (Matt 22:34-40). While teaching on the thorny issue of divorce, Jesus appealed directly to the OT and confirmed the truth of both the creation account as well as the divine institution of marriage (Matt 19:4-6). Indeed, it was the OT to which Jesus appealed when proving that He was the promised Messiah as well as the very embodiment of Scripture’s redemptive theme (Luke 4:16-21; 24:25-27; John 5:39). When a Christian pastor, teacher, or author decides to dismiss the Old Testament as God’s authoritative Word, he should know that he is in direct conflict with the preaching method of Jesus Himself.



These four points are but a mere sampling of reasons why Christians should never stop reading, learning, and preaching the First or Old Testament. Besides these four, more reasons can easily be drawn.[8] There are certainly vital distinctions a pastor must make concerning primary and secondary audiences in the OT (e.g., Israel or Gentiles), and applications drawn need to be carefully exegeted and justified by the text since Israel and the Church are two distinct peoples of God. However, the OT is forever relevant, serving as the foundation of God’s revelatory witness to the world. Perhaps this is the very reason why the NT witness is as clear as crystal that church leaders are to preach “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27, emphasis added).[9] To suggest this charge did not include what’s on the left side of the Bible is, frankly, ludicrous. Contrary to instructing ministers of Jesus’s Body to refrain from preaching and teaching the Old Testament, a faithful pastor who is bound by conscience and trust in the entirety of God’s authoritative Word should unequivocally declare: “Never stop preaching the Old Testament!”


[1] For example, Andy Stanley’s recent best seller Irresistible: Reclaiming the New that Jesus Unleashed from the World (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2018) promotes “unhitching” the OT from Christianity; and, Calvary Chapel Costa Mesa’s senior pastor Brian Brodersen highly suggested not preaching from the Old Testament on Sunday mornings. The audio clip of Brodersen’s comments can be found at Note: I am largely unaware of this online ministry and therefore cannot endorse it unreservedly. I post it only for their accessibility to Brodersen’s comments. 

[2] See the stats given by Blue Letter Bible,, accessed May, 11, 2022. 


[3] E.g., see the multiple scholarly contributions in Gerald R. McDermott, ed., The Jewish Roots of Christianity: Biblical, Theological, and Historical Essays on the Relationship between Christianity and Judaism SSBT (Bellingham: Lexham Academic, 2022). 


[4] Mark S. Gignilliat, “Old Testament: How Did the New Testament Authors use Tanak,” The Jewish Roots of Christianity, 5–17.


[5] While many English Bibles have translated the word θεόπνευστος (theópneustos) as “inspired by God,” the Greek word is technically a compound stemming two separate words: the noun “God,” and the verb “breathe.” As a result, the original word (used only this one time in the Bible), literally means “God-breathed,” a word far more profound than what comes to mind when one usually thinks of “inspiration.”

[6] That Paul also had in mind whatever NT Scriptures were completed by the time he wrote to Timothy is of course plausible. Cf. George W. Knight, New International Greek Testament Commentary: Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles (Grand Rapids, Mi: Eerdmans, 1992), 448.


[7] Thus, Knight, 443: “ἱερὰ γράμματα” (holy scriptures / sacred writings) is not used elsewhere in the NT and is probably used here because of Timothy’s Jewish background, since the phrase was used among Greek-speaking Jews to designate the OT.”

[8] For example, the faithfulness of God is proved trough the historical accounts and prophecy outlined in the OT. Moreover, the wisdom of God is detailed par excellence throughout the “Wisdom Books” of the OT. Most assuredly, when a pastor cuts out the Proverbs and Psalms from their teaching (the latter of which contains virtually every Christian doctrine in germinal form), they do their flocks a most serious harm by neglecting thousands of years of Christian devotions, hymns, and theology.

[9] It is noteworthy that Paul here uses the verb ὑποστέλλω (hypostéllō) meaning “to shrink from fear” to describe what a preacher should not do. That Paul was not fearful to declare all of God’s Word to gentiles—indeed, preaching that included the OT—is a lesson for modern day pastors who are more fearful of losing congregants than remaining true to their commission to preach from God’s whole written counsel. In his comments, Brodersen erroneously limits “the whole counsel of God” strictly to the New Testament, and Stanley remarkably limits the value of the OT to mere pragmatics. For a stern and rightly critical review of the latter’s recent book, See David Mappes, “Stanley’s ‘Stanley’s ‘Irresistible’ Is a Dangerous Disappointment,” Regular Baptist Ministries, February 2019,