Is the Old Testament for Christians?

Do we need the Old Testament?

One prominent pastor states that, “Peter, James, Paul elected to unhitch the Christian faith from their Jewish scriptures, and my friends, we must as well.”

Dr. Richard Averbeck is professor of Old Testament and Semitic languages at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.

In his new book, The Old Testament Law for the Life of the Church, he explains how God intended the Law to work - both in its original context as well as in the New Testament.

In fact, he argues that the whole Law applies to Christians - but we need to understand how to apply it in light of Christ.

If you feel confused about how the Old Testament is relevant to our lives today, this event is for you!


It’s amazing to be able to connect the OT and the NT and see and understand that it is the story that leads to Jesus.
I just finished “Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?” by Michael Morales, a commentary on Leviticus. To me, it was interesting to hear Dr. Averbeck state that it was his working with Leviticus that pushed him to explore the use of the Law in the NT. One of the takeaways from Morales’ book that I believe will dovetail with Dr. Averbeck’s position on the Law and the NT is this:

…the goal of the new covenant is no different from the goal of the old covenant, though the new covenant will supply the indispensable means to this end

Morales, L. M. (2015). Who Shall Ascend the Mountain of the Lord?: A Biblical Theology of the Book of Leviticus (D. A. Carson, Ed.; Vol. 37, p. 219). Apollos; InterVarsity Press.

I would also agree with Dr. Averbeck that one of the areas that were under-emphasized in the church (for sure in my experience) was that the Torah, Prophets, and the Writing were the sources of all that Jesus spoke and that the Apostles recorded.


Since I listened to the interview I have been thinking of some verses that relate to this discussion.

Galatians 3:25-26 ESV
But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, [26] for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith.

From these verses, my understanding is that we no longer need to follow OT law, as the function of the law of making us aware of our sin is fulfilled by the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ.

Yet from 1 Cor 9:9 and 1 Cor 10:6, we see that Paul applied the principles behind the Law in our new covenant in Christ.

1 Corinthians 9:9 ESV
For it is written in the Law of Moses, “You shall not muzzle an ox when it treads out the grain.” Is it for oxen that God is concerned?

1 Corinthians 10:6 ESV
Now these things took place as examples for us, that we might not desire evil as they did.

So, in a way the law still applies just as Dr. Averbeck shared. Paul used the verse on muzzling an ox ( Deut 25:4) to justify a laborer being paid his wages. That is something I could have never come up with by plain reading of scripture. The context in Deuteronomy was about not punishing a brother too harshly. My question then is, How do we know we are rightly interpreting the OT law if we have to interpret the law symbolically?

Paul also explains the life of Israelites is an example for us that we may not desire evil. We often view the OT portrayal of God as too harsh. Death was often the punishment for seemingly minor violations of OT law. To me this punishment suggests God doesn’t take his law lightly. The discussion with Dr. Averbeck convicted me of God’s esteem of the new covenant and the law written on our hearts by the Holy Spirit. To what extent can God tolerate disobedience to this law of the Holy Spirit in our heart?

Another aspect I haven’t noticed before is that the OT law was put in place by angels. So, is the OT law not from God? I always thought it was.

Galatians 3:19-20 ESV
Why then the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the offspring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an intermediary. [20] Now an intermediary implies more than one, but God is one.

This was an interesting interview which has led me to more questions.


Hi Lakshmi!

Thank you for your very thoughtful questions! You have given me much to think about! I enjoyed listening to the interview Carson had with Dr. Averbeck. I would encourage you to listen to this lecture that Dr. Averbeck gave in relation to the covenants. Richard Averbeck - Israel, the Jewish People, and God's Covenants - YouTube
I found it very helpful and insightful. I think that might provide a broader context for examining the relationship between the old and new covenants.

The beauty of God calling the Apostle Paul to the apostleship is that Paul, being thoroughly versed in the Law of Moses, was able through the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to inform those of us without actual experience of the Law of Moses. He connected the dots in ways that we would not, and God used him to inform us.

In regard to your question related to Galatians 3:19, here are my thoughts:

“having been ordained through angels…”

My understanding is that “ordained” is the Greek word diatasso, which carries with it the sense of being “administered”. Hebrews 1:7 speaks angels as “winds” and “a flame of fire”. If we go to the account in Exodus 19:16-20:26, we can read about the events surrounding the giving of the Ten Commandments. What we see is that when God presents Himself to the people, He is surrounded by thunder, lightning flashes, a thick cloud upon the mountain, and a very loud trumpet sound. Mount Sinai is “all in smoke because the LORD descended upon it in fire; and its smoke ascended like the smoke of a furnace, and the whole mountain quaked violently. When the sound of the trumpet grew louder and louder, Moses spoke and God answered him with thunder.” Perhaps these demonstrations of power are the “angels” or messengers spoken of in Galations 3? The response is that the people in the camp trembled and stood at a distance. In Exodus 20:19 the people ask that Moses be their mediator between them and God, “or we will die.” Moses reassures them in verse 20–Moses said to the people, “Do not be afraid; for God has come in order to test you, and in order that the fear of Him may remain with you, so that you may not sin.” These manifestations serve as a message of reinforcement to the people, of God’s profound holiness and power. I suspect that this is what Galations 3:19 is referring to (at least in part) by the Law having been ordained through angels. I think “by the agency of a mediator” is likely referring to Moses as being the go-between, between God and the children of Israel–as the latter part of verse 19 reads: “until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made.”

I think Hebrews 2:1-3a would possibly support this premise.
The book of Hebrews is speaking of the supremacy of Jesus.
Chapter 1–He is greater than the angels (vs. 4-14)
Chapter 3–He is of more glory than Moses (vs. 3-6)
Chapter 5-8–He is a greater High Priest–culminating in Hebrews 8: 8-12.

The Law as given in Exodus 20: 1-17 is, without a doubt, given directly from God. See Exodus 20:1.

These are my thoughts. I would really like to hear what you think, and also, if anyone else has input on this subject. :upside_down_face:


Hi @belinda! I am so glad to notice that you still keep up with the posts on UP community! I have enjoyed our discussions in the past and its great to connect again.

I haven’t yet listened to Dr. Averbeck’s lecture you recommended but wanted to post some information I have seen after I posted my question on what Paul could have meant when he said the OT law was ordained by angels in Galatians 3.

The quotes below are by Dr. Thomas Schreiner from his online course on Galatians and your perspective seems to be along the same lines.

To say that angels were the intermediaries for the reception of the law does not suggest that God was absent when the law was given…

The passive participle “having been ordained” (διαταγείς) should be construed as a divine passive, indicating that the law was ordained by God.

The preposition “through” (διά) with the genitive indicates that the angels were a means through whom the law came, not ultimately responsible for the law.

The reference to the angels is in a subordinate clause, and hence they do not function as the subject.

In the clause that immediately follows the verb “promised” (ἐπήγγελται), God is clearly the implied subject.

The notion that angels were present when the law was given is unclear in the OT, but it may be present in Deut 33:2: “The Lord came from Sinai and dawned from Seir upon us; he shone forth from Mount Paran; he came from the ten thousands of holy ones, with flaming fire at his right hand” (ESV). A reference to angels is clearer in the LXX of this verse, which speaks of the “angels with him” (ἄγγελοι μετ̓ αὐτοῦ). Another text from which the same tradition may be derived is Ps 68:17. The notion that the law was mediated through angels may be found in Josephus (Ant. 15.136)[23] and in Philo (Dreams 1.140–44), and it seems clear in Pesiq. Rab. 21.8. Other Jewish traditions refer to a mediation through a single angel (Jub. 1:27; 2:1; 6:22; 30:11–12, 21; 50:6, 13). We find elsewhere in the NT the tradition of mediation through angels (Acts 7:53; Heb 2:2), and hence Paul does not innovate here .

The “mediator” (μεσίτου) in the verse is almost certainly Moses, for he functioned as the one who transmitted the law to Israel. The presence of a mediator suggests the inferiority of the revelation or the weakness of the people. The reference to Moses’ hands alludes to the Ten Commandments, which Moses brought down from the mountain with his own hands (cf. Exod 32:15, 19; 34:4, 29). So, Paul emphasizes that the law was given to Moses through angels, and Moses in turn mediated the law to the people .

My initial reading of Gal 3:19 made me wonder if Paul is saying that the OT law was inferior because it was given not by God but by angels. I think I can put that thought to rest by Schreiner’s explanation above. So why did Paul bring up the whole argument of OT law being ordained by angels? Below is how Schreiner explains.

The main idea of the verse seems clear in context. On the one hand, the law is inferior to the promise because it required mediation: from God to angels to Moses to the people. On the other hand, the one God spoke directly to Abraham. Hence, the promise is clearly superior to the law. The indirect way that the law came to Israel suggests that it should not be placed on the same plane as the promise.

So Paul seems to be making the case that the promise to Abraham that came before the law, directly from God, and got fulfilled in Christ, should be esteemed higher than the Mosaic law that came indirectly from God via angels.

The questions I had about how to interpret the OT law if it applies to us now is a very large topic with many views but I hope with a little bit of discussion, I can make some progress in my understanding.


Thank you for sharing this, Lakshmi! It is really helpful to read how others are looking at these passages. I always value your thought provoking questions and your insights! :blush: