Or why should Christians make study of the New Testament (NT) a priority over the Old Testament (OT)?
Because, if we study our Lord Jesus Christ’s life and teachings in the NT, He does not rely on the OT very much, except to show how He fulfilled OT prophecies and when relating to and debating the Scribes and Pharisees. His teachings, such as Matt 5-7 were somewhat similar to the OT, but with added requirements that make understanding and following them possible only for those born-again and filled with the Holy Spirit.
In fact, in Matt 7:24, where He says, “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine and acts on them, may be compared to a wise man who built his house on the rock”, He seems to be meaning that His words take precedence over all other’s, including the OT! Even His commissioning in Matt 28:18-20 stresses our continual focus and reliance on Him, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. Go there fore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you: and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
The problem with the OT is that it provided covering for sin, but did not have the power to truly transform a person’s life. The Pharisees were proof of this. Although they were fanatical students of the OT, our Lord Jesus exposed their hearts full of sin and pride numerous times, even saying that Satan was their Father, until they started to plan to murder Him and finally had Him crucified. Also, if our Lord Jesus had some faith in the OT, would He not have chosen His disciples from among the best of the Pharisees? Further more, if the OT was really that great, might we say that our Lord Jesus would not have had to come to earth to sacrifice His life to save us? Verses like, John 3:3, 5, 15-21, assert that without our Lord Jesus’ redemptive work, we would be lost in darkness.
The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish people who were following the law. The writer puts forth arguments showing how our Lord Jesus fulfilled the requirements of the law as the lamb without blemish sacrificed in payment for God’s wrath on a sinful human race. After His resurrection, He became our high priest who is able to save us and intercede for us. According to Hebrews 8:6-7, He also became “the mediator of a better covenant, which has been enacted on better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, there would have been no occasion sought for a second.” Verse 13 adds, ‘When He said, “A new covenant”, He has made the first obsolete. But whatever is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to disappear.’
If we follow Jesus life in the Gospels and what He taught His disciples and His debates with the Pharisees, we might see that Jesus is always bringing in new ideas, many of which supersede those of the OT. In John’s Gospel, our Lord Jesus continually tries to communicate the nature of the Father and the fact that He and the Father are one. He also tries to draw attention to His deity and identity as the Son of God who is superior to Abraham, Moses or any of the OT prophets. He tries to show their need for Him to save them from their sin and that there is no other way to the Father, but through Him.
From reading the Gospels, we see that Jesus required His disciples to spend time with Him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week for three and a half years. He tried to show them how to live a life of faith to preach the Gospel while drawing power from Him, Father, and Holy Spirit to perform miracles, such as healing, casting out devils.
Moreover, we see from His words in John 10 and 14-17, our Lord Jesus wants us to be totally dependent on Him. In John 10, He is the Good Shepherd who knows His sheep and leads them by His voice. He knows His sheep, His sheep know Him and He lays down His life for His sheep. In John 15:1 He says, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vine dresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” In verse 4 He says, “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” In verse 7 He says, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
Because we never find our Lord Jesus encouraging His disciples to meditate on OT scriptures, I think we should be cautious about spending time in the OT until the fruits of our Lord’s teachings in the NT, such as preaching the Gospel with healing, casting out devils, and working of miracles, can be clearly seen in our lives. Even then, I would be extremely cautions about turning to meditation in the OT which may then lead to a powerless and unfruitful life. I believe our Lord’s discipleship and teachings, along with the indwelling Holy Spirit, were all the disciples needed to turn the world upside down.
I think Our Lord’s warning in Matt 16:11-12 supports this, ‘How is it that you do not understand that I did not speak to you concerning bread? But beware of the leaven of the Pharisees and Sadducees.’ Then they understood that He did not say to beware of the leaven of bread, but of the teaching of the Pharisees and Sadducees.”
Also, our Lord illustrates in Matt 9:14-17, “Then the disciples of John came to Him, asking, “Why do we and the Pharisees fast, but Your disciples do not fast?” And Jesus said to them, “The attendants of the bridegroom cannot mourn as long as the bridegroom is with them, can they? But the days will come when the bridegroom is taken away from them, and then they will fast. But no one puts a patch of unshrunk cloth on an old garment; for the patch pulls away from the garment, and a worse tear results. Nor do people put new wine into old wineskins; otherwise the wineskins burst, and the wine pours out and the wineskins are ruined; but they put new wine into fresh wineskins, and both are preserved.”
Because in John 13:16, our Lord Jesus said, “a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the One Who sent him”, we must also be cautious about taking a disciple’s word over our Lord’s word. We must realize, when there is a conflict, that our Lord Jesus’ words should carry more weight than those of one of His disciples, since our Lord is the Son of God, King of Kings, and Lord of Lords, the Way, the Truth and the Life, while everyone else is merely human and can be mistaken. In John 6:63, our Lord said, “It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing: the words I have spoken to you are Spirit and are life.” My personal opinion is that the Holy Spirit left signs of human weakness in the Bible in order for us to realize how much we need our Lord Jesus through the power of His Holy Spirit!
Something that one may notice that is common among the disciples, including the Apostle Paul, is that each is totally fanatical about our Lord Jesus! This is prominent in each disciple’s writings where they constantly think, talk and teach about living in and through our Lord Jesus Christ. I always wondered what it meant when the Apostle Paul would say, in Philippians 4:13 for example, “I can do all things through Him Who strengthens me.” Now I know this echoes back to where our Lord encourages them, like in John 15:5, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” In Rom 1:16-17, the Apostle Paul exclaimed, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.” For more details, please see Bible Resources.