Is It Wrong to Draw Moral Lessons from OT Figures?

Is It Wrong to Draw Moral Lessons from OT Figures? by Jim Savastio  for The Gospel Coalition

I’ll never forget a particular sermon during my Bible college days. The young preacher (and fellow student) had just finished opening up a narrative portion of the Old Testament when he paused and said, in his distinct Australian accent, “So what?” (I must admit, I was originally struck just by how he pronounced those words.)

This narrative is saying something to us. It applies to us. Though he didn’t quote Paul in 1 Corinthians 10, he was being true to the spirit of Paul’s understanding of the importance of applying Old Testament narrative.

First Corinthians 10:11 sums up the reason Paul has been applying the wilderness narrative to new covenant believers in Corinth. He has warned them about their many sins committed against the backdrop of redemptive privilege and gift. Don’t let the lessons of Israel’s past be lost on you, Paul says. In proving this, he gives an axiom regarding the believer’s (and the preacher’s) use of Old Testament narrative: “Now all these things happened to them as examples, and they were written for our admonition, upon whom the ends of the ages have come” (1 Cor. 10:11).

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This use of the Old Testament is certainly in keeping with Paul’s view of inspiration and the use of Scripture: “All Scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, thoroughly equipped for every good work” (2 Tim. 3:16–17).

The God-breathed Scriptures are profitable for doctrine (teaching), reproof (exposing our errors—mental and moral), correction (restoring to an upright position), and instruction in righteousness. This last phrase is particularly interesting. The word Paul uses, usually translated as “instruction” or “training,” literally means “child training”—referring to the patient, repetitive, and illustrative manner in which children learn. How do you instruct believers to live righteously? In part, tell them stories over and over again and apply them to their lives.

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