How to Apply the Old Testament to Our Lives PT.1 & 2
Biblical Sermon Outline
By Pastor Ron Jones, D.D. © Titus Institute, 2005
This outline is given to be used with the Biblical Sermon of the same name.
It is given with more explanation for use without the Biblical Sermon in
the OT section of our website.
How do we apply the Old Testament to our lives as NT believers?
There are three key principles in accurately applying the OT to our lives
Principle #1 is “the OT portions that reflect God’s plan for
Israel in the Old Covenant applied to them only.”
Principle #2 is “the OT portions that reflect God’s unchanging nature and attributes can be applied to our lives (as interpreted in agreement with the NT).”
Principle #3 is “the OT portions that reflect God’s relationship with believers of all ages can be applied to our lives (as interpreted in agreement with the NT).”
Each of these principles can be used to help us apply the OT to our lives
by putting them in the form of questions.
Here is the first one.
I. The OT portions that reflect God’s plan for Israel in the Old
Covenant applied to them only (Principle #1)
Does this OT statement reflect the Mosaic Covenant, which does not apply
to me as a NT believer?
A. As believers who exist after Christ came and died on the cross, we are
NT Christians. Eph.2:20-22
1. Our lives are founded directly on the NT and the NT is founded upon
the OT. What we use to interpret the OT is the NT.
2. The entire OT reflects truth about God and is useful to us, but not
all of the OT can be directly applied to our lives. There are several things
that you as a Christian need to understand about the OT if you are to apply
it to your life.
B. God gave two different covenants in the OT, one to Abraham and one to
1. The Abrahamic covenant was given in Gen.12:1-3 and is an unconditional
covenant where God told Abraham that from his seed all the families of the
earth would be blessed.
2. In Gal.3:16, Paul tells us that the “seed” is Christ and therefore, the blessing in Gen.12 is salvation. This is a covenant that lasts forever and every believer has become a part of that covenant at the moment of salvation. That covenant has only one provision, you must accept it by faith.
3. However, God needed to make another covenant with Israel when he brought them into the land hundreds of years later.
This covenant was made with Moses and is called the Mosaic Covenant. This
covenant is conditional and was given for the purpose of governing Israel
in the land of Israel. It was not for salvation and it was only for Israel.
Deut. 4:39-40 and 28:1-68 reveal this.
4. The Mosaic Covenant had three kinds of laws to govern Israel, moral
laws, civil laws, and ceremonial laws. The Mosaic Covenant was not given
to save anybody. It was given to govern a nation, not save it.
C. Salvation is always based on the Abrahamic Covenant, not the Mosaic
1. Salvation in the OT was based on the Abrahamic Covenant and was always
by faith, and never by works.
2. Abraham was saved by faith, not by works and he is the prime example of how everyone has always been saved. Rom. 4:3-5
D. Governance of Israel was based on the Mosaic Covenant.
1. The Mosaic Covenant given in the OT was given to Israel to govern itself
and to point out its sin and been fulfilled in Christ and no longer applies
to us Christians as a rule of law.
2. However, the underlying moral standard it demonstrates is applicable because it comes from the nature of God.
3. Jesus came, fulfilled and completed this covenant and it no longer applies. Matt.5:17-18
Jesus said, ““Do not think that I have come to destroy the law (Mosaic Covenant), or the prophets (exhorters of the Mosaic Covenant); I have not come to destroy, but to fulfill. For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not one jot or one tittle shall pass away from the law, until all is fulfilled.” Jesus was not saying that the OT Mosaic Covenant applies to us, but was telling the Jewish nation that he had come to fulfill and complete it. After his death on the cross, it would no longer apply to anyone.
It is true that some of the moral instructions in the Mosaic Covenant are
clarified and incorporated in the New Testament to apply to NT believers.
The Mosaic Covenant consisted of moral, civil, and religious laws, which
includes of course, the Ten Commandments. Underlying the Mosaic Covenant
is God’s moral standards some of which are stated in the Ten Commandments.
These moral standards never change. One example of this is when Jesus clarified
the moral standard about adultery given in the Ten Commandments. In Matt.
5:27-28 he said that the application of the commandment is more than just
physical adultery; it also applies to lust in the heart. When he said this,
he was giving us the NT application of the OT commandment.
E. Both Covenants were founded upon God’s Moral Standards.
In Matt.22:37-39 Jesus summed up the God’s moral standard underlying
the entire Ten Commandments. They are “Love the Lord your God…”
and “Love your neighbor as yourself.” All of the Ten Commandments
are restated in the NT to apply to us except one, the keeping of the Sabbath.
That one was part of the Mosaic Covenant and does not apply to us. Paul
says in Col.2:16-17 that believers are not to be judged because they do
not keep the Sabbath or other Jewish holidays.
The moral principles given in the NT only govern us, however, the laws
of the Mosaic Covenant reflect God’s beliefs and values regarding
moral and spiritual issues and can be used to give us an idea of how God
feels about certain moral and spiritual issues.
So, when we are looking at the OT for application for our lives we need
to ask the question, “Is this OT statement part of the Mosaic Covenant,
which does not apply to me as a NT believer?” There is a second principle
and question we can ask.
II. The OT portions that reflect God’s unchanging nature and attributes
can be applied to our lives (as interpreted in agreement with the NT).
Does this OT statement reveal a truth about God’s unchanging nature
This question is based on Principle #2 which is “the OT portions that reflect God’s unchanging nature and attributes can be applied to our lives (as interpreted in agreement with the NT).”
A. Even though much of the OT involves the Mosaic Covenant, it still reflects
the nature and character of God as all His works do.
We can apply the OT to our lives by realizing that it reflects much about
1. The OT reflects God’s attitudes toward specific good and evil
attitudes and actions.
a. An example: Does God forbid going to psychics?
b. First search the NT for any info on it. Look at Gal.5:19-20 which condemns idolatry and witchcraft. Do “psychics” fall under the category of witchcraft and idolatry?
c. To clarify this and further reinforce God’s feelings about witchcraft and idolatry, you can go to the OT. In Deut.18:9-13 Moses tells the Israelites how God feels about these sinful practices.
He says, “When you have come into the land which the Lord your God gave you, you shall not learn to follow after the abominations of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter to pass through the fire [human sacrifice], or who uses divination [attempting to obtain knowledge of the future through occult or supernatural means practices, i.e. psychics], or an observer of times, or an enchanter, or a witch, or a charmer, or a consulter with spirits, or a wizard, or a necromancer. For all who do these things are an abomination to the Lord: and because of these abominations the Lord your God drives them out from before thee.” God detests these practices and Christians should also.
2. The NT reflects God’s moral standard underlying the Mosaic Covenant,
which applies to all ages.
a. In Matt. 5:27-30, Jesus takes one of the Ten Commandments (Exod.20:14, Deut.5:18), “Thou shalt not commit adultery” and applies it to the NT period, clarifying its application.
b. He teaches that it applies not only to the physical act, but also to mental activity.
c. Jesus does not carry over the Mosaic Covenant standard of stoning someone for the sin of adultery, which is given in Lev.20:10. The stoning penalty was given as a criminal penalty (capital punishment) to help govern the nation of Israel. The stoning to death of adulterers no longer applies because it is part of the Mosaic Covenant.
d. But this does reveal how serious God feels about adultery. It not only destroys a marriage, but it can destroy a nation.
e. The prophets are the exhorters for the Mosaic Covenant and thus the same principle applies. We can use their words in understanding how God feels about things, but the penalties do not apply to us. This is the second principle. There is a third.
III. The OT portions that reflect God’s relationship with believers
of all ages can be applied to our lives (as interpreted in agreement with
Does this OT statement reflect God’s relationship with believers
of all ages (as interpreted in agreement with the NT)?
This question is based on Principle #3, which is “the OT portions
that reflect God’s relationship with believers of all ages can be
applied to our lives (as interpreted in agreement with the NT).”
A. Psalm 23 reflects God’s relationship with believers of all ages.
Ps.23 talks of the Lord being our shepherd and leading us and guiding us. That clearly applies to believers of all ages.
B. Prov.1:7 says, “The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, but fools despise wisdom and instruction.” This clearly applies to believers of all ages.
C. Key Question: “Does that OT statement agree with the NT teaching on the believer in Jesus Christ?”
We can discover which OT statements apply to us and which don’t by
asking this question.
This is really the summary question you must always keep in mind when trying to apply the OT to your life.
IV. Here are examples of how to apply the OT to our lives using these three
Below are examples from the OT narratives, the psalms, and the wisdom literature.
1. Applying these questions to OT Narrative, Josh.1:1-11.
a. God gives Joshua a promise in v.5. Can we apply that promise to our lives?
Joshua had become the leader of the Israelites after Moses’ death. The Lord speaks to him to deal with the fear that he had in replacing such a spiritually powerful leader as Moses and in the overwhelming task of bringing the Israelites into the land of Canaan and defeating the Canaanites.
The Lord speaks to Joshua in v.1-4 and commands Joshua to continue the task that Moses had begun and bring the people into the land. God declares that He has given the Israelites that land to possess.
This is a wonderful promise and a great assurance to Moses to trust in
the Lord and God will work mightily in his life. It is also a conditional
promise. The Lord will not fail or forsake him, but he must follow the Lord
by following the law (the Mosaic Covenant) that was given to Moses. Can
we apply this to our lives? How do we apply this to our lives?
b. Let’s ask Question #1, which is “Does this OT statement
reflect the Mosaic Covenant which does not apply to me as a NT believer?”
The OT portions that reflect God’s plan for Israel in the Old Covenant
applied to them only.
Does this passage relate directly to the Mosaic Covenant promises God made to Moses and Israel, that he would give them the land if they would carry out the Mosaic Covenant? The answer is yes.
How do we know? We know that from v. 3 “as I promised Moses…” We cannot go to the land of Israel and try to cross the Jordan and take possession of the land and fulfill that Scripture. We are the church. We are not Israel. Nor can we apply this verse to a country or city or even a piece of property. We cannot say based on this verse “We claim Los Angeles for the Lord and we are going to come in and conquer it spiritually for the Lord. No one will stop us or stand against us. The Lord will not forsake us as we do this.” That is a misapplication.
This specific command and promise apply only to Joshua and Israel under the Mosaic Covenant.
c. Let’s ask the second question, which is “Does this OT statement
reveal a truth about God’s unchanging nature and attributes?”
The OT portions that reflect God’s unchanging nature and attributes can be applied to our lives (as interpreted in agreement with the NT). This passage does reflect God’s unchanging attribute of faithfulness. God is faithful to fulfill the promises He gives to believers, although this specific promise is not for us.
d. Let’s ask the third question, which is “Does this OT statement
reflect God’s relationship with believers of all ages (as interpreted
in agreement with the NT)?
The OT portions that reflect the relationship all believers of all ages
have with God (as interpreted in agreement with the NT) can be applied to
Although, this specific command is for Israel and this specific promise
is for Israel, we know from the NT it reflects or illustrates how God works
generally in the lives of believers of all ages. When God calls his people
(Israel or the church) to fulfill a commission, He gives a promise to work
on their behalf so they have his presence and power. He then fulfills this
promise if they are faithful to fulfill their responsibility to accomplish
We see this in Christ’s promise after he gives the Great Commission
in Matt.28: 18-20. In v. 1, Jesus gives the commission to make disciples
and in v. 20 he gives the promise that he will be with us (work on our behalf)
as we fulfill it. It says, “Go therefore, and make disciples of all
the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and
of the Holy Spirit: teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded
you. Behold, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
e. Summary of what can be applied from this passage
So what God told Joshua illustrates how God generally works in the lives of NT Christians when we go out to accomplish the Great Commission. However, for us this is a spiritual promise. For Joshua it was a physical promise. We are to go and share the gospel and bring people into the spiritual kingdom.
Joshua was to go into the land of Israel and physically conquer and bring
his people into the land to build the Israelite nation. This distinction
is crucial in understanding how to apply the OT to our lives so we can make
decisions God’s way.
2. Applying these questions to the Psalms
We can apply this principle to the Psalms. Who does not believe that the psalms contain some of the richest truth in all the Word of God? David, an OT believer and a man following after God’s own heart, penned many of them.
They are addressed to God or express truth about God and his ways.
Let’s apply our first principle of application, which is “The portions that reflect God’s plan for Israel in the Old Covenant applies to them only.”
There are many psalms designed by God to celebrate the blessings of God to Israel under the Mosaic Covenant. These psalms cannot be applied to us in regard to their Mosaic covenantal exhortations and promises.
a. Psalm 80 - a psalm celebrating the blessings of God to Israel under
the Mosaic Covenant
Ps.80 is an example of one of these psalms.
This psalm refers directly to Israel as a nation under the Mosaic Covenant. This is why God is called, “Shepherd of Israel” and the psalmist refers to the anger of the Lord toward Israel, probably due to their sin in not following the Mosaic Covenant. Although it reveals much about that covenant and Israel’s relationship to God under that conditional covenant, it does not reflect how God treats us as believers in Jesus Christ.
b. Psalm 147 - a psalm celebrating worship by Israel which is applicable to believers of all ages in its non-Mosaic Covenantal elements
However, many of these psalms can reflect the other principles and apply to us. Ps.147 is a psalm calling the citizens of Israel to worship. We can apply all three principles to this psalm. Let’s take it verse by verse.
Verse 1 is certainly applicable at all times for all believers at all times. It says, “Praise the Lord, for it is good to sing praises to our God; for it is pleasant and praise is fitting.”
Verse 2 applies only to Israel. It says, “The Lord builds up Jerusalem. He gathers together the outcasts of Israel.”
Verses 3-6 gives truth about God, which is, of course, applicable at all times. It says, “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds. He tells the number of the stars. He calls them all by their names. Great is our Lord with great power. His understanding is infinite. The LORD lifts up the meek; he casts the wicked down to the ground.”
Verse 7 applies to believers of all ages. It says, “Sing to the LORD with thanksgiving; sing praise upon the harp to our God.”
Verses 8-9 speaks of the universal truth of God’s sovereignty in maintaining the earth. It says, “[The Lord] who covers the heaven with clouds, who prepares rain for the earth, who makes grass to grow upon the mountains. He gives to the beast his food, and to the young ravens which cry…”
Verses 10-11 show God’s attitudes toward believers (those who fear God, i.e. respect God) of all ages.
Verses 12-14 demonstrate God’s relationship with Israel only.
Verses 15-18 shows God’s sovereignty over creation.
Verses 19-20 are applicable to Israel only. Many of these psalms are easily identified because they talk about Israel as a nation worshipping or praising God.
c. Psalm 51 - a psalm of confession by an Israelite believer by Israel, which is applicable to believers of all ages in its non-Mosaic Covenantal elements
Many psalms are the prayer or praise of an individual. When David or another believer speaks in the psalm, he can speak both as a believer saved by God’s grace by faith and as an Israelite under the Mosaic Covenant.
Ps.51 is a great example of this. This psalm is David’s prayer of confession to God for his adultery with Bathsheba. This prayer of confession David prays as both a believer saved by faith and an Israelite under the Old Covenant.
Verses 1-9 can basically be applied to believers of all time as we confess sin.
Verse 11, however, cannot be applied to us. David says, “Cast me not away from your presence and do not take your Holy Spirit from me.”
This refers to the experience of an OT believer who could lose the ministry of the Holy Spirit in his life. The ministry of the Holy Spirit in the OT and in the church of the NT is different.
The ministry of the Holy Spirit was temporary and for specific purposes in the OT. The ministry of the Holy Spirit for the NT Christian is permanently indwelling him or her. We know this from numerous NT passages.
We can apply the three principles to all the other parts of the Old Testament as we have to the narrative passages and psalms.
Why is this important?
Paul says in Rom.15:4 that the Scriptures were given to us that we might
have encouragement and hope. We cannot receive God’s encouragement
and hope if we do not apply them properly to our lives. When properly applied
we receive the blessing that God intended for the Old Testament to be in
“For whatsoever things were written beforehand were written for our learning, that through patience and comfort of the Scriptures we might have hope.” Rom.15:4