Teaching the Old Testament
“To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name,
whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins“ (Acts 10:43).
"The New is in the Old concealed and the Old is by the New revealed."
This year’s Sunday School series teaches Bible History from the Old Testament (with a few exceptions for Christmas and Easter). There is, ultimately, no difference between teaching lessons from the Old and New Testaments of the Bible because all of Scripture centers on Christ our Savior. God has given us His Holy Word with one overall purpose in mind, namely, our salvation from sin (cf: 2 Timothy 3:15-16). Since our salvation comes through Jesus Christ alone, we can be certain that we will be able to find Christ throughout both Testaments.
Since the Old and New Testaments are so inseparably connected by their common subject—Christ, a thorough knowledge of the Old Testament will aid in understanding the New Testament, and vice versa. A knowledge of Scripture that covers both Old and New Testaments helps to make all of Scripture come alive. It also aids in building a living and growing love for the Word and deepening confidence in it. “For whatever things were written before were written for our learning, that we through the patience and comfort of the Scriptures might have hope” (Romans 15:4).
The Savior from sin and the salvation He provides was the same for the Old Testament believers as it is for us, New Testament believers. Old Testament believers were truly "Christians" (though they were not called "Christians") because they put their hope and confidence in the Christ whom God would send for their deliverance from sin. The only difference between Old Testament Christians and New Testament Christians is in the “direction” of our faith. The Old Testament believer looked forward and put his trust in a coming Savior from sin whom God promised would redeem the world. We of the New Testament look back and put our trust in the Savior from win who has come.
We believers of the New Testament have an "advantage" over the Old Testament believers because we are able to see how God has fulfilled His promise and did send His Son to live and die for the redemption of the world. We are blessed not only with the prophecy but also the fulfillment. "All these [Old Testament believers], having obtained a good testimony through faith, did not receive the promise, God having provided something better for us, that they should not be made perfect apart from us" (Hebrews 11:39-40).
The goal in the presentation of New Testament Sunday School lessons is to bring the news of Jesus our Savior to the children and to have them apply that news to their hearts and lives. The goal is in the presentation of Old Testament Sunday School lessons is EXACTLY THE SAME!
Old Testament lessons are going to be quite different from New Testament lessons because the stories themselves won’t involve Jesus directly. However, the stories of Creation, Adam & Eve, Abraham, and all of Old Testament history still have "the wonderful works of God" (cf: Acts 2:11) as their theme.
Teaching the Old Testament does not require leaving the New Testament behind. To leave the New Testament out of our teaching of the Old Testament would be to ignore the great blessing of having both. We have the New Testament to help us in our learning of the Old. Instruct the children in the events of the Old Testament and explore the main thoughts of each story, but never hesitate to include New Testament illustrations, passages, references, etc. in your Old Testament lessons. By doing this you will add to the depth of instruction in God’s Word and the children will benefit greatly from it. Naturally, some lessons will lend themselves more easily to references from the New Testament than others, but in all cases seek to lead the children to see Jesus, their salvation from sin, and the hope/confidence that this salvation gives to them—for it is the same hope and confidence of Adam & Eve, Noah, Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, Joseph, David, etc. [Example: When David sinned with Bathsheba, he trusted the same Savior for forgiveness as did Peter when he denied Jesus.]
In teaching the Old Testament, it will be good to help the children in their familiarity with the Old Tesament itself (see information below). Help the children to distinguish the difference between the Old and New Testaments. Remind the students that they are part of the New Testament. Lead them to appreciate and marvel that our salvation through Jesus is a common thread throughout all the Bible.
Old Testament Information:
• There are 39 books in the Old Testament
• The Old Testament was originally written in Hebrew
• Moses wrote the first 5 books — the Pentateuch
• The books of the Old Testament can be divided into 3 general categories (see chart below):
1 & 2 Samuel
1 & 2 Kings
1 & 2 Chronicles
Song of Solomon