How to study the Law: Some evidence

            I realize that this concept might be a little new. I've heard some Bible teachers present similar ideas, but I haven't really heard it put exactly like this. I don't think I'm coming up with anything new, and with your indulgence I'd like to present the evidence that I'm not just pulling something out of nowhere. 
            Just to be clear, what would I consider to be evidence? Well, it'd have to be New Testament references (since we’re under the New Covenant, not the old) in which the inspired writer quotes from the O.T. and is applying it to N.T. believers but is not using the O.T. for one of these purposes: A) quoting an O.T. prophecy about Christ, B) using the Law to show us our need for Christ, or C) pointing out a type of Christ (a visual representation of his nature and/or work in the O.T.; e.g. Abraham offering Isaac on the altar). 
            Here’s what I came up with. Take a look at the evidence, and see if I’m misrepresenting it.

One of the most famous passages on the nature of God’s word is 2 Tim. 3:16-17: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God [traditionally rendered "man of God"] may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” But please note the verses immediately preceding this. Let’s take a closer look at vss.14-17:

But as for you, continue in what you have learned and have become convinced of, because you know those from whom you learned it, and how from infancy you have known the Holy Scriptures, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

            Paul is commending Timothy’s home life, recalling how Timothy, being raised by a Jewish mother and grandmother, had been raised with the “Holy Scriptures.” This is definitely referring to what we call the Old Testament. Timothy was not raised hearing the Gospels and Paul’s epistles. He was raised hearing the Torah and the Prophets and stories about David and Solomon and Hezekiah.
            Now, I grant you that the result of this was to “make [Timothy] wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.” In other words, his training in the Old Testament prepared him for Paul’s presentation of the Good News which led him to faith in Christ. I get that.
            But what does Paul say about “Scripture”? It’s "God-breathed and useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting, and training in righteousness." Through it God the Holy Spirit “teaches” us. MacArthur explains it thus: “The divine instruction or doctrinal content of both the OT and the NT (cf. 2:15; Ac20:18,20,21,27; 1Co 2:14-16; Col 3:16; 1Jn 2:20,24,27). The Scripture provides the comprehensive and complete body of divine truth necessary for life and godliness. Cf. Ps 119:97-105.”
            It “rebukes” us, which is pretty self-explanatory.
            It “corrects” us. MacArthur: “The restoration of something to its proper condition. The word appears only here in the NT, but was used in extrabiblical Greek of righting a fallen object, or helping back to their feet those who had stumbled. Scripture not only rebukes wrong behavior, but also points the way back to godly living. Cf. Ps 119:9-11; Jn 15:1,2.”
            And here’s the phrase I want us to focus on: It “trains us in righteousness.” This is not talking about the perfect righteousness we have in Christ. That’s the only hope I have before the Throne, but that’s not what this passage is referring to, since there's no training involved in that. It’s talking about my personal righteousness, how obedient I am to what he tells me to do. His word is used by the Spirit to train me like a child to be a better follower of Jesus, to think more like him and to be more obedient to him.
            Now my friend, do you think that in the context of this passage, that this “training in righteousness” is only referring to the N.T.? Really? In the context of these verses, does that make sense to you?
            The problem is that, either consciously or unconsciously, modern-day Christians seem to think that the Old Testament doesn’t have any purpose in training us in righteousness.
            Let me present another piece of evidence for your consideration. In Deuteronomy 25:4, Moses told his people “Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.” Paul quotes this verse from the Torah not once but twice. Let’s look at both them:

1 Cor. 9:9-10: “For it is written in the Law of Moses: ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain.’ Is it about oxen that God is concerned? Surely he says this for us, doesn’t he? Yes, this was written for us, because whoever plows and threshes should be able to do so in the hope of sharing in the harvest.”

1 Tim. 5:18: “For Scripture says, ‘Do not muzzle an ox while it is treading out the grain,’ and ‘The worker deserves his wages.’”

            Please notice something important here: In neither of these passages is Paul applying the Old Testament the "standard" way, the way we normally apply it. He’s not using it to show us how far we fall short of God’s standards. He’s not using prophecies to show nonbelievers that Jesus is the Messiah. He’s not talking about how Sarah and Hagar are representatives of the Law and the Gospel (like he did in Galatians).  
            He’s using the Scriptures in the exact way I’ve described. God laid out the Law under Moses: Don’t muzzle an ox while he’s treading the grain. That’s the application which was time-bound. But Paul very specifically says in the 1st Corinthian passage that there’s a principle behind that Old Testament verse, namely that whoever has worked on something deserves to benefit from the product of that work. Specifically, Paul uses that O.T. application to tell us that that ministers--especially leaders who serve full-time for the church--should be paid and given honor. This is an application which he drew from the Torah. He’s applying this right here and right now to believers on this side of the cross, and he’s not talking about salvation, or how the O.T. priesthood points towards Christ, or how this prophecy foretells something about our Savior.
            Why is this important? Why am I making such a big deal over this?
            Because if you think that the only purpose of Old Testament Scripture is to tell you something directly about Jesus in the way we commonly think, then you might be tempted to skip over a huge portion of it. This is my theory as to why some believers—who honestly want to please the Lord—don’t read and study the Torah. They know that the Old Testament prophesizes about him. They fully understand that they’ll never live up his perfect standards. They know that they’re saved by grace through faith in Christ plus nothing. They also know that we as believers don’t have to keep kosher or keep the Sabbath or observe Jewish holidays. So maybe consciously or unconsciously they think they’ve “got it” when it comes to the Old Testament, especially what they consider to be the more "boring" parts of the Torah. They read passages of the Torah and the only thing they pull out of it is 1) How this shows I need Jesus to save me, or 2) This points towards X about my Savior, and that’s all they know or care about.
            I think that this failure to distinguish between principles and applications can--quite frankly--lead to boredom. If you read something like "Don't muzzle the ox while it treads out the grain" and all you see is the time-bound application, then of course you're not going to see this as particularly relevant. Unless you happen to own an ox which you're using to tread grain, why would you care about that verse? So the best-case scenario is that you read the Torah as part of your Bible-reading plan because you know that you need to read your Bible from cover to cover. Much more likely you'll do what most Christians do: Read the stories in Genesis and Exodus and then move to the other exciting stories in the rest of the O.T., if you don't just completely bypass the O.T. altogether.        
            But don’t you see? The Torah is a place where your Savior lays out what’s important to him. I know that we’re not under the Law as a means of pleasing him. I’m not a Judaizer. I've read and fully believe every word which Paul wrote in Galatians. But do you not understand that this is a great chance to see what’s important to your Savior God?
            If you’re falling in love with someone, isn’t part of that process finding out about them, what they love and hate, what’s important to them and what isn’t? How can I say I love God when I don’t take the opportunity to discover what’s important to him?
            I have to confess that I feel a little weird thinking and writing this way. Christ is our all in all, right? I was raised in church and was saturated in the Bible growing up, and I was trained to interpret the O.T. the way you were likely raised to interpret it: Every passage of the O.T. is there to 1) prophecy about Christ, 2) show us our need of him, or 3) to present a visual image of his nature and/or work. I completely believe that these purposes are entirely valid. But to those three I'd like to add another purpose: To show by principle and application what's important to him and thus to train us in righteousness. Apparently Paul didn’t have any problem looking to the Torah for principles which believers can apply--here and now--to how we think and act. In doing so, we’re trying to think the way he thinks, to adjust our priorities according to his, and thus be more obedient and pleasing to him in our daily lives.
            Let me repeat what I said before: The main purpose of the Old Testament—of which the Torah is the foundation—is to point towards Jesus Christ, to prepare us for him and to tell us about him. But I'd say learning about him includes learning about his priorities and thinking his thoughts after him, right? 
            By the way, I've recently discovered this blog entry by a ministry called "Olive Tree" which basically lays out the same major point I'm making. True, they don't use the exact "Principle/Application" motif I've been using, but they make the same general point I've been making. Like I mentioned in the last entry, they basically follow the pattern of most biblical scholars in distinguishing between the Civil Laws (like legal penalties for adultery), the Ceremonial Laws (like the Feast of Tabernacles), and the Moral Law (like the command to honor one's parents). They even use the term "principles" as a way for us to apply them as N.T. believers.  
            And if I’ve made the case for you, then how should that affect your Bible study habits?  

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