Tag Archives: Christ-centered Preaching

The Old Testament – Messianic?

Last week I finished up my seminary Hermeneutics class, which is largely why I haven’t posted recently.  The course caused me to really reflect on the Scriptures, particularly its Christ-centered nature.  In my reflection, there were some things brought out from the course that I felt deserved some additional thought, one of which was the New Testament use of the Old Testament.  Coming from a background where most of the churches I’ve attended have been dispensational, who largely dismiss the Old Testament as Jewish Scripture with little, if any value for the New Testament Christian, it’s interesting to think through how the NT uses the OT.  I‘ve never really felt comfortable with the dispensational view because of its tendency to drive a wedge between the continuity of God’s Word.  For the dispensationalist, what are we to do with all of the New Testament references to the Old?  What about when the New Testament makes explicit references to the Gospel and the person and work of Jesus Christ from the Old Testament?  To answer these questions, and others, I’d like to make a proposition, as stated by Jim Hamilton: “The Old Testament is a messianic document, written from a messianic perspective, to sustain a messianic hope.”[1]  In this way, the New Testament interprets the Old Testament and the Old Testament is always pointing forward to Christ.  Here is a brief collection of some passages I pulled together which seem to support this or at least cause a deeper reflection:

Matthew 21:42 (quoting Psalm 118:22-23) “Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures: “‘The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone; this was the Lord’s doing, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?

Matthew 22:29-33 “But Jesus answered them, “You are wrong, because you know neither the Scriptures nor the power of God. 30 For in the resurrection they neither marry nor are given in marriage, but are like angels in heaven. 31 And as for the resurrection of the dead, have you not read what was said to you by God: 32 ‘I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob’? He is not God of the dead, but of the living.” 33 And when the crowd heard it, they were astonished at his teaching.”

Matthew 22:34-40 “34 But when the Pharisees heard that he had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered together. 35 And one of them, a lawyer, asked him a question to test him. 36 “Teacher, which is the great commandment in the Law?” 37 And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. 38 This is the great and first commandment. 39 And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments depend all the Law and the Prophets.”

Matthew 26:54 (Jesus at His Betrayal in the Garden) “But how then should the Scriptures be fulfilled, that it must be so?”

Mark 14:49  (Jesus speaking) “Day after day I was with you in the temple teaching, and you did not seize me. But let the Scriptures be fulfilled.”

Luke 24:25-27;44-47 “Some of those who were with us went to the tomb and found it just as the women had said, but him they did not see.” 25 And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken! 26 Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” 27 And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”

Luke 24:44-49 “Then he said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” 45 Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, 46 and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, 47 and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. 48 You are witnesses of these things. 49 And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high.”

Luke 1:67-71 “67 And his father Zechariah was filled with the Holy Spirit and prophesied, saying, 68“Blessed be the Lord God of Israel, for he has visited and redeemed his people 69 and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, 70as he spoke by the mouth of his holy prophets from of old, 71that we should be saved from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us;

John 5:39-40 “39 You search the Scriptures because you think that in them you have eternal life; and it is they that bear witness about me, 40 yet you refuse to come to me that you may have life. “

Acts 2:25-31 “25 For David says concerning him, “‘I saw the Lord always before me,  for he is at my right hand that I may not be shaken: 26therefore my heart was glad, and my tongue rejoiced; my flesh also will dwell in hope. 27For you will not abandon my soul to Hades, or let your Holy One see corruption. 28You have made known to me the paths of life; you will make me full of gladness with your presence.’”

Acts 8:29-35 “29 And the Spirit said to Philip, “Go over and join this chariot.” 30 So Philip ran to him and heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and asked, “Do you understand what you are reading?” 31 And he said, “How can I, unless someone guides me?” And he invited Philip to come up and sit with him. 32 Now the passage of the Scripture that he was reading was this: “Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter and like a lamb before its shearer is silent, so he opens not his mouth. 33In his humiliation justice was denied him. Who can describe his generation? For his life is taken away from the earth.” 34And the eunuch said to Philip, “About whom, I ask you, does the prophet say this, about himself or about someone else?” 35 Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning with this Scripture he told him the good news about Jesus.

Acts 10:43 “To him all the prophets bear witness that everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.”

Acts 17:2-3 “2 And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned with them from the Scriptures, 3 explaining and proving that it was necessary for the Christ to suffer and to rise from the dead, and saying, “This Jesus, whom I proclaim to you, is the Christ.”

Acts 18:24-28 “24 Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, came to Ephesus. He was an eloquent man, competent in the Scriptures. 25 He had been instructed in the way of the Lord. And being fervent in spirit,he spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue, but when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately. 27 And when he wished to cross to Achaia, the brothers encouraged him and wrote to the disciples to welcome him. When he arrived, he greatly helped those who through grace had believed, 28 for he powerfully refuted the Jews in public, showing by the Scriptures that the Christ was Jesus.”

Acts 26:22-23 “22 To this day I have had the help that comes from God, and so I stand here testifying both to small and great, saying nothing but what the prophets and Moses said would come to pass: 23 that the Christ must suffer and that, by being the first to rise from the dead, he would proclaim light both to our people and to the Gentiles.”

Romans 1:1-3 “1 Paul, a servantof Christ Jesus, called to be an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God, 2 which he promised beforehand through his prophets in the holy Scriptures, 3 concerning his Son, who was descended from Davidaccording to the flesh”

Romans 3:21-22 “21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it— 22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction”

Romans 15:4 “For whatever was written in former days was written for our instruction, that through endurance and through the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope.”

Romans 16:25-27 “25 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26 but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27 to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen.”

1 Corinthians 15:3-4 “3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, 4 that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures”

2 Timothy 3:15-16 “15 and how from childhood you have been acquainted with the sacred writings, which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 16 All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness,17 that the man of Godmay be complete, equipped for every good work.”

 

In Hamilton’s work from which the above proposition was cited, he proves his thesis by working from the Old Testament forward, beginning with the proto evangelion in Genesis 3:15 progressing through the rest of the Bible.  He concludes, “The Old Testament is a messianic document, written from a messianic perspective, to sustain a messianic hope.  I believe the messianic thrust of the OT was the whole reason the books of the Hebrew Bible were written.  In other words, the Hebrew Bible was not written as the national literature of Israel.  It probably also was not written to the nation of Israel as such.  It was rather written, in my opinion, as the expression of the deep-seated messianic hope of a small group of faithful prophets and their followers.”  I concur with Hamilton’s conclusion.

The Old Testament is referenced or alluded to in all of the New Testament books except Philemon and 2 & 3 John.  The above is just a sampling of the more explicit references to the Old Testament by the New Testament, but I think they equally prove this massive proposition.  Interestingly enough, Trevin Wax[2] has consolidated 7 example categories for Christ centered preaching based on Sidney Griedanus’ book Preaching Christ from Genesis. They are as follows:

  1. Redemptive-Historical Progression  (For more information on the redemptive-historical hermeneutic see Dennis Johnson’s excellent book Him We Proclaim.)
  2. Promise-Fulfillment   (This is what Hamilton does with Genesis 3:15)
  3. Typology (I’ve pointed out some examples of typology here: Jesus Calms the Storm here: Preaching Christ from the Old Testament and here: Every Story Whispers His Name )
  4. Analogy (See Matthew 24:37-41; also the parallels between God and Israel and Christ and the Church)
  5. Longitudinal Themes (from Wax, “Examples of these themes would be God’s kingdom (brought ultimately by Jesus Christ the King), God’s presence (foreshadowed in the Temple but fulfilled in Christ’s incarnation), and God’s judgment (seen in God’s actions against sin, but also His willingness to bring salvation through judgment)”).
  6. New Testament References (This is what I’ve attempted to show above)
  7. Contrast (This would be what is commonly referred to as “discontinuity”, whereas the majority of those above would be focused primarily on the the continuity between the Old and New Testaments)

God has always had one plan of redemption for one people through His Son Jesus Christ and all Scripture, both Old and New point to that reality.  You can clearly reach that conclusion from either direction.  The question remains, given the Christ-centered focus of Scripture, why would anyone be content preaching stories from the Old Testament or morality from the New Testament. Preach Christ!

 



[1]James Hamilton, “The Skull Crushing Seed of the Woman: Inner-Biblical Interpretation of Genesis 3:15,” The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology 10.2 (2006), 44, n.5. Readers may find this online in its entirety at: http://jimhamilton.files.wordpress.com/2008/04/hamilton_sbjt_10-2.pdf

[2] Trevin Wax: http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/trevinwax/2013/06/04/7-ways-of-preaching-christ-from-the-old-testament/

 

 

His-story: Christ Centered Preaching

In 2010, I was working with the youth group in my local church as a volunteer, when I was asked to sub in for our out-of-town youth leader.  The topic for that particular week, based on our lesson plan, was to be John 14:15-17, Another Helper, or more accurately, discussing the work of the Holy Spirit.  As I began to prepare for this lesson, I really became burdened with presenting a comprehensive overview of the Holy Spirit, since He is largely neglected in our churches today.  In my outline, I wanted to discuss the Holy Spirit’s role in the revelation of Scripture and then to show the young people how God had sovereignly orchestrated the compilation of His Holy Word over a period of +/- 1600 years, in 66 books written in 3 languages on 3 continents by approximately 40 different authors most of whom did not know each other and yet 1 central theme remains in each book, namely God’s redemptive plan through His Son Jesus Christ.  As I was preparing to make that point, I really wanted to hammer home that the Bible is not primarily a rule book or a guideline for Christian living, in essence that the Bible is not mainly about us, but is instead centrally focused on the divine revelation of the Son of God, Jesus Christ.  This is when I came across the following video that really helped put into focus what I was trying to say.  Take a few minutes and listen:

This video clip really challenged me and reinforced some things that God was beginning to show me in His Word, particularly as it related to the Old Testament.  As God would have it, I presented this same lesson to a group of college-aged students and when I made the statement that the Bible was not mainly about us, but was instead about Jesus Christ, one young lady vehemently objected, stating that the Bible was indeed about us and about how we are supposed to live and that the revelation of God’s Son is just part of the biblical story that helps us live a good life.  So there we have it, is the Bible mainly about us and how we should live?  Or is it mainly about the revelation of Christ?  This is a critical question that faces the Church today, not just our youth groups.  In fact, it affects how you read the Bible, it impacts sermons from the pulpit, indeed it is a critical question that must be answered.

This particular young lady who was defending her assertion of Scripture’s man-centered purpose, certainly wasn’t alone in her thinking.  In fact, take a look at one youth group lesson on the life of Moses from a national publisher of church curriculum. This is from the Implications section of the leader’s guide:

“Students should readily identify with Moses’ story since feelings of inadequacy permeate the teenage years. Many young Christ-followers often want to attempt great things for God, yet they feel ill-equipped to serve Him. Plagued by self-doubt, excuses flow freely. “I’m not worthy.” “I don’t know what I’m talking about.” “I can’t speak.” “I’m too young.” “Surely somebody else would be better at this.” Like Moses, they lack faith not only in themselves but also in God. They haven’t yet learned from experience that God equips and empowers those He calls and that it is God-reliance rather than self-reliance that is necessary to be on mission with God. How have you experienced God’s faithfulness relative to a call to serve? What personal words of testimony can you share with your students? And then there’s the issue of surrender. What a frightening concept! In order to surrender to God’s mission, we have to submit to His authority. In order to surrender to God’s mission, we have to give up control. In order to surrender to God’s mission, we have to trust God with the results. None of these things come easily for us—it doesn’t matter if we are 16 years old or 60 years old. In the end, Moses surrendered to God and took on the divine mission of deliverance. Moses may have still been plagued by self-doubt, but he finally came to the point of trusting God enough to take a step of faith. Encourage your students as they wrestle with their own doubts of unworthiness. Redirect their focus to God’s power instead of their weaknesses. How can you prepare your students to be open to God’s call?”

On the surface this sounds pretty good right?  I mean it targets problems that young people are facing and uses the life of Moses as an exemplar model of how life should be lived relying on God rather than self.  There are true assertions being made here, however, there are also multiple problems with this, not the least of which is teaching morality from a Christ-less, cross-less foundation.  The writers of this curriculum take the young readers and insert them into the life of Moses, making them the hero of the story by challenging them to ramp up their faith to be like Moses.  The problem is none of us are Moses.  None of us will lead millions of Jewish slaves out of Egyptian bondage.  None of us will part the Red Sea, come face to face with God as mediator, and impart the revelation of God’s divine law to rebellious people.  The reality is we are not Moses, Jesus is the fulfillment of Moses.  He has accomplished all that we cannot.  We are in fact the rebellious people who are in bondage, not to the Egyptians, but to sin.  We are the doubters, the murmurers, the idolaters.  Instead of each of us mustering up faith to lead like Moses, it is Christ who perfectly leads His people out of bondage to sin.  He is the Mediator between God and man. 1 Timothy 2:5  Are there object lessons to learn from the life of Moses?  Certainly, but they must come secondarily and they must pass through the person and work of Jesus Christ so that the motivation for our willingness and strength to proclaim the Gospel faithfully comes not from our own ability or will power, but is due first through what Christ has done for us, then through His giving of the Spirit to indwell believers, and finally through the reliance upon that Spirit.  That’s the difference.  It seems subtle, perhaps even nit-picking.  But that’s because preaching or reading ourselves into the Biblical stories appeals to our fallen, human nature.  It only sounds good and proper because it uses the Bible to do so.   But what we are actually doing is stirring up our own self-centeredness instead of exalting Christ by reading of how God reveals His Son Jesus to a fallen, idolatrous world.  At its heart, it’s the modern day Pharisee-ism that Jesus preached against.  In fact, it was Jesus, who upon His resurrection appearance to His disciples showed them that all that Moses and the prophets had written was about Him. Luke 24:27

Just like the young lady who objected to the Bible being primarily about Christ and like the author’s of this curriculum, many, many churches and Christians focus on morality and object lessons primarily and tuck Christ in neatly at the end or sprinkle Him conveniently throughout.  Could this be why the majority of our churches are a mile wide and an inch deep?  Could this be why there is such a lack of interest in God’s Word?  Perhaps this is why there are so many false-converts and self-righteous moralistic therapeutic deists in our church pews?

The Apostle Paul summarized his preaching ministry well as he stated, “For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.” 1 Corinthians 1:22-24  So too should we preach Christ, because His Gospel is the power of God unto salvation. Romans 1:16