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Feb 11, 2014
Christ-Centered Preaching

Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: Ignoring the Old Testament by Dr. Walt Kaiser Jr.

How do we handle the Old Testament text when we are preaching Christ from it? |
Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: Ignoring the Old Testament by Dr. Walt Kaiser Jr.
Charles Willson Peale

How could a preacher teach with authority from the Old Testament text, since it came before the New Testament appeared, with its advantage of being from a much later time, and often having the authority of Jesus himself behind its words?

Because of the later appearance in time of the New Testament, this fact by itself, however, would hardly qualify it to act as an open sesame for the Old Testament, for had not the whole Bible (including the Old Testament) come with the equal footing of exhibiting the same authority from God who first spoke that word?

The Profitability of the Scriptures

Did not Paul teach that the entire Scripture was inspired and that it was profitable for a number of things such as teaching, rebuking, correcting, training in righteousness and making one wise unto salvation (2 Tim 3: 15-16), even if different Old Testament texts accomplished different aspects of these purposes?

In the meantime, some of the more noticeable suggestions for solving this problem did not seem to fix the problem. For example, Greidanus' later solution was for preachers to "interpret the Old Testament in the light of its fulfillment in the New Testament" (Sidney Greidanus, The Modern Preacher and the Ancient text: Interpreting and Preaching Biblical Literature (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1989): p. 119. But this reduced the available texts from the Old Testament merely to a new canon of those the New Testament texts that the apostles chose to comment on.

The tendency, therefore, was to create a canon within a canon, thereby jettisoning, by implication major portions of the Old Testament text.

Moreover, in many instances of such interpretive procedures, the specific details of the earlier narratives in the Old Testament, even when it had been chosen as the text for the message, were often jettisoned in the rush to show how the testaments agreed in their witness to Messiah, his birth, death and resurrection, despite what was taught in the older text. The tendency, therefore, was to create a canon within a canon, thereby jettisoning, by implication major portions of the Old Testament text. No longer did the older text hold a privileged position even when it was chosen as the text for teaching or preaching.

Redemptive-Historical Preaching

Others championed a Christocentric interpretation (also known to some as the "Redemptive-Historical" [RH] method of interpreting), in which the interpretation of all Biblical texts should be done in such a way that the main theme of the preached Old Testament text should always be explicitly and directly related in every text from the Bible exclusively to the person of Jesus Christ. But in this method the emphasis, which stressed a whole-Bible-focus on God's work in redemption across the whole canon, often resulted in the interpreter's "discovering" that every passage ended up saying exactly what was found in the New Testament, regardless of the content of the chosen text.

While there were some beautiful and praiseworthy aspects exhibited in this type of preaching, as one might expect in the concluding summary to the major points of the sermon or its final conclusion, yet if this was the entirety of the message, then it had the potential for substituting the final work of God in Christ found in the New Testament for the specificity and particularity exhibited within the individual passages that often led up to that final event seen in Christ.

This type of preaching always was billed under the banner of preaching "Christ" as the one "big idea" that embraced the whole Biblical canon in every text; but beautiful as that aspiration was, it often tended to deny the precise point(s) being made in the Old Testament text itself, especially when that was the very text that had been chosen as the text to be preached on.

Posted:February 11, 2014 at 11:30 am

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