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July 12, 2013Christ-Centered Preaching

Dr. Walt Kaiser on Christ-Centered Teaching and Preaching

The Redemptive-Historical Method and What About Typology?
Dr. Walt Kaiser on Christ-Centered Teaching and Preaching

It is not as if the Christocentric method was the sole method known to the Evangelical Church throughout history, for it has made its presence felt more firmly in recent times. One could, however, see aspects of such an emphasis coming perhaps from Luther's emphasis on Romans 10:4 ("Christ is the end of the law"), for he also taught that every word in the Bible points to Christ. But Calvin's method was more Theocentric than it was specifically Christocentric. And it cannot go without notice that we are even given a clear warrant for a Biblical form of using Biblical characters as examples, where the text requires it. Is that not what Romans 15:4 admonished?

"For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope."

Likewise, I Corinthians 10:6 taught:

"Now these occurred as examples to keep us from setting our hearts on evil things as they did."

What was Hebrews 11 all about if it did not exhort us to imitate in those limited ways specified just what Scripture highlighted. What was James 5:17 about if it referred to Elijah as "a man with a nature like ours," yet he prayed and the heavens responded. Was that not an encouragement for us also to pray as Elijah did since we too are flesh and blood as he was? This is not to yield to the point that Liberal theology was making early in the twentieth century, but it was to say that the authors who wrote Scripture heard the word that our Lord wanted his people in all ages to respond to. To privilege the New Testament text as the interpreter of the Old Testament is to a substitute another method in place of the revelatory work of God down through the ages. Moralizing and moralistic preachers are still to be avoided, as are sermons the merely urge us to be or to do such and such without any Biblical warrant from the text.

This leads, of course, to what is the proper use the Old Testament by the New? Should pastors today engage in allegorizing, psychologizing, historicizing, moralizing, or analogical matching of Biblical texts with modern issues that moves from the "then" of the Bible to the "now" of contemporary times?

What about typology? Isn't this a legitimate form of interpreting the Bible.

One of my teachers, Dr. Robert D. Culver asserted in class one day, with a twinkle in his eyes: "Some of the pegs and ropes of the Tabernacle were actually meant to hold up the tent!" The point being, not everything in the tabernacle was meant to be a type no more than the scarlet cord of Rahab was meant to depict the blood of Christ. But the important part of the definition of a type is that it must be "divinely designated" as a type, otherwise we have no divine authority for suggesting it is a type. So there are types in the Bible, but not as many as some think!

There is a lot whole more that needs to be said, but let us make one more final thought. The Redemptive-Historical method of interpreting Scripture tends to focus on soteriological matters, which in itself is good. But it often neglects, by so doing, the larger plan of God announced early in the Bible and carried throughout as the "Doctrine of the Promise" (See my work entitled The Promise-Plan of God: a Biblical Theology of the Old and New Testaments [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2008] and my Recovering the Unity of the Bible: One Continuous Story, Plan and Purpose, [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2009]).

This discussion begun in Romans will take us not only to the area of eschatology, which is found in over 25% of the verses of the entire Bible, but to the critical matter that the Apostle Paul focused on in the book of Romans. Soteriology is not correctly understood in all it aspects and dimensions until the issue of the Jewish People and the Christian Church is answered in the plan of God. Paul's Romans 1:16 leads directly to Romans 9-11. The salvation our Savior brought to all the nations must not be thought of as if "God's word failed" for the Jewish people (Rom 9:6), but Israel did not stumble so as to fall beyond recovery (Rom 11:11); for "God's gifts and his call are irrevocable" (Rom 11:29). This too is an endemic part of the Redemptive-Historical plan of God. That will enlarge the picture of our redemption in Christ!

So how shall we interpret the Old Testament? Let us with the help of the Holy Spirit listen carefully to every text in all its particularity and specificity to hear what God was calling that generation and ours as well to be and to do to the honor and glory of his Holy Name! Surely the whole text must be born in mind as we seek to faithfully repeat for our generation what God has said in the past that still remains true in our time as well. (See my Toward an Exegetical Theology: Biblical Exegesis for Preaching and Teaching, [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981; and for examples of how I would preach from the Old Testament, see my various books:

  • Revive Us Again: Biblical Principle for Revival Today, (RossShire, UK, 2001) (16 revivals in the Bible with Expository Preaching models for each).
  • Preaching and Teaching from the Old Testament: A Guide for the Church, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2003).
  • The Majesty of God in the Old Testament: A Guide for Preaching and Teaching, (Grand Rpids, Baker, 2007).
  • What Does the Lord Require: A Guide for Preaching and Teaching Biblical Ethics, (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2009).
  • Preaching and Teaching the Last Things: Old Testament Eschatology for Life of the Church, (Grand Rapids: Baker. 2011.

Read part nine of the Christ-centered teaching and preaching series here.

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Dr. Walt Kaiser on Christ-Centered Teaching and Preaching