Preaching Christ from the OT

One of the common difficulties expressed by expositors is “how do I preach Christ from the OT?” This question could be asked a number of different ways but I think most of you get the idea. On the one hand we are told by Christ Himself that all of the OT reveals Jesus (cf. Luke 24:27, 44) and yet the connections are not always obvious in the exegesis of a given OT text. To be sure there are many hermeneutical avenues to explore but we must start somewhere.

About a year ago I had a similar conversation with my friend John Snyder who teaches preaching at a seminary in Russia. As a starting place he pointed me to Sidney Greidanus’s book, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament (see link in sidebar). I found that there were some significant hermeneutical differences between Greidanus and myself which John had seen as well. However, there was plenty food for thought in some of the more practical sections of his work. What follows is John’s distillation of some of the more lucid ideas that Greidanus provided. I think there is plenty here to discuss (some helpful and some not so much). What are your thoughts?

1.Redemptive History: “This is the foundational way of preaching Christ from the Old Testament” (Greidanus, 234). How does this passage fit into the context of God’s overall plan of redemption that culminates in Christ? What is the history from this passage to Christ, His Person, work, or teaching?

2.Promise/Fulfillment: How does this passage relate to the specific promises of God that find their ultimate fulfillment in Christ—His Person, work, or teaching? From Gen 3:15 (seed, enmity) to 12:7, 17:16, 22:18 to Matt 4:1-11 to the cross.

3. Typology: Does God use persons or events or actions in this passage to foreshadow the FAR GREATER Person, work or teaching of Christ? Ex: God gave manna in the wilderness to sustain life, FAR GREATER God gave His Son, the Bread of life to give eternal life. Other examples: events of deliverance, deliverers (Moses, Joshua, judges, prophets, priests and kings), feasts that celebrate deliverance, the righteous crying out for deliverance from enemies. Compare and contrast with Person and work of Christ, then EXALT CHRIST!

4. Analogy: e.g. As God is to Israel, OR as God did for Israel, OR as God said to Israel in this OT passage
so Christ is to the church, OR Christ did for church, OR Christ said to church
in the NT.

5. Theological themes: Is there a theme in this passage that leads to the Person, work or teaching of Christ? e.g. kingdom of God, providence of God, presence of God, love, grace, justice, law, sin, sacrifice, concern for poor. Consider each of the main divisions of systematic theology. (God (Father, Son, Spirit), Scripture, Angels/Demons/Satan, Man, Sin, Salvation/Judgment, Israel, Church, Future)

6. New Testament references: Is there any direct use of this passage or any indirect reference to it in the New Testament that reveals a connection with the Person, work or teaching of Christ?

7. Contrast: Is there a contrast between this passage and Person, work or teaching of Christ?

8 responses to this post.

  1. I think that you have hit on something here. Not only is it important to preach the OT, but we need to preach Christ from the OT.

    As I read through through NT I cannot help but to see how the Apostles used the OT to preach Chirst. Now, by no means, are we the Apostles inspired by the H.S. to wrtie God’s word, but can’t we learn something from them? If you were to ask me what OT passages foreshadow the coming of Christ I would probably take you to some of the more oft traveled OT Messianic passages. However, I think that if you were to ask one of the Apostle the same question they would have responded with the questions “what OT passages don’t foreshadow the coming of Christ?”

  2. I began a series tonight at our church on the “Minor Prophets.” I plan to cover one prophet each week so this will certainly be an overview study. Nonetheless, I look forward to working through some of the difficult issues related to preaching such a section of Scripture. Thoughts anyone?

  3. Interesting that you are beginning at series on the Minor Prophets, Paul. I have thought about tackling some type of OT book after I am finished with 2 Peter. I have thought about picking one or two of the Minor Prophets and preaching through them.

    Let me know how it goes with your study…

  4. Paul-

    I’ve got plenty of thoughts about this, but I’m just not sure any of them are actually helpful to anybody. In truth, I readily embrace some elements of the redemptive-historical hermenuetic that you alluded to in your post, while finding some aspects troubling. More about this another time.

    I do like your idea of preaching a broad overview of the minor prophets–I made tentative plans to do the same thing a coupel of years ago, but was providentially prevented from enacting those plans at the time. The approach you’re taking seems to me the perfect vehicle for tracing out the broad, redemptive theme that runs through the whole of Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. And this way, if you decide at a later date to return and do a detailed expostition of any of those prophetic books or texts, you’ve already set a hermeneutical baseline for understanding how all of the prophetic details fit the larger message of Scripture.

    Along these same lines, I understand Mark Dever will soon be releasing the OT companion to his recently released book containing summary/overview expositions of all 27 books of the NT. I’ve found that book very helpful, and eagerly anticipate the volume dealing with the OT.

  5. As a grateful 1994 TMS graduate for my excellent education, the singular thing I was lacking was seeing the gospel in the Old Testament. After graduating, I spent five years preaching and teaching through Luke, Ephesians, Genesis, and Joel. It was during this wonderful journey I was brought humbly to the reality of my deficiency of seeing Christ in the Old Testament. Be warned of your journey through the Old Testament Prophets, it was my study through Joel that I left forever my dispensational hermeneutic forever. As a new proponent of covenant theology, no longer do I have to thrust the majority of the Old Testament into some eschatological future as I’ve found the glory of Christ in the Church make the most sense in the flow of Scripture.


    PS—In light of this discussion, Bryan Chappel’s work Christ Centered Preaching is a must read!

  6. John Piper preached through the Minor Prophets in summary fashion back in the 80’s. I have the tape series and it was a decent overview of each book. You may want to check out his approach while preaching through your series. Feinberg’s commentary on the Minor Prophets was a really great study for me a few years back…



  7. I am just completing a series in my own church, the present section of which has taken us through all of the Minor Prophets. It has been a delightful series since very few people ever preach from these books and congregations are generally ignorant of anything contained in these books outside of the story of Jonah — and even then they are usually unaware of the “Big Idea.”

    I am currently working on a dissertation on this very topic — Preaching from the Minor Prophets to a Postmodern Congregation. What I am finding interesting is how few preachers actually relate to these books.

  8. I declare the one true gospel to be the Christ Yeshua died for our sins according to the scriptures, He was buried and He rose again the third day according to all the writings of the prophets. This is without controversy and disagreement in the grace of God. (Luke 24, 1 Cor 15:1-6 to just name to verses in the writings of the prophets to bear witness to the fact.) And all understanding comes from the scriptures of the prophets in light of the Christ Yeshua’s death for our sins, His burial and his resurrection the third day.

    Daniel Lang

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