How should we preach the OT? This is a question that is often pondered by pastors and theologians alike. First, we need to drink deeply from Paul’s words to Timothy in 2 Tim 3:16-17. When the Apostle penned those words, he was speaking directly about the Hebrew Scriptures (our OT). This should at least give the expositor some pause before he utters statements like, “we need to make the OT relevant.” I’m not trying to split hairs but the Scripture is alive and relevant well before we get to any application in our sermon.
Secondly, it is unnecessary and wrong-headed to make Christ appear in OT passages where the authorial intent or progressive revelation (also intertextualities) does not lead us to such conclusions. Beware of those who can make Jesus appear with any mention of blood or wood (i.e., the cross). The fact is, the Messiah is fully anticipated in the OT so we do not have to make Him appear by being clever but by faithfully expositing the text and that in the context of redemptive history. For specific help on this read this and this.
Thirdly, I am somewhat questioning of the constant pleas for Christ-centered preaching if that means excluding Jesus’ own emphasis on glorifying the Father (see John 17) or downplaying the activity of the Holy Spirit in the lives of believers. I think it is important that our preaching not be Christless but for that matter it should not be deficient in any aspect or person of the holy Trinity.
There has been some helpful articles on this subject lately and what follows is a sample:
- Christ-Centered Zeal: Some Concerns from an OT Scholar. In this essay/interview, OT theologian Paul House offers a helpful perspective on current trends and cautions for those who preach the OT.
- Preaching Christ From the OT: an Interview with Sidney Greidanus. In this interview one can get a feel for Greidanus’s emphasis in his written works on this subject. While I have numerous reservations about some of his conclusions, he still offers a helpful voice on this vast subject.
- Telling the Good Story: An Interview With Steve Mathewson. In this interview, Mathewson offers a careful balance to some of the overstated maxims of the redemptive-historical school of preaching and the strict “Christ-centered” approaches. In his written works he rightly focuses on the authorial intent as key to the meaning of the text.
- The Temptation: Adam in Eden or Israel in the Wilderness. In this blog post, Will Varner grapples with the nature of intertextual workings between the Testaments. This is a vast subject but you can see here how Varner thinks through some of the issues with this particular example.