Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Preaching Jesus

I've had some interesting discussions of late about how we preach Jesus, particularly from the Old Testament.  There are two general sides to the debate.  

On one side of the debate, some suggest that every sermon we preach needs to be about Jesus.  So even when we are preaching Old Testament passages which make no reference to Him, we should still make sure the sermon is, in the end, about Jesus.

On the other hand, I recently attended some classes on Old Testament preaching, and the man giving the talks approached it from the opposite angle, saying that we should preach the text, and not feel like we needed to force Jesus into the message.

This left me thinking about my own preaching, and how I preach from the Old Testament.  I tend to lean toward the second view, but to be honest it sure sounds more spiritual to preach Jesus from every text.  Because I have been thinking about it, an ongoing series on Ed Stetzer's blog are helping me gain some perspective.  Let me give you some of the highlights, and I would encourage you, whether you are a preacher or not, to give these a look.  They aren't only about how we preach the Bible, but also about how we should read and study it on a personal level.

From the first post, there were a couple of things which really stuck out.  A little over half-way down the post, the author of this particular post says this:

"While it is hermeneutically irresponsible to say that all Old Testament texts have a Christocentric meaning or point to Christ, it is true that all play a significant role in God's great redemptive plan that leads to and climaxes in Christ."

This seems to provide some balance.  Instead of saying that all passages are about Jesus, he is suggesting that all the Old Testament is part of the plan which culminates in Jesus.  That is much different, and I think a wiser way to look at the text.

Then a little later, he says this:

"Christ-centered preaching may obscure the intent of the original author and in so doing may actually reflect a low view of Scripture." 

This, to me, is the danger.  I always want to be true to the text which I'm preaching, not fit something into it that I really want to say!  That is always a temptation for any preacher anyway, so avoiding the temptation is helpful.

The danger here is that not only are we not being faithful to the text, but by obscuring the original intent of the author, we are in danger of suggesting that our understanding of the text is greater than that of the author.  And by the way, if the Bible was truly inspired by the Holy Spirit, and He was okay with not making Christ the center of every passage in the Bible, it is certainly disingenuous for me to suggest that I should do it.

Anyway, the second post is also up, so let me show you a couple more quotes.

"Authoritative interpretation will focus first on the message of any given text, and once this is established reflect on its place and significance in the broader revelatory scheme that climaxes in Jesus. Not all First Testament texts point to Christ, but all texts reveal something about God or humanity or the universe that is necessary ultimately to understand the work of Christ."

Again, this is about being true to the text.  We can preach things which aren't specifically about Jesus which still speak of the need for Him, or show us His divine character as we find Him in the New Testament.  But how is that presented?  Well, first we go with what the text is actually saying.  That is a must.  

One more.  This author also addresses how we talk about people whom we consider to be "types" of Jesus. I have not always done well here.  I felt a little corrected!

"If we preach Joshua as a type of Christ, we minimize the role and work of Jesus and obscure the message of the book of Joshua. Jesus is not a second Joshua; Joshua was his agent! Jesus is YHWH who commissioned Joshua to lead the Israelites into the Promised Land and hand the land into their hands."

There is danger here, and I hope we see what it is.  God help us to read, study and preach Scripture as it is intended to be read!

There was another really interesting point in this second article about the idea that we tend to think of Jesus as the Messiah or Christ, but forget that Scripture also tells us something very important about Him.  He is not only the deliverer, but is God Himself in the flesh.  So while we can see in the Old Testament pictures of Jesus, we also need to remember that Jesus is the God of the Old Testament, so we see God on the move.  That is the wonderful story of Scripture; it is the ongoing plan of redemption.  

Someone said this: "The New Testament is the Old Testament revealed and the Old Testament is the New Testament concealed."  I don't buy it.  

There is much more in those articles, and as these are out of context, you'll certainly get more from going and reading them in whole.  Also, the series will be continuing, so I hope we read it together!  

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