I have undergone something of a conversion in regards to preaching. In too many sermons – especially sermons from the Old Testament – Jesus is given just a passing mention.
That is not good enough. We need to preach Christ as the centre of the Christian message, and the means by which we can be right with God, whatever part of the Bible we happen to be preaching from.
Jesus himself explained that Moses wrote about him (John 5:46) and that, in fact, all the Scriptures point to him and are fulfilled in him (Luke 24:27, 44). In the first Christian sermon, Peter quotes from Joel and the Psalms to testify about Christ; later Paul reminds his young charge, Timothy, “from childhood you have known the sacred writings [the Old Testament] that are able to instruct you for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus” (2 Timothy 3:15).
If we see the Bible as primarily about us – as suggested in the acronym B.I.B.L.E., Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth – then we tend to study the text not for what it reveals about God, but for the ethical instructions it gives.
But the relationship between humanity and God is defined not by our ability to keep the rules but by Christ, who lived a righteous life for us. We need to see the Bible primarily as a revelation of God, seen most clearly through Christ. The life, death, resurrection and ascension of Christ is the central and most important event in salvation history, and we need to see other salvation events in light of the Christ event.
As N.T. Wright says, we need to ask “what time is it?” He means: where does the text we are looking at fit into God’s divine plan of salvation?
If we teach from an Old Testament text and apply it to listeners’ lives without taking into account how that text points to Christ, the author and perfecter of our faith, we effectively deny his role as mediator between humanity and God.
When we read how God rescued the Israelites out of Egypt in the Passover story, it is hard not to think forward to Christ. He was the requisite sacrificial lamb without defect; it was his blood smeared so that those under it could live. He was the firstborn of God, who thousands of years later came to earth, lived the life we couldn’t live, and died the death we should have died.
Christ is the true King the Israelites were hoping for, the better Jonah who spent three days in a dark tomb so that others could live, the one who has fulfilled every commandment for us, the true temple where we now find intimate access to God, the true priest whose sacrifice is eternal, and the greater son of David who fought and won the ultimate battle over sin and death. Christ is the fulfilment of the whole Bible, and the means of our salvation.
In Acts 28, Paul had recently arrived in Rome, and was under house arrest. Verses 23 and following record how he spent his time: he told people about the Kingdom of God and “taught them about Jesus from the Scriptures – from the five books of Moses and the books of the Prophets.”
If you’re a preacher, are you teaching people about our wonderful Saviour no matter where you’re preaching from in the Bible?
• Ryan Bond is a recent graduate of Carey Baptist College and pastor of Albany Baptist Church in Auckland.
For more information on Christ-centred preaching, see “Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture” by Graeme Goldsworthy, and the lecture series by Tim Keller entitled “Preaching Christ in a Post-Modern World.” There is a host of other information online at thegospelcoalition.org/preaching-christ.