This is a question that came up recently at the Utumishi wa Neno training in Marsabit. And it's a good question. Underlying the question were a few understandable concerns:
- Doesn't preaching Christ from every chapter of the Old Testament mean that you will be forcing the Scriptures to say what they are not saying, that you will be allegorising all the time, that you will not be respecting the integrity of the Old Testament 'as it is'?
- Won't preaching Christ every week be boring and predictable?
- Don't we need to teach the full counsel of God including the commands and responsibilities, the need for faith, the good examples of the heroes of the Bible?
These are important and fair concerns. Hopefully, clarifying what we mean by 'preaching Christ' should answer them:
- We are not trying to stick Jesus in passages where he is not. We don't want to twist the Bible. We want to bring out the meaning and impact as the Spirit intended it. And neither are we wanting to bolt something about Jesus onto the end of our sermons. That certainly would be boring. Rather, we want are simply wanting to take seriously the words of Jesus and the apostles that all of the Scriptures are about Him (e.g. John 5:39 or Acts 13:27). The Old Testament does not have integrity in and of itself but is a witness pointing to Jesus. It only has life in relation to Him. We want to see the picture of Jesus that it gives us; the one that flows naturally from each passage and then paint that same picture for our hearers.
- Different facets of Christ are presented in different ways in different passages and we need to reflect that difference in our preaching. Sometimes he will be an aching absence (e.g. Ecclesiastes). Sometimes he will be promised in a beautiful and strange prophecy (e.g. as a shepherd or a tree or a lion or a rock or a second David). Sometimes he will be foreshadowed in the institutions of sacrifice and tabernacle and kingship or pictured as an ark or a snake on a pole or a pierced slave or an innocent sufferer. Sometimes he will be actually present with his people, in the fiery furnace or the fiery bush or the fiery pillar. Sometimes he will be the object of faith and desire for the heroes of faith. The range and beauty of these pictures is breath-taking. Certainly, if we just tell people that "Jesus died for you" every Sunday, that would be boring but what about if you talk about the warrior treading the winepress of the wrath of God, the judge slaying our enemies, the lamb slain and standing, the great high priest taking us into the most holy place... The Scriptures are preaching to us Christ in a million colours and tones. Let our preaching be faithful to that.
- Preaching Christ does not exclude preaching the commandments of Christ and the demands of Christ. Our preaching should not be only that or it risks, as Luther noted, becoming simply lifeless Law, but it certainly can and very often should include the imperatives of grace. As my pastor has really helped me to see over the last year, we need to hear the words of Law (which are themselves from Christ, the mighty judge), we need to have any hope in ourselves utterly destroyed, and then we need to hear the words of grace and receive Christ as gift and substitute, and then we push on to see Him as our example and king, not in any way weakening the impossible demands which again drive us back to the God of Grace, the Christ without whom we can do nothing, the Spirit of life who works in us.
Brothers, let us preach Christ. And keep thinking carefully about what exactly we mean by that.