By Fred A. Malone
My last two posts have attempted to answer two questions: "Should we preach Christ in every sermon?" and "Why should we preach Christ in every sermon?" In this post, I want to ask another question: "How should we preach Christ in every sermon?" In other words, is it possible to preach Christ in every sermon with hermeneutical integrity? I believe that it is possible and necessary. But how can one do this? Here, I propose two principles followed by one example.
1. We must remember that we are ministers of the new covenant. Paul taught that we are ministers of the new covenant (2 Cor 3:6). That means the new covenant of Jesus Christ governs all our ministry. Ministers of the new covenant are not free to be neutral in exegeting any text. To think that they should be is a fallacy of biblical scholarship. We must start as ministers of the new covenant when we approach any text.
The faith has been delivered once-for-all to the saints in Christ through the revelation of the new covenant. The new covenant revelation of Jesus is our ministerial, historical, and biblical-theological context. Jesus came to fulfill the Law and the Prophets and to establish His new covenant, the only salvific covenant in Scripture. Ever since Adam broke God’s law in the Garden of Eden, all of the OT proceeds from the gospel promise of Gen 3:15 toward the full revelation of Jesus Christ as the "seed of the woman" who would destroy "the serpent and his seed." The last Adam fulfilled the first Adam’s broken law and the gospel promise of Gen 3:15 in His new covenant. As ministers of Christ's new covenant, everything we teach must be viewed through that lens.
Paraphrasing Augustine: "The new is in the old concealed; the old is in the new revealed." In this light, all of Scripture is ultimately about the revelation of Jesus Christ to fallen mankind for the glory of God. Jesus is our starting point and ending point in every new covenant sermon. He is the Author and Finisher of faith. He is the Alpha and Omega, the Beginning and the End, of God’s revelation to man.
2. We must exercise hermeneutical completeness. First, we must interpret every text grammatically, understanding the original meaning of the words. Second, we must interpret that text in its redemptive-historical setting, understanding to whom God is speaking and what He is saying in their historical context. But, third, we must interpret every text theologically in terms of the completed revelation of God to man. This is the Reformed grammatical-historical-theological method of hermeneutics.
This third principle of "theological interpretation" is more than "Scripture interpreting Scripture" by citing cross references. Rather, it involves showing how each biblical text fits into the completed theology of Scripture. All of exegetical theology, biblical theology, and systematic theology serves the overall “analogy of faith,” which expounds each text of Scripture in light of “the whole counsel of God.” In some way, every passage is framed by the completed revelation about Jesus Christ; therefore, every passage must be interpreted and proclaimed in light of Him. No part of Scripture can be interpreted fully without understanding its ultimate hermeneutical connection to the revelation of Jesus Christ to man for the glory of God the Father.
3. Consider an example of preaching Christ in every OT sermon. Some object to this biblical and Reformed hermeneutic by claiming that it results in eisegesis. But there is a difference between allegorically "reading Jesus Christ into each text" without proper hermeneutics and faithfully understanding that all of God's revelation ultimately reveals Jesus Christ in some way. Let me offer one OT example of this and continue with additional examples in subsequent posts.
How should we preach Christ in the Book of Proverbs? Some might say that a proverb is merely a statement of God's wisdom and that it does not speak of Christ. They might say that preaching Christ from a proverb is adding to the Word of God. But if we understand “the analogy of faith," then we will see how to preach Christ from each proverb.
a. The Fall of Adam. Isn't it true that no man has kept any Proverb perfectly since the fall of Adam? Hasn't every man sinned against each Proverb in some way? And isn't it true that every Proverb is consistent with the Ten Commandments, the covenant law under which Proverbs was given? If that is so, then we may legitimately preach the sin and depravity of man from each proverb. We should show that God requires each proverb to be fulfilled perfectly in every person. We should show how it conforms to God’s Law of loving God and man according to the Ten Commandments. Each proverb demands that we preach man’s failure to fulfill God’s righteousness.
b. The Fulfillment of the Last Adam. Isn't it true that Jesus Christ, the Last Adam, fulfilled the Law and kept every proverb perfectly? Didn't He do so to offer a perfect satisfaction and atonement for those who sin against the Proverbs? Doesn't this grammatical-historical-theological exegesis of an OT proverb require Christ to be preached in each proverb? Shouldn't we show how He fulfilled each proverb as a man in His earthly life, born under the Law? Shouldn't we show how Jesus is a perfect Savior for those who have not fulfilled each proverb so that we can obey each proverb in love to Him who died for us?
Here's an outline that might be followed in a sermon from a proverb:
I. What does it say and mean in its context?
II. How have you broken this proverb before God?
III. How did Christ fulfill this proverb for us in His life, death, and resurrection?
IV. How should you walk as He walked as a redeemed soul in this proverb, living by faith in Christ?
I say we must preach Christ in every sermon from every text. That's because every text somehow teaches the demand of God's obedience from man, the failure of man to keep God's law, and the provision of a Savior to redeem us from the condemnation of God's law in order that we may obey and please God under grace in Christ. This is preaching in view of the "analogy of faith," the whole counsel of God, and the overall theology of Scripture which must complete our exegesis and frame every exposition. To fail to do this is to fail to preach the Gospel as Jesus and the Apostles did. We are ministers of the new covenant and we must proclaim Christ in all the Scriptures and in light of all the Scriptures if we are to be faithful to Him.
Next time, I'll blog on "Preaching Christ in Leviticus 18:5."