Preaching from the Old Testament

I suppose you would say that there are two views of how to do it—Now, wait a minute, I’m not talking about all of the various ways in which one might frame a sermon. Nor am I getting into the biblical theology controversy, though there’s plenty to say about it! There is only one thing I want to say, and that’s this: read and preach your Old Testament with New Testament eyes.

“What are you talking about?”

If you don’t get it, I suppose I still have something to talk about. I was going to leave it there thinking my words would be perfectly clear. Oh, well, here it goes.

Ask yourself how the New Testament writers viewed and proclaimed the messages of Old Testament Books of the Bible. They interpreted and preached the Old Testament through New Testament lenses. They did not, could not, would not be true to their calling if they didn’t. Things had happened since the Lord had come, died, risen and ascended to heaven. How could they ever look at the Old Testament as they had before Pentecost?

The very passages that seemed to mean one thing beforehand, took on entirely meanings when they saw their fulfillment in Christ. The coming kingdom of Daniel that would crush the metallic image of kingdoms, now had become a reality, and they discovered (to their utter amazement) that Jesus’ kingdom was a kingdom of truth, as He told Pilate. They learned that men now would worship in spirit and in truth, that the Gentiles bringing their wealth into Zion would mean Gentiles flooding into the church, that the clean/unclean system would vanish and replaced by personal sanctification, that God’s people would be a spiritual Israel, a peculiar people, that . . . go ahead add some more, on you own—surely, you get the point.

Friend, if you are reading your Old Testament, and preaching it, as an Old Testament Jew would, you are not being true to your calling. Think again.

Sure, you want to understand every passage in its setting and context. Certainly, you want to understand passages that believing prophets and kings wondered about and would like to have seen better than they did—seeing, understanding only dimly, vaguely, indistinctly. But you should see more in those passages. You should see what they always were meant to teach. I’m not telling you to read your New Testament back into the Old, but to see in the light of the New what it was always intended to teach. In other words, you should interpret the Old, and preach the Old as the New Testament writers and preachers did.

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