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Him We Proclaim: Defining Apostolic Homiletics (Part 3)

September 28, 2011

Dennis E. Johnson

3. Apostolic homiletics does not assume that every text testifies to Christ in the same way.

Rather, apostolic homiletics exhibits various ways in which the Old Testament’s diverse genres and texts diagnosed humanity’s need for restoration to true knowledge, reconciliation for holy communion, and rescue and rule in righteousness. And apostolic homiletics show the various ways in which the coming of the supreme Prophet, Priest, and King was anticipated, promised, and foreshadowed in the era of promise.

A couple of years ago Pastor Joshua Buice, writing in his blog, “,” expressed reservations about Christ-centered preaching. He spoke for many, I suspect, when he wrote:

I do not hold to a strict Christocentric view that claims that Jesus Christ is in every Old Testament passage. For instance, I do not see Christ in Psalm 32:1 “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered.” If Christ is in every passage as some claim, that means that Jesus is the man who had His sins forgiven! We know that is an impossibility since He never committed a single sin.

While I do not believe that Christ is in each passage and I do not believe that the human author intended Him to appear in each passage, what I do know is that He is the fulfillment of all Scripture. For instance, in Psalm 32:1 above, Christ is not the man who has committed sin, but He is the One that provides the forgiveness to us who have committed sin. Rather than pointing to each Old Testament passage and claiming that He is present in each text as a type or prophecy – He is the ultimate fulfillment. (July 10, 2008)

What I find intriguing about Pastor Buice’s comment on Psalm 32:1 is that he actually did find Christ in that verse, after all. And he even found Christ precisely where I would find him: as the divine Provider of forgiveness to the man whose trespass is covered. That is Paul’s point in quoting this Psalm in Romans 4:7-9: Abraham believed the God who justifies the ungodly, and God blessed Abraham with an imputed righteousness, reckoned to the patriarch’s credit with the forgiveness of his lawless deeds (4:1-6). How could God remain the just judge and at the same time the justifier of ungodly people? He justifies those who have faith in Jesus (3:26). And why faith in Jesus? Because, as Paul had said earlier, the righteousness of God comes “by [God’s] grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood” (3:21-24). So in the flow of his argument in Romans 3 and 4, Paul has shown us that Christ is “in” Psalm 32:1 not as the sinner needing or receiving forgiveness, but rather as the atoning sacrifice provided by God the Father.

Since Pastor Buice feels that proclaiming Christ as the source of David’s forgiveness in Psalm 32 is not Christ-centered preaching, I suspect that he has been exposed to a one-dimensional way of connecting Old Testament texts, events, persons, offices, and institutions to their fulfillment in Christ and his new covenant people. Yet those who have reflected on how the New Testament interprets the Old in eschatological-Christological terms are more nuanced. To take just two examples:

• Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, offers three general categories of relationships between biblical passages and Christ as Scripture’s integrating center:

o Text Disclosure—“a text may make a direct reference to Christ or to an aspect of his messianic work”

o Type Disclosure—“the study of the correspondences between persons, events, and things that first appear in the Old Testament to preview, prepare, or more fully express New Testament salvation truths.”

o Context Disclosure—“by identifying where a passage fits in the overall revelation of God’s redemptive plan the preacher relates that text to Christ by performing the standard and necessary task of establishing its context.” Under this “context” category he offers further subdivisions:

  • Predictive
  • Preparatory—diagnosing needs that only Christ could meet
  • Reflective—What does this text reflect of:  

                  • God’s nature that provides the ministry of Christ;

                  • And/or human nature that requires the ministry of Christ?

  • Resultant—guiding the believing, thankful, loving response that flows from the redemptive grace of God in Christ

• Sidney Greidanus, Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, suggests seven ways of connecting the text’s message in its original, closest contexts to its place in the larger contexts of the entire biblical canon and the whole sweep of God’s redemptive plan for history:

o Redemptive-historical progression

o Promise-fulfillment

o Typology

o Analogy

o Longitudinal themes

o New Testament references

o Contrast

The apostles’ handling of Old Testament texts sensitizes us to a variety of ways in which the different eras, events, individuals, and themes throughout the Bible flow toward their focal point in Jesus the Messiah. In our second lecture we will explore this variety a bit further, viewing Christ’s covenantal roles as Lord and Servant and his mediatorial roles as prophet, priest, and king.

Fourth contrast next Wednesday!