preachthecross.jpgIn Chapter 2 of Preaching the Cross, J. Ligon Duncan III offers “eight simple exhortations” in regards to preaching Christ from the Old Testament.  Duncan builds this chapter on the claim that expository preaching is seeing a resurgence.  However, he contends that in the midst of this encouraging resurgence there is still a lack of attention to the Old Testament in preaching.  “While you can hear many fine sermons in many fine evangelical churches on the Epistles and Gospels, a series on Genesis, Exodus, and the Psalms, or the Minor Prophets is much rarer.”

In light of this glaring issue, Duncan lays out eight points of challenge to today’s preachers.  Here are those points and some highlights from each section.

1.  Preach the Old Testament

“So we must begin by encouraging one another to preach the Old Testament, and I might add as an addition to that phrase, to preach the Old Testament as a Christian book.” (p. 41)

“The apostle Paul urged Timothy to do just that in this passage.  Paul refers to ‘the sacred writings’ that Timothy had known since the very days of his youth (v. 15).  Now those sacred writings that Timothy had known from the days of his youth were not the Gospels or the Epistles or the book of Revelation.  They were the Old Testament Scriptures, from Genesis to Malachi, which he had known from the days of his youth.” (p. 41)

“So when Paul goes on to say that ‘all Scripture is inspired by God an profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness’ (v. 16), he has in his sights the Old Testament.” (p. 41)

“It is important for us to grasp that so much of the New Testament is a hermeneutical manual to help Christian understand the Old Testament and to help Christian preachers understand how to preach and apply the Old Testament.” (p. 42)

2.  Preach the Old Testament Expositionally

“Notice again what the apostle Paul emphasizes in 2 Timothy 3:16: all Scripture is inspired, all Scripture is profitable.” (p. 44)

“The apostle Paul is urging Timothy to preach from all of the Old Testament.” (p. 44)

“The same point is made in Luke 24:27.  ‘Then beginning with Moses and with all the propehts, He (Jesus) explained to them the things concerning Himself in all the Scriptures.'” (p. 44)

“So we see both Paul and Jesus urging the whole of the Old Testament Scriptures to be expounded and explained as Christian Scriptures.  This is important for us to pursue also.” (p. 44)

3.  Preach Christ from the Old Testament

(Speaking of Luke 24:26-27) “We see there in Jesus’ own exhortation and example that we are to preach Christ from the Old Testament, which is relatively easy to do when we have direct New Testament interpretation of Old Testament, christological passages.” (p. 46)

“…there is only one way to God, which is through Jesus Christ, but there is a dazzling variety of ways to get to Christ in the Old Testament.” (p. 47-48)

4.  Preach the One Plan of Redemption from the Old Testament

“Notice how often the New Testament utilizes the formula, ‘This is that…’  In other words, to explain ‘this’ (the new covenant event or reality) is the fulfillment of ‘that’ (the old covenant promise or prophecy).  ‘This is that’ preaching in the New Testament is tying together the whole of God’s redemptive plan.” (p. 51)

“Never fail, in preaching the Old Testament, to carry out those strands to the New Testament fulfillment, and do not fail to connect the fulfillments to their Old Testament precursors as you preach through the New Testament.  It ties together the whole redemptive plan of God and helps the people of God make sense of the whole of Scripture.” (p. 56)

5.  Preach Grace from the Old Testament

“Gospel logic always has grace before law.  Now in our fallen experience, law is always before grace because there is always something before grace, and that is sin, and there is something before sin, and that is law (because sin is defined by law and the breaking of it).  That is how it is in our fallen experience: law, sin, grace.  But in our salvation experience, in our redemptive experience, in our experience of sanctification, it is always grace before law.” (p. 57-58)

6.  Preach the Character of God from the Old Testament

“The Old Testament is far fuller in its explication and elaboration on the attributes of God in many ways than the New Testament.  One of the grave dangers in neglecting the Old Testament is that we will produce a generation of Christians gravely deficient in the knowledge of these fundamental matters.” (p. 61)

7.  Preach Experientially from the Old Testament

“The great bulk of biblical teaching on the subjecti ve and experiential side of Christianity is to be found in the Old Testament, and it is there especially in Psalms and Job and Jeremiah.  We see Christian experience and emotion reflected in their inner moods, their struggles, which are our inner moods and our struggles, and to ignore this vein of revelation will lead inevitably either to superficial religion or to a blank incomprehension when we find God trying our faith.” (p. 63)

8.  Preach the Christian Life from the Old Testament

“We are not to shrink from moral exhortation in our preaching of the Bible, whether from the Old Testament or New, because the preachers of the Old Testament and New, under divine inspiration, do not shrink from bringing the imperatives of God’s Word onto the hearts and lives of believers.” (p. 64)

There is so much we can learn from studying the Old Testament.  We can be encouraged by the faith of the Israelites as they trust and worship God in grave and momentous circumstances.  We can also learn from the mistakes of the Israelites as they ignorantly turned away from God to chase after false idols.  Most of all, we can see the hand of God in the preservation of a chosen people that will inevitably bring forth an all-encompassing Savior.  Without the Old Testament, we do not have a New Testament.  Both testaments point back to the cross, to Christ.  So as preachers, we need to be faithful in preaching the full counsel of God which includes the Old Testament. 

What Do You Think?