It seems like the Christ-centered preaching of the Old Testament should be a rallying point for believers who treasure the written Word (the Scriptures) and the incarnate Word (Jesus Himself). After all, when Jesus spoke to two distraught disciples shortly after His resurrection, He began with “Moses and all the Prophets” and “expounded to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself” (Luke 24:27).
Yet Christ-centered preaching has become a dividing wall, of sorts, between Jesus’ followers. Heated debates take place over how we proclaim Christ from the Old Testament and when it is appropriate. Must every sermon from the Old Testament point to Jesus Christ? If so, what strategies must preachers use to get there?
I learned about this debate the hard way. Several years ago, I asked a prominent evangelical Old Testament scholar for an endorsement of a book I had written on preaching Old Testament narrative. The scholar politely declined. He thought the sermon manuscript I included could have been preached by a rabbi in a synagogue. I was stunned, particularly because I talked in my sermon about how the text, Genesis 22, foreshadowed the provision of the ultimate sacrificial Lamb, Jesus Christ. Somehow, my sermon was not Christ-centered enough for his liking.
If we are going to proclaim Christ from the Old Testament in a responsible way, we need to clear up some common misunderstandings. Then we need to chart the way forward.