An Author Interview from Books At a Glance
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Greetings, I’m Fred Zaspel, and welcome to another Author Interview here on Books At a Glance.
Today we take up a favorite theme of mine as we talk to David King about his new book,
Your Old Testament Sermon Needs to Get Saved: A Handbook for Preaching Christ from the Old Testament. It is a wonderful and massively important topic, especially for preachers.
David, congratulations on a wonderful book, and welcome to Books At a Glance.
Thank you, Fred. It’s great to be here with you.
First, tell us about what you call in your Introduction, “the rock in your shoe” and what this book is all about. And explain your provocative title!
I’ll start with the title, it is kind of a play on old revivalistic ways of talking about ways of coming to Jesus. It was a helpful thing for me to consider that my Old Testament sermons needed to get saved. What I mean by that is that Jesus Christ should not merely be tacked on to the end of an Old Testament sermon or be absent from an Old Testament sermon. If we understand what the New Testament says about the Old Testament, we realize all of it is Christian Scripture. It is meant to benefit us as believers and followers of Jesus help us know how to live for him and his glory.
This is not how I looked at the Old Testament growing up. Even in college and into seminary I was not seeing the Old Testament that way. I was reading a lot of things the way a lot of guys do, and I came across this question. If you could preach an Old Testament sermon in a way that would go over well in a Jewish synagogue or even among Muslims, have you really preached a Christian sermon? It troubled me and this ought not to be. If the whole Bible is Christian Scripture, we need to handle the Old Testament in a way that is explicitly Christian. A Jew or Muslim would not completely agree with it. Jesus needs to be explicitly relevant with how we are interpreting and applying that text. “The rock in your shoe,” I wanted to give this to other pastors to help them think through this. I needed to understand how to handle the Old Testament in light of Jesus.
Your point is that the Old Testament in all its detail, not just in its specific famous prophecies, points us forward to Christ. Lay out for us the exegetical and theological groundwork, the justification for your approach. How does the New Testament assure us, explicitly, that the Old Testament should be understood as pointing to Christ?
There are numerous ways the New Testament pushes us in that direction and encourages us to adopt that understanding of the Old Testament. One of the most famous passages people go to when we talk about this topic is Luke 24, the road to Emmaus. Jesus appears to those two disciples and expounds the Scriptures in light of himself. He does that from the law, the prophets, and the writing. Broadly speaking we see the Old Testament is about Jesus. That still raises the question of all the other details within the Old Testament.
We also come across passages like John 5 where Jesus says, “You search the Scriptures because you think they have eternal life, but it is they that witness to me.” Jesus is talking about the whole fabric of the Old Testament in some way leading us to him that we might find salvation. The Christ-centered nature of the Old Testament is part of the fabric of the Old Testament. It is not just found in discreet promises and prophecies. I personally have been heavily impacted by what Jesus says in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5. Every jot and tittle is fulfilled in him. Now we are at the detail level. Jesus is saying every bit of it still applies but it must apply in light of the fulfillment that he brings to it.
Talk to us about how the shape of the Scriptures themselves, progressively revealed, drives us to see Christ as the focal point.
Most scholars understand there is a progression of revelation. God does not give us everything in full form all at once. What we see in the Old Testament is a progression of God revealing himself and how we are to relate to him. It is not going to complete until the fulfillment of all of that. It comes in the person of Jesus Christ. Once Jesus comes on the scene, we have what Hebrews calls, “the final word.” God preached through the prophets these initial words that lead to the final word in Christ. As we read the Old Testament, we understand we must have ongoing revelation in order to make full sense out of what we are reading here.
In chapter three you make an important point that really should help us define “expository” preaching more carefully. “Preaching the text” is basic, and we must preach the text in context, but the important point is that our sermon is not mature until we preach that text in its canonical context also. Flesh that out for us a bit. And we should clarify that preaching Christ from the Old Testament does not require resorting to allegory, right?
Right, no it does not. What you are initially talking about there is something that was helpful for me to begin to understand. The context of an Old Testament text is not just the book in which that specific text is found or even the covenantal epic of the Old Testament as a whole. The context of that text is actually the canon of Scripture. God has given us complete revelation in Genesis through Revelation. We must interpret even that Old Testament text not just in its immediate context within the Old Testament but within canonical context, all of what God is doing in redemptive history.
One example would be the way we understand parts of a play or movie. When we get to the climax and see what the point is. Now as we reflect on earlier scenes, we can make more sense of them in light of a key point that we received at the end. The Bible works this way. We have a whole canon that God has given for us. He means for us to understand it as a whole and that helps us interpret the parts.
Okay, the focus of your book has to do with methodology.
Give us a taste of chapter 4 and the various ways we should see Christ in the Old Testament.
This is the heart of the book. It is the whole impetus for me to write the book. How do we do this faithfully? How has Jesus fulfilled all these Old Testament passages? I came to see six main ways that Jesus fulfills all the Old Testament. I put that in a little framework for the pastor to hopefully, easily get a hold of.
One, prophetic promise. This is the easiest way of seeing Jesus in the Old Testament. Through the promise of the passage, they lift our eyes up to a future horizon and see that Jesus is the fulfillment.
Two, ethical instruction. As you read a lot of the law and wisdom literature. It is important for us to realize before we apply these to ourselves, we need to understand Jesus applied them to himself. All Scripture was about him and he lived to fulfill all the law and wisdom of God.
Three, fallen humanity, we see all over the Old Testament. Anywhere in the Old Testament, the main point focuses on human sin or suffering. We are understanding the burden of Jesus’ life and ministry. Jesus would have read those Old Testament passages focusing on sin and suffering. He is seeing why he came into the world. He came here to make atonement for this sin and bear all this suffering in himself so that God’s everlasting kingdom might be brought into this world for people who repent and believe.
Fourth, topological revelation is another way we see Jesus fulfilling various aspects of the Old Testament. This is the controversial category. There is so much written on this. Typology is just theology in picture form. Paul in Colossians talks about shadows and substance. In picture form, in the Old Testament, God intentionally builds into the text a shadow that is going to be fulfilled in the substance of Jesus Christ himself. That is a real thing God has built into the history of redemption and his Scriptural revelation. How do we understand the cross if we do not have the sacrificial system?
Fifth, narrative progression. There are a lot of stories in the Old Testament. This is where a lot of teaching and preaching goes off the rails. We like to bring these stories right into our lives and bring moral lessons. It is so easy to forget that we must understand first what this story has to do with the coming of the Christ. In what way did Jesus fulfill the thrust and direction of this story. Most stories in the Old Testament are anchored around the covenant promises that God has made. All these stories are Jesus’ backstory or family tree.
Sixth, theological theme. These are the acts and attributes of God in the Old Testament that give us an advanced picture of what Jesus is going to be like. For example, Psalm 23, “the Lord is my shepherd.” Is it a coincidence that Jesus calls himself the Good Shepherd? We see that God is a shepherd to us. He embodies the shepherding love and care for his people. There are a lot of ways we see the acts and attributes of God.
I think it is helpful to clarify that we see Christ in the Old Testament not only in Biblical-Theological categories but in Systematic Theological categories also, right?
Yes! That is exactly right!
Finally, then, with all this in mind talk to us about sermon application.
I talk about application aversion and application obsession. I have been guilty of both at times. Application aversion is this thought that we have got the word and God is going to do the work. His spirit will apply it in ways I would never think to apply. That was my tendency early in my ministry. I have a high love and value and the work of the Spirit through his word. This is a good thing.
On the other side of the spectrum is application obsession. This is used so much today. We use the text to get to the application and connect with people to encourage and build people up. We can have this obsession that makes us unfaithful to the text. We do not want to do either of those things. The reason why is because like Paul says in Colossians 1, “Him we proclaim, warning and teaching everyone, that they might be presented mature in Christ.” We preach Jesus as our object, but our aim is to see people changed in him. Our aim is to see them take the word and apply it to their lives. That is what Paul and the apostles did with their message. That is what we are meant to do as contemporary preachers.
We must take the Scripture and show people that the point is how Christ applies to their lives. What should change about your life? What is wrong in your heart as you consider this? Where do you need to take on the image of Jesus in the way you are behaving? Application must come out of the Gospel, our relationship with Jesus, and the grace we have received in him. We are not supposed to be people who just celebrate the Gospel. We are supposed to be people who are shaped by the Gospel. Out of the grace of the Gospel we received in Jesus we circle back around to the text and ask, “How are we meant to live in light of this?” There needs to be a call to obedience in light of the Gospel.
We are talking to David King about his excellent new book, Your Old Testament Sermon Needs to Get Saved: A Handbook for Preaching Christ from the Old Testament. It is a wonderful theme, and an important one for preachers especially, and David has digested it all very well for us in his very accessible book. Every preacher needs this!
David, thanks for your good work, and thanks for talking to us today.
Thanks so much, Fred.
Table of Contents
Introduction: The Rock in My Shoe
Part 1: Why Should I Preach Christ from the Old Testament?
- Exegetical Necessity
- Theological Necessity
Part 2: How Do I Preach Christ from the Old Testament?
- The Preaching Text
- Fulfillment in Christ
The Identity of Jesus in Promises and Prophecies
The Lifestyle of Jesus in Law and Wisdom
The Burden of Jesus in Sin and Suffering
The Shadow of Jesus in Pictures and Patterns
The Backstory of Jesus in Threat and Resolution
The Preview of Jesus in God’s Acts and Attributes
- Case Studies in Fulfillment
- From Christ to Us
Part 3: What Happens When I Preach Christ from the Old Testament?
- Problems to Avoid
- Benefits to Enjoy
King gives a stirring and convincing defense for preaching Christ from the Old Testament, but it gets even better than this because King explains how we can proclaim Christ from the Old Testament. Preachers are busy, and it is difficult to find time to read another book. King’s book, however, is succinct and marvelously clear. Take up and read!
Ray Van Neste
This is an excellent resource for all pastors! If you are not sure about preaching Christ from the OT, David King will help you see why this is necessary, valuable to your people, and possible for you. If you are already convinced that you should preach Christ from the OT, King will provide you with a very accessible guide to achieving this goal consistently and faithfully. And this is a book for preachers, from an experienced preacher and pastor. His empathy for those engaged in this significant task is clear, and he gets right to the heart of the issue in practical terms. His pastoral heart also comes through, guiding the reader to care faithfully for the flock by preaching Christ to them from all the Bible. This may be the most helpful book you could read on preaching this year.