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PREACHING FROM AN OLD TESTAMENT PERSPECTIVE (1)
Victor M. Eskew
When individuals hear that the churches of Christ teach that the Old Testament has been “done away” (II Cor. 3:11), they often believe that the churches of Christ do not believe in the Old Testament. Such is not true. Too, there are some members of the church who despise any preaching from the Law of Moses since the law has been abolished (Eph. 2:14-15). Again, this is not true. It is true that the Old Covenant has been taken away. Paul wrote: “Blotting out the handwritings of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14). But, this same apostle also wrote: “For whatsoever things were written aforetime were written for our learning, that we through patience and comfort of the scriptures might have hope” (Rom. 15:4). The Old Testament is not the law that governs man today. The law that now governs man is the New Testament, or, the Law of Christ. The Old Testament, however, is extremely valuable to a person’s studies. There is a wealth of information that can be obtained from it. In this article, we want to examine this topic: “Preaching from An Old Testament Perspective.”
There are so many ways that a preacher can use the Old Testament in his preaching. Let’s list several of them. First, the Old Testament has so much to teach us about God. The opening verse of the Old Testament states: “In the beginning God created the heaven and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). So much can be learned about God from this one verse alone. Hundreds of others verses also give us insights into the Almighty God (Gen. 17:1). We learn about His attributes, His promises, His faithfulness, His generosity, His longsuffering, His anger, and His wrath from verses of the Old Testament narrative.
Second, Christ is also found in the Old Testament. He Himself affirmed this to the Jews during His earthly ministry. “Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life: and they are they which testify of me” (John 5:39). The Old Testament prophecies about the coming Messiah reveal Him unto us. We also seem a glimpse of Him in a figure referred to as “the angel of the Lord” (Gen. 16:7; Exo. 3:2; Judg. 2:4). Several Old Testament characters are types of Jesus: Melchizedek, Joseph, Moses, David, and Solomon to name a few. Yes, the Son of God is manifest from Genesis to Malachi.
Third, we can study the narratives of the Old Testament and glean the bountiful harvest of lessons that are found therein. Every text taken from the Old Testament has some lesson that can be learned. In Genesis 2, we learn about marriage. In Genesis 3, we learn about temptation, sin, accountability, and punishment. In Genesis 4, we see the difference in the practice God-ordained worship and man-made worship. We could continue from chapter to chapter to chapter noting the storehouses of lessons the Old Law provides for us.
Fourth, the Old Covenant helps us to understand vital principles that are also taught in the New Testament. We often sing the song, “Trust and Obey.” As Christians, we must practice both of these things to be right with God (See Eph. 1:13; Rev. 22:14). These principles, however, are not new. They have been around since the dawn of time. A man who trusted God and obeyed Him was Noah. “By faith Noah…” (Heb. 11:7). Noah heard God’s words about the flood and the ark. He trusted everything that God told him. But, he also obeyed. “Thus did Noah; according to all that God commanded him, so did he” (Gen. 6:22). It was his faith that moved him to obey. “By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark the saving of his house…” (Heb. 11:7). Today, God has not warned us of a flood, nor has He commanded us to build an ark. He has given us other facts, promises, and commands that must be trusted and that must be obeyed. Noah encourages us to do these things. He did and was saved from the waters of the flood. If we will trust and obey, we can be saved from the wrath of God at the last day.
Fifth, preachers can take the Old Testament and preach about books, chapters, and verses found therein. There are thirty-nine unique books in the law. Each book has a theme. This theme can be tied to the overall theme of the Bible, “The Salvation of Fallen Man through Jesus Christ the Son of God.” When Christians come to have an overall view of a book, the internal matters of that book make so much more sense. There are many special chapters that preachers can focus upon such as: The Creation (Gen. 1), The Fall of Man (Gen. 3), The Call of Moses (Exo. 3), Blessings and Curses (Deut. 28), The Contrast of the Godly and the Ungodly (Ps. 1), The Shepherd Psalm (Ps. 23), and The Suffering Servant (Isa. 53) just to name of the few well-known chapters. There are also individual verses that stand alone. Joshua 24:15 is one of them: “And if it seem evil unto you to serve the Lord, choose you this day whom you will serve; whether the gods which your fathers served that were on the other side of the flood, or the gods of the Amorites, in whose land ye dwell: but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” Another familiar text is found in the little book of Ruth. “And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: where thou diest will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if aught but death part thee and me” (Ruth 1:16-17). Many others could also be singled out.
These are just a few of many ways that the Old Testament can be profitably used by ministers of the gospel today. If we ever begin to think that we have run out of preaching material, all we have to do is start reading the book of Genesis. We will find enough sermons in the Old Testament to keep us busy for a lifetime. Many of the New Testament writers did not hesitate to use the Old Testament in their preaching. When we read Acts 2, I Corinthians 10, and Hebrews 11 we see this to be true. Dear preacher, “preach the word,” (II Tim. 4:2). This includes preaching the wonderful messages of the Old Testament.