What does Paul mean when he says, "I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified?"
I'm reading Preaching the Whole Bible as Christian Scripture by Graeme Goldsworthy where he endeavors to help us as preachers understand how Paul did that and to show us how we can too. (I have to review this book for a D.Min class at S.B.T.S. so I figured I could start by thinking through what Goldsworthy says in this blog and in blogs to come. )
We know for sure what preaching Christ alone doesn't mean. It doesn't mean that Paul didn't write about anything except Jesus. He talks about his life, he talks about the lives of others, he talks about practical matters. At the same time however, while Paul talked about his life, the life of others, and practical matters, there is no mistaking the fact that he is radically Christ-centered. To quote Goldsworthy, "The main subject of all his writings is the person and work of Jesus Christ."
The same should be true for us. We need to be radically Christ-centered preachers. Like Wesley we should say,
"Happy, if with my latest breath I might but gasp his name; Preach him to all, and cry in death: Behold, behold the Lamb!"
But here's the real question:
How do we do that?
We all know we are supposed to focus on Christ, but how do we do that for example, with the Old Testament? Graeme frames the question like this, "If a passage is not directly about the gospel events of the life, death and resurrection of Jesus, to what extent are we obliged to make the connection?"
One option would be to always tack a little gospel message on, almost as something additional to the message, on top of it - rather than as an essential part of it. Another option would be not even to try. Quoting Goldsworthy once again, "There is no doubt that many Christian preachers, in effect, do preach from the Old Testament about God in the Psalms, or the life of faith exhibited by one or other of the heroes of Israel, without connecting it specifically to the person and work of Christ."
According to Goldsworthy, there are a number of problems with not even trying to make the connection between the gospel and the text under consideration, one being that we moralize the Old Testament people and events, and further that we take the focus off of God and His glory and onto ourselves.
To hammer this point home, Goldsworthy quotes Clowney to say that when we primarily preach the Old Testament events as examples without connecting them to the gospel itself, when we "again and again equate Abraham and us, Moses' struggle and ours, Peter's denial and our unfaithfulness;[when we preach the Old Testament] only illustratively, [such preaching] does not bring the Word of God and does not permit the church to see the glory of the work of God; it only preaches man, the sinful, the sought, the redeemed, the pious man, but not Jesus Christ."
While I think I understand the objection Goldsworthy is making at this point, I do wonder if preaching the Old Testament saints as examples automatically equals focusing solely on man and missing the glory of God. Perhaps he is stating things a little stronger than is required to help people at least hear what he is saying. Because while the Old Testament is more than examples to imitate, doesn't Hebrews 11 give a number of Old Testament stories as examples for us to imitate? Isn't one of the purposes of Scripture to show us how to live lives that bring glory and honor to God? Doesn't Paul point to Old Testament history as an example for us not to imitate, in 1 Corinthians 10?
What do you think?