“Strange as it may seem, we are not at all clear on what it means to ‘preach Christ,’” says Sidney Greidanus in the opening pages of Preaching Christ from the Old Testament. Common answers, moving from narrow to broader, are to:
- Link verses to Christ’s crucifixion
- Connect sermons to Christ’s death and resurrection.
- Present Christ as the eternal Logos, who is also active in Old Testament times (especially as the Angel of Yahweh, God’s Wisdom, etc.)
- Preach God-centered sermons (as Christ is God, a God-centered sermon is Christ-centered).
- Substitute the name of Christ wherever we see “Jehovah” in the Old Testament (because Christ is Jehovah).
As the New Testament is full of preaching Christ, it must be our guide and model. Gredianus quotes C. H. Dodd’s survey of Apostolic preaching, which identified six core themes:
- The age of fulfillment has dawned.
- This has taken place through the ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus.
- By virtue of the resurrection, Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God, as Messianic head of the new Israel.
- The Holy Spirit in the Church is the sign of Christ’s present power and glory.
- The Messianic Age will shortly reach its consummation in the return of Christ.
- The proclamation always closes with an appeal for repentance, the offer of forgiveness and of the Holy Spirit, and the promise of salvation.
Greidanus concludes that “a quick scrutiny of these six elements indicates that preaching in the New Testament church indeed centered on Jesus Christ – but not in the narrow sense of focussing only on Christ crucified, nor in the broadest sense of focussing only on the Second Person of the Trinity or the eternal Logos.”
For the New Testament Church, preaching Christ meant preaching “the birth, ministry, death, resurrection, and exaltation of Jesus of Nazareth as the fulfillment of God’s old covenant promises, his presence today in the Spirit, and his imminent return. In short, ‘preaching Christ’ meant preaching Christ incarnate in the context of the full sweep of redemptive history” (Greidanus, 4).