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Notes for Session 1

Preaching from the Old Testament

Chris Wright

Why Preach from the Old Testament?

The OT is part of the Bible! And the larger part. So much that God teaches us in the Old Testament is
taken for granted in the New Testament and not taught again. So we need the Old Testament in order to
understand a very substantial part of all that God wants to teach us.
Paul was talking about what we call the Old Testament, when he wrote 2 Tim. 3:15-17. He affirms two
main things (which we must hold together):

 The Old Testament leads to salvation through faith in Christ

 The Old Testament is inspired by God, and therefore has continuing ethical
relevance and authority for teaching us how to live.

The main reason we should study the Old Testament carefully is that it was the ‘Bible of Jesus’, and if we
love and follow him we should study the Scriptures that he knew, loved and fulfilled.

To see the Old Testament and Christ in relation to each other does not mean
‘finding Jesus’ in every verse of the Old Testament. It means seeing him as the
ultimate point and purpose of the Old Testament as a whole. But when we
read specific passages, we must first seek to understand what they said and
meant in their original context first.

Read: Christopher J.H. Wright: Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament

The OT tells the story which Jesus completes

Matt. 1. The genealogy of Jesus. Jesus is the end-point and goal of this history. It leads up to him. He
can only really be understood in the light of it. The importance of history for biblical faith – OT and NT.
Old Testament is like a journey that only makes sense in the light of its destination.
Notes for Session 1

See Bible Overview – the grand narrative, with four main parts. The Old Testament provides essential
early part of that story: creation, fall, redemption in history, leading to Christ.

The OT declares the promise which Jesus fulfils

Matt. 1-2 – five OT quotations which are said to be ‘fulfilled’ through Jesus.
1:22-23—Immanuel; 2:5-6 – Bethlehem; 2:15 – Egypt; 2:17-18 – Rachel; 2:23 – Nazarene.
Not merely predictions, but pointing out that all God’s commitment to his people in redemption and
covenant has now reached its climax in Jesus. Jesus only makes sense in the light of God’s great promises
in the OT: to Adam, Noah, Abraham, Moses David and the prophets.
So Jesus is not just the ‘end of the journey’ of the Old Testament; he is also the point of the journey. It
is all one great promise pointing forward to him, but with a great variety.
The Old Testament, not like a canal (flowing dead straight in one direction), but like a great river
(meandering, lagoons, tributaries, multiple channels – but all moving towards the sea).

The OT provides an identity which Jesus accepted

Matt. 3:13-17 – the baptism of Jesus, when his Father identifies him using OT quotations, as the Servant
of God (Isa. 42:1) and the Davidic messianic king – the Son of God (Ps. 2:7). Other terms and titles and
pictures of Jesus are drawn from the OT: Son of Man, Saviour, Christ, Prophet, Shepherd, etc. So in
order to understand him, we must understand the OT.
Jesus clearly understood his own identity and aims from the Old Testament Scriptures. We need to un-
derstand the Old Testament in order to understand him as he understood himself.

The OT programmes a mission which Jesus adopted and

committed to us
Matt. 4:12-17 – “God is coming to reign!” Jesus launches his mission to restore Israel and to bring about
the ingathering of the nations (a double mission which is clearer in Luke 1-4), amidst fierce Satanic oppo-
sition. The inauguration of the reign of God is in fulfilment of the OT scriptures.
Matt. 28, Lk 24:45-49 - mission to the nations founded on ‘what is written’ – i.e. the OT scriptures.
God’s purpose from the beginning (Abraham) was the blessing of all nations.
So we must read the Old Testament, both for its messianic significance (pointing to Jesus), and for its
missional significance (pointing to God’s plan for the nations and our part in that).
Notes for Session 1

The OT reveals ethical values which Jesus endorsed and

Matt 5:17-20 – Jesus affirms the validity of the law. All the Beatitudes reflect Old Testament texts. Jesus’
teaching (and the rest of the New Testament), of course goes beyond the OT and deepens it, but at
many points it is founded upon fundamental OT teaching given to Israel, intended to help the people of
God to be different from the surrounding society. Like Old Testament, Jesus also stressed principles like:
imitation of God; concern for the needy; compassion and social justice; moral distinctiveness (salt and
light). Christian ethics needs to be grounded in the authority of the OT – as it was for Jesus.

The OT reveals the God whom Jesus embodied

Matt. 3:3 -- The quotation of Isaiah 40:3 (prepare a way for the LORD), that Matthew uses to introduce
John the Baptist, puts John in the role of preparing the way for the LORD himself to come.
Matt. 11:1-14 -- The enquiry by John’s disciples leads Jesus to make clear allusion to Isaiah 35 about the
signs that would accompany the coming of God to his people. Then he says that John was the coming of
Elijah, who would be sent ahead of God to prepare his way (Malachi 3:1). The same in Matt. 17:10-13.
The sequence was: Elijah comes, then God comes. John the Baptist is “Elijah”, and Jesus came after
John. Who then was Jesus?

Matt. 28:18-20. This is the clearest statement connecting Jesus to the LORD God of Israel. Deuteronomy
had summarized the Old Testament truth about God in the words: “the LORD is God in heaven above
and on the earth below. There is no other.” (Deut. 4:35, 39). Matthew portrays Jesus calming adopting
that posture with the words, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me.”

In all these ways, then, the Old Testament provides the essential foundation for
understanding Jesus. We need to preach and teach it carefully so that people
understand the full scope of their biblical faith.