Him We Proclaim, 7

June 30, 2008

Dennis Johnson gets to it in this chapter titled, “Theological Foundations of Apostolic Preaching.” The question and concerns that he has raised prior in the book finally come to surface as he deals healthily with them here. The issue has to do with the typological correspondence of the Old Testament with the New. He highlights five categories:

1) The typos texts of OT persons, events, and institutions to which the Greek word typos is used in the New Testament (200). An example would be Romans 5:14 or 1 Corinthians 10:6, 11 (202).

2) Here Johnson refers to the OT quotations that are applied to Christ in the NT. He means here the OT passages “that are explicitly cited in the New Testament as reaching their fulfillment in Jesus and his saving work, often introducing the Old Testament citation with a formula such as ‘this was to fulfill,’ or ‘this is fulfilled’ (207)”. He mentions Matthew’s usage of Hosea 11:1, “Out of Egypt I called my son,” in Matthew 2:15. I love what Dr. Dennis says here about “a more foundational conviction to which Matthew is leading his readers…”

Jesus is the true Israel, delivered from infant death, brought out of Egypt, tested in the wilderness, and finally exalted as Son of Man, invested with all authority as representative head of the eschatological “saints of the Most High” (Dan. 7:13-14 is echoed in the Great Commission, Matt. 28:18-20) (208).

3) Next there are the “unmistakable allusions to Old Testament events, applied to Christ” (209). The difference here with the previous is the absence of direct NT citation. Much of the book of Hebrews falls into this category, also John 1:17-18 and 6:31-51 where Christ is portrayed as the superior mediator.

4) The next category is one of greater ambiguity and controversy. He has in mind here such examples as when NT authors employ words or constructions that are unusual in biblical Greek. Such usage could signal the text’s OT dependance. He includes in this category such texts as Matthew 17:5 and the mountain of transfiguration. The verb “overshadow” resembles Exodus 40:35 and the Lord’s initial dwelling of the tabernacle (213). Again he speaks to my heart:

To be responsible to the Bible’s divine Author and credible to our hearers, our identification of typological similarities (as well as contrasts between type and antitype) must be warranted by evidence in the text of Scripture, not merely the product of our own hyperactive imaginations (214).

5) The final category are the general OT patterns that are fulfilled in Christ and his work. He means here such as examples as the narrative of Joseph.

This is a great chapter and much anticipated. I recommend some readers to just skip to this one to get a good quick dose of the issues at hand.




Him We Proclaim, 6

June 4, 2008

The sixth chapter of Him We Proclaim  discusses “The Epistle to the Hebrews as an Apostolic Preaching Paradigm.” As Johnson notes, the Bible offers few glimpses into how the apostles preached to a Christian body. While some would point to the book of Acts as a good guide for how to preach, the reality is that “all but one of the sermons in Acts is addressed not to Christian congregations but to Jewish or pagan listeners whose response to Jesus hangs in the balance” (170). Acts, therefore, “is most instructive for the pastor’s responsibility to preach evangelistically to those not yet committed to the faith” (170).

Johnson concludes that Hebrews is the best picture of apostolic preaching in the New Testament. He believes that Hebrews is a sermon for a number of reasons, one of which being the author of Hebrews use of the expression “word of exhortation” to describe his work (13:22). This was a commonly used phrase to describe a sermon according to both biblical and extra-biblical references. While Hebrews may be considered an apostolic sermon, Johnson is careful to point out that it had both “a unique context and audience […] so it would be unwise to treat even Hebrews as a rigid structural template, as though all of its formal features were indispensable to ‘apostolic preaching’ in our contemporary venues” (171).

There is not time to give all the details that Johnson draws from Hebrews that are beneficial in understanding apostolic preaching. The following are what I found to be the three most important and applicable points:

1. Jesus should be the hero and foundation for the sermon – “The pervasive thesis of Hebrews is the superiority of Jesus to revelatory and redemptive institutions ordained by God for Israel in the Law of Moses” (175).

2. Preaching’s first priority is not trying to produce better, happier, more inspired people – “Truly apostolic preaching is not ethical imperative ungrounded in theological indicative. It is not psychological manipulation, moralistic harangue based on guilt, or pragmatic life coaching, untethered to the truth of Christ’s redemptive accomplishment on behalf of believers” (177).

3. At the same time, we have not effectively preached the Word if we give an academic lecture about the complexities of Scripture. The author of Hebrews not only knew his audience and used images from the surrounding Hellenistic culture (such as the image of a runner), but also made specific points of application to the lives of those listening – “Apostolic preaching is not merely literary analysis or theological contemplation that stops short of changing the values, affections, allegiance, and behavior of its hearers” (177).

There is so much more to the way that the author of Hebrews makes his argument for the supremacy of Christ while at the same time understanding and helping the spiritual needs of the audience. This shows that apostolic preaching is not so heavenly minded that it is of no earthly good. Instead, it both boldly preaches Christ as the hero of Scripture, acknowledging His Lordship as the only means of transformation, while at the same time providing help with the real, practical struggles that exist in the congregation.