Him We Proclaim, 8

August 2, 2008

Chapter 8 of Him We Proclaim discusses Christ as Head and Mediator of our preaching, as evidenced in Scripture. The chapter once again emphasizes preaching Christ at all times, as we should recognize that, “at the most general level we are therefore justified in concluding that no event of history is adequately interpreted apart from its relation to this cosmic agenda of God, centered in teh eschatalogical Lordship of Christ” (243).

The preacher is to faithfully put the text in the context of the “Grand Drama” of Scripture – that is, where is our text in the story of Creation, Fall, Redemption, & Consummation (245)? As we understand that this is the grand story of all history, we recognize that within this story is one Hero, one Champion, one Protagonist – Jesus Christ. Therefore, we understand that “Lord and Servant Who is Prophet, Priest, & King” (as seen in both the OT and NT) is always relevant to what is being preached. 

This really helped me to understand logically why Christ is the focus of our preaching. It’s not that I didn’t believe it, but I enjoy seeing the logical explanation of why we should always preach Christ. If I can return to my Logic 101 class from college, I would present the case in this way:

Claim 1: All of Scripture (and history, by the way) takes place within the Grand Drama of the Creation, Fall, Redemption, or Consummation.

Claim 2: Christ is the focus of this Grand Drama from Creation to Consummation.

Conclusion: Since (1) Scripture is the story of the Grand Drama of Creation to Consummation and (2) Christ is the focus of this Grand Drama then Christ is to be proclaimed from all the Scriptures.

That’s simple enough for me!


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.

Him We Proclaim, 5

May 26, 2008

Johnson brings Part I of this work to a close in chapter 5 as he describes the main challenges to apostolic preaching. As a conclusion and segue to Part II he presents a movement towards “accountable, credible Christ-centered hermeneutics” (151). This chapter was too long and complex to give a detailed review. There are too many huge, foundational questions that Johnson asks. This chapter alone could have been elaborated into several independent books.

In order to provide a general outline, I will just include the subheading and major points that are made. Johnson first explains some of the modern misgivings about apostolic preaching, biblical unity, interpretative accountability, and interpretative credibility. The historical movements that gave way to different approaches to Scripture are briefly discussed. He calls the question of context to be the central issue. Are the interpretations of passages in the Hebrew Bible that are loyal to authorial intent at odds with the apostle’s interpretation found in the New Testament? I say no. Johnson makes his case clear: 

I am arguing that if the New Testament itself affirms a symbolic-typological interpretation of an Old Testament feature (for example, that the multiethnic church “is” the Israel with whom God makes his covenant), we are on safer ground to follow the New Testament’s lead rather than clinging to a different, “literal” reading that might seem, in the abstract, to be more objectively verifiable (140).

I appreciate Johnson categorizing the different approaches to the question of context and including names such as Beale, Dodd, Kaiser, Longnecker, and Enns. In setting forth his approach, Johnson titles three questions to answer:

1) “if the text’s original context is no longer regarded as the single determinant of the text’s valid meaning, have all hermeneutic criteria external to the interpreter, to which our exegesis can he held accountable, been jettinsoned?”

2) “does the inclusion of later New Testament revelation and the whole completed canon of Scripture as interpretative contexts of equal or even greater relevance that text’s immediate literary context and life situation tend to ‘flatten out’ the landscape of biblical revelation and obscure its progressive character?”

3) “how should we evaluate those instances in which the text’s meaning in its original context seems incompatible with the meaning attributed to it by later apostolic usage in the broader canonical context?”

 I do not think that the Old Testament authors nor the New Testament apostles have a problem with a literary approach to the Hebrew Bible that is true to authorial intent and is thus Christotelic. I think that is exactly what the OT writers meant, and exactly what the NT interpreters understood. Doesn’t 1 Peter 1:10-12 confirm this? The text is sufficient to lead us to Jesus Christ and it is harmonious to apostolic preaching. I look forward to Johnson developing a hermeneutical paradigm from the apostles’ example.

Him We Proclaim, 3

May 2, 2008

Johnson picks up from the three approaches he discussed in the previous chapter and writes, “…in principle these insights can be reconciled and incorporated into a more complex and richer homiletic…” (62). He turns to Paul’s theology of preaching encapsulated best in Colossians 1:24-27 to define preaching in all its dimensions. It turned out to be one of the most fascinating chapters that I have ever read in any book.

There are seven themes in this passage that Dr. Johnson pulls out to summarize Paul’s theology of apostolic preaching… 

     1) The purpose of his proclamation is to “present everyone mature in Christ.”

     2) He therefore is aware of the “identity and need” of his listeners.

     3) “His message has content to be communicated authoritatively and persuasively, and Paul encapsulates the entire content of his message in a single word–or, more precisely, a single person” ‘Him we proclaim’–the Christ who no indwells Gentiles” (64).

     4) The communication tasks of his preaching includes “teaching and admonishing.”

     5) Sufferings, afflictions, toil, and struggle are part of the price to paid by ministers of the gospel.

     6) There is a divine power that is at work through the preacher’s weakness.

     7) “This text introduces the motif of the preacher’s office, entailing authority and accountability, through the imagery or stewardship” (65).

(Hopefully this post can serve as something like a model for future posts.)  

Proposal: Luke wants us to understand that Jesus taught the Scriptures from a radical Christ-centered approach that shaped apostolic gospel declaration.   

Luke 24 concludes the gospel according to Luke. The road to Emmaus narrative is quite amazing (Lk. 24:1-35). Luke features some great insights before ch. 24 of Jesus’ amazing understanding of the Scriptures (Lk. 2:46-47; 4:16-22; 11:29-32; 20:17-18, 34-44). Then when Jesus appears to his disciples in 24:36-52 we see a recurring theme: Jesus authoritatively interpreted the Hebrew Bible as concerning Himself (Lk. 24:27, 32, 44-45). Luke picks up on this in Acts at the start, primarily with Peter’s sermon and Pentecost loaded with radical interpretations of the Hebrew Bible (specifically, 2:30-31). The encouraging little narrative of Peter and John’s boldness presses Luke’s intent even more (4:1-22). The climax comes in 4:11 when Peter qualifies Psalm 118 with “This Jesus…”.Whoa. The rulers and scribes saw serious boldness then, boldness to interpret the biblical text in an unpopular way. The rulers and scribes were stunned, they thought “How can these fishermen with no rabbinical education say this?” (4:13). Oh, it was because they had been with Jesus (4:13). They had been with Jesus in no subjective and mystical-quiet-time way. They had been with Jesus and He taught them. They learned from Him how to read the Bible correctly, and may we learn also.