[The following is part of a lesson that I am teaching on Biblical hermeneutics and exegesis. I wanted to share it because it is a vital step in Bible interpretation that is rarely taught. Moreover, I wanted to help people see how my preaching usually differs from other churches.]
Up to this point, your work has been strictly Jewish. You must now make it Christian! This is done when you find the passage’s Christological significance. Always remember: The passage is not fully interpreted until you have discovered how the passage comes to its fulfillment in Christ.
The Bible itself tells us this. We can tell first simply by understanding the nature of Scripture. The whole of the Bible is telling one story. There are many stories, but it is ultimately one divine narrative. This helps us to keep in mind what we are talking about as we work through the Scriptures. The question we must ask is, “How is this specific story (or passage) drawing out the overall story?”
We can preach about Joseph and say, “Go and do likewise.” But to do so would be wrong. Joseph did nothing of his own power. His demeanor and ability to resist sexual temptation was “through Christ who strengthens me.”
Moreover, the point of the Joseph narrative is not about what we can do to be like Joseph. The real point is God’s providential acts through Joseph to provide for the redemption of his people. Herein is the Christological point: “You meant it for evil, but God meant it for good, to bring about the salvation of many.”
Despite how heinous evil is, God still uses it for his ultimate purposes. The cross of Jesus Christ is a great evil, but it was ordained of God for the purpose of saving many.
Secondly, we find that interpreting the Scriptures “Christologically” is one of the basic principles of Biblical interpretation laid out in the New Testament.
1. Matthew 5:17-20
Jesus tells us here that he has come to fulfill the law and the prophets. As a matter of fact, every minutia of the OT (jot & tittle) points to him. The light of Christ must then be taken back to the OT so that the full story may be ascertained. If we do not read the OT in light of the New, specifically the revelation of Christ, then we fail to understand a great deal about the Lord’s doings.
2. Luke 24:13-27, 24:44-47
In this passage the risen Lord meets with some bewildered disciples. He sets them aright by “ verse 17 it says, “And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.”
The word interpreted can also be translated “expounded” (KJV). It means “to unfold the meaning” or “to translate into one’s own language.” In other words, Jesus took these disciples through an exegetical study of the OT. It wasn’t like the disciples didn’t know the OT inside and out. The most certainly would have because of their training as children and under the tutelage of Jesus.
What Jesus did was bring new light to the Scriptures by unfolding the ultimate realities to which it was pointing. He showed how it all came to a fulfillment in him! (He translated it into the language of Christ, so to speak) It was only after this that the disciples had a clear, Christian understanding of the Bible.
Finally, it ought to be remembered that it is only by the gospel that we have both our justification AND sanctification. If we preach ‘this is what you must do’ without the gospel, then we will be training up good Pharisees.
The testimony of Scripture is “Apart from me [Jesus] you can do nothing.” Therefore we must show how Christ fulfills the law. In this we see how we may obtain pardon for the sins we have and will commit, and enabling grace to follow in Christ’s footsteps.
How exactly is this done?
The question that faces us is not so much that it should be done, but how. We have to be aware that there is a right and wrong way to go about this.
There have been some who have taken a radical view and sought to find him under every bush and stone in the OT. That is to say, their attempts have not been to let the passage speak, but to “put Jesus in.”
For instance, in the song of Solomon one might be tempted to say that it is an allegory of Christ and the church. It is not. It is a sensual love story about a man and a woman.
Another common mistake is seen in the story of Rahab & Jericoh. Rahab puts a scarlet cloth in her window to signify where she lives. Those who are overly anxious with their Christological linking of passages will say that it signifies the blood of Christ which saves. In reality, it’s just a piece of red cloth.
Jesus should not be squeezed in wherever we can fit him. Instead, a passage must first speak. Then, after we have rightly interpreted the text, we should show how it naturally points to Christ. Typically, the following rules can be applied.
1. The way of Redemptive-Historical Progression
This is perhaps the most common way that Christ may be derived from the Old Testament. The Bible reveals an unfolding plan of salvation. As a result Christ may be preached by showing how the redemptive events in the OT find their climax in him.
For instance, Matthew begins his gospel with a genealogy that reaches back to David and Abraham. David had received the promise that his throne would be established forever. God told Abraham that all the families of the earth would be blessed through him. Mathew uses redemptive historical progression to preach Christ as the royal line and fulfillment of Abraham’s promises.
2. The way of Promise-Fulfillment
Similar to the redemptive-historical method is the way of promise-fulfillment. The Old Testament contains many promises that ultimately find their end in the coming of Christ, be it his first or second advent.
For instance, God promised that the exile would eventually end. Yet, when we get to the time of Ezra and Nehemiah, we are sorely disappointed. The return by the Jews is rather pitiful by comparison. More of them remained in exile. Even the temple that they build is a downer. It fails to compare with Solomon’s temple by a long shot. Enter Christ. In him we see the full end of the exile. Christ delivers his people out of their bondage. He himself is the full realization of the temple and one who is bringing about the dwelling place of God with men (Rev. 22).
As Paul says, the promises are yes and amen in Christ. Therefore, as you look at the Old Testament’s promises and prophecies remember always to interpret them in light of what Christ has done, is doing, or will one day do.
3. The way of Command-fulfillment
As we mentioned earlier, Jesus came to fulfill the law. As part of his active obedience to merit all the righteousness we need each command comes its fullest expression in him. He kept the Sabbath day holy. He honored his parents. He kept the sixth commandment even when he yelled at the Pharisees or rebuked his disciples.
4. The way of Typology
The way of typology is similar to that of promise-fulfillment. Just as there are promises in the OT that come to their fulfillment in Christ, there are regular patterns that God employs that find their climax in Christ.
Sometimes we talk about the “shadows of Christ in the OT.” By that we mean that there are different ways that Christ is prefigured. King David is a type of Christ because God makes him the anointed one who rules over His people. As mentioned above, Joseph is a type of Christ because he is a redeemer that God raises up and uses for the salvation of His people. We may also speak of the sacrificial system or the priestly system. Each of these has a deeper reality to which it is pointing.
5. The way of Contrast
Sometimes there is discontinuity between the Testaments. The Old Testament saints were commanded to bring in the kingdom by completely destroying cities and races. In contrast, the New Testament tells us to make disciples of all nations. The means of kingdom building is just as destructive. However, the form is that of internal transformation rather than external might.
The Christological Connections in Psalm 1
When it comes to Psalm 1, we see Christ evidence in two ways. First, he is the fulfillment of the “blessed man” spoken of in the first three verses (he is the blessed man par excellence!).
The Scripture paints Christ as “a man of Sorrows.” But we must always remember that, despite his troubles, he would have been the happiest of all men.
How can this be so? It is because Christ would not let himself be defiled by the corruptions of evil company or teaching. Sure, he was a friend of sinners, but he never confided in them or was led astray by them. His delight was solely in the law of the Lord and his thoughts ran to it day and night.
This is good news for us because our nature is to shun God’s word and gravitate towards the company of evil. How many of us really give Scripture the attention that it deserves? How many here in this prison find themselves wrapped up in the same company of friends once they leave this place? The numbers are extraordinary.
But because Christ has become the blessed man par excellence, we may experience the overflow of blessing. Through faith in him our “follower” instincts can be broken and new habits can begin to form.
(application: Run to Jesus! Do not fool yourself thinking that you can do better. You can no more separate yourself than a magnet can pull itself away from steel. You must renounce such silly ideas and trust Christ.)
Secondly, Christ fulfills the second part of the Psalm because He is the executioner that is mentioned there. The Bible presents him as the one who judges the wicked. Those who choose not to believe in him will not experience the joys of his blessing. They may be allowed some temporary delights. They may laugh and have their fill of good things, but they will eventually find that these were fleeting moments. He will come swiftly upon them and they will find themselves not just destitute, but utterly distressed as he comes upon them in wrath.
 Law and Prophets is a literary device signifying the whole of the OT teaching.
 Adapted from “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament” by Sydney Greidanus.
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