Reading the Old Testament with an eye for Christ

In a previous post, I wrote about the 3 camps people fall into when reading the Old Testament.  Either they believe the OT to be non-Christian, pre-Christian or they see it as a fully Christian document chronicling sin and salvation, law and grace and fully pointing to Jesus.

This I believe is the only proper understanding of the OT for a confessing Christian.  Any other interpretation stands against the apostolic witness.  So how can we read the OT with an eye to seeing Christ?  What exactly are we looking for?  Which part of Christ’s life is redeemed?

In the OT, the person, work and teaching of Jesus Christ is all portrayed along with the ramifications of his life – the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the culmination of the ages and final judgment.  As we read the OT we should be looking for signs that reflect, however perfectly or imperfectly, these aspects of Jesus.  Sometimes this will be in a direct prophetic connection as the gospel writers used.  At other times it will be in types or analogies like Peter used as Pentecost speaking of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, or comparing the judgment meted upon the ungodly to the judgment to be meted upon those who refuse to confess Christ and repent of their evil ways.  There are promises given about peace that find their fulfillment in Jesus, there are contrasts about life devoid of God and those are echoed in calls to fruitfulness in life with God.  The possibilities are endless.

One of the great things we must avoid in our reading of the OT is moralizing self help.  All too often, we read the OT as a set of case studies about how to live or not live.  Character quality are counted, and characters are held out for emulating.  I am not saying that these things aren’t useful, what I am saying is they are incomplete.  When we read the text at this level we are not getting the gospel, but man-centered works-based applications.  We must go beyond this incomplete view of the OT and read to see Christ and his promises and his work and his ministry in the world and through his people.  Then we are truly understanding the whole of the canon and joining the ranks of the saved in the Old Testament as well as in the New.

For examples of this kind of approach see my series of postings entitled Where’s Jesus

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About Scott Roberts

pastor of Hope in Christ Church, Bellingham, WA
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