8 Reasons Why People Don’t Preach Christ from the Old Testament

(Post from David P. Murray)

1. Liberalism

Firstly, there has been a prolonged and sustained critical attack on the Old Testament by Liberal scholars. This has shaken the confidence of preachers and hearers alike in this part of the Holy Scriptures.

2. Ignorance

It is almost impossible to preach from large parts of the Old Testament without a knowledge of the historical context and geographical setting. However, while this knowledge was once widespread in many churches, most hearers now know little or nothing of biblical history, and preachers find it hard to interest their hearers in it.

3. Relevance

In addition, the historical and geographical details mentioned above seem to distance the preacher and hearer from modern reality. The fact is that we stand approximately 6,000 years from the earliest recorded Old Testament event and over 2,000 years from the most recent. This opens up a “relevance gap” in the minds of many modern preachers and hearers. This is widened further by the fact that the New Testament makes it clear that many Old Testament practices are now terminated. So, why study them?

4. Dispensationalism

Dispensational theology, with its rigid division of Scripture into different eras and methods of salvation, tends to relegate the Old Testament to a minor role in the life of the Church and of the individual Christian. However, it has been surprising to me how many even in Reformed circles have a latent dispensationalism, which becomes patent in their confused and inconsistent view of Old Testament salvation – with ideas ranging from salvation by works, through salvation by faith in the sacrificial rituals, to salvation by a general faith in God plus a sincere attempt to obey His law. These legalistic views of Old Testament salvation inevitably produce less preaching from the Old Testament, and certainly less preaching of Christ and His grace from the Old Testament.

5. Bad practice

It must be admitted that one of the reasons why so many, even in Reformed and Evangelical Churches, have minimized Christ in the Old Testament is because they have seen so many bad examples of preaching Christ from the Old Testament – examples which expose the whole exercise to the just ridicule of a mocking and cynical world. However, the malpractice of some should not lead to the non-practice of others.

6. Laziness

I concede that preaching Christ from the Old Testament is more demanding than preaching Him from the New Testament. It requires greater mental and spiritual labor to prepare and present Christ-centered Old Testament sermons in a comprehensible and engaging way – especially when we are not practiced in the art. For a busy pastor with two or three sermons to prepare each week, the well-worn paths of the New Testament seem much more inviting than Leviticus, 2 Chronicles, or Nahum!

7. Lack of models

Many sincere and devout pastors want to preach from the Old Testament, and they feel guilty about their failure to do so. However, when they look around for preaching models to follow, they find few men whose practice they can learn from. Then, in the absence of the living practice, they look for principles of interpretation that would teach them the practice, and this too is largely lacking.

8. Academic credibility

Finally, there has been a tendency in academic circles, even in Reformed and Evangelical academic circles, to minimize the place of the Son of God in the Old Testament. Passage after Old Testament passage is being evacuated of Christ to the nodding approval of the scholarly community, and few are brave enough to stick their heads above the parapet and question this trend. Little surprise then that preachers turn away from the Old Testament and towards the New in order to “find Jesus” and “preach Christ crucified”.

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3 Comments on “8 Reasons Why People Don’t Preach Christ from the Old Testament”

  1. Christian says:

    Bro. Murray’s statement about dispensationalism is not my experience, but admittedly my experience (particularly personal experience) is limited to what some more recent theologians teach. I would imagine what he has in mind is dispensationalism of the Scofield/Chafer school, which is becoming less and less prevalent.

    He is correct about some Reformed not being much different. You can find passages that seem to teach that salvation was different in the old dispensation, which is ironic given the same writer’s invective against contemporary dispensationalists for essentially doing the same thing.

  2. Dispy’s have done a very poor job at preaching Christ in the OT on a whole, especially both classical and ultra Dispy’s. As you refer to your personal experience you may be in the Progressive camps, in which have done a better job. Although you say it is become less prevalent, it still remains and has much effect upon American Evangelical preaching today.

    “You can find passages that seem to teach that salvation was different in the old dispensation” You can? and you believe this?

  3. Rick Reilly says:

    September 3-5, 2010 I am attending a conference in Indiana, PA. The conference is the 9th annual Christocentric conference where the teachings center around the Person of Jesus Christ as the subject matter of scripture and focal point of life. From your article here I thought you might find this time very edifying.


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