Finding and Preaching Christ in the OT: Introduction (1 of 7)

He interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the Things Concerning himself

The question “How can we find and preach Christ from the Old Testament (OT)?” can be answered from many starting points. It seems the best approach to the question begins with the risen Christ declaring “the things concerning himself” to two disciples on the Emmaus road and to the other disciples gathered in Jerusalem (Luke 24:13-49). This rich account that closes the gospel of Luke is particularly fitting because it not only provides us with a redemptive-historical christocentric interpretative method. It goes further to give us a comprehensive backdrop of why we need the method, namely, 1) our characteristic confusion over the Scriptures, 2) our desperate need for divine help in hearing and understanding them, 3) and Christ’s unique ability and willingness to meet our need by elucidating from the Scriptures “the things concerning himself” (Lk 24:27).

1) We’re Fallen Interpreters

First, the noetic effects of our fallenness means that “interpreters are fallible creatures: despite whatever procedure they are following, their fallibility extends to their ability to interpret.”[1] Luke’s closing passage (Luke 24:13-49) highlights our interpretative fallenness by showcasing the disciples’ utter confusion over the most important events of Scripture: Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection. Like today’s Dispensationalists, the disciples on the Emmaus road were confused over what God did and did not promise to Israel in the Scriptures (Lk 24:22). There was also a despair in the disciples, redolent of a let-down moralism induced by unexpected outcomes: Jesus was crucified even though he was “a prophet mighty in deed and word before God and all the people” (Lk 24:19)? The verdict is that we like them are confused, fallen interpreters, drawn to distort Scripture via some forms of Dispensationalism, moralism, and allegory, rather than walking with Christ along the road of redemptive-historical christocentric hermeneutics. The instructive rebuke of the Sovereign is just as apt for us today as it was for the two on the Emmaus road:

And he said to them, “O foolish ones, and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets have spoken!  Was it not necessary that the Christ should suffer these things and enter into his glory?” And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself (Lk 24:25-27).

2) We Need Divine Help to Interpret the Bible

Second, however, merely having a redemptive-historical christocentric method does not lessen the murkiness of our fallen hermeneutic lens. We still tend to apply orthodox methods unorthodoxically. We still need the divine help of Christ in order to properly understand “the things concerning himself in all the Scriptures” and no less to properly preach these things (Lk 24:27). Note first that, in this key passage, Christ reveals his own hermeneutic presupposition that Scripture is about him:

Then he said to them, ‘These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled… Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance and forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem. You are witnesses of these things’ (Lk 24:44-48).

Note second that this was not the first time the Lord made such revelations. Earlier in his ministry, Jesus asserted that he fulfilled Torah; that any proper reading of the Old Testament will lead to a faith commitment to him; and that Moses wrote about him (Matt 5:17; John 6:45; John 5:46). Now post-resurrection, Christ reiterates this amazing fact: the entire Tanakh (Law, Prophets, Writings) was about him. However, note third that, as profound as this statement was, the Lord still had to open “their minds to understand the Scriptures.” Moreover, Jesus pointed his disciples to the soon-to-be-fulfilled Old Testament promise of the Holy Spirit, who would continue to increase their understanding: “And behold, I am sending the promise of my Father upon you. But stay in the city until you are clothed with power from on high” (Lk 24:49). The Holy Spirit, who indwells all disciples of Christ today, continues to help us interpret and preach the things concerning Christ in all the Scriptures.The fact that we still need divine help even after being equipped with the right hermeneutic underscores our interpretative fallenness. If we are to have any hope of finding and preaching Christ aright from the Old Testament, we need divine help.

3) Christ is Uniquely Suited to Meet our Needs

Third, having seen the utter confusion of fallen interpreters and their need for divine help, we see peppered throughout this passage the unique ability and willingness of Christ to meet such needs. Christ is the only one who is suited to reverse the effects of the fall by redeeming a people for God. This he began to do by decisively making atonement for the church by his death on the cross. And now, having risen from the dead, there is seemingly nothing in the way of his ascension to the Father’s right hand. Yet one thing more had to be done before his ascension. Christ lingered a bit longer with his disciples, filled with a desire to lead, instruct, and strengthen them, revealing his gracious disposition toward his disciples, their needs always on his mind. Now that he is ascended, Christ is no less willing and able to meet our need as the church’s great teacher. Just as our need as fallen interpreters has not diminished in two millennia, so also the risen, glorified Christ’s has never stopped graciously teaching his church to interpret and preach the things concerning Christ in all the Scriptures.

In these 7 posts, I will discuss:

2) Challenges to the Redemptive-historical Christocentric Approach to the OT

3) Doing Exegesis as the Apostles Did

4) Presuppositions that NT Authors Had toward the OT

5) How NT Authors Found Christ in the Scriptures

6) How to Avoid Moralism and Allegory when Preaching Christ form the OT

7) How to Dig Deeper into the Person and Work of Christ

In these posts, we see how Christ can and should be found and preached from the OT. Much of this study surveys the practice already exemplified in the NT. Scripture once again proves to be our sure guide, sufficient for all aspects of life and godliness, including the redemptive-historical, christocentric interpretation of the OT.


[1] G.K. Beale, Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament, 41.


Beale, G. K. Handbook on the New Testament Use of the Old Testament: Exegesis and Interpretation. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2012.

Clowney, Edmund P. The Unfolding Mystery: Discovering Christ in the Old Testament: With Study and Application Questions. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 1999.

Greidanus, Sidney. Preaching Christ from the Old Testament: A Contemporary Hermeneutical Method. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans Pub., 1999.

Johnson, Dennis E. Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures. Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R Pub., 2007.

Wright, Christopher J. H. Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1995., “Is a “grammatical-historical Hermeneutic” Different from a “Christ-centered Hermeneutic”?” (2008) Accessed July 19, 2014.