How often do you preach from the Old Testament? Do you find it easier to stick to the New Testament? The history of redemption doesn't start with the birth of Jesus, it starts in Genesis 1 and continues throughout the Old Testament and all the way to Revelation 22. Here are just a few reasons to encourage you to preach from the Old Testament. I hope you find them helpful and trust that the Spirit of God will guide you in your preaching.
1. We should preach the Whole Counsel of God
''All Scripture is breathed out by God...'' The apostle Paul exhorts his young church planter Timothy that he is to preach and teach from ''all of the Scriptures'' because they are ''profitable for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work'' (2 Timothy 3:16-18). Remember, the Scriptures that Paul was referring to were the Old Testament Scriptures.
I realize that some of the Old Testament passages are difficult to understand. But as preachers, we shouldn't shy away from them just because we don't understand them. As a matter of fact, if you don't understand some portion of the Scriptures then that is all the more reason for you to take the time to study them.
The Old Testament contains a rich history of God's mercy, love and grace. There are many different types of literature in the Old Testament to preach on. From history, to wisdom, to prophecy to the worshipful message of the Psalms, the Old Testament continues to unfold God's story of unrelenting love toward His people.
2. Jesus Taught from the Old Testament
If the Old Testament was good enough for Jesus, then it's good enough for you to. Read through the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, read how Jesus taught the Pharisees about Old Testament law and the prophets in Mark 12, listen to how Jesus fights off the temptations of Satan by using Old Testament passages in Luke 4.
One of the ''rules of interpretation'', is for Scripture to interpret Scripture. So look for passages in the New Testament that explain what has happened in the Old Testment. The book of Hebrews is a good example of this. Hebrews is a sermon that explains some of the sacrificial laws in Leviticus. I know, ''What?, you think I should preach from Leviticus?'' Absolutely, it all points to the sacrifice of Christ, the forgiveness of our sins, and the atonement.
3. The Old Testament is about Jesus
Remember the discussion that Jesus had on the road to Emmaus after he was raised from the dead? Luke 24:27 says, ''And beginning with Moses and all the prophets, he [Jesus] interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. Jesus makes it crystal clear, the Bible is about Him.
3 Suggestions for pastors on what they can focus on to begin preaching through the Old Testament
1. Focus on understanding how Jesus is revealed in the redemptive history of the Old Testament. Read the textbook, Christ-Centered Preaching by Bryan Chapell or read the booklet Is Jesus in the Old Testament?, by Iain Duguid
2. Focus on understanding that Jesus is the hero of the Old Testament. It's easy to paint, David, Moses, or Abraham as Bible heroes. They are not heroes, they were murderers, adulterers and liars. Jesus is the hero of those stories because in the end they were all looking in faith for the Messiah [Jesus] to save them.
3. Focus on using the Old Testament to tell people the story of God's redemptive, unconditional, steadfast, faithful covenant love. The Old Testament tells a beautiful story of a loving God, contrary to the popular belief that the God of the Old Testament was mean and angry. If that was God's character then the Bible would have ended in Genesis 2. Instead, the entire Old Testament reveals a God who is ''slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love'' (see Psalm 136, Exodus 34:6 and a myriad of other passages).
Preaching from the Old Testament will be helpful for you in your own understanding of the entire Scriptures. You will begin to see the connections, themes and unified message that runs throughout. Your people will be greatly encouraged and challenged to read the Old Testament for themselves. Maybe they will begin to understand the age old misunderstanding that the ''God of the Old Testament is full of anger and the God of the New Testament is full of love.'' Once you begin to really study the Old Testament and God's true character you will see the fallacy in such a statement.
All of the Scripture reveal a loving, gracious, steadfast and faithful God who desires to redeem His people to Himself at all costs.
P.S. If you are interested in learning more about how to study the Scriptures and seeing Jesus as the central figure then check out: www.gospelcenteredbiblestudy.com