Him We Proclaim 1.0

08 Jun

So let’s talk about the first chapter of Dennis Johnson’s book, Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from all the Scriptures. Hopefully you’ve read it, but if not feel free to comment if you can help spark good dialogue!

Ch. 1 is an introduction, and like any good introduction the author sets the stage for the rest of the book. The book tries to answer the question “How can I preach like the apostles, like Peter and like Paul; how can I preach so that Christ is the hero of every passage, the hope for every need, and the promise for every command?” So Johnson gives the thesis/goal of the book:

“This book tries to answer that question, first by arguing in favor of reuniting insights and disciplines the apostles displayed in harmonious unity but that sadly have become disconnected since then. Then it suggests perspectives and strategies to help ordinary Christians discover their Savior throughout Scripture and to equip ordinary preachers to proclaim their Savior convincingly and powerfully from the diverse panorama of Scripture’s genres and eras.” (p. 2-3)

After setting this lofty goal, he goes on to briefly discuss some “tragic divorces” that have occurred that make it difficult and/or suspect for us to understand and teach the unity of Bible like the apostles did. So he calls for a re-uniting of three divorced “couples”:
we need to reunite…

Old Testament and New Testament,
apostolic doctrine and hermeneutics, &
biblical interpretation and biblical proclamation.

Addressing the the reuniting of OT and NT, Johnson says:

“One major theme, to which this book will return repeatedly, therefore, is the unity of the Old Testament and the New in the person and work of Jesus Christ and consequently, also in the community composed of believing Jews and Gentiles that his Spirit is now assembling.” (p. 9)

Pp. 10-12 address the debate of “Can we and should we imitate the apostles in the way that they understand, interpret, and teach Old Testament promise in light of the fulfillment in Jesus the Messiah?” John bluntly warns that he will persuade us that we if we believe the gospel that the apostles proclaimed then we too must proclaim the gospel in the same way.

The third reuniting involves biblical interpretation and proclamation. Seeing how I’m still thawing out from seminary, I found great encouragement in these words:

“Exegesis itself is impoverished when specialization and professional pressures in the academy inculcate into faculty and students a model of biblical interpretation that aborts the process short of application, depriving it of its sweetest fruits.” (p.13)

He further goes on to say,

“Application that does not emerge form the purpose for which God himself gave his Word, will in the end, lack credibility and power to motivate hearers who hunger for the truth and mercy that is found nowhere but in Jesus.(p. 14)

In the last section of ch. 1 we introduced to three descriptions of Apostolic Preaching: Redemptive-historical, Missiologically communicated, and grace-driven. One of the fears that is often raised when trying to preach like the apostles is “they were inspired by the Holy Spirit, so they could ‘read between the lines of the OT’ without error, but we cannot…so we should not.” To this charge Johnson responds,

“There is a distinctly apostolic way of being Christ-centered, and it is this hermeneutic that places appropriate checks on the preacher’s hyperactive imagination, thereby assuring listeners that the message is revealed by God, not merely generated by human activity.” (p. 16)

Finally ch. 1 ends with a survey of the rest of the book.

So…let’s talk about it now. Feel free to bring up other issues. This is just to get things rolling.


  1. What questions or concerns came to mind as you read ch. 1?
  2. In what ways do you find it difficult to trace the unity of the Scriptures?
  3. Re-read pp.16 (last paragraph)-18 (first paragraph). How helpful to you is the phrase “redemptive-historical”? This is going to be key.
  4. To what extent is the “promise-fulfillment pattern” of redemptive history on your radar screen when reading and teaching the Bible?

5 responses to “Him We Proclaim 1.0

  1. jason

    June 11, 2007 at 5:04 pm

    Josh –

    I am not reading the book but looking forward to gleaning some wisdom as I read your responses to these questions.

  2. Josh

    June 12, 2007 at 1:32 pm

    Good to hear from you, Jason. Feel free to comment as we go. Glean all you want but make sure you give some of your good words, too!

  3. Mark D. Gedicks

    June 15, 2007 at 3:12 pm

    Hey Josh, Thanks for introducing this book to us – if he is able to deliver on what he promises, it should be very helpful.
    Let’s key in on that term “redemptive-historical”. I have to admit I feel as though I am looking at its backside – I’m guessing its pregnant but I can’t be sure. All I see is two words that seem to stand for a mindset – do you have any help in that category? It seems like a given to him, but what it’s givin ain’t clear to me.
    I love the drive to be Christ-centered but am left wondering how his thought process is different than mine. Makes me want to read the rest of the book – and by God’s grace, I will.

  4. Joshua Otte

    June 19, 2007 at 4:20 pm

    Had a great time on the back porch catching up on our reading.

    You asked, “What is the relationship between ‘redemptive-historical’ and ‘biblical thelogy’? You’re right, both are pregnant with meaning and significance. They are virtually synonyms.

    Biblical theology is the entire discipline that traces redemptive history.

    Usually, ‘redemptive-historical’ refers to the the hermeneutic, or interpreting principle, and homiletic of biblical theology. So in that case, it becomes a category of biblical theology.

    Johnson actually points that out when he says “Apostolic preaching is redemptive-historical in its PRESENTATION of the substructure of Christ’s person and saving work” (p. 16).

    Graeme Goldsworthy says it like this, “‘Salvation [or redemptive] history’ is a term that has come to be used in relation to a certain perspective in doing biblical thelogy, one that recongnizes a specific history as the framework within which God has worked, is now working, and will work in the future” (Preaching the Whole Bible As Christian Scriputure, 27).

    This certain perspective affirms that God has sovereignly acted in real history, setting up events that pre-shadowed the fulfillment that would be seen in Christ and his church. This stands in contrast to modern scholars who deny the historicity of the Bible and postmoderns who deny the historicity of, well…everything.

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