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