Preaching Christ from the Old Testament

Dale Ralph Davis, who is renowned for his excellent commentaries on the Old Testament makes an interesting point when preaching from the Old Testament in his new book on the Psalms:

I do not take a ‘Christological’ approach [to the Psalms] and explain and explain these psalms as speaking of Jesus (unless they do, e.g. Pss 2 and 8). Why is this? Because I do not think that Jesus wants me to do so. Some insist that Jesus insists in Luke 24 (vv. 25-7, 44-7) that every Old Testment passage speaks of him in some way. That, I am convinced, over-reads (and misreads) the passage. Jesus explained to the disciples ‘in all the scriptures’ the things concerning himself (v. 27), and he referred to all things written about him ‘in the law of Moses and the prophets and the psalms’ (v. 44). Note the ‘in.’ Jesus did not say every Old Testament passage spoke of him; he rather took the apostles through the plethora of passages in all parts of the Old Testament that did speak of him or point to him in some way.

Dale Ralph Davis, ‘The Way of the Righteous in the Muck of Life’


  1. Hi Ben. Really glad I stumbled across your blog. Love it. On DRD’s comment. I’m a massive fan of his commentaries on the narrative books. (You’ll know who introduced me to them!) I do wonder though whether his nervousness about Christocentric exegesis and preaching is sometimes misplaced. Even if Luke 24 is not making a total claim about Scripture there are plenty of other passages that, while not being knock down arguments, point in the same direction (Mark 9:4; John 1:45; 5:39-47; Rom. 16:25-26; 2 Cor. 3:15-4:6; 2 Tim. 3:15; 1 Pet. 1:10-12). Again and again the NT authors treat the OT (and particularly the Psalms) as all about Christ (Acts 2; Rom. 15:3; Heb. 1-2). I note your intros to the Psalms in another post. I’ll have a look at them. I’ve been particularly helped by these: 1) Michael McClenahan’s talk at; 2) 3) Warmest.

    • HI Andy, Thanks for this. I’m glad you enjoy my blog it is just a collection of a few random thoughts.
      I think I agree with you on DRD. I love him but his reticence to go to Christ is I think a little misplaced, although in practice he actually goes to Christ quite a lot.
      Michael McClenahan’s lecture is superb and I would never disagree with Michael (he was my Bible Study leader at St Ebbes and he got me reading) I am more convinced by him I think. I remember sitting in his from room in Belfast discussing this very issue.
      I’ve been thinking recently that what needs to be done is to work on the taking it to Christ so that: 1) Not all sermons from the OT are the same. 2) There is genuine application which comes from the biblical theological approach. I think the crit of the BT approach often that the text is flattened and losses the application. I suspect the problem is not that the BT approach, but that the BT approach done badly. I need to think this more but this is what I am trying to do in my preaching. I want people to see how the Big story helps them today. I think when we forfeit the BT approach we end up saying the big story doesn’t help you just need moralism. I’ll think some more maybe blow.

  2. Completely agree Ben. Please do share some more reflections on this subject of how to preach well-applied, using-the-detail, cutting gospel sermons from all over the Bible. I don’t know how you’ve found things in SA but here I’m increasingly finding that a) preaching the gospel of Christ crucified, union with Christ, alien righteousness, grace, is so rare that whenever anyone does it it comes across as very fresh and new (even heretical) and b) non-expository, non-Christ-centred, non-BT preaching, though it aspires to relevance and freshness and practicality is often very samey (the same four applications recycled again and again), unattainable (total consecration) or superficial (outward rather than heart change). (And I meant to say about DRD that I’ve also noticed that he almost always wonderfully preaches Christ anyway.)

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