I have a confession to make. I love Christian conferences. I love the crowds. I love the singing. And I love the talks.
The book that we’ll be reading together this month is a collection of the big talks given at The Gospel Coalition national conference in Chicago in April 2011. The speakers are all American bar one. And they are all, without exception, gifted preachers of God’s word.
This is a book worth reading slowly. Each chapter contains one talk. And if you have the time to take them in, over a few days or a week, the effect on how you come to view the Bible, all of it, may change. Chapter by chapter I felt it blow apart the way many view the Old Testament and in doing so made often neglected stories shine with deep glimpses of Christ.
Who is this book for?
The sermons are aimed at ministers but this is definitely not just a book for preachers. This is a book for anyone who has ever wondered how Jesus fits with the huge stories that are the Old Testament. For anyone who has never seen the gospel in there. For anyone wondering what you do with the small and intimate stories, with the heart-rending poetry. For anyone thinking the Old Testament just seems so strange and different. So, for everyone!
I found this book did two remarkable things for me: First, it gave me a fuller picture of Christ. And second, it generated excitement to read the Old Testament for myself. Eight different voices take a turn at shining the torch at different spots in the Old Testament and finding Jesus there. They are able to do this well because each author writes from the viewpoint of a coherent over-arching story running right through the Bible: one that begins and ends with Jesus. I have been taught this Biblical metanarrative before, but I am less familiar with how it can be used to dig deep into smaller passages of the Bible like this book does. And for that I’m thankful.
A case for the gospel of Christ in the Old Testament
Whilst this is a collection of discrete essays, the first chapter is meant to be read first and provides a helpful overview of what is at issue if Christ is not preached with clarity from the Old Testament.
It is a popular misconception that the Old Testament is a separate and strange book that just doesn’t fit with the gospel of the New Testament. And this is the issue that Mohler Jr., the author of chapter 1, gets straight into. He does this by looking at the church landscape in America, with many ex-Christian or “Christian’ish” but not Biblically reformed and asks, why? He makes a case that a large part of this is due to poor teaching of the Bible and in some cases total avoidance of teaching the Old Testament properly. He highlights how most Sunday school programs teach the Old Testament as a collection of moral fables “do this; do not do that” rather than as an overarching story with modern day Christians in mind!
Of course, as Mohler Jr. points out, the problem of the gospel not being preached properly and the hearers not listening is not just a modern problem, it is very old indeed. And it is one which Jesus encountered first hand. Mohler Jr. goes on to expound the importance of preaching and hearing the gospel as the keys to eternal life and looks at how Jesus himself does this in John’s gospel, setting out his case like an attorney, with four key witnesses that support his claim that he truly is the Son of God.
What is brilliant about going through these proofs is how key the Old Testament is to Jesus’ own argument, something we can be prone to forget. And ultimately, how this testimony indicts those that choose not to receive it.
The opening chapter concludes with a quote from Luke 24 that aptly summarises the importance of a book like this: As Jesus walks along the road to Emmaus with his unseeing disciples, (they don’t recognise him yet), “Beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interprets for them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself.” (v27) The disciples describe the very feeling we as Christians often feel when the Bible is taught to us and truths resonate deeply within us but have not yet found their settling place, “Did not our hearts burn within us?” (v32)
I pray that we would have that experience as the lights are turned on and we see Jesus revealed in the pages of the Old Testament through the sermons in this book.
About our contributor:
Katie is married to Andrew and they have three lovely children. Together, they serve at their local Anglican church in Sydney’s inner west, a short walking distance from their house. Katie is an occasional writer, singer and baker. Looking after the kids full time is by far the best job she has ever had.