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Fall in Love with the Old Testament

According to a 2019 Pew Research study, evangelical pastors are about 27 percent more likely to reference the New Testament than the Old Testament in a given sermon. Though the Old Testament makes up about three-quarters of all Scripture, far too many Christians neglect reading and studying it. As a result, they fail to see the richness of the Bible’s story and its full witness to Christ’s glories.

Jason S. DeRouchie’s central aim in Delighting in the Old Testament: Through Christ and for Christ is to help Christians see Jesus as they read the Old Testament faithfully.

He writes, “Jesus’s saving work supplies the spiritual light that enables one’s spiritual senses to see and savor rightly, and his saving work provides the interpretive lens for properly understanding and applying the Old Testament itself in a way that most completely magnifies God in Christ” (66). He brings readers along on a journey of rediscovering the theological significance and trajectory of the Old Testament, centered on Christ and culminating in his work on the cross.

Redemptive-Historical Christocentric Hermeneutic

Accordingly, DeRouchie, professor of Old Testament and biblical theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, proposes a redemptive-historical Christocentric interpretation of the Old Testament. This approach to Scripture “requires that we consider every text in view of its close, continuing, and complete contexts within Scripture as a whole to fully discern what God meant in any passage” (73).

Some Christocentric readings of the Old Testament unintentionally distort the author’s intended meaning by turning all texts into word pictures that somehow foreshadow and predict Jesus’s person and work. In contrast, DeRouchie offers a more exegetical approach without allegorical or artificial manipulation: “By Christocentric I mean that our biblical interpretation and application must in some way be tied to the cross for it to be Christian (1 Cor. 2:2). I also mean that we are to interpret Scripture through Christ and for Christ” (73).

Thus, this isn’t a book about looking for appearances of Jesus in the Old Testament, as if every verse must contain a hidden allusion to Christ for it to be Christocentric. Rather, it’s about how the Bible’s message is centered on Jesus. Everything in the Old Testament leads up to Christ’s incarnation; his fulfillment of its law, types, and shadows; and his work of redemption on the cross. There’s a big difference between finding Jesus in the Old Testament through hidden allusions versus seeing Jesus in the Old Testament through progressive revelation.

Old Testament as Christian Scripture

DeRouchie argues from Luke 24, John 5, and other texts that the adjective “Christian” should characterize all of Scripture since the Old Testament is about Christ, for Christ, and written for believers in Christ. All evangelicals believe that the Old Testament is Scripture, but some hold it at arm’s length.

There’s a big difference between finding Jesus in the Old Testament through hidden allusions versus seeing Jesus in the Old Testament through progressive revelation.

The way Jesus and the apostles treat the text makes clear that the Old Testament is Christian Scripture. When we ensure all Scripture remains hitched together, we avoid the Marcionite heresy. We also avoid antinomian tendencies and promote the Bible’s unity in a way that doesn’t discount its diversity and its lasting significance for believers.

Still, DeRouchie may slightly overstate his case when he claims the whole Old Testament is about Christ. Jesus says in Luke 24:44, for example, that there are many things written about him in the Law, Prophets, and Psalms that must be fulfilled. But he doesn’t say everything written in the Law, Prophets, and Psalms is about him. Similarly, Jesus’s post-resurrection hermeneutic interprets in all the Old Testament “the things concerning himself” (v. 27), but he never says every Old Testament text concerns himself.

Nearly every New Testament text about Christ in the Old Testament has some qualification about its scope (cf. John 5:39, 46; Acts 26:22–23). Yes, the Old Testament anticipates and culminates in Christ (Matt. 5:17–18). Yes, all the promises of God in Christ are yes and amen (2 Cor. 1:20). Yes, the types and shadows of the Old Testament find their substance in Christ (Col. 2:16–17). But does this mean the whole Old Testament is about Christ?

We need to be careful not to overstate our case, because readers might take the application too far. However, this is an intramural debate, where friendly discussion about degrees of continuity are healthy. Considering adjacent perspectives helps sharpen our own thinking and identify common ground. DeRouchie is right to delight that Christ stands as the goal and end of all the Old Testament’s hopes, pictures, and patterns.

Law vs. Gospel

If the Old Testament is Christian Scripture, how do we apply the law? Debate about the relationship between the law and the gospel is perennial. This question has special significance in light of the renewed emphasis on theonomy among proponents of Christian nationalism.

In general, theonomists assert that God defines justice most clearly in the Mosaic law, which should be the central guiding principle for both church and society. DeRouchie is quick to agree that God’s definition of justice informs all spheres of life, but he critiques theonomy—and by extension Christian nationalism—because it places too much importance on the threefold division of the law (moral, civil, ceremonial). Theonomy also assumes too much continuity between the old and new covenants, while it “fails to distinguish laws and justice that Christ would approve (appropriate for nation-states) from a politic under Christ’s leadership (something only realized in the church)” (221).

DeRouchie is right to delight that Christ stands as the goal and end of all the Old Testament’s hopes, pictures, and patterns.

DeRouchie navigates this issue by arguing that the Mosaic law doesn’t directly bind Christians in a legal manner. However, “we treat all the Old Testament laws as profitable and instructive when we read them through the lens of Christ” (193). The law remains both pedagogical and revelatory, which DeRouchie explains in detail in several chapters.

Delighting in the Old Testament is a first-rate guide to reading and understanding Scripture’s full testimony and its fulfillment in Jesus. DeRouchie lays a foundation for Old Testament hermeneutics like a skilled master builder. He reminds us of the gift God has given us in all of Scripture. Pastors, students, and church leaders will benefit greatly from this book as they continue to read the whole Bible with believing eyes.

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