On David M. King’s “Your Old Testament Sermon Needs to Get Saved.”
The shadows and dust of the OT are inexpressibly enfleshed by the NT.
David M. King currently serves as the senior pastor of Concord Baptist Church in Chattanooga, Tennessee, which also happens to be his hometown. His nearly two decades of ministry there have allowed him to sharpen his christological approach to preaching. His Christo-centricity was first set in motion, however, during his course work at The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, where King holds a D.Min. The formalization of his christological convictions came after not only years of ministry experience but also formal education at both Carson-Newman College and Beeson Divinity School. King’s Christo-centric creed finds its culmination in his recent book, Your Old Testament Sermon Needs to Get Saved: A Handbook for Preaching Christ from the Old Testament, in which he aims to give pastors both an apologetic and homiletic guidebook, of sorts, for proclaiming Christ alone from the entire biblical canon. His intent is not to overwhelm the preacher or teacher with robust academic arguments for the theological necessity of such a conviction. Rather, his objective remains to offer a “simple and practical guide for preaching Christ from the Old Testament.”1
The operative framework around which this concise tome is crafted is a query once put forward by the late Haddon Robinson, former Professor of Preaching at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, who once asked, “If a thoughtful Muslim or a Jew would be satisfied with my interpretation of the Old Testament, could it really be Christian?”2 The author describes this question as the “rock in his shoe,” out of which the bulk of his homiletical convictions were first birthed. It is this proverbial “rock” with which King is concerned throughout his writing. Equally so is he burdened with bringing to bear this same conviction in the heart of every expositor of the Word. “If a preacher fails to interpret and apply the Old Testament in light of Christ,” King asserts, “his Old Testament preaching will inevitably be sub-Christian.”3
The book is neatly divided into a trio of sections which deal with, respectively, the precedence, the practice, and the product of a dogged christological exposition of the OT. In chapters one and two, King establishes the exegetical and theological necessity of Christ-centered exposition. Utilizing Luke 24, John 5, and Matthew 5, King strives to extend a concise yet comprehensive foundation for Christ-centered proclamation derived from Christ’s own words. The author is insistent, throughout, that relegating one’s christological sermons to only NT texts not only does a disservice to one’s church but also devalues Scripture itself. “You don’t have to rely,” King writes, “exclusively on the New Testament to preach about Jesus and the gospel and salvation and discipleship. The whole Bible is at your disposal.”4 This is so precisely because Christ fundamentally recasts the way the OT is read, understood, interpreted, and applied — especially considering that Christ is the manifest culmination and revelation of God’s person, as King discusses in chapter two.
From there, King elaborates the practice of preaching Christ from the OT, beginning with a chapter on how one might choose the right text. This segues into, perhaps, the keystone chapter of the entire book, which sees the author assessing the ways in which Christ fulfills OT Scripture. This lengthy exploration articulates well the various paradigms that find their consummation in Christ. In each of these instances, it is King’s assertion that one does not “have to contort the text to make a connection to Christ.”5 Indeed, it is already there if one is keen enough to see it. The author then provides three case studies in which one is made to see biblical examples of christological fulfillment and how that fulfillment often manifests in multiple hues within a single text. In chapter six, King aims to communicate the expositor’s obligation to not only announce christological fulfillment from every text but to apply that message, too. “Neglect the doctrine of union with Christ,” he affirms, “and you’ll undermine your application in every single sermon.”6 These discussions are, then, concluded with a set of chapters on the “problems” and “benefits” of such Christ-centered exposition.
If one has never yet delved into the rich complexity of Christ-centered preaching from both Testaments, King’s compact hermeneutic will prove beneficial and informative. The author’s helpful and insightful treatment on christological types is especially worthwhile.7 If one has been dissuaded from such a conviction, this book will surely offer enough reassurances to invigorate one’s christological exposition of the entire biblical canon. For those who have already committed themselves to stubbornly christological sermons, King’s work will provide a fresh reminder for the indispensability of such a conviction. Nothing, indeed, is more necessary in the pulpit than faithful, precise exegetical preaching, bringing to bear the work of Christ in the life of the church. “In His own life, death, and resurrection,” King says, “Jesus understood that He was the substance of all that these institutions depicted. He was the embodiment of God’s presence, the one in whom we meet with the Father, the final and perfect sacrifice for sinners.”8
The author makes a curious statement in chapter six, however, that is worthy of comment. During his discussion of how and why one must apply christological sermons, he iterates a few “underlying assumptions” which will usher one to “gospel-shaped application,”9 the first of which is the peculiarly worded preeminence of the NT over the OT. “The New Testament fulfills the Old,” states King. “It brings us to the point of the Bible — and as the point, it’s paramount. Therefore, we must also be right-to-left readers. We must interpret the Old Testament in light of its fulfillment in the New.”10 One might understand King’s argument as the exalting of Christ alone as the standard for all biblical interpretation and exposition. But, in so doing, he unnecessarily partitions the Testaments into a hierarchal structure, pitting one as “more important” than the other. The relationship between the NT and OT, however, is not so easily bifurcated. Chad Bird, author, speaker, and Scholar in Residence for 1517, expresses the connection between the Old and New not as a shouting match, in which one eventually out-volumes the other. Rather, he insists that the Old and the New are in sublime harmony with each other.11 Their unified conversation is akin to the raptured wonder of the Trinitarian union expressed by Christ in his Garden prayer (John 17:20–23).
One is, then, exhorted to read Scripture right-to-left and left-to-right. It is not an either/or scenario. The shadows and dust of the OT are inexpressibly enfleshed by the New and the redemptive scaffolding of the NT is illumined by the Old. The entire biblical canon progresses to exhibit the Redeemer through either raised or recessed relief — either through his wondrous presence or desperate necessity. There is, indeed, nowhere in Scripture one can turn where Christ cannot be found. Such is why one ought to be persuaded to steadfastly and, perhaps, stubbornly exposit Christ alone. “No matter how many true things are said about the text,” King adds, “a sermon is lost until the Lord Jesus Christ stands in the middle of it.”12 In the end, therefore, King’s efforts are successful in answering the petition put forward by that band of Greeks in John’s Gospel:
Now some Greeks were among those who went up to worship at the festival. So they came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida in Galilee, and requested of him, “Sir, we want to see Jesus.” Philip went and told Andrew; then Andrew and Philip went and told Jesus. (John 12:20–22)
David M. King, Your Old Testament Sermon Needs to Get Saved: A Handbook for Preaching Christ from the Old Testament (Chicago: Moody, 2021), 11.
King, Old Testament Sermon, 9.
King, Old Testament Sermon, 10.
King, Old Testament Sermon, 30.
King, Old Testament Sermon, 57.
King, Old Testament Sermon, 108.
King, Old Testament Sermon, 72–79.
King, Old Testament Sermon, 75.
King, Old Testament Sermon, 106.
King, Old Testament Sermon, 106. Emphasis added.
I am grateful for Chad Bird’s insight on this particular matter. His keen christology and robust biblical theology are ever an encouragement to me — which, you should know, can be further understood in his latest book from 1517 Publishing, The Christ Key: Unlocking the Centrality of Christ in the Old Testament, which will articulate similarly the necessity of Christ-centered exposition.
King, Old Testament Sermon, 20.