Can we become too Christ-centered in our preaching?

15 Aug

Dr. Terry Johnson says yes.  He writes responding to a trend, especially in some Reformed preaching circles, that the minister must find Jesus in every passage of scripture.  After all, the entire bible is about Jesus and God’s redemptive purposes in this world, right?  Excerpt:

What is the meaning of Psalm 1? The psalmist describes the “blessed man” as one who, on the positive side, meditates on the law of God day and night, becomes like a tree planted by streams of water, and bears fruit and prospers. On the negative side, he doesn’t walk, stand, or sit with the ungodly.

There is a school of preaching, called “redemptive-historical,” that has done much good in restoring “Christ-centered” preaching to our pulpits. I know something about Christ-centered preaching, I’ve written on the subject (see my The Parables of Jesus, chapter 2, “The Bible is About Jesus,” pp 29-39; and also The Case for Traditional Protestantism, chapter 3, “Solo Christo,” pp 47-74). More importantly, I have devoted Sunday mornings for the last 26 years to Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, and Acts, the latter of which the “glorious physician” bills as “all that Jesus continued to do and teach” (Acts 1:1). Once every 3-4 years I’ve interrupted my gospels & Acts preaching to do an epistle. Otherwise, nearly all of my Sunday morning preaching for a quarter of a century has been devoted to what Jesus did and taught, from right out of gospel texts. Calvin taught me this pattern of ministry. I concur with those who emphasize that “nothing but Jesus Christ and Him crucified” is the message of “all the Scriptures” (1 Cor 2:2; Lk 24:27).

However, the disciples of this school do what many disciples do: they go too far. Let me cite some examples –– they typically will preach Psalm 1 as “Jesus is the Blessed Man.” The problem with this is that Psalm 1 is not about Jesus. The first Psalm is the “gateway” psalm teaching us the rewards of Bible study and meditation. It is a wisdom Psalm that exhorts and encourages us to be students of the Psalter specifically and of all Scripture more generally. One might want to show in one’s sermon how Jesus is the best illustration of what it means to be this blessed man, though because the New Testament never portrays Jesus meditating on Scripture that might be a problem. Still, Jesus learned the Bible somewhere (in the synagogue probably) and used it mightily in battle with His foes (e.g., Mt 4:1ff; 21:33-34; 22:23-40; etc.). A preacher might also want to demonstrate that Jesus is the central message of that Scripture upon which Psalm 1 would have us meditate. However, the point of the Psalm is the importance of our meditating upon Scripture. To make “Jesus is the blessed man” the point is to miss the point, however true it might be. What difference does it make? We always miss out when we make the point of a passage something other than that which the Holy Spirit was intending when He inspired its inclusion in the canon.

Read the rest here


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