Carson DA (ed) 2013. The Scriptures Testify about me. Jesus and the Gospel in the Old Testament. Wheaton: Crossway
By Ross Anderson
8 Contributors: Alistair Begg (Ruth); Mike Bullmore (Zeph); Don Carson (Ps 110); Matt Chandler (Ecc 11-12); Tim Keller (Ex 14); James MacDonald (Ps 25); Conrad Mbewe (Jer 23); R. Albert Mohler Jr (Preaching Jesus from the OT).
7 from USA; 1 from Africa.
5 of the contributors preach from the ESV; 3 from the NIV.
This book contains the written form of the plenary addresses given at the national conference of the Gospel Coalition, April 2011, in Chicago USA.
- It is not a “how to” manual (how to read the OT in the light of the NT)
- It is not a commentary on the New Testament’s use of the OT
- It is a book with some examples of Christian preachers handling OT passages and bringing their listeners (readers) to Jesus and the gospel. We could call it “Examples of Applied Biblical Theology”.
- The different approaches to BT include focussing on the detail of the OT text; typology; the big idea and progressive revelation.
Chapter 1. John 5:31-47. Studying the Scriptures and finding Jesus.
The first chapter (pages 11-32) introduces the subject of ‘Preaching Jesus from the Old Testament (OT)’. Mohler spends most of the chapter looking at John 5:31-47; 5:19-29; 8:52-58 and Hebrews 6:13-20; 7:26-28; 8:1-7; 9:11-14. It serves as a good introduction to the book but Mohler, in my view, is guilty of overstatement when he writes
“We must find Christ in the Old Testament – not here and there but everywhere.” (p.19)
Such an understanding of Biblical Theology (BT) undermines serious exegesis of the OT and makes our preaching of the OT somewhat superficial (which I am happy to report is not true of the rest of the book).
Where he is very helpful is in showing us how critical BT is if our preaching of the OT is to be rescued from ‘moralistic therapeutic deism’. I think he is quite correct when he writes “moralism is the default mode for preachers” (p.25) and again “to allegorize … is an imaginative form of moralising” (p.26). A good understanding of BT is the one tool that will deliver us from this weakness once and for all.
Chapter 2. Exodus 14. Getting Out.
In this chapter (pages 33-53) Keller begins by showing just how central the Exodus is to the Biblical narrative and states
“If there is one OT passage that the NT invites us to read in a Christ-centred way as a paradigm of Christ’s salvation, it’s the exodus.” (p.36)
Keller is a preacher! I say that because just about every exegetical point he makes (the meaning of the text) is followed by an application (the significance of the text).
Like Mohler, he too warns of moralism in statements like “… going back into a form of works-righteousness” (p.39), and again in his conclusion on page 51. He uses the Exodus story to lead us to Jesus as our Mediator (just as Moses was in the Exodus), who saves us by his grace and not because of our good works (just as God did for Israel in the Exodus), and Keller ends by inviting sinners to come to Jesus who will wash them in his blood (for He is the True Passover Lamb). So without actually using the terminology of type and antitype that is what he is doing in this sermon.
Chapter 3. Ruth. From a Foreigner to King Jesus.
A few years ago I heard Alistair Begg preaching at the EMA in London and enjoyed a cup of coffee with him in a nearby coffee shop. I enjoyed ‘hearing’ him again in this chapter! (pages 55-66)
By way of three ‘Charcoal Sketches’ Begg shows us how, in the providence of God (grace again!), Naomi’s sad predicament leads to the conversion of her daughter-in-law Ruth, the birth of David and on to the Messiah Himself. In doing this he is showing us how the story of Ruth foreshadows and is fulfilled in the Christ event. And he does so without skimping on his OT exegesis (which is a common weakness amongst us evangelicals when we preach from the OT!).
He has a helpful section on ‘Preaching Christ from the OT’ and in particular his explanation of Yahweh as our “kinsman redeemer” makes the chapter a must read.
Begg moves from the marriage of Boaz and Ruth to Paul’s mystery of Christ and his church. And so Ruth 2:12 is seen to be fulfilled for us in the mercy of God as manifested in Christ.
Chapter 4. Psalm 25. When you Don’t Know what to Do.
MacDonald begins by encouraging us to preach Christ from Genesis 1 to Revelation 22. He makes the point (which we, perhaps, often neglect) “… that all who preached Christ in the NT pretty much preached him from the OT.” It’s a good argument for BT! (p.67. The chapter is 22 pages long)
He has some terrific phrases: learning must lead to leaning (my paraphrase); and “you get better or you get bitter” (p. 70 and 83). His exegesis of Psalm 25 is good, his application is limited and his pastoral heart very evident.
He tells us on page 84 that his “mandate is to show how this passage points toward Jesus …” He then asks the question “Is Jesus in Psalm 25?” His answer is a resounding ‘Yes’. In particular he says, we see Jesus in the Psalmist’s use of ‘O LORD’, in Jesus’ perfect example of trusting God in the midst of betrayal, and by our common experience of “Christ in me”. To me his last point is weak and somewhat artificial (or perhaps forced is a better word).
It seems to me that MacDonald has struggled with his mandate. He has simply “added Jesus on to the end”. Rather than end with a separate section called “Is Jesus in Psalm 25” I think he would do better to show us Jesus at the relevant verses as he preaches through the Psalm, especially so at verses 1, 6, 10, and 22.
Chapter 5. Jeremiah 23:1-8. The Righteous Branch.
This is a great chapter. Good exegesis, good structure, good application and a good grasp of Biblical Theology. Mbewe (p.89-102) shows us how to preach the OT as Christian Scripture and his sermon flows logically and naturally from Jeremiah to Jesus! His conclusion is clear:
“Who is this? [commenting on 23:5-6] You don’t need to search very far to realise that there is only one person across the whole of history who answers to this description. It is Jesus of Nazareth.” (p. 95)
His section on ‘The Lord’s Deliverance’ (p. 98-101) is important with reference to the present day troubles in Israel/Palestine. He makes it clear that Jeremiah is pointing ultimately to the Return of the Lord Jesus. These couple of pages have been a reminder to me that without a good grasp of the discipline we call “Biblical Theology” it really is impossible to understand Israel in the plan of God and whether or not the modern state of Israel should be understood politically or prophetically.
His comments on leadership are right on the mark and have particular relevance for us here at GWC as we seek to train leaders for God’s Church in Africa. He uses strong language:
“One of the greatest indictments of our age is the growing number of church leaders whose lives are a scandal even in the eyes of the world. They drink sin as if it were water and lead their churches into similar wicked lifestyles. You had better make sure that you are not numbered among them in the eyes of God.” (p. 92)
The “righteous Branch” is indeed our great God and King, Jesus Christ!
 A number of the chapters are weak at this point. These statements are not wrong, but they can be very misleading. They need to be clarified. Blanket statements like “Preach Christ from all sixty-six books, from Genesis 1:1 to Revelation 22:21. Let’s preach Christ …” (p68), and “The whole Bible … is about him” (p94). So does this mean that the meaning and significance of any and every OT passage is Jesus? Why bother then with exegesis? In my experience as a pastor and lecturer this understanding of BT leads young (and sometimes older) preachers to jump from a given OT text to Jesus in a way that leaves his congregation mystified. There ought to be a progression of thought and theology (progressive revelation) which all our listeners can follow. Alistair Begg is aware of this in his chapter and so is at pains to show how he gets to Jesus from Ruth. So is Conrad Mbewe when he writes “In the OT, we catch glimpses of him (ie Jesus) in the promises that God often made when the situation in the nation of Israel looked dark and bleak” (p94). And so is Mike Bullmore, “… we could say that the OT is pregnant with the gospel of Jesus Christ” (p129).  Compare G Goldsworthy in According to Plan.