Can our preaching be Christ-centered without rejecting the original context of a passage?

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Well, there's been a lot of conversation going around about Christ-centered preaching. I would say that the danger of taking this approach is that you only look at the big idea of the grand narrative of redemptive history, rather than looking at the, what we will call the "micro-context" or the main idea of a literary unit, trying to understand the author's intention. So, clearly there are people who don't do the careful homework of looking at the main idea of a given passage, and they just try to look at the big story of the entire Bible. So, when we talk about Christ-centered preaching, we're not saying, therefore, get rid of the micro-context study. We're saying that we have to situate the micro-context study, which is absolutely important, but making sure that that is in the context of the big story of the redemptive story in the Scriptures.

And so, I would say that when we do this, we have to be careful that we don't allegorize the text, we don't over typologize, we don't force Christ into the text. We're not saying that every single verse in the Bible has a direct connection to Christ, but what we're trying to say is when we look at the big inter-canonical themes — as Don Carson talks about, inter-conanical connections — when we look at all of these themes, or when we look at certain types, as Paul says in Romans 5 that Adam was a type of Christ clearly the New Testament authors were doing this all the time with Old Testament passages. And so, what we're trying to do is carefully look at certain themes that haven't been completely resolved in the Old Testament, that can only be resolved in the person of Jesus. Or we're looking at certain stories that are incomplete without their completion in Christ. Or we're looking at certain types that are not completely fulfilled until you come to the person of Christ, or even the law, which is not completely and perfectly obeyed until Jesus Christ comes and receives the law, obeys the law perfectly. And so, we want to look at the gospel pieces that we find in Scripture and finding a connection to Christ.

Answer by Dr. Stephen Um

Dr. Stephen Um is Senior Minister of Citylife Presbyterian Church in Boston, MA. He also teaches New Testament studies at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary