One of the privileges of studying the Old Testament is finding the connections to Jesus. The Scriptures teach that the entire Bible points to him (Luke 24:27; John 5:39; Acts 3:24). While there are possible ways to make connections to the gospel, the challenge for the interpreter is to find the best, most solid connections. I’ve put together an acronym (TACTICS) to help me remember when studying so I can cycle through various categories and not always go to the same predictable formula. I realize there are more strategies that are helpful; this is just one set that I use.
One brief preliminary note. When making gospel connections, we can tend to go to one facet of the gospel (for many it’s penal substitution), but there are more components to the work of Christ. Broaden your connections out to include the birth, life of obedience, substitutionary death, resurrection, ascension, session, and return. Each facet of the goodness of Jesus is found in other passages. Broadening out our strategy for making connections and what aspect of the gospel we are connecting to will enrich our study. And if we are preachers, certainly enhance our sermons.
TACTICS for Preaching Christ from All of Scripture
Typology and Analogy
God has front-loaded the story of Jesus into the Bible beforehand. Through the events of history, elements of worship, and people involved, God has filled the Bible with rich anticipatory gospel content. Some examples of biblical types of Christ include Adam (Rom. 5:12ff), the temple (John 2:18–22), and the Passover (1 Cor. 5:7–8). Types include correspondence by way of people, objects, or events. Some interpreters are more narrow, and others are more liberal. That said, depending upon your convictions, you can adjust typology to include more or less analogy.
While there are possible ways to make connections to the gospel the challenge for the interpreter is to find the best, most solid connections.
Does the NT passage quote the OT passage? If so, this is a direct line. For example, Stephen’s sermon in Acts 7 touches a whole host of passages in the Old Testament, how did he interpret them? What about how Paul quotes Genesis 15:6 in Romans 4:9, 22? Or how the apostle quotes Genesis 21 in Galatians 4? Citation is often the clearest connection.
When you read through the Old Testament, you find several themes emerge. And when you trace their development in the progress of revelation, you find many Christological connections. Consider the themes of priest, king, temple, place, and wilderness.
Does the passage infer or suggest a connection? I find this to be the least sure footing, but it often can engage the imagination that drives you back down onto the more firm hermeneutical ground.
Getting your covenantal bearings will aid you in making connections to Christ. For example, Jesus is our federal representative (Rom. 5:12 ff), so finding the link to the covenant of works in the Garden (Gen. 2) is helpful. Also, see the relationships between Jesus’s work of others in their covenantal context (Moses, Aaron, Levi, David, and so on). Having covenantal bearings will allow you to find the promise—fulfillment motifs more clearly. The temptation is to eject out of a particular covenant context and fly over to the new covenant without doing the work to see how Christ may have fulfilled the particular aspects of the text.
Broadening out our strategy for making gospel connections will enrich our study. And, if we are preachers, certainly enhance our sermons.
Systematic theology is the study of a particular doctrine throughout the entire Bible. You may study atonement in Leviticus and see the way in which Scripture fills this out more fully through the sacrifice of Christ as its pinnacle.