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Why Do We Preach From The Old Testament So Much?

By Liam Bunce

This Sunday I’ll be picking up our preaching series at The Ark in the book of Nehemiah. With that in mind I wanted to share some thoughts on why we preach from (what is known as) the Old Testament so much in The Ark. At The Ark we preach from the Old Testament quite a lot. In the last year two years or so we’ve preached from Genesis, Exodus, (the whole of) Ruth and now Nehemiah. I may have forgotten about other Old Testament books we’ve preached (though hopefully not ones I’ve preached myself!). Almost every Sunday people will read or pray out one of the Psalms or something from Isaiah (not just at Christmas!). As a slight aside, our name “The Ark” points to two things in the Old Testament; Noah’s Ark (a place where God rescued people) and The Ark of the Covenant (the box where chose to reside with His people). So we want to be a church where people get rescued by God and a place where they meet with God.

So why are we so keen to preach from the Old Testament? Here are a few thoughts:

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1. It’s all about Jesus (Luke 24v13-35)

Jesus is the climax of the whole Bible. After His resurrection, Jesus (unbeknown to them) spent a good 3 hours walking with some of his disciples who were still grieving his death. We’re told that ‘beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning Himself.’ (24v27) Jesus wanted his friends to know that the Old Testament was about Him. I wonder why Luke doesn’t record exactly what Jesus said to them. Surely that would have helped! But maybe the reason we’re not told exactly what He said is so that we’d search the Scriptures to find Him ourselves? That’s what I like to think anyway, and that’s another reason why we preach the Old Testament: It’s all about Jesus! I know I’m just scratching the surface when it comes to knowing Jesus through the OT.

2. ‘All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.’ (2 Timothy 3v16)

This was written by Paul before the New Testament existed, so ‘All Scripture’ applies here exclusively to the Hebrew Scriptures, which at the very least refers to the Pentateuch (first 5 books of the Bible) and possibly the whole of the Old Testament. If the Old Testament is the word of God, then God will speak through it.

3. If it’s Jesus’ story, then it’s our story

If the Old Testament (which is predominantly narrative/story) finds it’s meaning, climax and fulfilment in Jesus, then it’s our story (as those who are “in Christ”) too. It provides the back-story and context for Jesus’ coming into the world, so if we want to know and understand who Jesus is, then we need to know our Old Testament! It also tells us where creation is heading – to a renewed creation where God dwells with His people. God walked with His people in the Garden (Genesis 3), dwelt among His people in the tabernacle and then the Temple (which was full of “garden” imagery, like ornamental stone fruits and trees) and then the prophet Ezekiel looks forward to when the whole of creation will be a garden/temple (see Ezekiel 40+). If we don’t know the Old Testament then we don’t really know God’s Story.

4. Narratives are really helpful!

People love stories! Some modernists may dismiss stories and presume that if something is presented in narrative form it is of less value, but this isn’t how the people of God have seen things through the centuries. God has chosen to speak and reveal Himself predominantly through stories. Stories are not less truthful than lists or a systematic theology tome. Stories (to paraphrase Night At The Museum) bring truth to life. Or perhaps put better, stories cast light on the truth. Truth about God is easier to think through when it comes to us through the stories involving real people in real situations. Preaching the Old Testament stories, and indeed preaching as a narrative as opposed to a series of propositions about God (though I’m not claiming to be very good at this!), is really helpful for us as we look to meet with the living God. This is, after all, what all good preaching should lead us into.

So, this Sunday…Nehemiah 2! Why not have a read of it before then?

(The Ark meets on Sundays at Greenhead College from 10am for tea & coffee)

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Finishing Well – A Tribute To Arnold Bell

By Liam Bunce

Last Friday I spent the day listening to a church leader called Jonathan Bell teaching on ‘Finishing Well’. Jonathan urged myself, and the other “Leadership Training” students present, to consider how we’d like others to sum up our lives when we’re gone. How do we want to be remembered? What are we doing about it now?

How easy it is to take for granted that we’ll “finish well”.

The examples Jonathan shared of well-known Christian leaders who’ve messed up big time was a wake up call to anyone who assumes that  they’d never compromise their faith or integrity. The tragic stories of broken marriages, families, churches and lives shook me to my core.

It was perhaps the most sobering thing I’ve ever heard.

It was all the more sobering given that, as he spoke, Jonathan’s dad Arnold was seriously ill in hospital. I admired Jonathan so much for speaking with passion and clarity under such difficult circumstances. What makes it all the more sobering now is that Arnold sadly passed away on Monday, Jonathan and Arnold’s wife at his bedside.

Arnold Bell, who led City Church Sheffield and the Leadership Training course I’m doing, kept his integrity and faith in Jesus when it counted. I didn’t know Arnold well, but I’ve been fortunate enough to hear him teach from the Bible a number of times, for which I’ll always be thankful. Sometimes you know that what you’re hearing somebody say will affect the rest of your life. That’s what it’s been like hearing Arnold teach. I’ve seen so many tributes to this outstanding man of God from people all over the world. They honour him for his biblical teaching, faithful leadership, radical faith, God-centred family life and wicked sense of humour to name a few.

That’s finishing well.

That’s how I want to be remembered.

The apostle Paul wrote: “The time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. Henceforth is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous judge, will award to me on that Day.” (2 Tim 4v6-8)

Arnold will be deeply missed, but has left us with an immeasurable example to follow. For that I’m so grateful to God.

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