Redemptive-historical preaching is preaching every passage of Scripture, in light of its redemptive-historical context, showing how each passage relates to the grace of God which is ultimately revealed in Jesus Christ. In Luke 24:27, our Lord Jesus Himself employed this approach to the Scriptures, while preaching to the disciples on the road to Emmaus and showed how beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, spoke ultimately about Him. Thus according to our Lord, “the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms” were pointing ultimately to Him (Lk 24:44). Hence to properly interpret the Bible, especially the Old Testament, is to see every text in its redemptive-historical context.
This Christ-centered approach to preaching is much needed if one desires to see gospel-centered ministries flourish in our day and age. Despite the many objections hurled against redemptive-historical preaching, it is the approach which the New Testament itself follows in interpreting and applying texts. Redemptive-historical does not mean no application for the listener, as some have opposed, rather it is applying the text within the bounds of the redemptive-historical, Christocentric and eschatological nature of the text.
Dr. Bryan Chapell, president of Covenant Theological Seminary, is well known for his teaching of redemptive-historical preaching. His book Christ-Centered Preaching won "Book of the Year" from Preaching Magazine and has established him as one of the most recognized teachers of homiletics. In this first part of his teaching on redemptive-historical preaching, Dr Chapell introduces the redemptive-historical approach to preaching, what it entails and how it is different from other approaches. He bases this theology of preaching directly on the New Testament. Chapell says “Jesus Himself said.. in Luke 24:27. The scene is after the resurrection. Jesus was walking with the two disciples on the road to Emmaus. There we read, ‘Beginning with Moses and all the prophets he said what was in all the Scriptures concerning himself.’ For a biblical theologian, those “all’s” are all important. “Beginning with Moses and all the prophets he said what was in all the Scriptures concerning himself.” Since Jesus says that all Scripture is about Him, when we try to explain a text without explaining His redeeming work, then we neglect to expound the very thing Jesus said the text reveals. That is a rather amazing hermeneutical principle. He says it is about Him. So if we are explaining the text and fail to relate it to Him, then we have failed to say the very thing He said it is about. Not to relate the text to Jesus is to fail to say what the text is about… The point is not to force the text to mention Jesus. It is to identify where the text stands in relation to Jesus. Where does the text stand in relation to what God will be accomplishing in His Son?”
In light of this understanding Chapell calls redemptive-historical preaching as Christ-centered preaching. He says, “The term “Christ centered” is synecdoche for all of God’s redeeming work that makes us know and depend on His grace, ultimately provided in Christ. A Christ-centered sermon does not attempt to make Jesus appear where the text does not speak of Him. It rather demonstrates the relation of the text to either His person or His work or both. Thus these are also referred to as redemptive messages or grace-focused messages. Our goal in Christ-centered preaching is not to make Jesus magically or allegorically appear in every text. It is rather to demonstrate the redemptive principles evident in the text that are most fully revealed in Christ’s person or work and are necessary for our growth in Christ-likeness”. Here is the first of this four part series and it is hoped that pastors and preachers will benefit much from this outstanding and significant contribution of Dr. Bryan Chapell to homiletics. May much gospel-centered preaching be fueled and fostered by God in our day and age.