Dennis Johnson On The Credibility Of Christ’s Gospel

Although Old Testament anticipation (whether in prophetic words or in “types,” those “incarnated prophecies” embedded in Israel’s concrete historical experience) and New Testament fulfillment are bound together by strands of similarity, the move from promise to fulfillment, from “shadow” to “reality” (in the words of Hebrews) also entails magnification in directions that a rigidly “literal” hermeneutic could not have anticipated. The credibility of Christ’s gospel is not best served by subjecting Scripture to an interpretive grid that disqualifies, even in part, Scripture’s own methods in interpreting itself. Rather, our hearers must be shown persuasively the logic of apostolic hermeneutics, which are grounded in divine sovereignty over history, divine inspiration of Scripture, and the divine agenda that drives history forward toward the redemption of his people and the ultimate recreation of his cosmos. Blessed are we and our hearers, if we and they do not stumble over the surprising ways that Jesus shows himself to be the long-promised Coming One! Discovering not only that but also how Jesus fulfills ancient promises and satisfies ancient longings is indeed a God-given blessing, for which a supposedly objective “literal” interpretive matrix is not an adequate substitute.

Dennis Johnson | Him We Proclaim: Preaching Christ from All the Scriptures,, ed. John J. Hughes (Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Publishing, 2007), 143–144. (HT: Tony Phelps)


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  • Tony Phelps
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    Tony grew up in Rhode Island. He was educated at BA (University of Rhode Island) and Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary. He worked in the insurance industry for ten years. He planted a PCA church in Wakefield, RI where he served for eleven years. In 2015–18 he pastored Covenant Reformed Church (URCNA) in Colorado Springs. He is currently pastor of Living Hope (OPC). Tony is married to Donna and together they have three children.

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One comment

  1. Along these lines, something that hit me on my most recent re-read of the book of Esther was the obvious shadows of Christ. Esther’s action especially of standing before King Ahasuerus to plead on behalf of her people is a vivid picture that finds fulfillment in Christ’s intercession before his Father on behalf of His people. It’s been my pastor’s habit as he preaches through Esther to point out how Christ is the true and better king, how Ahasuerus is the worst and Jesus is the total opposite. In Christ, we find a king who is honorable, just, kind, not given to rash fits of anger, temperate, strong, and who identifies with his people; none of those things is true of Ahasuerus! These kinds of things don’t suggest themselves on a strictly “literal” (whatever that means) interpretation of the text. Only with the benefit of hindsight can these parallels shine forth.

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