As we think through the Christocentric hermeneutic, we need to take a step back and consider the importance of preaching. Preaching is mandated by God, vital to the church, pivotal in our ministries, and, of course then, important to God.
Notice the wording of 2 Timothy 2:15, "Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth." Our accountability in preaching ultimately goes before the Lord. We need, therefore, to care about preaching, teaching, and getting the text right as much as God does.
So, we need to determine if we should preach Christ from every text of Scripture.
It is of the utmost seriousness when people suggest that preaching which is not Christocentric does not honor Christ. I'm confident that none of us want to be guilty of dishonoring our Savior. Rather, we want to exalt Christ and proclaim the truth. Such a suggestion should make us wonder if expository preaching, based upon a grammatical-historical hermeneutic, is sufficient to honor the Lord Jesus Christ.
Explaining the Christocentric Hermeneutic
In essence, the Christocentric hermeneutic attempts to find Christ as the subject or topic of every text. It desires to show that every text relates directly to Christ, which is why some say it is the only true method of Christian preaching.
We need to have confidence that the hermeneutical method prescribed in Scripture
is sufficient to showcase the complete glory of Christ.
The problem ensues when the Christocentric hermeneutic applies this mindset to texts that do not call for it. Some of the results should make you feel a bit uncomfortable.
For example, the Christocentric hermeneutic has argued the darkness that surrounded Abraham at the founding of the Abrahamic covenant parallels Christ's own darkness at the cross. Samson's rejection of his tribe mirrors how Jesus would be rejected. David and Goliath is a picture of how the ultimate David will re-vanquish sin, Satan, and death. The death of Nathan at the hand of false witness is a picture of Christ's own death at the hand of false witness. Esther's willingness to sacrifice her own life is a picture of the willingness of Jesus to sacrifice His own life. These are just some of the ways the Christocentric hermeneutic interprets Scripture.
Why does the Christocentric hermeneutic approach the text the way it does?
Supporters of this hermeneutic point to texts like 1 Corinthians 1:23, 1 Corinthians 2:2, and 2 Corinthians 4:5 which speak of preaching Christ to say that there is a biblical mandate to do this in every sermon.
People using the Christocentric hermeneutic argue that the way the NT uses the OT justifies their method. They contend that based upon the very words of Jesus (Luke 24:45), there is a deeper meaning of the OT scriptures, one that the prophets were not necessarily aware of. Thus, to fully understand the OT, the believer should access the full Christological and typological meaning of the OT unlocked by Christ.
Evaluating the Christocentric Hermeneutic
We should first consider the positives of this hermeneutical approach.
It's great that supporters of this hermeneutic stress theology in an age devoid of doctrine. It's wonderful that they emphasize the unity of Scripture and redemptive history. God does have a plan, and we need to acknowledge it. It is also good that they want to support their position based on Scripture.
However, there are problems with the method. The passages that the Christocentric hermeneutic appeals to do not necessarily warrant their approach. 1 Corinthians 1:23, 1 Corinthians 2:2, and 2 Corinthians 4:5 contextually do not speak of preaching Christ as the only doctrine of Scripture. After all, Paul does not do that. He speaks of various doctrines from the OT, like the resurrection (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:54-55). Instead, these passages speak of preaching Christ as opposed to one’s self (2 Corinthians 4:5) as the central point of the gospel message (1 Corinthians 2:2). These texts do not go as far as the Christocentric hermeneutic desires.
Likewise, the NT’s use of the OT does not justify the Christocentric hermeneutic. Although the issue demands more attention, we can at least observe the hermeneutic of Jesus for answers. He uses the OT to speak of marriage (Matthew 19:5-6), eschatology (Matthew 24:15), and loving God (Luke 10:27). He does not reinterpret those OT texts, but appeals to what they say.
Along that line, Luke 24:25, a passage often cited by the Christocentric hermeneutic, states that Jesus affirms “all the prophets have spoken.” With that, He affirms the OT writers’ intent as what the OT meant in all its details. That is in essence a grammatical-historical hermeneutic. Thus, our Lord’s hermeneutic does not support a Christocentric hermeneutic, but a grammatical-historical one.
At this point you might say, "Who cares? Does this have any ramification on my life? Is this just an academic issue?"
This does matter.
You see, when we elevate one truth, it begins to exclude and distort other parts of Scripture. If we preach Christ from every text, we miss what those passages say on other doctrines. We might miss key truths for our lives.
Even more, Scripture has a perfect articulation of the truth. It is inerrant. It is the Word of God. By not handling Scripture carefully, we can easily misconstrue doctrines and the precise ramifications they should have on our lives. If we are going to handle all of life, we need the whole counsel of the Word of God, and that demands proper interpretation.
Establishing the Sufficiency of a Grammatical-Historical Approach
How do we honor Christ in our study and proclamation of Scripture? We revere Christ not only by exalting Him in the pulpit, but also by hermeneutical obedience in the study. After all, we have seen that Jesus affirmed the prophets’ intent as the meaning of the OT. This grammatical-historical approach is the approach of the prophets who are climaxed in Christ (Hebrews 1:1-2) and the apostles who were sent by Him (John 16:13). This is the hermeneutic of Scripture.
This does not lessen the glory of Christ in Scripture. Rather, it unleashes it. By studying the theology of the OT, we gain the full theological breadth of Scripture. This framework not only tells us truth and how to live, but also amplifies the person and work of Christ. We need to have confidence that the method prescribed in Scripture is sufficient to showcase the complete glory of Christ. We do not need to force a text to connect with Christ, but rather we need to invest the time and effort in seeing the way the biblical writers connect God’s Word with the Word. Then, as we exposit the full counsel of God, we can glorify Christ in hermeneutical obedience as we proclaim Him fully.