The apostle Paul resolved to know nothing but Christ and him crucified (1 Cor. 1: 22-24). I grew up in a tradition that interpreted this as requiring a simple gospel message every Sunday. So every seven days, the faithful saints gathered, and heard a message explaining to them how they could become Christians. And then an invitation to go forward was given.
Needless to say, the sermons traveled in a well-worn groove. If preaching Christ, or preaching the gospel, means a proclamation of how to become a Christian, and that is all it means, there are only so many ways to do this.
Early in my ministry I determined that it was necessary to preach from the entire Bible, and not just from John 3:16 and its close cousins. This meant preaching through Zechariah, and Deuteronomy, and Proverbs, and so on. And yet, the apostolic comment was still there. The Bible talks about a large number of things, and if the preacher addresses them all, then how is he preaching “Christ and him crucified”? Some challenging examples would be the prohibition of co-signing a note in Proverbs (Prov. 11:15), dealing with running discharge in Leviticus (Lev. 15: 13), and trying to figure out what the heck a parbar is (1 Chron. 26: 18).
Some within the Reformed tradition have tried to solve this problem by making every text into a launching pad, from which we may eventually get to Christ. This is described as “preaching Christ.” Not every town in the United States is New York, but I can start from any town in the U.S. and get to New York. But what this does is turn every text into a pretext. However well-intentioned it is, this attempt to get to Christ from everywhere overlooks a key element of how Christ comes to us in Scripture. We don’t need to get to Christ from any point in Scripture; He is everywhere already. Christ is the end of the law, to everyone who believes. The faithful preacher does not see Christ from the law, there in the distance. Faith sees Christ in the law.
Faith sees Christ in every scriptural truth, in every passage, in every story, in every proverb, in every law — taken as such. Christ is near us, in our mouths, and in our hearts. This means, not to put too fine a point on it, that when confronted with a text that is as practical as mashed potatoes — like the ones in Proverbs about rotating your tires or changing your oil every three thousand miles — we should not start with such a text, and work the message around to the point where we see Christ as the “tires” that will take us to heaven when we die. Christ is far greater than our personal salvation. Christ is Lord of heaven and earth, and everything in between. Such a text should confront us with the fact that we do not yet see Christ in the most mundane of our duties. But Jesus is Lord, and He is Lord of all. The mundane texts are not Mt. Pisgah from which we view the promised land. Every mundane text, treated honestly for what it is, is another square foot in the promised land. And even in the law, in the proverbs, in the stories, the grapes of Eschol are the size of softballs.