A Defense of Christ-Centered Exposition: A Friendly Response to Eric Hankins (Part 3)

This is part 3 of Jonathan Akin’s response to the recent post by Eric Hankins called “Jason Allen and The Gospel Project.” Part 1 of Jon’s response can be viewed here & Part 2 here. Jon’s first two points are:
  • Christ-centered interpretation was the method of Jesus and the Apostles
  • Christ-centered interpretation takes into account the dual authorship of the Bible and treats it as one book instead of a collection of 66 books.
Part 3:
  • Christ-centered exposition bases the imperatives to live faithfully in the gospel indicatives of what Christ has already done for us

Eric’s lone interaction with TGP is with Chandler’s promo video concerning David and Goliath. Eric argues that Chandler approaches the text wrongly. Dr. Hankins thinks we should interpret and preach this account as living faithfully by facing one’s giants.

To say that the intention of the author of 1 Samuel was for his readers to interpret this passage as a way for us to live faithfully as one who faces giants is incorrect in my judgment. First, it fails to account for the intention of the Divine Author, and it also fails to account for the intention of the human author. The books of 1 and 2 Samuel are about the rise of the Davidic monarchy. The intention of the author in this narrative is to show that David is a better king than Saul.

Second, if the author intends for us to turn the characters of OT narratives into examples, then how do we apply this intention in other OT narratives? What’s the point of Genesis 12? If you lie about your wife and let another man take her into his harem, then God will plague the man and enrich you.  Are we to teach that lying is the path to riches?! What about Jacob and Esau? Deceive your old man into giving you the greater share of the inheritance? Seemed to work for Jacob! Most likely, using this approach, we’ll interpret the Samson narrative of what not to do, and yet Samson is presented in many ways as a hero who rescues Israel from her enemies by sacrificing himself. He is praised in Hebrews 11.

Third, why is it that we always assume that the authors of Scripture intend for us to identify with the Spirit-anointed king/hero who produces the line of the Messiah? This betrays our own pride. It’s similar to people who believe in reincarnation; they never were a nobody in their previous life. We can’t stand the thought of being bit players like the cowardly Israelite army. Why don’t we assume that the author intends for his audience to first and foremost identify with the stumbling, bumbling, complaining, cowardly people who can’t face the giant? Why not see this as the author communicating “you need a champion to save you”?

Fourth, the problem is that we also misinterpret the NT in this way. One key example is the temptation narratives. We act like the point of the text is that Jesus learned his verses in RA’s and was able to quote them to defeat Satan’s temptation. So, we need to learn our verses to be able to pull them out to face our temptations. Hide God’s word in your heart that you might not sin against Him! That’s a good word, but that’s NOT the primary intention of the story. Jesus isn’t first an example showing us how to fight sin; He is a Savior who succeeds where Adam, Israel, and we failed. That’s why in Luke’s gospel you have a geneaology ending with Adam right before this. The point is that Jesus is the New Adam who doesn’t give in to the temptation of the serpent. He defeats the serpent for us (by not bypassing the cross). We are not ready to live faithfully by wielding the sword of the Spirit to fight off temptation (cf. Psa 119 hiding word in our heart) until we recognize that we’ve failed to perfectly fight off temptation, flee to Jesus for salvation, receive His Spirit and are enabled to now fight a foe that has already been defeated. That’s the point of the David and Goliath narrative. The king is anointed with the Spirit and then goes out to fight the snake-armor wearing giant who has presented himself 40 days and 40 nights. Jesus is anointed with the Spirit at His Baptism and then goes out into the wilderness 40 days and 40 nights to do battle with the serpent.

Matt Chandler was NOT giving a whole sermon, he was merely correcting the common misunderstanding that the point of the story is that it’s not the size of the dog in the fight, it’s the size of the fight in the dog (heard a camp counselor say that once). The author intends for us to identify with the Israelites as ones who need a champion to fight for them and rescue them. Then, once we are rescued, we are intended to fight against the fleeing enemy who has already been dealt the death blow by our champion (chase the Philistines). The text does have something to say about faithful living, but only IN Christ, mediated thru him. Once the enemy is defeated and you have the Spirit (like David/Jesus), then you can face down the enemies, but not before. Don’t miss that step! All scripture must be mediated through the one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus!

  • Christ-centered exposition rejects false dichotomies

Eric trumpets Allen when he quotes “Be Expositional First and Christological Second.” This is a false dichotomy to say that one has to choose between being expositional and being Christ-centered. Paul seems to say that doing one is doing the other.

CONCLUSION- Christ-centered exposition is neither exclusively Calvinist nor Presbyterian. It was a method employed by great SBC preachers. One of the first places I learned Christ-centered exposition was listening to WA Criswell and Adrian Rogers. When first starting out in ministry I would listen to cassette tapes of these men preaching Christ from the story of Joseph’s bones in Genesis 50, the wilderness serpents in Numbers 21, the healing of Namaan in 2 Kings 5, and many more. We live in a generation that has forgotten Criswell and Rogers. I pray that God would raise up a generation filled with men like this who preach Christ from ALL the Scriptures!