If we were to simulate an evangelistic conversation where you had forty-five seconds to explain the gospel to a person unfamiliar with the Bible, what would you say? Of course, you can’t say everything, so which components would you include, and which components would you omit? Grace? Love? Christ? The Trinity? The elements you choose to include and those you choose to omit tend to reveal what you regard to be the essential components of the gospel.
Would faith or repentance be among the elements you would choose to include? If these concepts would not be included in your presentation, perhaps it’s because faith and repentance are often categorized as responses to the gospel rather than as part of the content of the gospel. In one sense, this is an important distinction. Yet, it’s worth noting that Scripture rarely mentions the gospel apart from the appropriate response of the gospel.
Can you imagine what it would have been like for the two disciples on the road to Emmaus to learn Old Testament hermeneutics from Christ? I suspect not many of us, if given the opportunity, would miss Jesus’ lecture where He “[began] with Moses and all the Prophets, [interpreting] to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). What is it in the Old Testament that concerned Christ? Certainly, Christ and His work were foreshadowed throughout the pages of the Old Testament. Paul reminded the Corinthians “that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures” (1 Cor. 15:3–4). The death of Christ was according to the Old Testament Scriptures (see Ps. 22:15; Isa. 53; Dan. 9:26; Zech. 13:7). The resurrection of Christ was also according to the Old Testament Scriptures (see Ps. 16:10; Isa. 53:10; Hos. 6:2). It was in this regard that B.B. Warfield likened the Old Testament to a beautiful, unlit mansion where the advent of the Lord Jesus Christ turns the lights on so that we can more clearly see the beauty of what was always there. For instance, the book of Leviticus takes on a new sense of beauty when read with an eye cast forward on the new-covenant sacrificial Lamb and tabernacle of God.
Beginning to see the person and work of Christ in the pages of the Old Testament is an exhilarating adventure that often accompanies, or at least eventually flows from a conversion into Reformed theology. Yet, I suspect that even those of us who see Christ in all of Scripture often neglect to see a key component of the gospel foreshadowed in the Old Testament. Consider, for instance, Jesus’ words to the eleven after the Emmaus Road incident:
“These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.” Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, and said to them, “Thus it is written, that the Christ should suffer and on the third day rise from the dead, and that repentance for the forgiveness of sins should be proclaimed in his name to all nations, beginning from Jerusalem.” (Luke 24:44–47)
Here again is Christ’s claim that the Old Testament long spoke of the atoning death and resurrection of the Messiah. What is more, Jesus also claims that the proclamation of repentance and forgiveness was likewise foretold in the Old Testament. It’s significant that repentance and forgiveness are Old Testament concepts as much as atonement and resurrection. They weren’t foreign to the Old Testament. In fact, Luke praises the Bereans not for their brilliance but for their unwillingness to accept any new teaching that did not accord with the Old Testament Scriptures (Acts 17:11). The Apostles weren’t teaching novel doctrine; rather, they were teaching things that were in step with the doctrine of God’s old covenant revelation. Thus, even the frequent call for faith and repentance was not a novel New Testament phenomenon. Rather, the object of faith just became clearer—that is, He became incarnate.