Is It Wrong to Draw Moral Lessons from OT Figures?

"It’s important to distinguish between 'moralism' and 'morality.' One is anti-gospel, the other is a byproduct of the gospel. Moralism focuses on outward behavior and is generally encouraged for personal profit and reputation. Moral transformation and conformity to the will of God is rooted in the fear of God, the pleasure of God, and is demonstrably tied to the Word of God." - TGC

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JSwaim's picture

I'm glad to see this article on the TGC sure. Its a needed corrective to what I see as an exclusive emphasis on Christ-centered preaching that I hear in reformed quarters.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

I think "Christ-centered" is the right way to preach, but there are some mixed up ideas of what that means. This post is pretty balanced... I'd go even further on the value of moral instruction, though. That is, I think there is value even for the unregenerate, in receiving moral instruction. They'll be better human beings and we all need to live with them. Common grace.

But I wouldn't for a minute communicate that there is anything saving about being more moral. For believers, being more moral is the result of saving. For unbelievers, it has no relationship to saving at all.

The Christ-centeredness comes when we connect moral teaching to (a) man's utter inability to save himself and (b) God's gospel agenda of graciously transforming sinners into morally upright people through Christ.

Bert Perry's picture

It strikes me that if we're going to preach or teach from narratives, we have a need for a lot of humility in interpretation, as many things are simply not spelled out for us.  Sometimes, that's the fun of going through such a passage--simply to ask the questions, even when we don't have a firm answer or even a best guess.  It's also a great opportunity to connect things with what the person might, or might not, have known from the Torah, the Prophets, or others. 

For example, there is one lesson that we can reasonably infer from the fact that at times, polygamy didn't work out so well for David, Abraham, Solomon, and others, and we can connect that with the Torah's prohibition for kings collecting horses, gold, and wives.  There is then another question of what else was achieved, or avoided, that way.

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Quote:
It strikes me that if we're going to preach or teach from narratives, we have a need for a lot of humility in interpretation, as many things are simply not spelled out for us.  Sometimes, that's the fun of going through such a passage--simply to ask the questions, even when we don't have a firm answer or even a best guess.  It's also a great opportunity to connect things with what the person might, or might not, have known from the Torah, the Prophets, or others.

When preaching through OT narrative, it is best that you do so with the author's purpose in mind. Start with the big picture and narrow it down to your particular passage. For example, what is the author's purpose in writing 1 Samuel? How does your particular passage fit into that purpose? Are there any key phrases or words that the author uses in your passage that ties to that purpose or to other main themes through the book? I think this is a good starting point. We don't have to struggle with interpretation of OT narrative if we're attuned to the author.

Now, how we draw out its significance to our congregations is a different matter and does require humility and wisdom. The distance of your application from the text itself should determine that.