New Wine and Old Skin, Part II: Addressing the Contemporary Chinese Church with Redemptive Historical Preaching

Editor’s note: This article is the second in a three-part series by a Chinese house church pastor in response to a preaching workshop conducted in Shanghai by a prominent American pastor. The workshop focused on how to preach the gospel, and in particular Christ, through the book of Genesis. The China Partnership is thankful to this pastor for assistance with developing a curriculum on gospel-centered preaching. Check out Part 1 and Part 3 to complete the series.

[An American pastor] has helped train the [Chinese] pastors on Christ-centered preaching and he emphasizes that the story of redemptive history should be preached in every single sermon. We first need to come to a common ground. When Paul said in 1 Corinthians 2:2, “For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified,” and when the believers and apostles of the first century church kept proclaiming that Jesus is Christ in the temple, in their houses, and in front of the Jews and Greeks, the message they proclaimed was the gospel message framed in the structure of creation, fall, redemption, and consummation.

In [the pastor’s] syllabus, he states that there are only two ways of reading the scripture. Essentially, I can read it as if it is about me and what I must do, or I can read it about Jesus and what he has already done. Only two ways of interpreting scripture can be developed from these two perspectives – namely, moralistic interpretation and Christ-centered interpretation. With this in mind, all sermons by default tell us what to do in order to advance morally if they are not preached on Jesus and what he has done to stimulate response from human hearts. When Paul says that the gospel is the power of God, he implies the inner change and life transformation brought about by the former response.

Now the simple question we encounter here is how to proclaim Jesus’ story in every time of worship? We cannot preach only from the gospels every Sunday. I’ve had these questions and have been challenged by the doubts of others when I’ve studied Christ-centered preaching. How can we preach Christ’s story naturally in every sermon rather than falling into the trap of doctrinarism? This question is exactly where our confusion lies. If every passage rigidly points to the exaltation and imitation of Christ without proper transition, then we can fall back into moralistic teachings.

The best teaching [the pastor] brought us was how we can transition a passage from its micro context into the macro context of the biblical, redemptive narrative and he himself demonstrated the beauty of Christ-centered preaching by preaching from an Old Testament passage. His points were as follows.

First, pointing Old Testament passages to Christ is abundantly practical.

One way to approach the Old Testament is to seek the solution for the issues addressed in its passages. Only Christ can answer these issues; for example, the issue of kings and the kingdom. The Israelites kept appealing to judges and kings, but all of their successes and failures demonstrate the fact that the Israelites yearned for a real king, whose place no human king can take.

Another way to interpret the Old Testament is by seeking the end of the story, for only Jesus finishes the great narrative of the Bible. For example, who else can fill the vast emptiness after the fall of man? We can approach the Old Testament with a law-receiving perspective. For example, we can look at the story of Abraham interceding for Sodom and see the motif that God is willing to forgive many because of the righteousness of a few. Only Jesus, who took the punishment for our sake, is the final righteousness according to the law and enables us to fulfill the law. We have fulfilling symbolism, as well. Only Jesus fulfills all the great symbolism in scripture; prophets, priests, kings, the Passover, the copper snake, and the temple all point to Jesus Christ.

The second point is that we should put the gospel segments into the framework of a theology of redemptive history, so that we can lead our audience to worship Christ. Redemptive history leads us through creation, fall, redemption and restoration.

In the book of Acts, Paul preached the gospel in various occasions. Looking at Paul’s preaching to different people in chapters 13, 14 and 17, we generally see that a gospel that proclaims Jesus is Christ includes four points. It proclaims the idea of creation, that there is a God who is the Creator of heaven and earth. It explains the fall of humanity and that God asks humans to repent because worshiping idols, false gods, and things of vanity are all sins. The gospel proclaims redemption through Jesus Christ, who is the messiah of the Jews and the savior of all human beings. Lastly, it teaches the final consummation; we can accept the atonement of God and be justified in Christ.


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This is the redemptive historical framework that we talk about. If we analyze the preaching of other apostles in Acts, such as Peter and Stephan’s preaching, their sermons had different emphases according to the variation of their audience, but the messages they preached always fell into this redemptive historical framework. For example Peter, who addressed the Jews who came to offer their sin offerings when he preached the Pentecostal sermon, preached mainly on redemption and transformation. Additionally, the Holy Land and temple that Stephan emphasized pointed to the righteous man, Christ. Stephan’s sermon was about interpreting the fulfillment of symbolism and a message of redemption. Therefore, we should say that redemptive historical preaching is an approach that we can find in the Bible itself.

How can an Old Testament passage that has already found its way to Christ be placed into such a redemptive historical theological framework? We can see in scripture the theme of God’s original purpose for creation and how the fall points to the unfulfilled nature of that theme. Redemption and transformation is about the unfulfilled theme being fulfilled perfectly by God because of the work of Christ. The story waiting to be finished is God’s creation plan, with the fall introducing the suspense of an unfinished story, and redemption and transformation through the work of Christ ending the story perfectly in the final chapter.

We can say that creation is the theme that is waiting to be finished, the story waiting to end, the symbolism waiting to be fulfilled, the law waiting to be obeyed. The fall is the theme with no answer, the story with suspension, the superficial symbolism, the law disobeyed. In the final analyses, we draw Christ in and point out that only Christ can bring a solution to the theme, finalize the story, realize the symbolism, and fulfill the law.

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Further Reading

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Qingdao: How to Pray
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Qingdao: Locals and Outsiders
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Qingdao: Good Soil for the Gospel
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LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA

With rising pressure and persecution in China, there are two challenges imperative for church leaders. The first challenge is for current leaders to love Christ above all else, and not to stray into legalism or love of the world. The second challenge is to raise up the next generation of leaders, who will humbly model Jesus even if current leaders are arrested.

WILL YOU JOIN US IN PRAYING FOR LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT IN CHINA? PRAY FOR:

  1. Current leaders to grow in their daily walks with Christ
  2. Current leaders to shepherd and raise up new leaders
  3. New leaders who love Christ and will model him to the world
  4. New leaders to love and care for the church

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ABOUT LEADERSHIP DEVELOPMENT

About Shenyang

Shenyang is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Liaoning Province. It is known for its rich history and cultural heritage, including the Shenyang Imperial Palace, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. Shenyang is also a hub for China’s heavy industry, with companies such as the China First Automobile Group and the Shenyang Aircraft Corporation having their headquarters in the city.

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About Qingdao

Qingdao is a city located in eastern China and is famous for its beaches, beer, and seafood. The city is home to several landmarks, including the Zhanqiao Pier and the Badaguan Scenic Area. Qingdao is also a major port and has a thriving economy, with industries such as electronics, petrochemicals, and machinery.

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About Xiamen

Xiamen is a city located in southeastern China and is a popular tourist destination known for its beautiful coastal scenery, including Gulangyu Island, which is a UNESCO World Heritage site. The city is also a hub for China’s high-tech industry, with companies such as Huawei and ZTE having research and development centers in Xiamen.

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About Chongqing

Chongqing is a city located in southwestern China and is a major economic center in the region. The city is known for its spicy cuisine, especially its hot pot dishes, and is also famous for the Three Gorges Dam, the world’s largest hydroelectric dam. Chongqing is also home to several historic sites, including the Dazu Rock Carvings, which are UNESCO World Heritage sites.

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About Nanjing

Nanjing is a city located in eastern China and is the capital of Jiangsu Province. It is one of China’s ancient capitals and has a rich cultural history, including the Ming Xiaoling Mausoleum, the Nanjing City Wall, and the Confucius Temple. Nanjing is also a modern city with a thriving economy and is home to several universities, including Nanjing University and Southeast University.

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About Changchun

Changchun is a city located in northeastern China and is the capital of Jilin Province. It is known for its rich cultural heritage and is home to several historical landmarks such as the Puppet Emperor’s Palace and the Jingyuetan National Forest Park. Changchun is also a hub for China’s automotive industry, with several major automobile manufacturers having their headquarters in the city.

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About Guangzhou

Guangzhou, also known as Canton, is a city located in southern China and is the capital of Guangdong Province. It is one of the country’s largest and most prosperous cities, serving as a major transportation and trading hub for the region. Guangzhou is renowned for its modern architecture, including the Canton Tower and the Guangzhou Opera House, as well as its Cantonese cuisine, which is famous for its variety and bold flavors. The city also has a rich history, with landmarks such as the Chen Clan Ancestral Hall, the Sun Yat-sen Memorial Hall, and the Temple of the Six Banyan Trees. Additionally, Guangzhou hosts the annual Canton Fair, the largest trade fair in China.

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About Kunming

Kunming is a city located in southwest China and is the capital of Yunnan Province. Known as the “City of Eternal Spring” for its mild climate, Kunming is a popular tourist destination due to its natural beauty and cultural diversity. The city is home to several scenic spots, including the UNESCO World Heritage Site of the Stone Forest, Dian Lake, and the Western Hills. Kunming is also famous for its unique cuisine, which features a mix of Han, Yi, and Bai ethnic flavors. The city has a rich cultural history, with ancient temples and shrines like the Yuantong Temple and the Golden Temple, and it’s also a hub for Yunnan’s ethnic minority cultures, such as the Yi and Bai peoples.

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About Shenzhen

Shenzhen is a city located in southeastern China and is one of the country’s fastest-growing metropolises. The city is renowned for its thriving tech industry, with companies such as Huawei, Tencent, and DJI having their headquarters in Shenzhen. The city also has a vibrant cultural scene, with numerous museums, art galleries, and parks. Shenzhen is also known for its modern architecture, such as the Ping An Finance Center and the Shenzhen Bay Sports Center. Despite its modernization, Shenzhen also has a rich history and cultural heritage, with landmarks such as the Dapeng Fortress and the Chiwan Tin Hau Temple.

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About Chengdu

Chengdu is a city located in the southwestern region of China, and the capital of Sichuan province. It has a population of over 18 million people, and it is famous for its spicy Sichuan cuisine, laid-back lifestyle, and its cute and cuddly residents – the giant pandas. Chengdu is home to the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding, where visitors can observe these adorable creatures in their natural habitat. The city also boasts a rich cultural heritage, with numerous temples, museums, and historical sites scattered throughout its boundaries. Chengdu is a city of contrasts, with ancient traditions coexisting alongside modern developments, making it an intriguing and fascinating destination for visitors to China. 

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About Beijing

Beijing is the capital city of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 21 million people. The city has a rich history that spans over 3,000 years, and it has served as the capital of various dynasties throughout China’s history. Beijing is home to some of the most iconic landmarks in China, including the Great Wall, the Forbidden City, and the Temple of Heaven. The city is also a hub for political, cultural, and educational activities, with numerous universities and research institutions located within its boundaries. Beijing is renowned for its traditional architecture, rich cuisine, and vibrant cultural scene, making it a must-visit destination for travelers to China.

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About Shanghai

Shanghai is a vibrant and dynamic city located on the eastern coast of China. It is the largest city in China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of over 24 million people. Shanghai is a global financial hub and a major center for international trade, with a rich history and culture that spans over 1,000 years. The city is famous for its iconic skyline, which features towering skyscrapers such as the Oriental Pearl Tower and the Shanghai Tower. Shanghai is also home to a diverse culinary scene, world-class museums and art galleries, and numerous shopping districts. It is a city that is constantly evolving and reinventing itself, making it a fascinating destination for visitors from around the world.

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