Calvin on Christ in the Old Testament

I’m thankful that many preachers and teachers in conservative and broadly Calvinistic evangelical churches are talking about Christ in the Old Testament.  I do hope it keeps up, but I wish people wouldn’t act like this approach is novel, innovative, or ground-breaking – as if this is the latest “cool new thing.”  It’s not.  Our Christian forefathers have been talking about Christ in the Old Testament for hundreds and hundreds of years going way back to the early church.  Seeing Jesus in the Old Testament isn’t new; it’s part of historic Christianity.

One great example of this is found in John Calvin’s introduction to the French New Testament (translated by Pierre Robert around 1530).  This introduction has, as far as I know, only been published in English twice – most recently in Thy Word is Still Truth (p. 271-282).  Here is one excellent example of Calvin speaking of Christ in the Old Testament.

“For this is eternal life, to know the one and only true God, and Him whom He sent, Jesus Christ, whom he has constituted the beginning, the middle, and the end of our salvation.  This One is Isaac the well-beloved Son of the Father, who was offered in sacrifice, and yet did not succumb to the power of death.  This is the vigilant Shepherd Jacob, taking such great care of the sheep He has charge over.  This is the good and pitiable Brother Joseph, who in His glory was not ashamed to recognize His brothers, however contemptible and abject as they were.  This is the great Priest and Bishop Melchizedek, having made eternal sacrifice once for all.  This is the sovereign Lawgiver Moses, writing his law on the tables of our hearts by His Spirit.  This is the faithful Captain and Guide Joshua to conduct us to the promised land.  This is the noble and victorious King David, subduing under His hand every rebellious power.  This is the magnificent and triumphant King Solomon, governing His kingdom in peace and prosperity.  This is the strong and mighty Samson, who, by His death, overwhelmed all enemies.  And even any good that could be thought or desired is found in this Jesus Christ alone.”

Calvin’s entire preface to the French New Testament is a beautiful explanation of how the Old Testament leads us by the hand to Jesus God’s Messiah.  If you can find this essay, I highly recommend it.

John Calvin, “Christ the End of the Law,” found in Thy Word is Still Truth ed. Peter Lillback and Richard Gaffin, Jr. (Phillipsburg: P&R, 2013).

shane lems

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