Archive for the ‘commentaries’ Category

Christian Liberty and Colossians 2:16-17

Colossians 2:16-17, writes H.C.G. Moule, are an appeal for “Christian liberty,” as earnest … as [Paul’s] appeal to the Galatians “not to be entangled again in the yoke of bondage.” But let us note well that the “liberty” he means is the very opposite of licence and has nothing in the world akin to the miserable individualism whose highest ambition is to do just what it likes. The whole aim of St. Paul is for the fullest, deepest and most watchful holiness. He wants his Colossian converts above all things to be holy; that is, to live a life yielded all through to their Redeemer, who is also their Master (p. 171).

Vaughan, C. (1981). Colossians. In F. E. Gaebelein (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Volume 11: Ephesians through Philemon (F. E. Gaebelein, Ed.)  Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House.

Commentaries on 1 Thessalonians

I just finished the Gospel of John, and I’m thinking of preaching 1 Thessalonians next. Any good commentary recommendations?

Biased NT reductionism: Matthew 16:21 as a test case

During my sermon preparation, I generally read through commentaries last. It is often a helpful exercise but it can also be frustrating. I never ceased to be amazed at the imaginative lengths some commentators will go to be accepted by their peers rather than useful to the church. Many commentaries are essentially commentary on the biases of the scholar rather than on the text of Scripture.

Compare the following two comments concerning Matthew 16:21 which says, “From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day.”

Donald Hagner in the WBC on Matthew notes, “That Jesus’ predictions in these passages line up with the kerygma of the church is not sufficient reason to reject the possibility of their authenticity,or at least of an authentic core. A variety of scripture passages were available to Jesus in understanding what lay ahead (e.g., Pss 22; 118:17-18, 22; Isa 53; Dan 7; 12; Wis 3).”

D. A. Carson in the EBC on Matthew asks, “Is it reasonable to think that Jesus could have predicted the details of his passion only if he read about them somewhere? This is not to question the applicability of some of the OT allusions to him; it is rather to question the historical reductionism of some Gospel research.”

Jay Adams on the Use of Commentaries:

Speaking of exegesis, how do you do it? Do you cobble together bits and pieces from various commentaries into some explanation of the preaching portion? Or do you do the hard work of figuring out for yourself what the passage says, using various commentaries to help you? Between these two approaches to the text, there is a large difference. That for which you have worked will come through in your preaching as authentic. That which has been cribbed from some commentator who did the work, will come through as inauthentic (unless, of course, you are an astute actor). Hard work requires using a goodly number of sources to help you come to valid decisions about a passage. But it doesn’t mean abusing them by mere copying. Are you guilty of this sin, preacher? If so, repent, and begin to do the right thing that you know, down deep, you ought to be doing. Rightly handling the Word of God is not only work, but a great responsibility.

Commentaries on the Gospel of John

On my way out of the office last night, my arms were half-full and I was running ten minutes late. As I was scrambling about to depart, it occurred to me at the last moment that I should bring home some work to do the next morning before heading in to church. Since I am currently preaching through the Gospel of John, I decided to grab some commentaries to read for Sunday’s sermon. From my shelf of commentaries on John, I quickly and instinctively grabbed the four which initially seemed best to me in the rush of the moment:

  • Morris, Leon. The Gospel According to John. The New International Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995.

  • Carson, D.A. The Gospel According to John, Pillar New Testament Commentaries. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991.

  • Kostenberger, Andreas. J. John. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids: Baker, 2004.

  • MacArthur, John F., Jr. John 1-11. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary. Chicago: Moody, 2006.

On the drive home, I took a moment to reflect on whether I had grabbed the “right” commentaries. I have only been preaching John for a couple of months now, so my favorites have not yet emerged in any kind of definitive way. But so far, I decided, my initial instincts served me well. If I were only allowed to use four commentaries as I preached through the remainder of the gospel, these would be my selections. At least for now.

For those of you who have preached through the Gospel of John—or are currently in the process of doing so—which four would you use?

Review: Holiness to the Lord

A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus

Chances are most expositors have never preached a sermon from Leviticus and in all likelihood they never will. Some attempt such a feat and quickly learn that they have landed their homiletical craft on another planet. Foreign, intimidating and obscure is how some might describe their view of Leviticus. Enter theologian Allen P. Ross who has penned a road map through Leviticus in his fresh work Holiness to the Lord: A Guide to the Exposition of the Book of Leviticus. Ross says, “I have written this book for pastors, teachers, and all serious Bible students who wish to learn more about the Book of Leviticus and about its use in Christian exposition” (9).

Ross is convincing and wants the reader to “recognize that Leviticus was and is one of the most important books of the Old Testament” since it “…lays the theological foundation for the New Testament teaching about the atoning work of Jesus Christ” (15). There are fifty chapters in all which are divided into five parts taking the reader through all twenty-seven chapters of Leviticus. The chapters are relatively short and technical matters are largely left to footnotes. One does not need an understanding of Hebrew to follow along in Ross’ text. All Hebrew is kept to a minimum and transliterated when used.

This volume has much to commend. The opening chapter which is the longest of the entire work (54 pages) is a one-stop seminary class on issues of authorship, theology, and background in Leviticus. Mastery of this chapter would give the reader a firm grasp of the message and setting of Leviticus. The author shows a keen awareness of the issues and walks a delicate balance between two extreme positions: one which ignores the OT meaning and only uses the text to teach Christian doctrine, and the opposite which ignores the fulfillment in the NT and explains only the meaning for ancient Israel (17).

Ross carefully navigates through cultural backgrounds and critical issues related to authorship opting for the traditional view of Mosaic authorship after examining, albeit briefly, the critical views of Julius Wellhausen and others. If one is looking for a more in depth study of critical issues and authorship related to Leviticus from a conservative/traditional position see Mark Rooker’s excellent Leviticus commentary in the New American Commentary series volume 3A (especially pp. 23-38).

One of the true highlights of Ross’ commentary is his examination of “Interpretation and Application of the Law in the Church” (58-66). Ross gives a concise yet clear picture of the nature and purpose of the law. His four-fold hypothesis is: 1) The law was the constitution of the nation of Israel, 2) The law revealed what was required to be in communion with God, 3) The law regulated the worship and purity of the people of God, and 4) The law was a pedagogue leading to Christ (60-61). He notes that all of these can be tied together in one of two categories: regulatory or revelatory. Ross writes, “When Christ came and inaugurated the new covenant, the regulatory aspects of the law came to an end: there was no longer a temple, sacrifices, or a functioning priesthood based on the Sinai covenant. But what all these laws revealed about the nature and will of God did not come to an end, for they are binding revelation” (62).

The remaining chapters of Holiness to the Lord move through the text of Leviticus in an expositional manner as Ross maneuvers through each pericope of the text. He concludes almost every chapter with suggestions for conducting an exposition of the text in question which should prove to be a great help for expositors and Bible teachers (e.g., 204, 238-39). In each chapter, Ross follows his own categories by noting theological ideas, synthesis, and development of the exposition. Also each chapter concludes with a specialized bibliography for each pericope. Here, students who want to go into deeper study will have no shortage of reference material to explore. One notable item is missing from this otherwise practical volume. There is no subject, author, or scripture index given at the volume’s conclusion. At the very least a scripture index would be helpful since Ross repeatedly shows connections between the text of Leviticus and the NT.

Saying this is a basic exposition of Leviticus is not a derogatory remark but a high compliment. Ross has arranged this study of Leviticus as if he’s cutting up a large section of meat for a young eater so that the experience is not left to those with only certain high levels of training. Most laymen will profit from this study and they should appreciate Ross’ attention to detail and application. Every expositor should have at least two or three commentaries on every book that he can reference for reliable guidance and trustworthiness and Holiness to the Lord is in my top three.

Some Resources for Preaching the Psalms

To those of you who commented on a earlier version of this post, I apologize. The first was accidentally erased. I would appreciate it greatly if you would comment again. The resources you recommended were excellent.

Prompted by Paul’s comment and recommendations here, I thought I would share some of the resources I have found most helpful in preaching & teaching the psalms.

My last post on the literary device of inclusio came while I was preparing to preach Psalm 73. Besides BDB and some English translations, I referred to the following three commentaries:

  • Marvin E. Tate, Psalms 51-100, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word, 1990), 226-239. I found Tate on this psalm to be very helpful (at least more than usual). The three volumes in WBC are most helpful in coming to terms with the Hebrew text, but this chapter in particular had a great treatment of how the psalmist begins and returns to the idea of “good.”
  • Craig C. Broyles, Psalms, New International Biblical Commentary (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1999), 299-305. Although heavy on establishing the form-critical context of the chapter, Broyles comments on Ps 73 helped me bring the more exegetical aspects of my study back down to a preaching level. Since this commentary is one volume on the whole Psalter, Broyles cannot go into super detail. Yet, in some ways, this is helpful in getting the overall gist of the psalm.
  • James M. Boice, Psalms, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1996), 609-615. Honestly, this is one of the few times I have referred to Boyce, but I really enjoyed the way he presented Ps 73. I found it was really helpful in putting simpler language to the conclusions I found in my study from Tate. I will be returning to Boyce the next time I preach from Psalms.

I would have loved to reference some others, but I just did not find the time. This time, however, these served me well.
Some other resources that I would recommend are the following:

  • C. Hassell Bullock, Encountering the Book of Psalms: A Literary and Theological Introduction (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2001). Not all the books in this series are extremely helpful, but overall this is a really good resource. Although in most of the book he takes a typical view of walking through the types (or genres) of psalms, chapter 3, “The Seams of the Garment of Praise: The Structure of the Book,” is a must read.
  • Tremper Longman III, How to Read the Psalms (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 1988. If you have never read this short work, it is helpful in a cursory understanding of poetry, parallelism, imagery, etc.
  • John Goldingay, Psalms. Volume 1: Psalms 1-41 (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2006). Unfortunately, this is the only volume from Goldingay’s series right now. I have read through this in preparation for a class on the Psalms, and I am really looking forward to the next volumes. He presents a fresh translation, interpretation, and theological implications for each psalm. Moreover, he has a helpful glossary for common words encountered throughout the Psalter.
  • Charles Spurgeon, The Treasury of David. Although I don’t agree with Spurgeon’s conclusions all the time, this is worth having for the comments from other great preachers and teachers, including names such as Calvin, Luther, and many Puritans (concerning this, see the quote here). A must have for the expositor.
  • David Firth and Philip S. Johnston, eds. Interpreting the Psalms: Issues and Approaches (Downers Grove: InterVarsity, 2005). This is a collection of essays on various topics related to contemporary reading of Psalms. Like all compilations, some are better than others, but they have an impressive list of scholars contributing. I’ve liked what I’ve read so far.

There are others, but this should get you started. What resources do you recommend?

I will respond to the rest of Paul’s questions in a later post.

%d bloggers like this: