Don’t Skip the Text: A Word on Commentaries and Sermon Preparation

I’m a preacher and in a very real sense being a preacher is a vocation and most vocations have tools. One of the most important tools that a preacher has are his books, in particular his commentaries. I own a lot of books and the majority of my books are Bible commentaries. I love them, I cannot seem to get enough of them. I love them because they are books about the Bible. I’ve made it a habit in my nearly 5 years in pastoral ministry to preach through books of the Bible expositionally.

That being said, I have lots of books on the books that I’ve preached through or I’m currently preaching through. Week after week I’ll pick up commentary after commentary on the book I’m currently preaching through. If it is reading through Logos on my Kindle or a good old fashioned printed book I’ll pick up at least half a dozen commentaries on any given week for my Sunday morning sermon. Every time I prepare I am faced with a temptation. That temptation is to jump into the text of the commentary and skip over the text of the Bible it is commentating on. I almost always have my Bible with me when I’m doing this exercise, it has its own tab on Logos or the Bible I preach from will be laid open on the front porch swing, desk, or kitchen table wherever I’m doing my sermon prep. It’s certainly sufficient in and of itself. I’ve read my passage several times through before I even begin to read Bible commentaries, so it seems natural and okay to skip over the presentation of the text in the commentaries, but don’t do it!

Anytime you have the opportunity to read over the text again as you prepare to peach it is a good thing. I’ve made connections by reading through the passage I’m preaching in a commentary that I’m not sure I would have made otherwise. When you read the Bible in a commentary you are using you have the opportunity to do several things. You will often get a different translation that you preach from. I preach from the ESV but the commentaries I read regularly expose me to the NASB, KJV, NIV, an authors own translation, and of course others that aren’t quite so common. I find exposure to those other translations is often helpful. You also get to see the Bible in a different format. This might sound silly, but sometimes just seeing the Bible laid out differently allows you to see things in the text you might miss where there is a page or paragraph break. And again, you get exposure to the text again. If the point of expository preaching is to proclaim the point of the passage, the more exposure the better. I do not know of anyone who really can say they have read their Bible too often. Read the text and read it often!

The Object of our Admiration and Love: A Gospel Cordial from Jonathan Edwards

But is there any thing which Christians can find in heaven or earth, so worthy to be the objects of their admiration and love, their earnest and longing desires, their hope and their rejoicing, and their fervent zeal, as those things that are held forth to us in the gospel of Jesus Christ? in which not only are things declared most worthy to affect us, but they are exhibited in the most affecting manner. The glory and beauty of the blessed Jehovah, which is most worthy in itself to be the object of our admiration and love, is there exhibited in the most affecting manner that can be conceived of, as it appears, shining in all its lustre, in the face of an incarnate, infinitely loving, meek, compassionate, dying Redeemer. All the virtues of the Lamb of God, his humility, patience, meekness, submission, obedience, love and compassion, are exhibited to our view in a manner the most tending to move our affections of any that can be imagined; as they all had their greatest trial, and their highest exercise, and so their brightest manifestation, when he was in the most affecting circumstances; even when he was under his last sufferings, those unutterable and unparalleled sufferings he endured from his tender love and pity to us. There also, the hateful nature of our sins is manifested in the most affecting manner possible; as we see the dreadful effects of them in what our Redeemer, who undertook to answer for us, suffered for them. And there we have the most affecting manifestation of God’s hatred of sin, and his wrath and justice in punishing it; as we see his justice in the strictness and inflexibleness of it, and his wrath in its terribleness, in so dreadfully punishing our sins, in one, who was infinitely dear to him and loving to us. So has God disposed things in the affair of our redemption, and in his glorious dispensations, revealed to us in the gospel, as though every thing were purposely contrived in such a manner as to have the greatest possible tendency to reach our hearts in the most tender part, and move our affections most sensibly and strongly. How great cause have we therefore to be humbled to the dust that we are no more affected!

From A Treatise Concerning Religious Affections

Holman Old Testament Commentary Set: A Review

I recently received the Holman Old Testament Commentary Set. I’ll be perfectly honest, it wasn’t a set I normally would have given much attention to. Typically inexpensive commentaries that aren’t the most academic don’t catch my attention. However, I must confess I have been pleasantly surprised with Holman Old Testament Commentary series. The series covers every book of the Old Testament. They are not the most detailed of commentaries like many academic series are, but the HOTC does a good job of covering the main details that need to be covered without getting bogged down in the minor details that truthfully most preachers aren’t going to share in their preaching and teaching. One of the things these volumes do really well is it’s chapter and verse divisions of the Biblical text. The teaching outlines can certainly be used by anyone preaching or teaching the Biblical text. One of the interesting things about this series is that every chapter begins with a quote. Each quote comes from a different person and deals with the subject matter of the chapter at hand. These intrigued me and sometimes they’ve found themselves worked into a sermon. While, not every volume is identical, some give a slightly different layout concerning application than others. Certainly like with any set of commentaries particular volumes are much better than others. The two volumes by Steve Lawson on the Psalms are my favorites so far. All and all though, I’ve found these volumes to be rather beneficial.

These volumes might not be the beneficial to the student writing an academic paper, but to pastors and teachers I find them to be worthwhile volumes. I think these would take a valuable place in a church library, or in a pastor’s study. One group that could benefit tremendously from these volumes would be Sunday School teachers. All of that being said, they certainly could find themselves in anyone’s library who is a student of scripture, teacher or not, and have great benefit to their readers. On top of all of this they come at a great price of only $19.99 per volume for a hardback, that’s pretty hard to beat. If you are interested in purchasing the series you can find them here through B&H Publishing.

Restless in the Home: A Review

A good friend of mine Chris Canuel has written a wonderful little study on the Christian life in the home. I’ll not post a long review because the work itself isn’t very long. 

Restless in the Home is a wonderful and beneficial little book. Canuel takes a biblical look at marriage and family and presents it before his readers in a very honest and practical way. No one has a perfect marriage and no one has a perfect family because no one is perfect; and this is the honesty of this little book. Canuel’s book doesn’t leave its readers beat up in their shortcomings it takes its readers straight to Jesus. The discussion questions at the end of each chapter can be used for personal study or could be used in a small group setting. I gladly recommend the reading of this book and serious evaluation of its discussion questions at the end of each chapter.

As someone in ministry I can definitely foresee using this book in counseling, particularly marriage counseling. I commend this book to your reading and study. My wife and I both have read it and have gleaned from its pages and discussing the questions therein. The book is at an excellent price for only $.99 on Kindle and $3.59 for the print edition. You won’t go wrong with reading this book.