#163 | What Commentaries Should I Use? [PODCAST]

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  • #163 | What Commentaries Should I Use? [PODCAST]
  • Welcome to The On Preaching Podcast, the podcast dedicated to helping you to preach faithfully, clearly, and better.

    In order to be able to expound the Scriptures, and as an aid to your pulpit studies you will need to be familiar with the commentators: a glorious army, let me tell you, whose acquaintance will be your delight and profit. Of course, you are not such wiseacres as to think or say that you can expound Scripture without assistance from the works of divines and learned men who have laboured before you in the field of exposition. If you are of that opinion, pray remain so, for you are not worth the trouble of conversion, and like a little coterie who think with you, would resent the attempt as an insult to your infallibility. It seems odd, that certain men who talk so much of what the Holy Spirit reveals to themselves, should think so little of what he has revealed to others. – Charles H. Spurgeon

    Like Spurgeon, I’ll assume you understand the value of consulting commentaries in your sermon preparation. So let’s get to a secondary yet significant question…

    What commentaries should I use?

    Biblical Commentaries. I would strongly recommend that you only use commentaries written by authors who believe the BIble is the word of God. Don’t waste your time reading guys or gals who foolishly spill ink writing commentaries that question, attack, or undermine sacred scripture.

    Best Commentaries. Don’t waste your money buying pretty commentaries to set on your shelves. Build your library by seeking to acquire the best commentaries on each of the books of the Bible. This may involve some investigation. But it will pay off and reap dividends throughout your ministry.

    Helpful Commentaries. The goal of your word work in sermon preparation is to properly understand what the biblical author is saying and doing. What does the text mean by what it says? Look for and utilize commentaries that help you accurately interpret the content and the intent of your sermon text.

    Critical Commentaries. By critical commentaries, I mean “heavyweight” scholarly works that address the textual difficulties, exegetical meaning, and theological emphasis of the text. Read at least one of these academic commentaries, written by recognized scholars, on your passage of study.

    Expository Commentaries. Expository commentaries are not scholarly academic works, nor are they merely homiletical or devotional. They generally reflect the work of longtime faithful Bible preachers and teachers who diligently emphasize getting the text right in their pulpit ministries.

    Homiletical Commentaries. What you will typically find in these commentaries are edited sermons. They may focus on getting the text right or getting it across, depending on the commentator. Don’t read these to steal sermons. Read them to see how others put their arms around the text to get it to the pulpit.

    Old Commentaries. Considering the history of interpretation when studying a text is crucial. What have Bible expositors said about that text over the centuries of church history? Look over a good older commentary to ensure you are contending for the faith once delivered to the saints (Jude 3).

    New Commentaries. Old commentaries are helpful in understanding the history of interpretation. In contrast, new commentaries may reflect the best of scholarship. Find the commentators who have done the hard work of surveying the best older commentaries and providing fresh biblical insights.

    Devotional Commentaries. Devotional commentaries are meditations on texts that focus on application. You may not learn anything about the text from them. But they may help you think through practical theology – how to apply the truth of the text to the Christian life, local church, and larger world.

    Recommended Commentaries. There are too many books for you to try to process on your own. Before you begin preaching a book, get advice from friends, colleagues, or professors you trust, and ask, “What do you recommend on Romans?” (Or whatever the book) Take advantage of good counsel.

    Favorite Commentaries. Over the years, as you keep preaching, you will develop your own favorite commentators. Reading them will be like conversing with trusted friends. Some dead, some alive. Some you generally agree with, some you often disagree with. Read your favorite commentators last!

    Limited Commentaries. If you are not careful, you can spend too much time reading commentaries. And it can result in diminishing returns. Strive to get the gold out of the hills as quickly and strategically as you can. Read to clarify, confirm, or correct your interpretation, and move on in your sermon preparation.



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    H.B. Charles Jr.

    Pastor-Teacher at the Shiloh Metropolitan Baptist Church of Jacksonville and Orange Park, Florida.