I know it was a slow blogging week for me (with my last post coming nearly a week ago recapping the weekend of 11/7 at Crestview). Last week, my leadership team gave me the privilege of a study leave in STL. I spent a few days there, studying a lot in the Covenant Seminary library. They were a great help to research I was doing on the book of Hebrews, prepping to preach that in 2011. I had many ambitious goals to attain last week and by God’s grace nearly all of them were complete. I had hoped to completely read through a commentary, but didn’t get that done. The big items of extended meditation, prayer and study on the book (Hebrews) as well as the develop of AM & PM preaching plans with appropriate Scripture Memory emphases were completed. So, I am still digging out of being gone, but very grateful for my time away.
As for what I’ve been up to lately…I’ll post more tomorrow on another personal side, but I’ve been prepping for preaching through the book of Hebrews in my spare time. The usual rhythm of a pastor who preaches through books of the Bible is lots of studying. Prepping to preach through difficult passages in Colossians has been fun. Currently, we are making our way through the end of chapter 3. The end of this book is in view (only 3 sermons after Sunday). After a Thanksgiving sermon and a brief series on Advent (Love, Joy, Peace, Hope), I plan to preach a series on the Lord’s Prayer in the month of January. To prep for that I’ve re-read Paul Miller’s The Praying Life in recent days and was freshly edified and convicted.
But, having said all this, a bulk of my time is spent on researching the book of Hebrews. Here are some things I’ve taken/am taking in:
The Book of Hebrews itself. I type it on onto single spaced pages and read the text over and over again (in the ESV of course). On the study leave I’ve been granted (keep reading), I hope to work hard in the Greek text.
Thomas Mann’s Oxford Guide To Library Research. I’m reading this to be a good steward of a study leave the elders of Crestview are giving me for a week in November.
George Guthrie’s Structure of Hebrews has been really helpful, but at a whopping $206 on Amazon, I got it through Interlibrary Loan at at my public library.
Four Views on the Warning Passages of Hebrews was helpful to show the different interpretive schemes among calvinistic and arminian Bible interpreters. The charitable tone of the scholarly debate printed in this book was also encouraging.
I downloaded Edwards’ Notes from the Blank Bible on Hebrews.
I have a used copy of Charles Simeon’s Horae Homileticae coming in the mail (on Hebrews).
Some commentaries I had, of which I have read the introductions are:
Kent Hughes 2 Volumes on Hebrews
F.F. Bruce’s contribution to the NICNT on Hebrews
O’Brien’s recent release in the Pillar Series on Hebrews
Allen’s latest NAC release on Hebrews
John Owen’s abridged commentary on Hebrews in the Crossway Classics Series
Guthrie’s NIVAC on Hebrews
Other books that have proven helpful:
McCheyne’s sermons on Hebrews
Philip Hacking’s Day One book Opening Up Hebrews
David Dickson’s Short Exposition of Hebrews
Driscoll’s section on Hebrews in A Book You’ll Actually Read on the NT
Fee & Stuart’s intro to Hebrews in How To Read the Bible Book by Book
Roger Ellsworth’s section on Hebrews in Guide: The Bible Book by Book
Carson, Moo & Morris’ chapter on Hebrews in Intro To The NT
Notes from Alan Tomlinson‘s class on General Epistles from Seminary
I taught through Hebrews to High School Students in the Fall of 2001, so I am reviewing those notes.
George Guthrie’s intro to Hebrews in Commentary on the NT Use of the OT is helpful.
And I also read George Ladd’s chapter on Hebrews in Theology of the NT
Lig Duncan also has his teaching through Hebrews manuscripted online
On top of all of this reading, I’m listening to the following, which were free downloads:
Steven Lawson’s sermons on Hebrews at GBC’s 2006 Bible Conference
D.A. Carson’s 3 sessions at the J.B. Gray Lectures at Southern Seminary on the NT use of the OT, specifically related to Hebrews
Dick Lucas’ Instruction on Hebrews as part of the Proclamation Trust
Richard Gaffin’s Theology of Hebrews on Westminster Seminary’s ITunes U
Matt Chandler’s Series on Hebrews
John Piper’s Sermons Through Hebrews
Mark Dever’s Overview of Hebrews
I very much identify with Ecclesiastes 12:12: “Of making many books there is no end, and much study is weariness to the flesh.” I want to steward my time in this book and especially on the gift of study time from the Elders well, so I am working hard to hit the ground running.
To begin with, we recall the sovereignty of God. God wrote the Bible and he inspired the hard texts. He breathed out his revelation through Paul. And he willed it so that some things in Paul’s letters would be hard to understand. Hard texts are still God’s texts. They must be hard for a reason.
What to do next? We embrace our finitude. We admit we are not terribly smart, nor all that clever, and so we pray. As the Irish theologian McHammer said, “You’ve got to pray just to make it today.”
And as we pray we work. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for men” (Col. 3:23). So we pour over words and sentences. We read commentaries. We talk to other Christians. We interpret Scripture by Scripture. We ask God for breakthroughs. He wants to teach us. Remember, Paul wrote to slaves and the uneducated, those without wisdom, influence, or nobility (1 Cor. 1:26). They could learn and so can we.
Don’t give up on hard texts or hard doctrines. Don’t settle for platitudes or for bewailing “I’m not theologian.” We must not give up on understanding the Bible without a fight. As C.S. Lewis once remarked, “God is no fonder of intellectual slackers than any other slackers.” We are all tempted to shy away from life’s difficulties, be they hard people or hard texts. But consider the wisdom of Proverbs: “Where there are no oxen, the manger is clean, but abundant crops come by the strength of the ox” (14:4). In other words, oxen make messes, but they also help with the harvest. If you never think through difficult Bible passages, your life may be simpler, but it won’t be stronger.
God gave us brains so we could be obedient with them. And he has spoken to us in the Bible so he might be more easily known, even when some things are hard to understand.
Give yourself to work, then. Too often we want deep theological truths spoon-fed to us. As the old King James says…”Study to show yourself approved unto God.”
From Octavius Winslow’s Morning Thoughts for March 1. Meditating on John 5:39, he writes:
The word of God is full of Christ. He is the Sun of this divine system, the Fountain of its light and beauty. Every doctrine derives its substance from His person, every precept its force from His work, every promise its sweetness from His love. Is it not to be feared, that in the study of the Scriptures it is a much-forgotten truth that they testify of Jesus? Are they not read, searched, and examined, with a mind too little intent upon adding to its wealth by an increased knowledge of His person, and character, and work? And thus it is we lower the character of the Bible. We may read it as a mere uninspired record; we may study it as a book of human literature. Its antiquity may interest us, its history may inform us, its philosophy may instruct us, its poetry may charm us; and thus, while skimming the surface of this Book of books, the glorious Christ, who is its substance, its subject, its sweetness, its worth- and but for whom there had been no Bible- has been deeply and darkly veiled from the eye.
But it is the office of the blessed and eternal Spirit to unfold, and so to glorify, Jesus in the Word. All that we spiritually and savingly learn of Him, through this revealed medium, is by the sole teaching of the Holy Spirit, opening up this word to the mind. He shows how all the luminous lines of Scripture truth emanate from, return to, and center in, Christ- how all the doctrines set forth the glory of His person, how all the promises are written in His heart’s blood, and how all the precepts are embodied in His life.
I hope your heart is warmed by these thoughts and drawn to love Jesus more and more.
Heard about this method of Bible study at the DG Pastor’s Conference. Here’s a description from their website: “Arcing is a graphical tool used to determine, document,
and discuss the flow of thought in the Biblical text.”
Visit their website and check out the method.