Monday, May 16, 2011

The Place of Commentaries

It's been a while, but I picked back up Charles Bridges' The Christian Ministry. This book is full of encouragement and conviction. There are often times I come away from reading this and wonder how in the world I will ever be a faithful pastor. However, there are other times (indeed, most times) when I come away recognizing that apart from the grace of God I will not do this, but through His grace I am a pastor!

With that being said, this morning I read a few pages and he began talking about commentaries for the pastor to be diligent in his studies. After giving several suggestions for good commentaries, he writes:

It is, however, most important to remember, that the service or disservice of commentaries wholly depends upon the place which they occupy in the system of study. Let them not be discarded as utterly useless; for many of them comprise the labours of men, who had a far deeper insight into the word of God than those who despise them are generally likely to attain. But let them not be placed before the word, nor be consulted (habitually at least), until the mind has been well stored with the study of God's own book.

I have had times in my life where commentaries were the first place I'd run. It wasn't until the more recent years that I've realized I am far more likely to engage and apply the Scriptures in my own life when I take the time to meditate on the text. I still have much to learn, but I think Bridges it correct. He goes on to state that they certainly do have their place in the study:

The only assistance which I would recommend, are those, in which there can be no tendency to warp your judgment. It is the serious and frequent reading of the Divine oracles, accompanied with fervent prayer; it is the comparing Scripture with Scripture; it is the diligent study of the languages in which they are written; it is the knowledge of the histories and antiquities, to which they allude.

Diligent reading of the Scriptures, fervent prayer, comparing Scripture with Scripture, a working knowledge of the original languages, and great knowledge of the histories and antiquities of the Bible. These are wonderful areas to emphasize. I have a long ways to go, but on the journey I am, by God's grace.

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