Tag Archives: Preaching

Book Review: Romans (BTCP), David Peterson

In a world of Romans commentaries, why buy one more? Or if you don’t have any, why buy this one? David Peterson, who was a senior research fellow and lecturer in New Testament at Moore Theological College in Sydney, Australia, was the Principal of Oak Hill Theological College, London for eleven years, and is an ordained minister of the Anglican Church of Australia, has written the third commentary in the Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation series. This series focuses on discussing the themes of each biblical book and how it fits into the whole canon for Christian proclamation. This series doesn’t aim at producing dense, academic works, but rather to present Biblical theology to the lives of all of Christ’s body (you can find more information about the series in my review of Tom Schreiner’s Hebrews commentary).

Peterson’s introduction is short. He agrees with many of the conservative, consensus views. Although here he takes a new approach to the structure of Romans. He believes Paul alternates between confirming the gospel and defending the gospel against Jewish objections.

confirming….| defending the gospel 

.the gospel…..|….against Jewish objections

…..1.18-32………|…….2.1-3.20

…..3.21-26………|…….3.27-4.25

…..5.1-11…………|…….5.12-21

…..6.1-23………..|…….7.1-25

…..8.1-39……….|…….9.1-11.36

…..12.1-13.14….|…….14.1-15.7

He presents the book of Romans as one long recursion (or chiasm), however I did not understand his recursive structure (given on p. 18).

Peterson offers almost 50 pages on the biblical and theological themes of Romans, writing about topics such as Romans and creation, sin, and judgment; God’s electing grace and Israel; Israel and the law; the gospel; the Scriptures; the Trinity; righteousness and justification; Israel and the church; and more.

Peterson helpfully explains the logic of Paul’s arguments, how the verbal forms of Greek explain Paul’s thinking, and how that helps the pastor understand Paul’s theology. For example, on Romans 6:9-10 Peterson says, “The connective γάρ (‘for’) introduces a supportive argument (v. 10), which prepares for Paul’s application in v. 11” (269). Though it’s one sentence, it easily shows the reader Paul’s line of thinking. And Peterson sprinkles these helpful statements liberally throughout his commentary. Peterson then adds, “The adverb ἐφάπαξ… highlights the power of his [Jesus’] achievement and its epoch-changing effect. His death was a completed event, but (lit.) ‘the life he lives, he lives to God’… Double use of the present tense stresses that his resurrection life has no end” (269).

Each new section begins with a brief summary of that section, the particular text from Romans, a section on the surrounding context, and the structure of the section. Peterson then goes verse by verse (sometimes two at a time) and sketches out Paul’s teaching.The BTCP series succeeds here where others series fail. All of this helps to situate the reader into the text and to orient him (or her) to his surroundings. Rather than having to read the previous ten pages to get a grip on the argument, the reader is quickly brought up to speed with each new section.

Noteworthy Thoughts

2.13: works are an indicator of genuine faith, and “doing the law” means obedience to Christ by faith.

2.14-15: Paul refers to Gentile Christians as having God’s law, now all Gentiles as somehow having God’s law on their hearts. Peterson says it would be very strange for Paul to coincidentally use the Jeremiah’s specific description of God’s law being written on one’s hearts while referring to all (unbelieving) Gentiles in general.

Work of the law: The singular ‘work‘ “signifies ‘the essential unity of the law’s requirements'” which God himself writes on his new covenant people (148).

Law to themselves: even though the Gentile Christians weren’t physically born into a community (as the Jews were) that had God’s law, they know God’s law and have an “earnest desire to obey it” (149).

Accusing or even excusing thoughts: the “evidence of honest self-assessment before God” (cf. 1 John 3.20), which ends on the day of the Lord (150). God judges the heart and our inner transformation.

3.22: διὰ πίστεως Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ means “through faith in Jesus Christ” (188-190). Peterson says that πίστις often refers to “the faith of believers in general, both before (1:5, 8, 12, 17) and after this passage (3:27-4:25),” and Paul would have needed to add more contextual clues if he intended to say “through the faith/fulness of Jesus Christ.”

3.25: ἱλαστήριον should be understood as “propitiation.”

5.12: We are made sinners by the sinful act of Adam. Because of his sin, we come into this world alienated from God and spiritually dead. Peterson doesn’t delve into how we are made sinners through Adam.

11.25-27: The “Deliverer” who will come “from Zion” is Jesus the Messiah who came from the midst of God’s people. The new covenant benefits have come through this Messiah, benefits that are being proclaimed through Paul’s ministry. The “all Israel” who will be saved is the corporate people of Israel throughout history who hear the gospel and turn to Christ.

Recommended?

I would certainly recommend Peterson’s commentary to any teacher, paster, student, Bible study leader, etc. Having a commentary from the deep well of a biblical scholar that is easily accessible is uncommon, but it is a pleasure to read. It would serve you well to pick up anything by Peterson.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Biblical Theology for Christian Proclamation
  • Author: David Peterson
  • Hardcover: 224 pages
  • Publisher: Holman Reference (August 1, 2017)

Buy it from Amazon or B&H Academic

Disclosure: I received this book free from B&H Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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Review: Excellent Preaching

excellent-preaching

Why is good preaching so difficult to accomplish, and why is excellent preaching so herculean a feat?

In this short book, Craig G. Bartholomew, the H. Evan Runner Professor of Philosophy at Redeemer University College in Ancaster, Ontario, and the principal of the Paideia Centre for Public Theology, explains how to land a plane. Every Sunday you might feel like you’re on a repeat viewing of “Airplane!” It’s like you’re speaking jive and no one understands you. You have a message, it’s based on the text of the Bible, but now you need to land the plane and get God’s truth to sit in the lives of your congregation. How do you impact their hearts and thoughts? You do you penetrate their lives and get them to think about how to live in a transformed way?

And often times, even when you do land the plane, you either land it upside down or two engines blow and you have to land in the water. Can this really be so difficult?

Outline

I’ll say this book has five “chapters,” although the word chapter isn’t used in the book to designate chapters.

Introduction

The Bible is extremely relevant in our day. Thee is suffering, hopelessness, turmoil, meandering, greed, selfishness, a lack of wisdom, and a need for salvation and knowledge of God in Christ. Liberal preachers “aim right at contemporary life in their preaching,” though many aren’t “always sure where [the] sermons have come from!. . . . By comparison, evangelical sermons originate from the Bible, but they tend to be aimed at nowhere in particular” (4–5). How does the pastor ground his sermon in Scripture while being sure to penetrate the hearts of his congregation?

The Destination, the Plane, and the Cargo

Just as on Mt. Sinai, our ultimate destination is Godward. He is our home. He is the destination. The pastor always needs to have that in mind when preaching to his congregation. “As Barth observes, within the Church God’s ordained means to speak is the Bible, the canon of holy Scripture, and all extrabiblical ‘speakings’ must always be tested alongside Scripture,” and where we meet God is through our hearts in his word (11). The word is central to the proclamation that brings us to him.

The Captain

The pastor is the one who preaches. The pastor cannot neglect his own spiritual life either. A rich prayer life must be in order so that the pastor can lead God’s people “ever more deeply into the very life of God” (13). The pastor keeps the congregations attentive and focused on God. To do so, he himself must be focused on him too.

The View From Arrivals

There is always only one destination, and the view is magnificent” (17). That view is of God’s whole creation. The Bible transforms our thinking of all of life, including God’s glorious creation. To understand better the God who created all of this, we must grasp the story of Scripture—it’s metanarrative.  This alerts us to:

  • the unified story of the Bible
  • the story as the story of the whole world
  • this story as the true story of the whole world

Each of these sections are developed more fully within the book.

The Airport: Contextualization

Scripture provides us with a hermeneutic for understanding our world. But it narrows down from there. God’s people are scattered throughout the nations, and the age we live in is one of missions. We live in the 21st century AD which is a farcry from the 1st century AD (and even the 19th century!). Then there is your own culture, whether it be western or eastern. Do you know what your culture is like? Bartholomew goes through an explanation of modernity and postmodernity, even showing how much his discussion has to do with preaching and understanding our own congregations.

The most important contribution our congregations play is “to receive the Word, and we need to create the space for this to come to the fore” (53-54). We need to figure out to to engage them “as fully as possible in listening to the Word” (54).

Landing the Plane: Some Examples

Barthomolew gives four examples on how to “land the plane.” These examples come from Galatians 1:10–2:21, Genesis 1:16, Exodus 20:3, and Ephesians 6:10–20.

Conclusion

Preaching is not the only thing the pastor does, but time must be carved out and effort must be put in. Pastors must get to know and become familiar with research done in other areas of life, such as cultural studies, sociology, and media. Prayer, the Word, and discipleship and mission must be a focus, along with the recognition that spiritual warfare is going on all the time, all around you. Preaching is costly.

Appendix A: Suggested Reading

Appendix B: An Expanded Apostles’ Creed

Recommended?

This short book will not give you a chapter called “Three Tips on How to Structure Your Sermon and Grow Your Church.” Instead, Bartholomew, who has many years of experience in preaching and teaching, gives a more holistic view of what preaching entails, and what the preacher must keep in mind. It is imperative. We can’t let our sermons fall flat and settle for that. We need to learn to land the plane, and to land it right-side up with  our passengers intact, engaged, and reaching their destination (of course, what they do with the information is up to them). This would be good to read alongside of Keller’s Preaching: Communicating Faith in an Age of Skepticism

Lagniappe

  • Authors: Craig G. Bartholomew
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Lexham Press (February 3, 2016)

Buy from Logos or on Amazon!

Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

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