enIn my last post (you can read it here:https://always-reforming.com/2021/10/25/help-for-new-expositors-how-to-find-the-main-idea-for-preaching-part-1/ ), I walked through my method for becoming more familiar with the biblical text through the process of reading, translating, and diagramming. Although at this point much progress has been made, there is still more work to do before we can confidently say we know the main idea of the text. Up to this point the study has been with the Bible alone–no commentaries should have been used thus far. This is important because we want to hear from God what His word says to us without the contamination of outside voices. Although we will need to fight against our own personal ideas and presuppositions being imposed upon the meaning of the text, this would be much more difficult if we had the input of others at this early stage. Now that we have listened to the Word with dependence upon the Holy Spirit, we are now ready to begin answering some of the observation questions we have developed in our reading and translation.
The next step we need to take is to tentatively identify the main theme of the passage. This may be changed as we continue studying, but we should have a good idea of a major theme that has risen to the top of our understanding from our studying at this point. Write this down and set it aside.
Next, choose several commentaries that will speak to the text you have chosen to study. If you need help knowing how to choose a commentary and the differences between some commentaries and others, read my post on how to select a commentary, and just as important, when to use them. You can find that post here: https://always-reforming.com/2021/02/08/how-to-use-bible-commentaries-more-effectively/ Now, take out that list of observations and questions that you gathered from reading through your Bible 25 times, and with your commentaries handy, go looking for the answers to the questions and curiosities that you found. Background commentaries will help with the cultural issues you observed, exegetical and critical commentaries will help with linguistic issues that popped up when you translated or read various translations. Try to avoid reading expositional commentaries at this point because they might tempt you to short-cut the process of self-study by giving you the answers too easily. In these types of commentaries, usually built off of sermons, you would find an outline, illustrations, and even application. Plagiarism is still a sin, and is especially grievous in a minister of the Word.
Hopefully as you read the commentaries you had several conclusions confirmed from your own study. It is a special satisfaction that comes when you read the same things you found in your study in the pages of commentaries. It helps you realize that you too can study the Scriptures for yourself! If you find that you had unique ideas or were in disagreement with all or most of the commentaries regarding the main ideas or interpretation of the text, you might want to go back and re-study the passage again. It is possible that you got it right and everyone else got it wrong–possible, but highly improbable. Commentaries act as a check on our study to make sure that we aren’t far off in our conclusions. If you are certain you got it right, make sure that you have strong reasons that are defendable by the text of the Scriptures. God has given to the church many excellent Bible teachers (Eph. 4:11), and we shouldn’t ignore the wisdom given by the Spirit without very good reasons.
After your review of commentaries, you should be ready to put together a textual or exegetical outline. What is a textual or exegetical outline? It is an outline that follows the contours, storyline, or argument of the author. Sometimes this is done through textual markers seen in the original languages or grammar. Sometimes it is suggested by the flow of a narrative and the changing of scenes. It doesn’t have to be pretty, it just needs to accurately hit the high points of the text. Don’t try to alliterate or be fancy–just get the main ideas down. This outline should reflect the totality of the text you have studied. At this point, you may begin to see how you will break up a longer passage to be preached in larger chunks as multiple sermons.
Next, looking at the main theme you wrote down earlier, and your textual outline. What would you say is the doctrinal theme? In other words, what main theological idea rises to the top of this passage? Try to be brief and accurate–“love” is too generic, but “the love of God for the Church” would be more accurate. Think of this as a label for a box that your whole sermon text will fit into. If some of the text doesn’t fit this theological theme, then you need to adjust it and make sure it covers the whole text.
When you have come to the doctrinal or theological theme, ask yourself how well you know this doctrine. Perhaps it is one that you have studied well and in depth and you know what the whole of Scripture teaches about it. Wonderful! You can move on. But if you are lacking in your understanding, it would be best to take a look at a good systematic theology (or two) and read up on the subject. It might be that the doctrine is found in a few places that you will need to review, like our above subject “the love of God for the Church.” There you should look up the “love of God” under the attributes of God, and under “the love of Christ.” You probably would also want to look up this love under the subject of “the Church.” Additionally, you might want to check and see how God’s love for the Church is different from his love for other entities like Israel, unbelievers, and “the world.” Once you have armed yourself with what the whole Bible teaches on your doctrinal subject, you can be assured that you will not say something about your passage that is untrue in another passage you might have been ignorant about. That’s always embarrassing.
Now we are ready to consider forming the preaching proposition or main idea of the sermon. That will need to wait for the next post.
Whether you call it the “main idea,” “big idea,” “propositional statement,” or something else, we are going to be looking at how to make sure you preach the main idea of a section of Scripture so that you are not preaching about an ancillary idea or worse, force your own idea upon the passage. In this post I will be walking through a process I have developed for myself. To help myself with this, I have made a worksheet. In a previous post, I shared it on this blog. You can see it and download it here: https://always-reforming.com/2014/07/24/a-simplified-sermon-preparation-checklist/
The first thing that you need to make sure you do is to be as familiar as you can be about the portion of text you are preaching from. Make sure you have included the whole pericope (pəˈrikəpē), which is the whole unit of thought—in other words, don’t choose only a few verses within a section, or half a narrative section. The pericope will be at least a full paragraph, but might be more. Don’t worry if there is too much to preach at one time. You will be able to break the section into smaller preaching units later, but for now, you need to study the whole section together as one unit. If you are able to read Greek or Hebrew, those texts will also help you see the major units of the text.
To familiarize yourself with your text, you need to begin by reading it over and over again. I’d suggest you do this in your preferred English translation for preaching. Read it over at least 25 times. As you read through, take notes about what you see, questions you have that will need to be answered, and other observations about the text. Don’t stop to do research at this point, but rather set aside these questions and observations for your study later. When you are finished reading the text repeatedly, you should almost have it memorized—or at least be very familiar with it. Why 25 times and not more or less? Although this is only my suggestion, I think that 25 times will yield more in observations and the flow of the textual outline than less readings will. More reading will be helpful, but with limited sermon preparation time and diminished return for your time investment, reading more times is a luxury many cannot afford.
After having read the chosen text over and over you need to read it in multiple English translations. Bible software makes this easy to do. Read it in the most common translations and paraphrases available—ESV, NASB, NIV, KJV, NKJV, CSB, HCSB, The Message, TNIV, etc. You only need to read each of them once, but note the places where there are significant changes or disagreement. This might clue you in to translational issues or manuscript variants that you will discover later.
The next step will not be possible for everyone. If you can, translate the passage from the original languages. If you do not know Greek or Hebrew, you can use aids and software, but please understand that this is not the same as knowing the languages—recognize that tools are helpful but they are not the same as knowing the language. I have seen some students of the Word who do not know the original languages say wrong things, even embarrassing things, while giving the impression to their congregation that they know more than they do. Since most pastors are not linguistic scholars (even those who do know Hebrew and Greek), we need a strong dose of humility in this area and to know our own limitations.
While you translate your passage, note key words, repeated words, word plays, hapax legomenon (words that occur only once in the Bible), inclusio (a type of textual “envelope”), chiastic structures, and other linguistic markers that your text might have. These are the hidden gems of the text that expositors are blessed to see firsthand. Some of these we may expose to our congregation because they are helpful to them to understand the passage, while others we may not include in our sermon but will enjoy their richness and depth for ourselves.
Next, diagram your text either from the original language or in your preferred English translation. The practice of sentence diagramming will help you to see subordinate clauses and phrases, controlling verbs, and other grammatical clues to the structure and the intended emphases of the biblical writer. By doing this, you will make sure that you are not emphasizing a minor idea when the author is emphasizing something else. If you don’t know how to diagram a text, I would highly recommend you learn how to do so. A book like Walter Kaiser’s Toward an Exegetical Theology can help and give examples. For further help, Lee Kantenwein’s book Diagrammatically Analysis is also a good place to look. Both are available to purchase from places like Amazon.com
If you have done all of the above so far, you will have deeply immersed yourself into the passage and will have becoming aware of the theme(s) of the passage you are intending to preach—textually, and theologically. You aren’t there yet and this exegetical data isn’t yet a sermon ready to preach, but you are well on your way.
My next post will pick up from here and move on to the next few steps that will help us on our way to finding the main idea of a passage before we put together our sermon and proclaim, “Thus says the Lord.”
“I mull over the text, I pray. I meditate and exegete. I talk to my Bible, and ask questions of the text. I take notes. I think. I sweat. And then God gives me what he wants me to have.”—Warren Wiersbe
Like many things in the Christian life, the preparation and delivery of a sermon is neither solely the work of the Holy Spirit nor is it solely the work of the preacher. The former leads to mysticism and poorly prepared sermons that are more heat than light and the latter leads to sermons that are devoid of the power of God.
In order to gain a better grasp of how the Holy Spirit acts within the preparation of biblical exposition we must first recognize that any study of the text which seeks to be accurate and God empowered is a work of the Spirit which carries along the expositor in his study as much as in his delivery.
A Preliminary Distinction
Before we can launch into the working of the Spirit in the study of the Scripture by a regenerate Christian, we must understand how it is that an unbeliever can accurately study any given text and still accurately understand what the text is saying to a certain extent. By examining how this is possible, we will be able to better understand how the Christian expositor is different and how his resultant study will yield spiritual fruit. To accomplish this, it is helpful to distinguish between comprehension of a biblical text and apprehension of the Word of God.
Comprehension as I am using it here is the ability to gain a knowledge of the text of Scripture through the technical sciences and application of hermeneutical principles. Comprehension allows for the accurate observation of such elements as grammar, syntax, and other exegetical and linguistic features of the text, i.e. the unbelieving exegete is not prevented by the noetic effects of sin from recognizing the verb forms of a biblical passage. He may gain additional insights regarding the biblical text from his knowledge of archaeology, background, culture and a multitude of other disciplines.
However, it must be acknowledged that the unregenerate exegete cannot come to the text in a purely “scientific” way because his presuppositions will taint his methodology and will not allow for the Bible’s claim to be the voice of God. His comprehension will be flawed and be limited as he or she seeks to understand the fact of the text in light of their intended meaning.
Different from a raw knowledge of the facts of a text’s features and most basic meaning is what can perhaps be referred to as “apprehension.” Apprehension would include in addition to the comprehension of the text the additional aspect of the reception of the meaning of the Word of God in heart and conscience and communicates the intention of the passage and the desired response of the Holy Spirit to those that hear the message “with ears to hear.” This apprehension may include the preacher as well as those who hear the message. Paul wrote about this reception of the Word in 1Thessalonians 2:13, “And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.” (1 Thessalonians 2:13, ESV)
The contrast between the understanding of the biblical text by the unbeliever and the believer is most markedly different in the comparison of these two aspects—comprehension and apprehension.
The inability of unredeemed men to comprehend the meaning of Scripture nor can they hear the revelation of God in any form is expressed in such passages as:
Romans 1:18–20—They are “truth suppressors” and cannot grasp what God has made plain, yet they are without excuse.
1Cor 1:18-25; 2:14—The Word of God is “folly” (Gk. moros) to the world’s wise men. Not only are they foolishness to the natural person, but they are incapable of understanding them.
Eph 4:17-19—Unbelievers are marked as living “in the futility of their minds. They are darkened in their understanding…”
This suppression, mocking and darkened understanding affects some comprehension and prohibits apprehension of the Word of God when it is studied by the unbeliever, no matter his depth of knowledge in biblical studies.
Biblical Examples of Comprehension without Apprehension
The murderous Jews who searched the Scriptures but could not accept Jesus as the Christ—John 5:18, 39-47
The indifferent chief priests and scribes who had no apparent desire to seek the Christ-child in spite of knowing some were seeking his birthplace—Matt 2:1-6
The ignorant, yet searching Ethiopian who studied the prophet Isaiah but could not find Christ on his own—Acts 8:26-30
The missing element that links Comprehension and joins exegesis to the heart is the Holy Spirit’s work of illumination.
Comprehension and the Work of the Preacher
“Exegetical imprecision is the mother of liberal theology. When pastors can no longer articulate and defend doctrine by a reasonable and careful appeal to the original meaning of Biblical texts, they will tend to become closed-minded traditionalists who clutch their inherited ideas, or open-ended pluralists who don’t put much stock in doctrinal formulations. In both cases the succeeding generations will be theologically impoverished and susceptible to error.”—John Piper
It is necessary to state that the necessity of Holy Spirit working through the believer for the comprehension of the biblical text does not guarantee that the interpretation of the text is the correct one. Many passages in the Bible have been a matter of debate by believers and Christian scholars for centuries. Simply because the Holy Spirit is present does not automatically mean that serious exegetical study is not required, nor that such study guarantees the outcome of that study.
However, without Spirit dependent exegesis and the careful application of hermeneutical principles, the correct understanding of any given passage of Scripture will not be able to correctly interpret the passage as the Holy Spirit intended it to the original audience then applied to the present audience being addressed.
Accuracy with the biblical text assures that the message of the Scripture is understood accurately, but the work of the Holy Spirit is not complete. He must still work to bring about the apprehension of the message he intends.
Apprehension and the Work of the Preacher
Beyond the need for proper hermeneutical principles and accurate exegesis, there is the necessity of the work of God’s Spirit. As Paul reminded the church in Corinth:
“and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (1 Corinthians 2:4–5, ESV)
Accompanying the words of the message there must be the Spirit and his power. A sermon that is empowered by God himself must be more than simply an accurate message, although it cannot be less. The inerrant Word will only successfully penetrate the heart when the Spirit acts.
I. Howard Marshall is correct when he writes:
“Once the sense of the text has been understood, there is the task of seeing what it has to say to a particular audience, be it the probable readers of a book or a congregation listening to a sermon. The sense of Scripture is something that can be determined with a measure of objectivity as something that is fixed; it is what the original writer intended his original readers to learn from what he wrote. The application of this to new sets of readers in new situations can be very varied. It is here that the expositor particularly feels his dependence upon the Spirit in the task of making Scripture speak again in the new situation. In a sense he is trying to repeat what the original authors had to do—to speak forth God’s Word in a way that would grip their audiences; receiving Scripture as God’s Word, he now has the task of speaking it forth so as to grip his audience. If the original authors were dependent upon the inspiration of the Spirit to do so, how much more is the modern expositor thrown back upon the guidance and illumination of the Spirit in his task?”
The illuminating work of the Holy Spirit refers to the Spirit-given ability to understand the Word of God as it is studied or as one considers its implications for life. Paul referred to the inability of the natural mind to understand the spiritual mind of God in 1 Corinthians: “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned” (2:14). It is not that the unbeliever is not able to understand the bare words and thoughts of the Bible, but he cannot understand their spiritual meaning or their application to his own soul. This is best illustrated in the account of Nicodemus in John 3. Although he was a preeminent teacher of Israel, Nicodemus could not conceive of the new birth, even though Jesus condescended to teach him these things in natural pictures, relating the new birth to a human birth.
Jonathan Edwards related this to the unregenerate man having some sense of what is being referred to, but being incapable of having a total understanding of the matters of Scripture:
“The natural man discerns nothing of it (agreeable to 1 Cor. ii.14) and conceives of it no more than a man without the sense of tasting can conceive of the sweet taste of honey, or a man without the sense of hearing can conceive of the melody of a tune, or a man born blind can have a notion of the beauty of the rainbow.”
Although every believer has the ability to understand the Word of God because he has the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2:16), the remaining effects of sin nature impede thinking and understanding. Thus, a preacher needs to be continually renewing his mind with the Word of God (Rom 12:2), asking God for clarity and understanding as he searches the Scriptures to glean its truths and apply them to his life and the lives of his hearers.
The Pastor in His Study
The effect of illumination on the heart in preaching is two-fold. Illumination must occur as the pastor prays over Scriptures and wrestles with the text that is to be preached to his congregation. The doctrine of illumination is not meant to be pitted against the need for careful study and preparation. Millard Erickson has written that,
“…illumination by the Holy Spirit helps the Scripture reader or hearer understand the Bible and creates the conviction that it is true and is the Word of God. This, however, should not be regarded as a substitute for the use of hermeneutical methods. These methods play a complementary, not competitive role.”
Illumination also occurs as the pastor stands in the pulpit and preaches the Word to the congregation. The words that are spoken, though they have illumined the heart and mind of the pastor in his study, will fall dead if the hearts and minds of the congregation are not also illumined by the Spirit to hear and understand. It is here that one sees most clearly the interrelatedness of the Spirit and His Word working through the Spirit-filled man of God.
John MacArthur, well known for his dedication to diligently present the Word of God, describes the necessity of illumination:
“What is our responsibility? The answer is in Ps. 119:130; “The unfolding of Thy words gives light.” God’s words are unfolded to us first by discovery. Through diligent Bible study, we unfold or unwrap God’s truth. We discover that meditation with a view to applying the truth deepens its impact. Discovery and meditation combined bring the brightest light of illumination to our hearts.”
Recognizing that the Word of God energizes the preacher and the hearer does not give pastors the right to become lazy. The Spirit most frequently works through means rather than directly in applying His Word to the human mind. Believers have been commanded to love the Lord God with their whole being, and that includes the mind (Matt 22:37). Erickson writes that even though the Spirit gives an inner testimony of the truthfulness of His Word:
“He [the Holy Spirit] creates certainty of the divine nature of Scripture by providing evidences that reason can evaluate. He also gives understanding of the text through the exegete’s work of interpretation. Even Calvin, with his strong emphasis on the internal witness of the Holy Spirit, called attention to the indicia of the credibility of the Scripture, and in his commentaries used the best of classical scholarship to get at the meaning of the Bible. Thus, the exegete and the apologist will use the very best methods and data, but will do so with a reiterated prayer for the Holy Spirit to work through these means.”
Illustrations have been described as windows that add light into the sermon in order to illuminate abstract truths. If that is true, and I believe it is, then quotes are a good tool to have in your sermon arsenal. Except when they aren’t. Quotes can be used effectively, and they can be abused in the worst way. I want to point out the proper and improper uses of quotes in a sermon.
Good Uses of Quotes
Here are 6 reasons to use a good quote would be appropriate:
Artistry: The writer says something more beautifully than you can say it yourself.
Clarity: The writer makes the point clearer than you can.
Impact: The writer says something in a powerful way to make your point.
Pithiness: The writer says something in a memorable and “catchy” way.
Depth: The writer says something with a profundity that you can’t seem to say yourself.
Interesting: The writer says something that draws interest or excites the imagination.
Poor Uses of Quotes
Here are 8 reason you ought to think twice before using that quote in your next sermon:
Quotes that are too good not to share, even though they have nothing to do with the main idea of your sermon. Just because you like it, don’t squeeze it in.
Quotes that are not short and to the point. Two page quotes from a Puritan in old English aren’t helpful unless you are trying to help someone fall asleep.
Quotes that are only an interest to a very specific audience. Just because you love reading Wallace’s Greek Grammar doesn’t mean you should quote from it.
Quotes that you have to explain after you read it. It’s like a joke–if you have to explain it, it’s not funny.
Quotes that can be stated in your own words easily.
Quotes that are meant to carry a sense of authority, i.e., “The great theologian so-and-so says…” The Scripture should be our authority. Quotes of men may bring clarity, but they should not bear the weight of authority to prove our point.
Quotes that you cannot verify or find the source. If we proclaim the truth, we shouldn’t be using quotes that may be false.
Quotes that are shocking and controversial. This isn’t because they don’t work, but because they do. This type of quote might just derail your sermon if your audience does not recover from the shocking quote bomb you let loose.
Commentaries are a huge blessing to those who study the Bible. From them we can glean from the years of hard study of thousands of Christians who have come before us. Their knowledge of culture, language, grammar, background information, and theology can fill out our understanding of the biblical writers. For pastors, Bible students, and scholars, Bible commentaries act as a check on their own study, allowing them to see if they are coming to similar conclusions as those who have studied the same passage. This helps to make sure that our own conclusions aren’t going off in a direction that might lead to error, or even worse. But there are a wide variety of commentaries out there, and it is often difficult even for those trained in seminary to know which to use and when to use it. I thought it would be helpful to describe each type of commentary commonly available, how it is helpful, and then what order I use commentaries to best help me develop my sermons and Bible studies.
Like a lot of Christians, my first experiences with Bible commentaries were mixed. Some seemed to be written in a foreign language, even when they were written in English. They were so complicated and hard to understand that they were frustrating and useless to me. Others were understandable, but they often read like sermons. This made them enjoyable to read, but they often skipped over large portions or failed to explain the one verse I was needing help with!
Later, after attending seminary, I learned that there are different categories of commentaries for different purposes. And I learned an incredibly important lesson: commentaries should be used after I have done my own study. The temptation can be to take a great teacher’s study and sermon outline from their commentary and teach or preach it as if it was my own. Not only is that unethical, it robs you of the blessing of encountering the Word for yourself when you do the hard work of studying.
To help myself, I came up with a simple system of when to read the types of commentaries I use in a specific order. I’ll give you that system a little later, but first I think it would be helpful for me to lay out some of the different types of commentaries out there. This will help you know what you already own, their strengths and weaknesses, and hopefully it will give you a better idea of what you should buy the next time you purchase a new commentary.
Types of Commentaries
Devotional-These commentaries are written for the average Christian and are heavy with application. They are broad in scope, meaning they cover a lot of Bible in a little space. Often, they are a short book written to cover a whole Bible book. Warren Wiersbe’s “Be” series and J. Vernon McGee’s Thru the Bible Commentaries are of this kind.
Expositional-These commentaries are based upon the preaching of a particular pastor’s sermons. They may or may not be heavily edited, but they often include coverage of a preaching portion: illustrations, application, and explanation of the text. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary series and James Montgomery Boice’s commentaries are good examples of this type.
Exegetical– These commentaries rely upon the original languages of the biblical text, and aid the Bible student in understanding the significance of the language, grammar, and syntax. Additionally, the exegetical commentary will give large sections of study to introductory matters, translational issues, contextual matters, and interpretive challenges. Although useful without the knowledge of biblical languages, they are most helpful to those who have a working knowledge of Greek and Hebrew. The Hendriksen New Testament Commentary set and Word Biblical Commentaries are representative of this type of commentary.
Critical/Technical– As far as traditional commentaries go, these are the most specialized. These commentaries deal with original languages, biblical manuscripts, and many other issues that are important to biblical scholars. Many (although not all) of the contributors to these commentaries are theologically liberal, and they are usually very expensive, although they often contain gold when the student knows how to use them profitably. Some examples of these commentaries would include the International Critical Commentary (ICC) series and Hermeneia Commentaries.
Background-Normally biblical background information is included in most commentaries, but there are some commentaries that focus on this aspect in a commentary format (using book, chapters, and verses divisions). An example would be the IVP Bible Background Commentary.
So, how do I choose which commentary to use first, and does it really matter?
My System for Choosing Which Commentary To Use First
After I have studied the passage for myself, I usually will have several questions and observations about the text. But because of my study, I will have a good general understanding of the main idea. If this is the case, I will choose commentaries from the above categories and read them in this order:
I may not read any commentaries in categories 4 and 5 (Expositional and Devotional) every time. I’ll explain in a moment why.
The reason I begin with the harder and more technical commentaries and move toward the easier and more popular ones is because when I turn to my commentaries I am still wrestling with the text and any unanswered questions. I want to find the answers for myself from my work with the language, grammar, and syntax. If I move too fast to the expositional commentaries, I will be tempted to adopt the interpretation of the writer. And since they are human, they might be wrong. Until I have answered these questions for myself and my interaction with the biblical text, I need help with exegesis before moving on to interpretation.
After I have successfully understood the hardest ideas in the text, I move to the next level of commentaries. The expositional commentaries will help me understand how another pastor has preached and outlined the text I am studying, and a devotional commentary will show me how it has been illustrated and applied. If I understand the text well enough, application and illustration may begin to form easily for me and I won’t need to look at the devotional or expositional commentaries I have.
So, why not flip the order? Because I consider it “cheating” for me, since I will be given an explanation, outline, illustrations, and applications of a passage that I did not myself discover for myself. Additionally and most importantly, I am not trusting the Bible and the Spirit to inform my study, but instead am giving another human author a great amount of influence in my understanding of the Bible. When I teach the Bible, I want to have the confidence to say, “Thus says the Lord” because I have done the hard labor of study. If I cheat and simply read the fruit of someone else’s study, then I am not truly being a biblical expositor; I am simply a parrot.
But there is one exception to my rule when I will actually begin with either an expositional commentary or a devotional commentary. That is when I have studied the text in-depth for myself and I am left completely without a clue as to how I would preach or teach this particular text. I may understand the words, sentences, and paragraphs, but how I can teach this particular passage has stumped me. At this point, I will choose a faithful devotional or expositional commentary and read the section I am studying. This will usually help me see how the author taught it and clarifies for me the main idea to teach. At this point, I stop reading and begin going through the list as I gave it above, beginning with the more technical commentaries and moving down the list.
I don’t necessarily think that this method is the only way of using commentaries, but it works for me and helps guard my heart against taking the route which might cause me to shortcut my study. What about you? How have you used commentaries that have helped your study? What are your favorites and why? If you have any followup questions about how I use commentaries, let me know. I’d love to help.
 I’ve added the Amazon.com links to each of these commentary series’ to help you identify them. I have done this for reference only and don’t necessarily endorse everything in them. Also, I don’t gain anything from you purchasing a book through the link. Shop around, you might find great deals elsewhere. More money saved means more money for books!