More than Your Usual Commentary
First, my Confession.
My confession is this: I was raised to think, you open your Bible and the Holy Spirit tells you what it means. End of story. Consequently, I rarely used a commentary until I went to seminary, where I used them routinely.
Immediately, I realized how much added insight was missing from my study of the Bible. I found that reading the thoughts of men and women who had devoted many years of concentrated examination of Scripture was like having a spiritual big brother or sister showing me the ropes. Invaluable.
The Holy Spirit
I wondered too if my view of the Holy Spirit had been shallow or incomplete. Hum…I thought…If the Holy Spirit simply plugs truth from the Bible into our brains and hearts, you’d think disagreements about Scripture would be few and far between. But, if Protestants know how to do anything, it’s splitting off from others because “the Holy Spirit” has told them other stuff from the Bible.
So, maybe the Holy Spirit’s role isn’t that simple or clear cut as we may first assume. Maybe the Holy Spirit tells us about God’s nature more than it exegetes hermeneutic in concrete terms inside our heads. Maybe the Holy Spirit is alive, well, and active in and through the brothers and sisters who write these carefully created analysis, too. Maybe it’s a bit like a joining forces kind of thing.
I sincerely wish everyone who reads the Bible would use various commentaries along the way, as tools, to better grasp the whole council of God. God has given people great scholarly and spiritual capacities to shed more light on the things in the Bible–and we are blessed to share in these gifts. It’s worth the time to get some help this way.
Not Your Typical Commentary
Now to the review:
If you aren’t used to reading bible commentaries (and you might realize that some are extremely dry and academic, using lots of Greek and Hebrew to explain things, as if you are already adept at these dead languages), then I highly recommend this new Resonate Series from Likewise, at IVP. They published one of the Gospel of John. This one on Matthew is the 2nd. More are coming.
I got a copy of IVP’s Matthew commentary from the publisher, and the more I read, the more it had an impact on me. The power of Matthew’s gospel is amazing, and this commentary takes Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection seriously. The gospel is cogent, and we find this out directly.
As you might expect, this particular book is helpful resource for pastors, teachers, spiritual leaders, and lovers of the Word who need a thorough synopsis. Yet, Matt Woodley also points out some concepts overlooked in some commentaries and typical sermons, and keeps our present cultural context in mind–which is sometimes nonexistent in typical commentaries. However, there is something about this book that will serve a different purpose, and do so quite powerfully. More on that a little later.
The author maps out the territory of Matthew’s gospel, in normal language, for one to get a lay of the land, or survey the crucial themes. You’ll find vignettes of pertinent personal stories, and the this gospel is covered in sections and main points. The style is very pastoral, like a casual but deep, personal interaction. (Don’t expect a commentary in the vein of D.A. Carson, Craig L. Blomberg, or Craig S. Keener, and the like. Some of these commentaries, while very helpful, go verse by verse and are chiefly informative.) This commentary has a personal touch. There is narrative finesse.
The Best Kept Secret about this book…
Now I have to tell you what I wish the book would be used for most…I don’t think the publishers really had this in mind, exactly…or they probably wouldn’t have categorized it as a commentary in the first place. I think the book is a bit mis-categorized…but then again, they tell you it’s usually right up front. So, whatever.
The surprise ending is this: It would be best used in one-to-one and small group discipling, for developing spirit-filled, potential leaders, and those hungry for more of God and his Word. It’s written in a way that begs for an intimate and richer discussion, not just a proclamation from the front of the building. This book has discipleship written all over it.
My background is Spiritual Formation. I’ve focused on the whys and hows and history of spiritual growth in Christians throughout the history of the Church. I’ve spent plenty of time answering the question: “What makes Christ-like followers?”. So, I couldn’t help see this work as an excellent resource for inciting spiritual growth on a personal level. I’d like to see it used for this over being used as a tool for sermon preparation. Sorry IVP. That’s just how I see it.
If you want to take this sort of thing on in your life, get this book right away. It’s the perfect fit. Find a peer, a friend, a hungry seeker or Christian, or a mentor, and work through this book together, with the Bible in hand. It’s a down-to-earth examination that many will find helpful.
Here’s some added book info:
The Facebook Page for this series will help you keep track of this whole series of commentaries as the project unfolds, and give you an insider scoop for other stuff, including interaction with the authors and editors. Also, searching for the Twitter hashtag #resonateseries will locate other reviews and related material. I think the blog tour runs all month, if I remember correctly.
*Obligatory Disclaimer (to satisfy the FCC). I received a free copy of this book from IVP to review it on my blog, which is probably pretty darn obvious by now. An honest review (not a positive one) was the only essential. So that what ya’ll got.
RELATED: Here’s a previous post I wrote about how to study the Bible, and what people usually get wrong. I think you’ll like it.