Monday, November 14, 2011

1-2 Peter Expositional Commentary, R.C. Sproul

True confessions. (The best kind, you know.) Our women's Bible study at church has been going through 1 Peter this fall. I started going to the studies but it was tricky juggling three small children around them and I ultimately decided that this is just not the season of life to try to fit in a daytime Bible study. I did, however, pick up 1-2 Peter (St. Andrew's Expositional Commentary) to read along with the study. I made it through the book (because that's easy for me to do on my own time) and found it to be incredibly insightful and informative (as R.C. Sproul doth tend to be!)

This Expositional Commentary on 1-2 Peter is one in a series of commentaries, all by R.C. Sproul, all published by Crossway Books. Other books in the series include John, Acts, and Romans. We own John and 1-2 Peter (obviously) which I only tell you because in the interest of full and honest disclosure, one of these titles came for review purposes from Crossway. We purchased the other. How sad is it that I can't remember which came by review? (They both arrived roughly at the same time.) At any rate, I read 1-2 Peter first and so that's the one I'm going to talk about today. Because we find these books to be so informative, approachable and helpful when studying scripture, Jonathan and I plan on adding all of the titles to our home library by purchasing them for ourselves.

For the sake of the length of this post I don't want to focus too heavily on why I think every Christian ought to read commentaries and study scriptures in more than just a cursory fashion. I think it extremely important that we do try to understand scriptures as best as we can as this is the Word of God which points us to the Lord and tells us who He is. If you are a Christian than I think you ought to make a study of the God you say you believe in. To know Him as accurately as possible is of the utmost importance, as knowing Him dictates our attitudes, thoughts, behaviors and worldviews.

If you've never been exposed to R.C. Sproul, I would say that he makes the scriptures incredibly approachable. He takes his responsibility to accurately teach the Word of God very seriously. Of that you can be certain. At the same time, he tries to make it easily understood by the "layman" in the pew. He says in this book that he isn't saying anything new about scriptures. He is offering nothing incredible exotic or unique but is simply espousing the same views as "the Giants" of the faith (i..e, Martin Luther, John Calvin, etc.) He says of himself that he is merely a tool to help point modern man to the giants and to their explanations of scripture. (Skip him and go straight to Calvin and Luther if you like. He invites you to do so.)

For each book of the Bible that Sproul intends to teach on, he first provides a history and background of the book itself. He answers questions such as, "Who was the author? Who was he talking to? What was the historical situation that the recipients of the letter were facing?" and so on and so forth. I also appreciate that when he differs from other commentators on particular areas of scripture or doctrinal views, he tells you so. So often when I pick up a book or commentary, I feel that I am reading the author's view who frequently feel themselves to be the ultimate authority. I don't know who the author has referenced or how their view and opinion might differ from other theologians. I very much appreciate Sproul taking the time to spell out when he deviates in his opinion from the "mainstream" as it allows me to do some discerning in my own right, if that makes sense. (Not that I would likely disagree with Sproul, mind you, but it's just helpful when he points out that he takes a minority view on something or another. I'm also not saying that he disagrees with other theologians a lot. Just that when he does, he tells you.)

In this particular commentary on Peter, Sproul points out 1 Peter 1:13-19 which starts out, ". . . gird up the loins of your mind." To us, in this modern age, that might be a funny statement but Sproul explains:

"To people of the first century, a call to gird up the loins did not typically involve a mental activity or process. The metaphor is based on the customary garments of the first-century people. Both men and women tended to wear long, flowing robes. Even soldiers were commonly adorned with such robes. When it came time to go into battle, however, the soldiers were hindered by the robes from moving with agility, so they girded up their robes. They hitched them above the knee and then secured them in place with a belt, which left their legs free to run into battle. Peter uses this simple metaphor to challenge his readers to prepare their minds for deep thinking." (Chapter 4, Living Before God Our Father, page 42)

Likewise, Sproul encourages his readers to put on their thinking caps as he moves us through the Books of 1 and 2 Peter:

"So let us gird up the loins of our minds and think about the call of God to His children, whom He has redeemed by the precious blood of Christ, that they may walk not as the world walks but as redeemed children of God." (Chapter 4, Living Before God Our Father, page 46)

I hope that you can start to see, even from these very brief examples in quotes, that Sproul invites us into scripture with historical explanations and examples and then offers encouragement on how to apply these scriptures to our own lives. Page after page, chapter after chapter, he opened up 1-2 Peter to me in a way that grew my appreciation and understanding of these books in the Bible.

I marked quite a few passages that spoke to me, specifically, but again for the sake of the length of this post, I'll bypass them. Suffice it to say, I found this commentary to be very helpful in applying scriptural truths to my own life and I would highly recommend any of these books from this series by R.C. Sproul to any of you.

Thanks to Crossway Books for providing a title for review purposes. ;)


Annette W. said...

Thanks for the reminder of Sproul...never read, but my pastor has referenced him enough for the name to be familiar. And yes, need to get into a commentary!

Barbara H. said...

As Annette said, I've never read Sproul, but have heard of him often. These look like good resources. I like it, too, when authors will discuss various positions and why they chose the one they did rather than being authoritarian about it.

Stephanie Kay said...

We own a couple of his books. I confess they were my husband's purchases. I agree that we should all study scriptures but those kind of in-depth studies are difficult for me in this season. I want to sit and read them for an hour at least so I can mull over what they are saying. With 4 small kids around 24/7 I don't have an hour of quiet alone with my thoughts! Eventually I'll get back to this kind of book. right?

Cassandra said...

Like your other commentors, I've heard of Sproul but have never read any of his books. They sound excellent! Thanks for sharing. :)

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