A Pastor’s Commentary on 1-2 Peter

1 Peter is my favorite book of the Bible, largely because it was a Bible study on this book by a previous pastor that made me want to become a pastor myself. So, I obtain all the commentaries on 1 Peter that I possibly can. I recently got a hold of this commentary on Peter/Jude. Every commentary that I have seen and worked with in this series has been of great benefit to preachers of the Word. So far, I have worked my way through Genesis, and am currently reading the excellent volume on Daniel. See here for my review of 1 Samuel.

David Helm is on the pastoral staff of Holy Trinity Church, a multi-congregational church in Chicago. He is also the director of Simeon Trust, an organization dedicated to helping pastors preach expository sermons with practical application.

David has written a very helpful commentary that majors on the majors. This is always a good thing in preaching. The payoff on 1 Peter is very helpful indeed, since the (in)famous passage about the spirits in prison is located in chapter 3. I appreciated his sermon on this text, as it was a refreshing approach that sought to major on the main point. There are a myriad of questions surrounding that text, of course, but David Helm concentrates on the fact that Christ is crucified, raised, and ascended, and that therefore, just as Jesus is victorious, so also should we be encouraged, knowing that we will be victorious in Christ as well. 

Helm has a helpful way of reminding readers where in the letter they are (a big picture perspective). See, for instance, the section on pp. 47-49, which details the flow of thought from the first nine verses of chapter 1 into the second major section of chapter 1. He notes the movement from the future (vv. 3-5) to the present (vv. 6-9) to the past (vv. 10-12).

Helm affirms the full plenary inspiration of Scripture in his sermon on 2 Peter 1:16-21, and offers some helpful points about the lamp shining in a dark place, as well as an explanation of how the Holy Spirit carried the authors of Scripture.

Helm does not shortchange Jude, either, with nine whole sermons on the book (80 pages). All in all, a very good preacher’s aid. It should rank with Clowney and Schreiner for practical help in preaching these books.  

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The Unity of Theology

One of the biggest hangovers from the Enlightenment is the fragmentation of knowledge. This is true of all departments of knowledge, not just theology. With the rush to specialization, there comes greater knowledge in specialty departments, but with a corresponding lack of general knowledge. No longer could one acquire a Ph.D. in Physics generally. You can only get a Ph.D. in Physics now if you do it in a sub-department of a sub-department of a sub-department of Physics.

Seminaries today are specialized. Faculties are specialized. This has some advantages. There can be a good division of labor this way. Specialists have a better chance of keeping up in their field. However, there comes a terrible price to pay that goes largely unnoticed by all but a few (usually in church history and systematics, who are more attuned to the unity of theology anyway): departments not only stop talking to each other, but start becoming suspicious of each other. The very worst part of this suspicion certainly surrounds the exegetical departments in their relation to systematics. The fault here is almost entirely on the part of the exegetes. Systematics professors have been warned for so long about the dangers of proof-texting that they are gun shy to a certain extent. But if I had a dollar for every time I read in a commentary “That’s a systematic category, and we can’t talk about that in a commentary,” I would be exceedingly wealthy indeed. Exegete this passage, folks: “Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one” from Deuteronomy 6:4. Does not the Shema tell us that the Lord is one? Then shouldn’t theology also be one in some sense? I do not advocate the elimination of departments in seminaries. But there are some things that seminaries need to do if students are not to leave bewildered by the competing methodologies of the various disciplines.

First, have students read Richard Muller’s book The Study of Theology. And they should read it at the beginning and at the end of their seminary training. Either that, or read Edward Farley’s book Theologia (unfortunately out of print).

Second, the introductory classes to the various disciplines should have sections dealing with how their discipline is dependent on every other discipline.

Third, all throughout the courses, specific application should be made apparent as to how the knowledge they are acquiring is inter-dependent on all other disciplines in theology.