Friday, 11 March 2016

From the Pen of Pastor Paul- a Review

From the Pen of Pastor Paul is essentially a collection of 32 sermons (twenty on 1 Thessalonians, twelve on 2 Thessalonians) adapted to form a book. The author, Daniel R Hyde, is pastor of Oceanside United Reformed Church in California. Having turned down a call from another church, he re-committed himself to OURC and broke into his planned preaching program to lead the congregation through 1 and 2 Thessalonians.

There are things an expositional commentary like this can’t do. Firstly, a preacher has to be selective. Unless your pastor is a modern-day Martyn-Lloyd Jones, he won’t be able to preach a series of sermons on every Scriptural sentence. This is a collection of 32 sermons on both Thessalonian letters, not everything will be covered in depth. Even some of Paul’s most famous Thessalonian exhortations, get little attention (like “give thanks in all circumstances” for example 1 Thes 5:18). Sometimes disappointing, but a preacher has to make decisions about what not to say too.

Secondly, a preacher can’t devote huge amounts of time presenting scholarly debate on authorship, translation or historical context. Most of this exegetical work goes on in the behind the scenes, it sits under the surface of the sermon itself. There is no in depth discussion on Greek words, or contemporary theological debate.
I don’t think either of these things are problematic, but were I preparing a sermon series or Bible study on Thessalonians, this wouldn’t be the only modern commentary I’d turn to- a more detailed exegetical commentary would be a helpful companion.      

There are things a book like this can’t do, but there are certainly great strengths with this type of commentary too.

When done well, the commentary will do what good preaching does, it will move the heart as well as enlighten the mind, it will bring the intention of the 1st century author home to the modern day Christian with clarity and force.

This book ticks those boxes.

You can’t miss or doubt Hyde’s his love for Scripture and for the people to whom he preaches.

“The best commentaries on New Testament Epistles are often those that were born in the same way as the Epistles themselves: out of the womb of real pastoral concern and ministry.” Says Dr Conrad Mbewe in his commendation.

Hyde himself says in his foreword:

“I believe in 1 Thessalonians Paul opens his pastoral heart more than to any other congregation to which he wrote… John Stott said, Paul’s Thessalonian correspondence ‘reveals the authentic Paul… We hear his heart-beat and see his tears.’”
He goes on to say that the sermons which formed the basis of the book were the most personal, earnest, and applicatory that he had ever preached.  What believer would not benefit from a commentary like that?  

There were a number of traits which I grew to appreciate more and more as I worked my way through the book:

There is little in the way of illustrative stories and anecdotes- unfashionable, but Hyde’s style is more than engaging enough, and it makes the book accessible to those not as familiar with North American culture. He handles the text well, and he knows the hearts of his hearers. That makes for compelling reading all by itself.  

Secondly, Hyde leans on the wisdom of saints from past generations. When preaching through a biblical book he has ‘conversation partners’ from the Church Fathers, the medieval period, the Reformation, the Puritans as well as modern commentators. John Chrysostom, Thomas Aquinas, James Ferguson, FF Bruce and John Stott were those conversation partners through Thessalonians. Every generation has its strengths and weaknesses and some of the insights from these forefathers in the faith were really insightful and penetrating.

Thirdly, the book is simple, but not simplistic. It ought to be accessible and beneficial to all believers whether young or old, theologically trained or totally new to reading Christian books.  

In his chapter on the opening words of 1 Thessalonians, Hyde says:

… As a persecuted pastor himself, Paul’s greatest pastoral desire in his first letter back to the persecuted Thessalonian Christians was that they would persevere in their faith, hope, and love… As with Paul, a pastor’s desire for his people is that they would continually rekindle their passion for the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. (p18,19) 

The greatest compliment I can pay to this commentary, is that as I read it, it did continually rekindle my passion for the Gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. I wholeheartedly recommend it.

I received this book for free from Evangelical Press in exchange for this honest review. I was not required to write a positive review of the book.

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