Understanding Esther, 1 Corinthians and James

One of my great privileges as a pastor is to preach from God’s Word. I spend a lot of time in God’s Word as I prepare sermons, write Bible studies, disciple people and go on pastoral visits, etc. Spending time in the Bible is a precious gift that every Christian should enjoy. And as we do that, there will inevitably be bits that we struggle with or don’t quite understand. That’s where we can learn from others. The Lord has gifted the church men and women who have written helpful commentaries, both technical and devotional, for us to benefit from. Here are just a few commentaries that I’ve read recently…

1 Corinthians For You by Andrew Wilson

1 Corinthians is a marvellous book of the Bible! It’s a book that is probably well known for a few passages; for example chapter 12 is known for love, 14 for spiritual gifts and 15 for the resurrection. But the book is so much more than just the few well known, or hotly debated, passages.

Andrew Wilson is a gifted preacher and writer who has poured his skill into this book. Wilson walks you through 1 Corinthians in a devotional style commentary. It is not too technical, but ideal for the average Christian who wants to think about 1 Corinthians a bit more. The book is designed to be read by a number of different folks. It could work as a devotional commentary for your quiet times, guide to help you understand 1 Corinthians better, and for those who are leading small groups or preaching on 1 Corinthians.

Andrew obviously speaks from his own position when talking about the more ‘tricky’ passage, but he deals with those who disagree with him well. The temptation is to simply slate those who you don’t agree with, Wilson doesn’t do that. Instead he summarises other opinions well and shows how he thinks that they aren’t right as he has studied the text. This will definitely be a helpful book for you to get if you’re wanting to wrestle with 1 Corinthians. I would say that it is a devotional book, and therefore, it doesn’t tackle every question or speak about every verse. You can pre-order a copy here (due to be released on August 1st, 2021).


Opening Up Esther by Robert Dale

The ‘Opening Up’ series from DayOne is a series of short books about books of the Bible. They are designed to give you a brief overview of each book and walk you through passages. They act a little bit like some sermons on passages.

This book is good, it touches on the great story of Esther, but personally I found it a bit short. I would have loved for Robert to talk more about the use of irony in Esther and how that helps us understand the book better. After each chapter there are two things; a ‘further study’ section and some study or discussion questions. Some of them are really helpful, whilst others not so much.

The book is designed to be very introductory, and it is. I would suggest that this book is for the average Christian who wants to think about the book of Esther without ‘studying’ it. This isn’t the kind of book I would recommend as a quiet time companion, but more as a book to chill and read in the sun.


Teaching James by Mervyn Eloff

The Proclamation Trust have a really helpful set of books that are written more for preachers and Bible teachers to help them deal with Bible books in a bit more depth. Mervyn Eloff tackles James in this volume. Eloff takes you through the context and structure of James, through textual observations and exegetical comments that are designed to help ou preach James better.

Me and Mervyn wouldn’t agree on everything about James, we would understand a couple of passages differently, but the book is good. Mervyn does well at giving the reader the general applications of passages or sections of James by posing helpful questions or just stating what he thinks the application is. I would have liked to have seen more specific application to particular verses, but such is life.

Mervyn gets your head straight into the book, explains the context well and he defends his understand of the author, date and intended audience well. This is a good book to look at if you’re considering preaching James in the future.

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