Reader Appeal: Pastors, Sunday School Teachers

Genre: Bible Commentary

FBSN Rating: B

 

The distinctive aspects of the Christ-Centered Exposition series are two-fold. First, as the editors say, “The Bible is a Christ-centered book … We purpose to exalt Jesus from every book of the Bible.” Second, “We desire to provide a commentary busy pastors will use.” Those two goals drive every facet of Mark Howell’s Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians. The results are interesting.

On the downside, the exclusive focus on pastors (and related, to Sunday School teachers) makes this commentary a bit unwieldy for Bible Study Nerds who are not in a teaching capacity. Also, like all the books in this series, this one is exclusively a Baptist commentary, written by a Baptist for other Baptists. In that sense, when combined with its pastors-only agenda, Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians sometimes feels insular in tone and message. Still, if you can get past those things. or if you are a Baptist preacher yourself, you’ll find much to admire in Howell’s work.

First, Howell writes with a pastor’s heart, inviting readers to do more than just learn facts and history about Paul’s letters. For instance, when discussing 1 Thessalonians 2:14-16, Howell begins by saying, “Read verse 14 very carefully and allow it to soak in.” That’s refreshing, because it sometimes turns study of these letters into devotions about the letters. When Scripture becomes personal like that during study time, it shows up in the sermon—and in a life.

Second, Howell isn’t afraid to ask the “why” question—as in, “Why would Paul say that?” Asking the question engages us in a discovery of the answer. In this way, Howell avoids simply dumping theology on the reader and instead brings us along in our understanding, and ability to explain to others, answers to the typical questions that arise from a study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

Additionally, Howell’s commentary is solidly evangelical, which I tend to prefer, and appears well-grounded in the scholarly traditions.

Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians isn’t for every Bible Study Nerd, but then again it wasn’t meant to be anyway. Regardless, pastors and Sunday School teachers in most of the evangelical denominations will be glad to discover this uniquely human commentary on two of Paul letters.

 

Exalting Jesus in 1 & 2 Thessalonians by Mark Howell

(Holman Reference)

 

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