It’s interesting: if you look at church history, most of the great theologians are also pastoral leaders for significant portions of their ministry. Augustine was a bishop in Hippo. Calvin was leading the church in Geneva. Jonathan Edwards is considered America’s sharpest theological mind, and he pastored a church while he did most of his theological work. So, when the eminent theologian and radio personality R.C. Sproul begins to write a series of Bible commentaries based on his pastoral leadership at St. Andrew’s church in Sanford, FL for the last several years of his life, I stand up and take notice. R.C. Sproul’s John was one of the first commentaries in this series. John is a commentary that reflects the heart of a good pastor, an excellent preacher, and a competent theologian.
John is very accessible to the common reader. It is, in many ways, a layman’s commentary. Written as a byproduct of his exegetical sermons in the gospel of John, the tone of the book will remind the reader of Barclay’s commentaries from a generation ago, or N.T. Wright’s For Everyone commentaries on the New Testament. The difference between those commentaries and this one is that Dr. Sproul’s theology would be defined both as more evangelical and more reformed.
Throughout John, Dr. Sproul addresses common questions that are asked in nearly every congregation. For instance he says, “The theological question I hear most often is this: ‘What happens to the innocent native in Africa who has never heard the gospel?’”(p. 234).
Once Dr. Sproul identifies questions like the one above, he goes about answering them in a clear and succinct manner. In addition to identifying questions he knows we all want answered, Dr. Sproul clearly correlates what is happening in the Bible to what we all experience. Specifically intriguing to me was Dr. Sproul’s explanation of John the Baptist’s statement of “He must increase, and I must decrease” in John 3:30.
John is also the result of a top-notch theological mind. Over and over again, I was impressed with what I learned from Dr. Sproul, and how he noticed important points in the text that most others would completely pass over.
The only disappointing part of this for some will be with the title of the commentary series—St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary, and its relation to what the reader actually discovers while reading the book. John is advertised as an “expository” commentary. It is expositional in that it was the result of exegetical preaching. But it is not expository in the sense of clearly taking the passages he looks over verse by verse and examining them in that fashion. Instead Dr. Sproul looks at sections of Scripture at one time, as he goes through the whole book of John. I personally am very comfortable with Dr. Sproul’s approach, but some may object or feel misled.
All in all, I would recommend this commentary for a pastor preaching a sermon, a lay person teaching a Sunday School class, or a person who simply wanted to understand more of what the Bible is saying. And, after reading this commentary I am eager to read more in this series. – Clint Walker, www.ChristianBookPreviews.com
In John, the second volume in the St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary series, Dr. Sproul deals with major themes in his easily understandable style. Readers will find invaluable insights into the goals John had in writing his Gospel, the background for Jesus’ time, and the meanings of some of John’s most difficult passages. This introduction to the Gospel of John is packed with insights and exhortations that will draw the reader closer to the Savior and encourage him or her to a greater depth of love and devotion to Him.
John presents the fruits of Dr. R. C. Sproul’s lifetime of biblical study as expressed in his most recent calling. After a long and distinguished ministry as a teacher in various settings, Dr. Sproul accepted a call in 1997 to preach at St. Andrew’s in Sanford, Florida. There, he adopted the ancient practice of preaching through books of the Bible, eventually working his way through several of them. He has now begun to adapt those sermon series in book form, and the result is the St. Andrew’s Expositional Commentary series.