Pastors, read homiletical commentaries. Well, you might respond with the question, “what is a homiletical commentary?” Brother, I’m glad you asked!
There are numerous types of commentaries on the Bible. Exegetical commentaries delve deep into the original languages. Theological commentaries delve deep into how the particular book fits within the larger theology of the Bible. Homiletical commentaries are how a particular pastor not only explains but applies the text. As a pastor, my approach is to use all three types in my sermon preparation.
The need for exegetical commentaries is very obvious to most pastors. Pastors who have not attended seminary might not know Greek and Hebrew. Seminary trained pastors most likely have a working knowledge of the biblical languages. However, even a seminary trained pastor does not have expertise to the degree of the professors writing exegetical commentaries. Therefore, all preachers should do the diligent work of engaging a robust exegetical treatment of the passage they are preaching.
I recommend the Baker Exegetical Commentary series, the Zondervan Exegetical Commentary series, Eerdman’s New International Greek Commentary series, as well as the Word Biblical Commentary series. All four series provide in-depth scholarship that the vast majority of pastors are unable to develop on their own. As a pastor I view these scholars and their books as a gift to the church. They enable me to wrestle with the text to degrees otherwise unattainable for me even though I have a working knowledge of the languages.
The need for theological commentaries is probably obvious to most pastors. Most pastors (seminary trained or not) have a deeper knowledge of theology than the biblical languages. However, there is still a need for pastors to humbly learn from those who have greater expertise. Further, these commentaries tend to make observations and connections that we might miss. At the very least, these works stir the thinking of a busy pastor.
I recommend B&H’s New American Commentary series, IVP’s Tyndale Commentary Series, Eerdman’s classic New International Commentaries on the Old and New Testaments, as well as P&R’s Reformed Expository Commentary series. I have a conviction that you ought to purchase the author not the series. However, by in large, these series are written by scholars and pastors from a sound evangelical perspective. Further, these authors always provide helpful knowledge about the text that I would not have had otherwise.
The need for homiletical commentaries might not be as apparent for most pastors. These commentaries are typically the reworking of a pastor’s sermons on a book of the Bible. These books have a more pastoral tone than exegetical or theological commentaries. They are demonstrations of not only how to explain a text but also apply a text. They are helpful to bridge a pastor from thinking about what the text means to how it can help his congregation.
I recommend Crossway’s Preaching the Word series, Ligonier Ministries’ Expositional Commentary series, and The Bible Exposition Commentary series. My recent book The Gospel According to Micah: A Christocentric Commentary is in the vein of a homiletical commentary. These commentaries are a particular blessing because they link the exegetical work of understanding to the pastoral work of application. They drive the preacher to intentionally think through how his passage ministers to his church.
Finally, I advocate the need for a pastor to read widely a diversity of commentaries. Certainly, a pastor should study sound evangelical works. However, pastors should not be afraid to venture outside the camp. Further, more academically minded brothers should diversify their study to include homiletical works. Likewise, brothers focused more on practical concerns should do the work of studying their text at a more academic level. In the end, I urge pastors to include homiletical works in their rhythms because it will ensure their preaching moves from the theoretical realm to the practical realm. Your church will thank you for this type of pastoral care.