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A Pastor’s Reflections: Beale and Carson

May 16, 2017

VFT

I regularly get asked about recommended resources for sermon preparation. There is quite obviously an ocean of books out there, so I can’t possibly know which books are the absolute best. I can, however, say which books I’ve personally found extremely useful. In my own studies I have found D. A. Carson and G. K. Beale’s New Testament Commentary on the Use of the Old Testament to be an invaluable resource. This is an entire commentary on the New Testament that explores quotations, allusions, or echoes to the Old Testament. Moreover, the book is very affordable—around $35.00. What makes this book so useful?

When I’ve preached from the New Testament one of the most important things is recognizing how the author uses the Old Testament. St. Augustine’s famous saying is so important for understanding the unity of the Bible: “What is hidden in the Old is revealed in the New, and what is revealed in the New is hidden in the Old.” In other words, New Testament authors do not make-up or invent doctrines. Rather, they’re reflecting on the Old Testament and explaining how Christ fulfills it. Given the general unfamiliarity with the Old Testament in the broader church, I believe that many people in the pews, and sadly some pastors, pass right over subtle connections to the Old Testament and don’t even realize it. By using Beale and Carson you can quickly identify when the New Testament quotes or alludes to an Old Testament text. If you’re preaching or studying the Old Testament, you can use the book’s index to see if the passage you’re studying appears in the book. I’ve used the book’s index to this purpose on multiple occasions.

A nice feature about this book is that you can quickly read an explanation of a New Testament author’s use of an Old Testament text—the explanations are thorough but not too lengthy. I can recall trying to use John Owen’s famous commentary on Hebrews for weekly Sunday School preparation and having to set it aside because I didn’t have the time carefully to read 200 pages on one chapter of Scripture! You will not have this problem with Carson and Beale. I suspect that most readers will want to skip the sections on the inter-testamental interpretation of the Old Testament text under discussion, but if you’re interested in such things, then you’ll have much grist for the mill.

Why is all of this important? Simply stated, regardless of what portion of the Scriptures you’re studying, teaching, or preaching, you need to convey to the church or your family that your text is a small part of a greater whole. Too many people look at the Bible as if it were a rag-bag chaotic collection of texts. This is the farthest thing from the truth. When I preached on various New Testament texts, I would typically read a corresponding Old Testament text (helpfully explained by Beale and Carson in my sermon prep). In my sermon I would identify the connections between the Testaments and how both Testaments pointed to Christ.

There are many excellent books on the New Testament’s use of the Old Testament, but few, in my opinion, can touch Beale and Carson’s excellent work on price, comprehensiveness, and utility. If you don’t own a copy, get one. The book is very useful for sermon preparation, Bible study, or even personal devotions.