Fries, Micah, Stephen Rummage, Robby Gallaty, David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida. Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Nashville, TN: Holman Reference, 2015. 292 pp. $14.99
Old Testament Commentary
A continuing trend in evangelical publishing are Biblical Theology resources, particularly as it relates to seeing the Scriptures communicating a unified message centered around Jesus Christ. On of the latest of these resources is the Christ-Centered Exposition commentary series edited by David Platt, Daniel L. Akin, and Tony Merida.
The specific focus of this review deals with one of the books in the series on the Minor Prophets, Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi by Micah Fries, Stephen Rummage, and Robby Gallaty.
The foundation of this series is the belief that “the Bible is a Christ-centered book,” and that “it contains a unified story of redemptive history of which Jesus is the hero” (xi). In light of this, the primary objective of the series is communicated in the subtitle of each commentary.
Although the series is self-titled as a commentary, the editors are clear to communicate it is not a series that is “academic in nature” (xi). The editors argue that the series has four “distinguishing characteristics” (xi). First, to “display exegetical accuracy” (xi); second, the commentaries are written with “pastors in view” (xi); third, the “inclusion of helpful illustrations and theologically driven applications” (xii); and fourth, “to exalt Jesus from every book of the bible” (xii).
Although it is fair to say the above four characteristics are true of this series, it is hard to see them as distinguishing. I do not know of any evangelical commentary series that does not seek to “display exegetical accuracy” or is not written with “pastors in view”. Even the more technical evangelical commentaries are written with an eye toward equipping the pastor to faithfully interpret the text. This is not to say this series is not faithful in these aforementioned characteristics, just that they are not necessarily “distinguishing”.
The breakdown of this book has Fries offering commentary on Zephaniah and Haggai, Rummage on Zechariah, and Gallaty on Malachi. Each of the authors divides their respective Minor Prophet into manageable passages for preaching and offers what reads more like a sermon than a commentary on each passage.
The commentary contains some explanation of the passages, but has mostly a larger emphasis on significance and application of the passage in today’s context. This significance and application aspect is further strengthened with “Reflect and Discuss” questions at the end of each chapter. A comparable commentary series with similar structure would be InterVarsity Press’s The Bible Speaks Today series.
Benefit for Pastoral Ministry
The difficulty with any commentary series is there is generally a wide range of a book’s helpfulness or lack thereof. Some authors within a series is more helpful than others. Even the same author is more helpful and insightful on some passages than others.
Additionally, the usefulness and helpfulness of a particular commentary is somewhat determined by the reader’s theological development and persuasion. This commentary will be no different in that sense. Some will find it helpful, others not.
One of the limitations of the commentary is an area that it seeks to be strong—providing illustrations and applications for pastors in their sermon preparation (xi). This is provided throughout this work by all three of the authors. However, appropriate illustrations and application of a text are not timeless or contextually limited like explanation of a text is.
Part of the the uniqueness of the local church pastor is that he should know more than anyone else what the most effective illustrations are to engage his audience with the text and the proper applications of the passage in his context.
This is generally the most difficult aspect of sermon preparation and preaching. The danger would be in reading this commentary and assuming the illustrations and applications that are appropriate in Nashville would be the same in the reader’s context.
This is not to say this commentary can not be useful. It can be. If you only have a budget to buy one commentary on the Minor Prophets, I would not start with this one. However, it can be a very useful aid in supplementing more technical commentaries. This is particular true if you are looking for ideas about how to begin to relate the Minor Prophets to our current context in a way that is faithful for a sermon.
Beyond sermon preparation, the commentary is also a good resource to point those in your congregation that are looking for resources to read together with others in a small-group format or informal discipleship setting. In some ways, it may be a more useful resource for this context than sermon preparation.
Essential — Recommended — Helpful — Pass It By
Christ-Centered Exposition: Exalting Jesus in Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi is a helpful resource for assisting those seeking to make sense of how the Minor Prophets have significance for Christians today.