The Preacher and Teacher: The First John

What immediately struck me about his book was the way in which he elucidates the major themes, theological and practical, of his own theological heroes.

John Calvin in particular took on a new freshness for me as I listened in to the impact the Reformer had on Dr. Ferguson. It seems strange to write about a writer who’s commentating on a writer, but the strangeness quickly evaporates once the reader engages Ferguson’s book. It’s a lens through which the weighty and important truths from Calvin, Owen, and Murray – the three John’s – are identified, distilled, and delivered in both a clear and concise manner.

 

Reading through Sinclair Ferguson’s book Some Pastors and Teachers feels akin, or so I imagine, to sitting down with the author and getting to hear first hand what it was that sharpened and formed him into the pastor, preacher, and theologian he is today. Each chapter excels at informing the reader what it sets out to explore, but it’s hearing the way Dr. Ferguson has been influenced in or impacted by any given thought that makes the book so special.

Indeed, what immediately struck me about his book was the way in which he elucidates the major themes, theological and practical, of his own theological heroes. John Calvin in particular took on a new freshness for me as I listened in to the impact the Reformer had on Dr. Ferguson. It seems strange to write about a writer who’s commentating on a writer, but the strangeness quickly evaporates once the reader engages Ferguson’s book. It’s a lens through which the weighty and important truths from Calvin, Owen, and Murray – the three John’s – are identified, distilled, and delivered in both a clear and concise manner.

Consider, for example, chapter six, “John Calvin: Commentator for Preachers”.  Here we’re invited, as it were, into Sinclair Ferguson’s study to see how he prepares to preach and he opens up for us one of John Calvin’s commentaries. You, being perhaps a brand new pastor, might wonder what value there is reading such a work, maybe tempted to believe that the scholarship of the 1500’s is surely outdated. You’d be mistaken.

“Calvin’s great burden as an interpreter of Scripture is always to seek out the scopus of the text, [thus] his work is invaluable in helping us get to the point (still a sine qua non of good preaching!)… But, for most preachers, what gives real value to a commentary is a sometimes less easily defined quality; its ability to stimulate, to prime the pump for our own work on a passage, sometimes giving us a jump start when the batteries have begun to run low. Calvin does exactly this, occasionally in surprising ways.”[1]

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