Bags of Bran

1 Timothy Resources
March 2, 2018, 9:18 pm
Filed under: Bible, Pastor Stuff

A while ago (a Sunday back in January) I finished preaching through 1 Timothy. Paul addresses Timothy’s situation with immediacy and timelessness, and making the jump from the first to the twenty-first century was little strain on the imagination. This letter speaks to our cheapening age with a rebuke like the voice of many waters.

Another while ago (still back in January) I mused aloud about giving my opinion on the resources I used to prepare sermons from 1 Timothy. They varied somewhat from week to week, especially over the eight weeks I spent on 1 Timothy 3:16 alone. But I have some general opinions that may be of use to you, especially since 1) I actually preached through the book; and 2) I am not selling anything.


Marshall, I. Howard, and Philip H. Towner. A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Pastoral Epistles. ICC 2004 (LOGOS edition)

I. Howard Marshall really did a good job for me. He seemed to anticipate where I would have questions with the text and give most of the possible explanations. I consulted this lucid, pithy volume every week. He accomplished this without atomizing the text: he was concerned to preserve the thread through the text and made connection to other passages within the Pastoral Epistles regularly.

Also: Marshall had the best introduction that I read, especially in setting the scene at Ephesus. This guided me all the way through the book: it is imperative to remember that Paul was tasking Timothy with a very unsavory task: reclaim the wayward church at Ephesus. He doesn’t believe that Paul wrote the letters, but believes that Paul had a hand in their composition, which, to me, comes across as fence-straddling.

Towner, Philip H. The Letters to Timothy and Titus. NICNT 2006

Towner is great as well. I don’t normally “read” commentaries, but Towner writes well enough that one can “read” him with profit. His introduction is lean, but he makes up for it with his excurses. This is where he develops key ideas in the letter and compares them within the rest of Paul’s letters. These helped me to avoid saying inaccurate things on more than one occasion!

Johnson, Luke Timothy. The First and Second Letters to Timothy. AB 2001

Normally I like Luke Timothy Johnson, but I felt that this volume was rather flat. It was very unlike his commentary on James. After a few weeks I discovered that Marshall and Towner were addressing everything that Johnson was, only more interestedly. I shelved Johnson early and consulted him seldom.

Fee, Gordon D. 1 and 2 Timothy, Titus. NIBC 1988.

Fee is occasionally helpful, occasionally providing broadly biblical support for his conclusions. But he is most helpful in demonstrating the transitions from one section to another: he shows the continuity and unity of the book.

Mounce, William D. Pastoral Epistles. WBC 2000 (LOGOS edition)

I seldom consulted Mounce because, for the most part, the meaning of 1 Timothy is not mired in difficult grammar. This is where Mounce shines (as any of us who have studied Greek will not be surprised to hear): but my questions (again) rarely related to grammar/syntax so much as tracking with Paul’s argument and Timothy’s charge.


This last resource was profitable for making the connections between the text and the congregation. A friend (thanks, Chuck!) gave me the sound and sage advice to consult John Calvin, and he gave me a link to this. It’s a collection of transcripts from Calvin’s sermons on 1 Timothy, translated into English. It is a marvel of pastoral insight. I didn’t go off about popery as much as Calvin did, but there are plenty of analogues in our day.

That about covers it. I occasionally consulted with the church fathers (mostly Augustine and Chrysostom) using LOGOS searches. I also used Calvin’s commentary, but that was just a summary of what was in his sermons. Invest the time: you’ll not regret it.


I didn’t buy Knight’s volume. I wish I would have bought it instead of Johnson, but no, I was stubborn and foolish.

Hope this helps!


Preaching Was People Work in the 7th Century
August 26, 2017, 11:13 pm
Filed under: Biography, Pastor Stuff

Among the several worthy Gregories from church history is Gregory the Great, perhaps best known as Pope Gregory I, father of Gregorian chant. Now, before you tune out, be aware that John Calvin appreciated Gregory’s writings very much. Remember also that Roman Catholicism was a different beast in the 7th century compared with the 16th.

At any rate, Gregory’s Book of Pastoral Rule turned up in my weekly reading. In it, I unearthed this gem (Part III, chapter 1), in which Gregory addresses the various considerations that will influence the way he approaches his sermon preparation:

Whence every teacher also, that he may edify all in the one virtue of charity, ought to touch the hearts of his hearers out of one doctrine, but not with one and the same exhortation…

Differently to be admonished are these that follow:—

Men and women.
The poor and the rich.
The joyful and the sad.
Prelates and subordinates.
Servants and masters.
The wise of this world and the dull.
The impudent and the bashful.
The forward and the fainthearted.
The impatient and the patient.
The kindly disposed and the envious.
The simple and the insincere.
The whole and the sick.
Those who fear scourges, and therefore live innocently; and those who have grown so hard in iniquity as not to be corrected even by scourges.
The too silent, and those who spend time in much speaking.
The slothful and the hasty.
The meek and the passionate.
The humble and the haughty.
The obstinate and the fickle.
The gluttonous and the abstinent.
Those who mercifully give of their own, and those who would fain seize what belongs to others.
Those who neither seize the things of others nor are bountiful with their own; and those who both give away the things they have, and yet cease not to seize the things of others.
Those that are at variance, and those that are at peace.
Lovers of strifes and peacemakers.
Those that understand not aright the words of sacred law; and those who understand them indeed aright, but speak them without humility.
Those who, though able to preach worthily, are afraid through excessive humility; and those whom imperfection or age debars from preaching, and yet rashness impels to it.
Those who prosper in what they desire in temporal matters; and those who covet indeed the things that are of the world, and yet are wearied with the toils of adversity.
Those who are bound by wedlock, and those who are free from the ties of wedlock.
Those who have had experience of carnal intercourse, and those who are ignorant of it.
Those who deplore sins of deed, and those who deplore sins of thought.
Those who bewail misdeeds, yet forsake them not; and those who forsake them, yet bewail them not.
Those who even praise the unlawful things they do; and those who censure what is wrong, yet avoid it not.
Those who are overcome by sudden passion, and those who are bound in guilt of set purpose.
Those who, though their unlawful deeds are trivial, yet do them frequently; and those who keep themselves from small sins, but are occasionally whelmed in graver ones.
Those who do not even begin what is good, and those who fail entirely to complete the good begun.
Those who do evil secretly and good publicly; and those who conceal the good they do, and yet in some things done publicly allow evil to be thought of them.

He then goes on to develop each distinction in turn throughout Section III.

But of what profit is it for us to run through all these things collected together in a list, unless we also set forth, with all possible brevity, the modes of admonition for each?

That’s an incredibly thoughtful approach.

Things Unchanged
April 27, 2017, 10:17 am
Filed under: Biography, Pastor Stuff

As I’ve been working through The Benedict Option in fits and starts, I have started to pay more attention to the background and life settings in which saints of other times lived. Recently someone made a remark to the effect that so-and-so was tap-dancing blindfolded in a yard full of rakes. That paints a mental picture, does it not?


As I savored the mental picture, the word “rakes” evoked a memory from the dusty cellars of my college education.* It’s a quote from an Anglican preacher named John Berridge, who lived from 1716-1793, and was one of the preachers involved in the Evangelical Revival in England. Note this well: I am most certainly not advocating everything that came out of the Evangelical Revival, nor am I advocating everything that came out of John Berridge; but he is precisely right on this matter.

The context was this: England was a Christian country, but of the superstitious sort that placed a premium on human works for salvation. In fact, for much of his life, Berridge preached a message of works-righteousness. But he later became convinced that true righteousness before God was a matter of faith, and therefore good works were only good as they were expressions of love and gratitude for God’s grace.

But what kind of person could receive God’s grace? Only one who was aware of his own sinfulness: one could not simply look to his good standing in a Christian community; that was not the standard of comparison. Berridge writes:

And if this was the case in the purest age what else can be expected in succeeding ages? But you say we sojourn in a baptized country. True, the country swarmeth with baptized rakes, baptized worldlings, and baptized infidels. A watery profession without the Spirit’s baptism will never wash the heart from pride and subdue it to the gospel doctrines, and legal righteousness will set the heart still more against them. No one can truly bear the doctrines till he cannot bear himself. Jesus Christ inviteth them that are weary [of] themselves and laden with their guilt and sinful nature. Only such received him in Judea and only such receive him in Great Britain. These are prepared for his gospel [who] know what poverty of spirit means and feel that brokenness of heart which God delighteth in and where he only dwells.

America is only a “Christian” nation in the sense that Berridge’s England was a “baptized” country. We may be crawling with evangelicals, but their profession is wearing thinner and thinner in every generation as “more and more people are won to less and less Christianity.”

One of the things that Dreher gets right in The Benedict Option is that much that is called Christianity is utterly devoid of sacrifice. Ours is a country that “swarmeth with baptized rakes, baptized worldlings, and baptized infidels” too. Let the swarms swarm; let us make our institutional commitments with people who share our values and goals.

*If I could only bring people’s names to recall with such alacrity, I’d be set.


Celebrating Revivalism and Other Noxious Pieties


\"If I am immoderate, I am immoderate to God.\" - Bengel


Like sawdust, but edible.

Broad Meadow

I have spoken the truth coldly; who cares for the truth? To be useful, one must be charming, and my pen has lost that art.

Planting churches with the Baptist Confession in one hand and Tolkien in the other

Orchard Keeper

Plucking fruit from the grove of biblical and theological studies

Jubilate Deo

Music in the service of the church


Theology, apologetics, ramblings

Towards Conservative Christianity

Promoting true conservative Christianity


"We must come down to the plains of distinction and multiplicity." -Pseudo Dionysus

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