Sunday, 21 December 2008

1 and 2 Timothy by William B. Barcley (Evangelical Press)

The author of this hardback commentary is Associate Professor of New Testament at Reformed Theological Seminary, Jackson, Mississippi, and pastor of Lebanon Presbyterian Church in Learned, Mississippi. This combination of theological training of future pastors and weekly Bible exposition to lay people enables him to provide a commentary that is both biblically accurate and readable. He gives greater space to 1 Timothy (200 pages), which he subtitles, ‘The priorities of a godly church’, than to 2 Timothy (90 pages) which he subtitles, ‘The final words of the great apostle’. Each biblical book is divided into sections and sub-sections, with identifiable application passages occurring frequently. These application passages will be of help to preachers who use this commentary.

Regarding 1 Timothy, he notes that the issues dealt with by Paul are still of importance for today’s church, such as features of public worship, the role of women, the nature of preaching, the qualifications for leadership, and practical help for the poor. These and other issues are explained in a lucid and succinct manner and will help any who consult this work.

Since 2 Timothy was Paul’s last letter before his martyrdom, it is more poignant than 1 Timothy, and reveals the tenderness of his heart in his concern for the spiritual development and ongoing faithfulness of his close associate, Timothy. Barcley also stresses the attitudes of commitment to people and confidence in them that marked Paul as a servant of Christ and gives his opinion that ‘the greatest characteristic of Christ’s servants is not their personal strength, not their charismatic personality, not their gifts and talents. It is their reliance – reliance on others, reliance on the grace of God. Is that at the top of your church’s ministerial job description.’

This commentary is recommended for preachers who wish to review their ministries, for church leaders concerned about fulfilling their roles, and for church members desiring to have a biblical understanding of church life. Barcley observes that ‘the modern evangelical attitude that the Christian life is simply “Jesus and me” is a departure from biblical growth. The Bible knows of no proper Christianity, and certainly no health and growth in the Christian life, apart from active involvement in the church of Jesus Christ.’ This commentary is a challenging reminder of the importance of Christian service in the context of Christ’s church.

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