Book Reviews -- By: Anonymous
JBTM 11:1 (Spring 2014) p. 100
1–3 John: Fellowship in God’s Family. By David L. Allen. Preaching the Word. Edited by R. Kent Hughes. Wheaton: Crossway, 2013. 336 pages. Hardcover, $32.99.
Over the last fourteen years, a number of resources on 1–3 John have been published.1 A resource that compares to David Allen’s 1–3 John: Fellowship in God’s Family is the expositional commentary on John’s three letters by John MacArthur (Moody, 2007). Even so, Allen’s commentary is unique when placed on a shelf beside all of these other resources. The reason is that Allen’s book is not exactly a traditional commentary on 1–3 John. Instead, this book is a collection of twenty-two sermons, twenty of which deal with 1 John. Allen suggests calling them “sermontaries” (15). He says they are “more than a sermon but less than commentary” (15). The abundance of exegetical information packed inside these sermons will surprise readers. He treats issues from textual variants to discourse structure to changes in verb tense. Allen’s training in linguistics at the University of Texas at Arlington reveals the benefit that modern linguistics can yield for Bible exposition. It is refreshing that he addresses discourse features that often go overlooked in more word-based commentaries (e.g., verbal aspect). Preparing Bible messages entails more than only doing word studies.
Allen believes in teaching paragraphs of thought, not only words and clauses (13–14). Nevertheless, he still pauses in his sermon series to discuss the meaning of a critical word or a major theological issue. The sermon on 1 John 2:1–2, for example, explains the meaning of hilasmos (generally translated “propitiation”) and deals with the “the extent of the atonement, an important and often misunderstood doctrine today” (14, 49–58). When teaching, how much should a pastor or teacher select for their sermon or lesson text? Is one verse too much? Three? Seventeen? This is a struggle common to Bible teachers around the world. They generally err by selecting too large a pericope. Allen disagrees. Given his extensive experience in training the next generation of teachers, what he says should be considered. Allen says preachers often “take a very short text of only two or three verses” (13). These verses are then separated from their paragraph context, which often results in meaning that is “misplaced, distorted, or lost” (13). He says, “[W]hen we preach only on short texts, we face the temptation of filling in the time with extra-Biblical material” (13).
Pastors and other teachers of the Word need to ask a couple of major questions. First, can they teach on a word, phrase...
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