Recently, I had the privilege of preaching six sermons on 1 John in my home church. In order to prepare for these sermons, I consulted quite a few commentaries. Here are my impressions on each of them.
The first “commentary” that I consulted was A First John Reader by S.M. Baugh. This book is not really a commentary, but rather a workbook which takes an intermediate Greek student through all of 1 John. The student is expected to translate each verse and consult Baugh’s “commentary” on each verse. Baugh guides the student through interpretive issues in each verse, major syntactical paradigms, and word studies. Baugh also revises many basic grammar rules and helps the student to use the Greek lexicon intelligently. If you have just finished your first year of Greek, this book is a “must-study”. It is partly because of my study through 1 John that I chose to preach through 1 John in the first place.
The most helpful scholarly commentary on John’s epistles is the Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament by Robert Yarbrough. Yarbrough is thorough in his analysis of John. Yarbrough breaks down the epistles thematically, provides his own translations, and then gives insightful commentary on each verse — all this without being too overbearing on the reader. He also provides many helpful charts and tables to analyze frequency of words or compare translations etc.. One thing I really liked about Yarbrough’s commentary is that he does not stop at interpretive issues, but relates John’s message to modern day issues that Christians face. For example, he talks about the September-11 attack (pg 129), 1994 Rwandan massacre (pg 107), and the Yanomamo tribe of southern Venezuela (pg 99)!
The other scholarly commentary which I found equally helpful was the one by Colin Kruse. Kruse is not as detailed and “entertaining” as Yarbrough, but deals with interpretive issues with equal care. The Word Bibllcal Commentary by Stephen Smalley was perhaps the least helpful scholarly commentary that I consulted.
The other set of commentaries, which I consulted, were those written by preachers for preachers. The most outstanding among these set of commentaries is the one by John Stott. John Stott, like J I Packer and R C Sproul, crystallizes the truth of the passage with an economy of words. Stott’s penchant for brevity gives his commentary a kind of beauty. I also consulted John MacArthur’s commentary. MacArthur follows Stott in most verses, but MacArthur’s great strength is his ability to relate the current passage with all the other parallel passages in the Bible. Let’s Study the Letters of John by Ian Hamilton also helpful, but this book is not really a commentary as much as it is a devotional.
So, hopefully these list of commentaries would be helpful to others who are beginning to study or preach from 1 John. May the Lord use these resources to increase our understanding of his Word!