Friday, May 18, 2012

Book Review: R.C. Sproul commentary on Mark, He Taught Them as One Who Had Authority

"The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God," Mark 1:1.

     It has been a long strange trip for me, for the last two years or so.  I was an interim pastor of a small, Southern Baptist Church for a year and a half and I was determined to preach through my favorite Gospel, the Gospel of Mark.  It was an incredibly exciting, exhausting and exhilarating experience preaching through Mark from week to week and I learned so much in that time.  One thing really disheartened me though: I could not find a good commentary on Mark.   The most prevalent problem was that most commentators were spending so much time explaining what a passage didn't mean, what the novel interpretation of the moment is or how this all fits into the so called "synoptic problem".  Now, understand that I was only reading conservative evangelical commentaries but I was repeatedly frustrated by what I call, "the hedgers".  They spent so much time discussing everything except the most obvious and edifying understanding of the passage. 
     Well, I am preparing to teach the Gospel of Mark again and lo and behold, I found that R.C. Sproul had preached through Mark at his church and had just finished his commentary and I eagerly sopped it up.  You can probably tell, by my use of the past tense in the first paragraph, what I think of Sproul's new commentary.  It is everything I've been looking for.  It is fantastic.  I cannot recommend it highly enough.
     Sproul is well known for his scholarly and academic approach to theology and apologetic's and I was not sure how this would translate into a useable and practical commentary on Mark.  My suspicions were completely unfounded and this commentary is truly a wonderful, thoughtful and informative description of Mark's account of Jesus' ministry.  R.C. Sproul has truly transformed into a fantastic preacher with a pastor's concern right before our eyes.  Not that he wasn't a loving and caring Christian before but you can just feel his pastoral concern for those who are under his teaching and for those who want to learn more about Jesus Christ and His holy word.  There a couple of occasions where you can feel the tension between the academic and pastoral Sproul, yet R.C. does not veer off and he stays focused on the passage at hand and its immediate understanding.  You can sense that he wants to take several pages to discuss a particular point of doctrine but he keeps a laser focus on his task and after all the subterfuge I've read concerning Mark, I was grateful for that!
     That is not to say I agree with everything Dr. Sproul wrote or believes.  Sproul holds to the concept of Markan priority which I do not agree with.  This is the belief that Mark was the first Gospel written and Matthew and Luke used Mark to write their Gospels.  There is evidence which supports this but it is not irrefutable and I choose to believe the original arrangement of the Gospels and there is much good evidence for that approach as well.  What I do appreciate about Dr. Sproul though is that he does not make a big deal about this except briefly, at the outset of his commentary.  I also disagree with much of what Dr. Sproul wrote concerning the Olivet Discourse.  Dr. Sproul is a partial preterist.  This is the belief that most if not all things concerning the end times have happened except for the physical second coming of Christ.  I am not of this persuasion but I still found much to agree with even in his chapters concerning this great discourse.
     Finally, I appreciate Dr. Sproul's submission to the word of God.  There were at least two occasions where you could tell he was apprehensive about a particular interpretation, yet the Bible was clear and he submitted to its authority.  Dr. Sproul maintains and expounds the highest view of scripture possible and does not acquiesce to the whims of modern scholarship and political correctness.  I would recommend this commentary to anyone who wants to benefit from one of the great theological minds of this generation.  It will be my go to commentary as I prepare to teach on Mark.
     God bless you and learn, live and love the gospel of our glorious Savior!

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