Wednesday, January 03, 2007

Standing Firm in Christ

Standing Firm in Christ is the subtitle to the commentary on Hebrews that Daphne gave me for Christmas. She bought it for me because I have been teaching through Hebrews in our adult SS class at church. Unfortunately, I finished the series on December 31 and so I only got to use the commentary for one day of class! It's too bad because I think Richard Phillips' new commentary in the Reformed Expository Commentary series would have been quite helpful. As it was, the only thing I got from it in time for my last lesson was his pithy theme statement for the book. I like it because it deftly combines the subject of the book’s primary exhortation (standing firm, faithfully enduring) with the basis for those exhortations (person and work of Christ).

Hebrews is well-known as a difficult book. There are five major warning passages that create theological conundrums for some in the area of eternal security. There are many references to the Old Testament and its priestly, ceremonial system of sacrifices. Those portions of our Bible tend to be a neglected and mysterious place for us and that makes understanding Hebrews all the more complicated. Add to that, if we are “dull of hearing,” the author himself says it will be hard to communicate his message properly (Heb 5:11). But hard, complicated, and difficult is not the same thing as impossible and I found the study of the Letter to the Hebrews to be fascinating, rewarding, and quite helpful.

I began the first Sunday in April and finished 34 lessons later on the last day in December. Normally, I prepare 7-10 pages of notes for each lesson and teach for about 45 minutes, or about 15 minutes less than I need to cover everything I have prepared. :) Sometimes I rush through my notes so that I can squeeze everything in; other times I just cover selected points in less detail. In any event, I try hard to finish a complete lesson in a single session, though, because I like to think of each lesson as a complete and independent message.

It was amazing how these lessons would come together each week. On Mondays, I would usually take the day off from doing any preparation, other than perhaps reading the next week’s passage in my devotions. On Tuesday and Wednesday, I would continue to read the passage and decide on what constitutes the next “unit” in the text. My goal was to work through a chapter in 2 to 3 weeks. That became more difficult as I went along because the chapters in Hebrews get longer towards the end of the book. During this time, I would take preliminary notes concerning the passage and identify key terms and phrases for later study. On Thursday and Friday I would do word studies on the terms identified earlier (with BibleWorks and other helps) and read in my commentaries. The most helpful commentaries on Hebrews for me were William Lane (Word) and Philip Hughes. John Brown (Geneva), although less technical, often had helpful discussions but not always. Ellingworth (NIGTC) was very technical but rarely helpful, albeit with some occasional gems. I found Bruce (NICNT) and Newell to be of very little assistance. Saturday mornings I would try to pull everything together into a detailed outline. On Sunday mornings I would get up early and read through my entire lesson, marking important points, adding additional clarifications, and praying that the Lord would be with me when I teach the material. My Monday through Saturday routine did not always go as planned, but I ALWAYS made sure to take time on Sunday mornings to pray through my lesson.

I now get to enjoy a much needed break as I hand the adult SS teaching duties off to another man for the next few months.


At 2:03 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Andy, quite interesting. I hope to preach through Hebrews someday, 'when I am old enough', I tell our people. I'd be interested in getting a copy of your notes if you are willing to make them available.

Don Johnson
Jer 33.3

At 7:38 AM, Blogger Andy Efting said...

Part of my reason for teaching through Hebrews was to force myself to confront those thorny issues. I find it helpful to struggle with passages, work through the implications of differeing interpretations, and seek the Lord for insight. There were times, though, when I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew.

Unfortunately, my notes are not really ready for public consumption. During my Sunday morning routine, I would typically edit them quite a bit by pen and so I don't have them in any sort of presentable form.


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