By Timothy Raymond –
In my last article, I described my experience preaching through the book of Ecclesiastes and briefly mused on the great value of teaching this pessimistic and potentially confusing portion of God’s inspired Word. In this entry, I’d like to point our readers to some of the resources I found most helpful for rightly understanding the meaning and significance of Ecclesiastes and especially for moving from exegesis to exposition. Again, consider this one of those blog posts you print out and file away for later use. I write as a busy pastor to other busy pastors committed to sound scholarship and expositional preaching.
Ecclesiastes – Concordia Commentary, by James Bollhagen – This is one of the best commentaries I have ever read on any book of Scripture, period. Imagine a commentary that is scholarly, conservative, devotional, Christ-centered, packed with practical application including application to the local church, user-friendly, attractively-packaged, well-constructed, and so compelling that you actually find yourself reading it for pleasure and that’s this commentary. I really can’t say enough good things about it. The author’s Lutheran emphases come out from time to time (he is able to find justification sola fide in nearly every passage), but usually these are very helpful, especially for creating sermons. In preaching through books of the Bible, I almost always find myself drawn to one commentary in particular as a go-to, foundational commentary, and for Ecclesiastes, this definitely became the one.
Preaching Christ from Ecclesiastes: Foundations for Expository Sermons by Sidney Greidanus – This very interesting resource is actually tough to classify. It’s neither a commentary nor a collection of Christ-centered sermons on Ecclesiastes. It’s more of a “choose your own adventure” handbook for turning the various sections of Ecclesiastes into gospel sermons. After a few introductory contextual and exegetical comments, Greidanus then describes several different paths whereby the preacher might legitimately move from Ecclesiastes to Jesus. Each chapter then concludes with a brief homily modeling how a preacher might do just that. It’s a very useful resource, though it definitely needs to be used in conjunction with (and not instead of) a few good exegetical commentaries. The author is somewhat left-of-center in evangelicalism.
The Search for Meaning, the Interactive Bible Study workbook on Ecclesiastes published by Matthias Media – Matthias Media’s Interactive Bible Study workbooks are designed to teach laymen how to study the Bible by studying the Bible and are particularly strong in showing how a book of the Bible fits into the overall scheme of redemptive history. They’re also great for helping preachers make the transition from bare exegesis to helpful sermons that meet ordinary people where they’re at. This one on Ecclesiastes is an absolute gem. Without it, I’d be at a loss for how to turn Ecclesiastes’ peculiar message into a sermon series. It’s packed with exegetical ideas, thought-provoking illustrations, and great suggestions for application. I didn’t happen to do this with Ecclesiastes, but in the past we’ve distributed these workbooks to interested members in our congregation to go along with the Sunday sermons and the response has been very positive. If you’re ever preaching or teaching Ecclesiastes, this is a resource you should really check out.
Like I mentioned in my last article, my congregation loved our study through Ecclesiastes. The lessons on cynicism, heart-idolatry, struggling with the feeling that life is meaningless, growing old, and finding ultimate satisfaction in Christ were apparently very helpful. Brother-pastors, Ecclesiastes is a book your people need to hear preached and the lessons contained in Ecclesiastes will, if preached accurately, engage and edify your people. My prayer is that these two articles on preaching Ecclesiastes will encourage and equip you for better preaching this precious portion of God’s Word.
Timothy Raymond is an editor for Credo Magazine and has been the pastor of Trinity Baptist Church in Muncie, Indiana since April 2006. He received his MDiv from the Baptist Bible Seminary of Pennsylvania in 2004 and has pursued further education through the Christian Counseling and Educational Foundation. Tim grew up outside Syracuse, NY and previously served at Berean Baptist Church, Nicholson, PA (member and teacher during college and seminary) and Calvary Baptist Church, Sandusky, Ohio (seminary internship location). Tim met his wife Bethany at college, and they were married in May 2001. Tim enjoys reading, weight-lifting, wrestling with his three sons, and attempting to sleep.