Who me? I can’t write a commentary. That is for the spiritual giants right? How do you think the giants got big? They processed large chunks of Scripture and then wrote down their comments (commentary) on what they thought it meant. For those of you stuck in an endless loop of reading and trying to apply the Word. Maybe you need to try your hand at teaching it. Something about teaching the Word (commenting) helps you to synthesize your thoughts and even apply it personally. Honestly, many times I write stuff down so that it forces me to think it all the way through. I publish some of my thoughts on this blog for public consumption (all 4 of you). But a lot of my writing is for my eyes only. Right now I am working through John 17 because I want to understand what Jesus is saying in His High Priestly prayer for the disciples and me and I am writing a commentary. How do you write a commentary?
- Pick a passage you have an interest in studying
- Work through the passage in small chunks (at first I would recommend a verse at a time)
- After studying the verse write down your comments about what it means and how it should be applied
- Move to the next verse and repeat the process. For example in the John 17 exercise I am working through right now there are 33 verses and after 33 days I will have written a commentary on John 17 that will rival nobody important. But I will have significantly worked through a great section of Scripture.
Here is an example of what that looks like from vs 4 of John 17:
4 “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do.
Jesus brought glory to the Father by doing what He told Him to do. This gives incredible authority to the passage where Jesus says, “why do you call me Lord, Lord and not do what I say?”. Many believers verbally attest to the desire to follow the Lord but many (myself included) do not accomplish what they feel led to do. This lack of application is the bane of many believers existence. It is the Achilles heel that hangs over their head and discourages them. I find it interesting to note that Jesus had not gone to the cross yet, so the work that He had been given was bigger than just the salvation mission. Part of his mission was to live a life worth emulating. We see this at His baptism when the Father speaks verbally and says, “this is My Son in Whom I am well pleased”. Also at the transfiguration the Father says, “this is My Son listen to Him”. This begs a question, “is the Christian life as much about the process as the product?”. Or even said another way is the process the actual product. Most of us will fill our Wikipedia pages with very few major accomplishments but 1000s of minor accomplishments. How many of those accomplishments will we be able to say are given to us by God to do? Maybe if the process of living the kingdom life is the product that God expects we may be able to parlay those minor accomplishments into major rewards in heaven. Especially in the vein of a Father who says, “well done good and faithful servant.”
Now is that the most profound thing you have ever read on John 17:4? Hardly! But for me I have a much better feel for what it means and I have accomplished the purpose of the exercise. Write on you scholars!
2 comments on “Spiritual Disciplines: Write a commentary”
Hi, Tim, thanks for this. You may not remember me, but in the Spring of ’99, you spoke for the UCA Stumo group at Shepherd of the Ozarks for a “Love in the Hills” retreat on dating, etc. I wasn’t a believer yet, but that event had a HUGE impact on me. I realized that if God is THIS CONCERNED with dating, how much MORE CONCERNED is He with all of my life! I look back on that as a key turning point towards God.
I appreciate your encouragement and post about writing your own commentary. I want to take up your challenge to make this a part of my regular discipline. I did want to suggest that an added step might be good of synthesizing the verses. So, after you finish the 33 verses, where you’ve looked at each verse individually, then go back and ask, “So, how do these verses fit together?” That’s likely implied in your approach to individual verses, but I thought it worth repeating.
Thank you again for your ongoing faithfulness and ministry! You continue to set the pace for many of us following after and asking, “What’s it mean to be a man of God?” Thankful for you.
Your fellow servant,
Great to hear from you. I appreciate your kind words. It is fun to see how seeds sown so many years ago grow to maturity. So, excited to hear that you are still walking with the Lord after all these years and to hear that I had a little part in your faith journey is very gratifying. I am working in another ministry with Chris Haas called Freedom 5:one Ministries, here in NW Arkansas. Drop me your contact info at firstname.lastname@example.org