Thursdays With Spurgeon—Comments On Commentaries

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

Comments On Commentaries

     It has been said that the passage I have taken for my text [Isaiah 7:1-17] is one of the most difficult in all the Word of God. It may be so. I certainly did not think it was until I saw what the commentators had to say about it, and I rose up from reading them perfectly confused! One said one thing, and another denied what the other had said. And if there was anything that I liked, it was self-evident that it had been copied from one to the other and handed through the whole of them! 

     One set of commentators tells us that this passage refers entirely to some person who was to be born within a few months after this prophecy….

     Well, that seems a strange frittering away of a wonderful passage, full of meaning, and I cannot see how they can substantiate their view when we find the evangelist Matthew quoting this very passage in reference to the birth of Christ [Matthew 1:22-23]….

     I find, moreover, that many of the commentators divide the sixteenth verse from the fourteenth and fifteenth verses, and they read the fourteenth and fifteenth verses exclusively of Christ, and the sixteenth verse of Shear-Jashub….

     Then another view, which is the most popular of all, is to refer the passage, first of all, to some child who was then to be born, and afterward, in the highest sense, to our blessed Lord Jesus Christ. … 

     But I think that if I had never read those books at all, but had simply come to the Bible without knowing what any man had written upon it, I would have said, ‘There is Christ here as plainly as possible! Never could His name had been written more legibly than I see it here.’ 

From The Birth Of Christ

Spurgeon was not advocating that we never consult commentaries because elsewhere he said about the use of commentaries: “I find it odd that he who thinks so highly of what the Holy Spirit teaches him speaks so little of what the Holy Spirit teaches others also.” 

But what I believe Spurgeon is advocating here is this important principle—The best commentary on a passage of Scripture is another passage of Scripture. Which is why he used the passage in Matthew to help him understand the passage in Isaiah.

God makes Himself clear in His Word. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the pen of those who wrote the words in the Bible is the same Holy Spirit in you that can illuminate those words to your heart and mind. 

Commentators have their place. I believe that place is after you have prayed through and wrestled with a passage of Scripture for yourself. Think of commentators as the answers in the back of your math book. After you have worked through the equations for yourself, go to the answer key to verify your answers. If you simply look up the answer before you wrestle with the problem, how have you benefitted yourself? 

And always remember that God’s Word is infallible, but men are fallible. Commentators may provide an insight that helps you see something more clearly, but they are never a substitute for God’s very own word on a matter. 

Should you use commentaries? Sure! Find a good one, but consult it only after you have asked the Holy Spirit to help illuminate the passage, and after you have allowed the commentary of Scripture itself to shine its light on the difficult verse or passage.


10 Quotes From “The Knowledge Of The Holy”

A.W. Tozer helps us think long and deep about the greatness of God, opening windows of insight that many have not contemplated previously. Check out my full book review of The Knowledge Of The Holy by clicking here. 

“With our loss of the sense of Majesty has come the further loss of religious awe and consciousness of the divine presence. … The decline of the knowledge of the holy has brought on our troubles. A rediscovery of the majesty of God will go along way toward curing them.” 

“What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” 

“The man who comes to a right belief about God is relieved of ten thousand temporal problems, for he sees at once that these have to do with matters which at the most cannot concern him for very long; but even if the multiple burdens of time may be lifted from him, the one mighty single burden of eternity begins to press down upon him with a weight more crushing then all the woes of the world piled one upon another. …

“But unless the weight of the burden is felt, the gospel can mean nothing to the man; and until he sees a vision of God high and lifted up, there will be no woe and no burden. Low views of God destroyed the gospel for all who hold them.” 

“Among the sins to which the human heart is prone, hardly any other is more hateful to God than idolatry, for idolatry is at bottom a libel on His character. … The essence of idolatry is the entertainment of thoughts about God that are unworthy of Him.” 

“The heaviest obligation lying upon the Christian Church today is to purify and elevate her concept of God until it is once more worthy of Him—and of her.” 

“When the Spirit would acquaint us with something that lies beyond the field of our knowledge, He tells us that this thing is like something we already know, but He is always careful to phrase His description so as to save us from slavish literalism.” 

“An attribute of God is whatever God has in anyway revealed as being true of Himself.” 

“We might be wise to follow the insight of the enraptured heart rather than the more cautious reasonings of the theological mind.” 

“If we ever think well it should be when we think of God.” 

“The harmony of His being is the result not of a perfect balance of parts but of the absence of parts.… An attribute, then, is not a part of God, it is how God is…. The divine attributes are what we know to be true of God. He does not possess them as qualities; they are how God is as He reveals Himself to His creatures.” 

The Knowledge Of The Holy (book review)

One definition of a Christian mystic is someone who engages in deep, prayerful pondering of the nature of God, as He is revealed in the Scriptures, and then emerges from those intimate encounters to share with us what he or she has learned. I would put A.W. Tozer in this category, especially in his book The Knowledge Of The Holy—The Attributes of God: Their Meaning in the Christian Life. 

Tozer himself described the Christian mystic more fully than I could in his book The Christian Book Of Mystical Verse. In that book, Tozer shared some poetic verses from some of his favorite mystical thinkers. He noted, “The hymns and poems found here are mystical in that they are God-oriented; they begin with God, embrace the worshipping soul, and return to God again.” 

In The Knowledge Of The Holy, Tozer takes us on his own personal journey into the immeasurable depths of God’s greatness. Whereas many theologians tend to focus on one attribute of God at a time, Tozer has a God-given ability to help us see all of God’s attributes operating in their infinite fullness. 

Even as Tozer plunges deep into the attributes of God’s self-existence, self-sufficiency, omniscience, omnipotence, omnipresence, love, mercy, justice, grace, and sovereignty, he reminds us, “Because God is immutable He always acts like Himself, and because He is a unity He never suspends one of His attributes in order to exercise another.” 

This is not a book you can ready lightly or casually, or even quickly. This is a book that invites you to read slowly and reverently each of the short chapters, and then to meditate long on the immenseness of an All-Powerful, All-Loving God who wants to reveal Himself to you. 

The Knowledge Of The Holy is a soul-expanding book!

Hard Work, Not Good Luck

“The thoughtless, the ignorant, and the indolent, seeing only the apparent effects of things and not the things themselves, talk of luck, of fortune, and chance. Seeing a man grow rich, they say, ‘How lucky he is!’ Observing another become intellectual, they exclaim, ‘How highly favored he is!’ And noting the saintly character and wide influence of another, they remark, ‘How chance aids him at every turn!’ They do not see the trials and failures and struggles which these men have voluntarily encountered in order to gain their experience; have no knowledge of the sacrifices they have made, of the undaunted efforts they have put forth, of the faith they have exercised, that they might overcome the apparently insurmountable, and realize the Vision of their heart. They do not know the darkness and the heartaches; they only see the light and joy, and call it ‘luck.’ They do not see the long and arduous journey, but only behold the pleasant goal, and call it ‘good fortune,’ do not understand the process, but only perceive the result, and call it chance.” —James Allen, in As A Man Thinketh

10 Quotes From “Cultivation Of Christian Character”

J. Oswald Sanders has given us a short but powerfully effective book for developing more Christlikeness in each and every Christian. Check out my full book review by clicking here. 

“In a word, spiritual maturity is Christlikeness.” 

“Christ set the standard in everything. He was never petulant, always calm; never rebellious, always obedient; never fearful, always courageous; never vacillating, always resolute; never pessimistic, always cheerful; never subtle, always sincere; never grasping, always generous; never acting from expediency, always from principle. He is the pattern of spiritual maturity.” 

“So then our spiritual maturity or immaturity is seen in the manner in which we react to the changing circumstances of life. … It has to be learned. Is it not striking that it is recorded of Christ that ‘though He were a Son, yet He learned obedience by the things which He suffered; and being made perfect, He became the author of eternal salvation’ (Hebrews 5:8-9)? He alone was fully mature. The rest of us are ‘going on to maturity.’ In all of us there are some expressions of our personality in which we react immaturely instead of as mature men of God.” 

“The highest manifestation of spiritual maturity is love. We are only as mature as we are mature in love.” 

“God forbid that we should ever cease to love the gospel in its simplicity, but we must not be content to stay there. We must go on to appreciate increasingly the gospel in its profundity.” 

“There is a place for a constructive contending for the faith. The church has degenerated sadly since Pentecostal days and the servant of the Lord has an important part to play in its revival.” 

“It is possible to get to heaven without living a consecrated life, but the journey there will be barren and disappointing, since consecration is the doorway to undreamed-of joy. Neglect it, fail to seek it, and life will be greatly impoverished. Welcome it, and life becomes inexpressibly enriched.” 

“When we dedicate our lives to God, He consecrate us to His service. We dedicate our lives to Him that He may work His will in us. He consecrates us to Himself that He might make us holy.” 

“It has been suggested that in consecration we bring our lives to God as a blank sheet of paper with our names signed at the bottom. Confident of His love, we invite Him to fill in the details as He will.” 

“It is a life separated to the glory of God. Inherent in the word ‘consecration’ is the idea of separateness. There must of necessity be separation from sin if there is to be separation to God. … The consecrated Christian hates evil, but he has a passion for the right and for the glory of God and Christ. He tests all his actions by the one standard, ‘Is this for the glory of God?’ He will do anything, suffer anything, if only God is glorified. Nothing is too costly to give to the Master.” 

10 Quotes From “As A Man Thinketh”

As A Man Thinketh feels a lot like the biblical book of Proverbs, stimulating us to think about our habitual thought patterns. Check out my full book review by clicking here.

“As the plant springs from, and could not be without, the seed, so every act of a man springs from the hidden seeds of thought, and could not have appeared without them.” 

“Man is made or unmade by himself; in the armory of thought he forges the weapons by which he destroys himself; he also fashions the tools with which he builds for himself heavenly mansions of joy and strength and peace.” 

“The soul attracts that which it secretly harbors; that which it loves, and also that which it fears; it reaches the height of its cherished aspirations; it falls to the level of its unchastened desires.” 

“Good thoughts and actions can never produce bad results; bad thoughts and actions can never produce good results. This is but saying that nothing can come from corn but corn, nothing from nettles but nettles. Men understand this law in the natural world, and work with it; but few understand it in the mental and moral world (though its operation there is just as simple and undeviating), and they, therefore, do not co-operate with it.” 

“Blessedness, not material possessions, is the measure of right thought; wretchedness, not lack of material possessions, is the measure of wrong thought.” 

“A man only begins to be a man when he ceases to whine and revile.” 

“Men imagine that thought can be kept secret, but it cannot; it rapidly crystallizes into habit, and habit solidifies into circumstance.” 

“They who have no central purpose in their life fall an easy prey to petty worries, fears, troubles, and self-pityings.” 

“This is the royal road to self-control and true concentration of thought. Even if he fails again and again to accomplish his purpose (as he necessarily must until weakness is overcome), the strength of character gained will be the measure of his true success, and this will form a new starting-point for future power and triumph.” 

“The oak sleeps in the acorn; the bird waits in the egg; and in the highest vision of the soul a waking angel stirs. Dreams are the seedlings of realities. Your circumstances may be uncongenial, but they shall not long remain so if you but perceive an Ideal and strive to reach it. You cannot travel within and stand still without.” 

Thursdays With Spurgeon—The Wonder Of Christ

This is a weekly series with things I’m reading and pondering from Charles Spurgeon. You can read the original seed thought here, or type “Thursdays With Spurgeon” in the search box to read more entries.

The Wonder Of Christ

     Works of art require some education in the beholder before they can be thoroughly appreciated. … Because of failures in our character and faults in our life, we are not capable of understanding all the separate beauties and the united perfection of the character of Christ, or of God, His Father. … 

     You cannot fail to notice that men, through the alienation of their natures, are continually misrepresenting God because they cannot appreciate His perfection.… Men will misunderstand Him because they are imperfect themselves and are not capable of admiring the character of God. …

     Did you ever notice, when you read the history of Jesus Christ, that you could never say He was noble for any one virtue at all? … 

     It is because of the complete perfection of Jesus Christ that we are not accustomed to say of Him that He was eminent for His zeal, or for His love, or for His courage. We say of Him that He was a perfect character, but we are not able very easily to perceive where the shadows and the lights blended, where are the meekness of Christ blended into His courage and where His loveliness blended into His boldness in denouncing sin.

     We are not able to detect the points where they meet. And I believe the more thoroughly we are sanctified, the more it will be a subject of wonder to us how it could be that virtues that seem so diverse were in so majestic a manner united into one character. It is just the same of God.

From Mercy, Omnipotence, And Justice

As we grow in our understanding of processes and techniques, our appreciation of a work of art or a symphony grows as well. We may go from “Oh, I like that” to “That is amazing” to “This is an exquisite masterpiece! 

Christians should experience the same wonder and awe of the character of God seen in Jesus and revealed to us by the Holy Spirit. 

I believe the reason the angels around God’s throne are constantly calling out, “Holy, Holy, Holy!” is because at every moment they are perceiving a new facet of His sheer awesomeness. They are calling out to one another, “Did you see that?! Holy!” And another responds back, “Yes, and look at that! Holy!” 

We are invited to join in that chorus. The apostle Paul prayed that our eyes would be opened and our vision expanded to see new depths, and heights, and widths, and lengths of the awesomeness of our God (see Ephesians 3:16-19).

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