I have the greatest job in the world. No, I actually have one of the greatest, if not the greatest, jobs in all of human history (apart from Christ’s, that is). My point is this: there is a God, and he raised Jesus from the dead, brought salvation to mankind, and spoke directly to us through his revealed Word. What can be better than proclaiming this salvation and teaching his Word to an incredibly needy world?
That is exactly what I have been doing for fifty years, but now at the end of my journey I get to pull together everything I have learned and spend my remaining years studying his Word more deeply than ever and communicating the results to God’s people. I get to produce a set of Bible commentaries on the entire New Testament for the Church. As I look back, I believe God was uniquely preparing me, my entire life, for this moment.
My career has centered on two aspects of ministry—pastoring churches and teaching seminary students. I have pastored two churches and been interim pastor of three others, and I have taught in two seminaries for a total of 43 years. But long before I became a pastor or teacher, when I was still in high school, I realized that every time I studied his Word devotionally, it was not enough just to sit in my prayer room and meditate. I yearned to share the results with others. That passion has continued to this day; nothing beats the joy of passing on his truths to others and seeing them get excited too. I love preaching and teaching, but I’ve discovered I love the entire process. Sermon and lesson preparation is actually devotional Bible study.
As I have taught seminary students over the years, I have always pictured them in the pulpit or the classroom sharing what I am giving them with others. It is 2 Timothy 2:2 at work, “And the things you have heard me say in the presence of many witnesses entrust to reliable people who will also be qualified to teach others.” I am engaged in the most important relay race in history, passing the baton off to “reliable people” who will continue to pass it on from generation to generation. One of my great joys is travelling around the world and seeing grads who I have taught continuing to share the truths they received. I feel a part of me is all over the world!
The present, joyful task
Writing commentaries like the series I am doing now is in reality simply teaching on a much larger canvas. I picture Christians around the country and around the world sitting in my classroom reading my lessons and setting out to share the truths about God’s revealed Word with others. Even after fifty years of studying and sharing I still get thrilled as I uncover the deep treasures of meaning about Galatians or Romans, and then I have the privilege of writing them down to thrill countless others who will read them. It doesn’t get much better than this! So in a sense each commentary is a series of sermons or of seminary classes delivered one after another in the pages of a book that is far more than a book. It is buried treasure uncovered for all to see! And God has allowed me to participate in the process by which he unlocks these treasures. The result: I love God’s Word more than ever.
This process of taking the results of hundreds of years wrestling about the meaning of these New Testament books by men and women of God for two thousand years and sharing the current understandings of these wondrous truths with God’s people in the church has me more excited than I’ve ever been. Academic commentaries are incredibly important and must be done, but the process is not finished with them. I know; I’ve written and edited several. Their problem is that they keep these wonderful truths within the academy and put the results high on the shelf of academia, far from the eyes of the people in the church. They are above the heads of the rest of us. Yet the truths they uncover are so important. So the task of taking the cookies off the shelf and putting them on the table to be enjoyed is incredibly exciting to me. That is what I am trying to do, and it is a thrilling process to be part of.
For many of you readers, these commentaries may be the first ones you have ever read. I want this to be an exciting first foray into the world of the biblical texts, so that as you enter this adventure the journey is fun and filled with meaning. For others this commentary series may be one of many you are consulting. Having written both academic and lay commentaries, I believe these commentaries will enhance the more detailed coverage in the others. My recommendation is that you consult this series first to get a lay of the land, to see the whole field of meaning laid out for you before getting bogged down in the minutia of detail in the longer volumes. My commentaries will help you to see the issues and understand them clearly so that you can get more out of all the confusing details in the others.
A few closing thoughts
Just for fun, let me respond to a question I am often asked. After all the decades of teaching and writing, do I have a favorite biblical theme or theological topic? I have reflected on my life’s verse an enormous amount, 2 Timothy 2:15, “Work very hard to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, correctly handling the word of truth.” I imagine myself standing before God, ashamed because I have been shallow in my “handling” of his Word. And so my whole career has been an attempt to teach and preach his Word deeply and accurately, teaching my students to do the same. So a favorite topic has always been discipleship and the responsibility, but even more the joy and privilege, of communicating his Word to others. At the same time, I am known by students as a person whose favorite passage is the one I am on right now, as they hear me constantly say, “Wow, isn’t this a great verse?!”
A final comment: I have been asked which of the commentaries in this series will best demonstrate these points. That is hard to say. For background information, the Gospels are best, because every passage will have a new set of historical background passages to uncover. I love historical background; it turns a two-dimensional lesson into a three-dimensional IMAX event. The hearer enters the world behind the text and experiences it anew through background. For sheer exciting new learning, the Book of Revelation cannot be beat. Most of us are a little afraid and confused by the bewildering images. Yet it is a truly wondrous book, and its message is so relevant for our day. I absolutely love teaching it! Among the epistles, it is a hard choice. For devotional value, I love Ephesians and Philippians (or 1 Peter for that matter); for theology, I love Romans or Hebrews. For practical church issues, 1 Corinthians is so valuable. Tough choices!
Grant Osborne is an award-winning author and theologian, known for his groundbreaking title The Hermeneutical Spiral, plus dozens of other volumes. He is currently the professor of New Testament at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School.
Lexham Press is thrilled to partner with Grant Osborne to publish The Grant Osborne New Testament Commentary Series, a 19-volume collection showcasing Osborne’s 50+ years of research, study, and teaching. The first six volumes are available for pre-order until October 12—get yours now and save 40%!