You’re flawed… well, you and everyone else, of course. And as a pastor, you’re also painfully aware that you “will be judged with greater strictness” (James 3:1), so no pressure, right?
But seriously, preaching the Word of God is a big responsibility, and you can’t expect yourself to handle the task alone. So, in addition to the non-negotiable primary source that is the foundation for every sermon, you as a pastor should consult the writings of other scholars/thinkers who, like yourself, have wrestled with the Scriptures. In other words, you should use commentaries. Here are 3 reasons why:
I am, once again, stating the obvious, but it’s good to keep this at the forefront of your mind. You only have so many hours over so many years to dedicate towards study and, even then, your brain is only capable of retaining and synthesizing so much knowledge. Luckily, there have been generations of believers before you who also spent a lot of time studying Scripture, and many of them recorded their processes and conclusions in writing. Whenever you study any passage of Scripture, you have the amazing opportunity to stand on the shoulders of giants, which will add substantial depth to your own understanding of God’s Word.
There are no doubt essential doctrines in the Bible, but scholars and theologians still disagree on a great many secondary points when it comes to interpreting Scripture. You’ve most likely formed your own opinions as well. Commentaries provide you with insight into the various perspectives held by serious students of the Bible. You may learn something new. You may change your mind on something. Or weighing conflicting views could further persuade you of your original position. Either way, you owe it to yourself and to your congregation to explore differing viewpoints.
It would be foolish to only ever trust your personal interpretation of a passage of Scripture. Yet, it can be tempting to go ahead and rely solely on your own insights when giving a sermon (there are plenty of people who do this, as you’ll know). One helpful way to view the role of commentaries in sermon prep is that they keep you accountable. Scripture itself does this, but commentaries lend further aid. Consulting them allows you to observe the theological reasoning of your peers and will encourage you to remain mindful of how your sermon material aligns contextually and systematically with the rest of Scripture.
Studying and teaching the Bible is a very serious matter, and you need all the help you can get. Don’t allow yourself to be overwhelmed by attempting to understand and interpret every passage of Scripture on your own. There are countless resources available to pastors and teachers, including helpful commentaries that will deeply enrich your sermon material. So, use those resources! Make the time and add more depth to your preaching.