Lord willing, I’ll finish my semester long series on the Sermon on the Mount next Sunday. It’s been a joy to preach from these three familiar chapters. I’ve been alternately challenged and comforted as I’ve studied Matthew 5-7 each week.
One of the great things (and difficulties) about preaching through the Sermon on the Mount is that there are so many resources available in English. I used no fewer than ten books regularly in my sermon preparation. Four books stood out above the rest.
D.A Carson, Expositor’s Bible Commentary, Matthew 1-12 (Zondervan). This was the first commentary I read each week. Rarely did any of the other commentaries cover exegetical ground that wasn’t covered by Carson. There is no fluff here (Carson doesn’t do fluff!), and yet the content is communicated crisply and succinctly. There are only a few commentary writers you need to read no matter what they write on: Moo, O’Brien, and Carson are three of my must haves, and this is vintage Carson.
Sinclair B. Ferguson, The Sermon on the Mount: Kingdom Life in a Fallen World (Banner of Truth). This little book is, not surprisingly, more sermonic and less scholarly. The second half of the book moves almost too quickly through Matthew 6 and 7, but the first 100 pages on Matthew 5 (especially on the Beatitudes) are terrific.
John R. W. Stott, The Message of the Sermon on the Mount (IVP Academic). I’ve used a lot of Stott commentaries over the years, and I think this is his best. No one has better outlines than Stott. That’s the preacher’s problem: you have to come up with your outline before you read Stott, or you’ll always use his outline! From time to time, Stott chases rabbits that don’t seem as relevant now (i.e., taking time on multiple occasions to refute Tolstoy), but overall this is Stott doing what Stott did so masterfully: profundity of thought in economy of expression. If it’s not been done already, someone should start a @JohnStottSays twitter handle. I bet you could find several hundred tweets in this book alone. If I had to use just one book in preparation for these sermon, I’d probably use this one.
D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Eedermans). It’s rare that a book published in the last fifty-five years can, without exaggeration, be called a classic, but this one certainly deserves the label. I first read this book when I was in college. Later I fell in love with my wife because, among other great qualities, she was reading the Doctor on the Sermon on the Mount. Yes, the book is repetitive, but so much of it bears repeating. It’s hard to read multiple sermons every week in sermon prep, so just read the book at at a reasonable pace for your own spiritual good. You won’t regret it.