Question and Answer with Peter Adam on Malachi

Learn more about Malachi in the Bible Speaks Today series

malachi bible commentaryPeter Adam is vicar emeritus at St. Jude’s Carlton, formerly principal of Ridley College Melbourne, and vicar of St. Jude’s.

His publications include Speaking God’s Words: A Practical Theology of Preaching, Hearing God’s Words: Exploring Biblical Spirituality, Written for Us: Receiving God’s Words in the Bible, The Majestic Son: The Letter to the Hebrews, and Walking in God’s Words: Ezra and Nehemiah. He speaks at training conferences for preachers.

Peter Adam is a founding member of the Council of The Gospel Coalition Australia.

1. What previous research and/or personal interests led you to this project and helped prepare you to write this commentary on Malachi?

I first heard expository preaching when John Stott visited Australia in 1965, and gave us 2 Corinthians. I had never heard expository preaching before, and I thought,’That is how to preach’, and ‘That is what I want to do!’ I was a recent convert, but the only preaching I had heard was on isolated verse from the Bible out of context. I was ordained in 1970, and have expounded books of the Bible whenever possible. [Though I also do some topical preaching, to show and train people to answer questions they have, and to answer questions they are asked by others.] So I have expounded Malachi several times. I did so one year at the Evangelical Ministry Assembly in London, and the people from IVP heard the talks and asked me to write the commentary.

So I have trained myself to spend a lot of sermon preparation time working on the book as a whole, asking questions like: ‘What is this Bible book about?’ ‘Why was it written?’ ‘What does God want to achieve through this book today?’ ‘How can I help these people to grasp this book?’ ‘How do the different parts of this book contribute to its main purpose?’ ‘How does this book communicate its message?’ ‘How can I project the message of this book effectively?’

When I began preaching, very few people preached from the Old Testament, so I have done lots of Old Testament preaching. Christians who know the Old Testament better understand the New Testament, and have a more secure faith.

2. Who is the intended audience for this commentary? Would it benefit pastors? professors? students? lay Christians in the local church?

Its intended audience is pastors, lay people who lead Bible studies, and lay people doing their own Bible study. It is not really designed for professors or Bible College students.

Preachers need help in their sermon preparation, and this series includes application as well as exegesis. Lay people need to know the Bible for themselves and their own growth in Christ, and they also need to know the Bible so that they can ‘teach and admonish one another with all wisdom’, and also answer those who enquire about Christianity [Col 3:16, 4:6].

So when I am preaching the Bible, I aim to grow Christians to maturity in Christ, aim to grow the church to maturity in Christ, and aim to train and equip Christians to teach others. [I learnt about using the sermon to train Christians from John Calvin’s sermons].

3. What is unique about this commentary? What contribution does it make to studies of Malachi?

The features of this commentary are:

– It includes exegesis and application.

– In its application it follows Malachi in addressing the corporate or body-life of God’s people, rather than addressing individuals. Like Malachi, it is working for significant cultural change in the shared values, strengths, weaknesses and sins among God’s people. [When I began preaching, I preached to individuals. After about 5 years, I realised that most of the Bible addresses God’s people as a whole, not just individuals].

– It identifies the condition of God’s people as neither decisively turning away, nor decisively returning to him. They have enough religion to feel safe, but not enough religion to love God whole-heartedly and passionately. They are deluded: there is no neutral ground from God’s perspective. This reminds me of some Christians and some churches today. Malachi exposes the unsustainable tension of this stance.

– It interprets Old Testament priests and sacrifices in the light of the gospel.

– It interprets and applies Malachi as both prophetic of Christ and the gospel, and also as profitable for teaching, reproof, correcting, training in righteousness, and equipping for good works [Combining the two purposes of Scripture give us by Paul in 2 Timothy 3:15-17].

– It tries to explain Malachi’s teaching on marriage and divorce in the light of the whole Bible.

These are some of the features of this commentary. Of course these are found in other commentaries as well, but it is the combination of these features which is its contribution.

4. What section or passage of this commentary was particularly memorable to research and write? Why?

The first words of the LORD, ‘I have loved you’ is the key to the book of Malachi. If only God’s people knew that, there would be no need for the book!

And God’s love here is not primarily for individuals [though he does love individuals] but for his people. If God loves his people, then we should do the same. We must not hug God’s love to ourselves, and judge others or judge the church by law. This is a challenge for pastors, and a challenge for lay people! God has not given up on his church. He loves it: he loves us. ‘I have loved you’. Wonderful!

5. What personally edified you in writing this commentary, increasing your affections for Christ?

I was reminded that God’s love is clearly demonstrated by looking at the alternative, God’s hate. We only know the strength and power of God’s love if we know of God’s eternal judgement.

I often assess how much God loves me by how happy I am, how well my life is going, how well my ministry is going. Many others do the same. We are on the happiness marathon, not the holiness marathon. But the convincing, eternal, and permanently powerful proof of God’s love is the death of his Son in our place, to save us from wrath and judgement. Amazing love!

6. Besides your commentary, what are your top recommended books (commentaries or otherwise) on Malachi?

Calvin, John, Habakkuk, Zephaniah, Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi, Calvin’s Commentaries Vol. XV, [Grand Rapids: Baker, 1981 {1848}].

Jacobs, Mignon R., ‘Malachi’, in Kevin J. Vanhoozer, ed., Theological Interpretation of the Old Testament, [Grand Rapids: Baker Academic/London: SPCK, 2008], pp. 305-312.

Pohlig, James N., An Exegetical Summary of Malachi, [Dallas: SIL, 1998].

Smith, Ralph L., Micah-Malachi, Word Biblical Commentary 32, [Waco: Word, 1984].

Verhoef, Pieter A., The Books of Haggai and Malachi, NICOT, [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1987].

7. What is next for you? What project are you currently working on? How can people follow your work and ministry?

I am now retired from full-time ministry. So I am free to mentor people in ministry, train preachers, speak at ministry and preaching conferences, pray, and preach and teach the Bible. in 2018 I am speaking in several places around Australia where I live, and also in Singapore, Malaysia, Sri Lanka, and New Zealand.

My current writing project is a book on wisdom. It is both a Biblical Theology of wisdom, and also an application of that wisdom to those in gospel ministry.

I have also written commentaries on Hebrews, Ezra-Nehemiah, and Esther.
My home church is St Jude’s Carlton in Melbourne Australia, where I was the pastor for 20 years. So you can find information about me at www.stjudes.org.au/vicar-emeritus


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