Is Matthew Henry’s teaching still relevant for today?

Matthew Henry has been considered one of the church’s most trusted teachers for more than three centuries. His work has been consulted and quoted by teachers and students the world over. In fact, the first commentary I ever used for Bible study was the one-volume edition of Henry’s work.

But as time passes, it’s natural to wonder if his teaching is still matters. Have the scholarly insights of the generations that followed him made his work irrelevant for our day?

Who was Matthew Henry?

But before we answer the question at hand, it might be helpful to familiarize ourselves with this esteemed Bible teacher. Born in Broad Oak, Iscoid, Wales, on October 18, 1662, Henry became a Christian at the age of 10. He studied law and was ordained in 1687, serving as a pastor in Chester, England, from that year until 1712. The Presbyterian minister regularly taught from the Old Testament in the mornings and New in the afternoons, demonstrating a deep spiritual capacity that stemmed from his knowledge of the Bible’s original languages. This teaching formed the basis of what became his six-volume commentary on the whole Bible, which he began writing in 1704. Henry completed Genesis through Acts over the following 10 years.

When he died in 1714, thirteen fellow non-conformist theologians set to work completing the final volume of Henry’s commentary, covering Romans through Revelation. Henry’s theology is a faithful testimony of historic evangelical truth, trusted by teachers and ministers across denominational and theological traditions, including Jonathan Edwards, George Whitefield, and John & Charles Wesley.[1]

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Does Time Move Us Beyond Matthew Henry?

So back to the question at hand: Matthew Henry’s teaching has influenced many Bible teachers and students throughout the centuries. Regardless of our background or theological heritage, we have undoubtedly benefited from his teaching. But is it still relevant for today—has our knowledge of Scripture grown past Henry’s?

We have gained many additional insights into Scripture over the last 300 years, it’s true. We have access to more manuscripts and manuscript fragments that help us better see the reliability of the Bible. We have new information that has helped us better interpret the words and context of Scripture. But rather than invalidate Henry, much of what we have learned affirms his teaching, especially at its foundation. Because the foundation of his teaching was the gospel itself.

The Example from Ezekiel

Ezekiel 36:26–27 is one of my favorite passages in the Bible. In this passage, the Lord gave Ezekiel a prophecy promising the renewal of God’s wayward people. He said, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit within you; I will take the heart of stone out of your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you will keep My judgments and do them” (Ezekiel 36:26–27, NKJV).

Henry’s commentary offers a beautiful example of his gospel-saturated perspective. He wrote:

Don’t you think this promise to the children of Israel includes us? By nature aren’t we just as cold and indifferent as they were, and just as selfish? But thanks to God’s mercy and grace, He can and will give each of us a new heart—a tender, sincere, living heart conscious of spiritual pleasures. In order to do this, God puts His Spirit within us as our Teacher and Guide; He inclines us to walk in His statutes; He furnishes us with the wisdom, the will, and the power for every good work we do.

If we walk in newness of life, if we have a share in the divine nature, and if we have a title to the new Jerusalem, we have a new heart and a new spirit. If we have a new spirit, we act from new principles; we aim at new goals. It’s only by God’s renewing grace, however, that such a drastic change can be created in our hearts and lives. Paul said, “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.”

Therefore, if God graciously gives us a new heart and a new spirit, we must keep His judgments and make His Holy Word our guide. God does His part; we must do our part. The promise of God’s grace should constantly quicken us to do our best. Without His grace, we can do nothing. Surely converting grace makes the soul that was once a wilderness “blossom abundantly and rejoice, even with joy and singing.”[2]

Faithful Teaching Endures Because the Gospel Endures

This is what makes Henry’s teaching as valuable today as it was in the 18th century. The gospel was the focus of all Henry desired his hearers, then and now, to embrace and delight in. For the life-giving power of Christ to pour into the dry bones of those weary and heavy-laden from their sins. His teaching endures because the gospel endures. And because the gospel endures, we will continue to benefit and be blessed as we learn from faithful teachers like Matthew Henry.

The Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible, Hardcover edition

Experience Henry’s trusted guidance through the Word every day in the Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible

Featuring 366 devotions, the Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible will help you gain greater understanding and appreciation of Scripture and encounter God’s heart every day. Drawn from Henry’s enormously popular commentary, his insights paired with Scripture will guide you into a deeper relationship with the Father as you find comfort, knowledge, and wisdom from God’s Word.

Features include:

  • The complete Bible text in the New King James translation
  • 366 daily devotions tailored to the days reading to easily connect God’s Word to your life’
  • Line-matched 2-column paragraph format for improved clarity when reading

Perfect for new and mature believers alike, The Matthew Henry Devotional Bible is an opportunity to delve into God’s Word every day and be transformed as a result.  

The Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible is published by HarperCollins Christian Publishing, Inc., the parent company of Bible Gateway.

  1. This biographical sketch is adapted in part from the biography that appears in The New Matthew Henry Commentary (Zondervan 2010).
  2. “November 30,” Matthew Henry Daily Devotional Bible (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Bibles, 2022), 959.

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