The ESV Bible Expository Commentary series seeks to explain the Scriptures which “the Lord has entrusted… to his church, for the sake of the world,” the very words by which God has revealed himself (11). The series’ goal is “to provide a clear, crisp, and Christ-centered explanation of the biblical text,” seeking “to show how each biblical book helps us to see the ‘light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ’ (2 Cor. 4:6)” (11).
Volume 10 contains Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, and Galatians, and explains these four letters within 630 pages. The contributors are:
- Robert Yarbrough—Romans
- Andrew David Naselli—1 Corinthians
- Dane Ortlund—2 Corinthians
- Frank Thielman—Galatians
To help us understand these letters, each contributor in this volume (as with all the other volumes) shows Paul’s flow of thought throughout each of his letters. They believe the Bible has a single storyline which leads us to Christ, they are Reformed, and they make brief connections to historical or theological matters that are important for us today. Many commentaries talk at length about grammar and syntax. While helpful, this series sidesteps those discussions and helps you focus on the English text. This book is for pastors, teachers, and all who desire to know God’s word better, so there is application, albeit brief, that extents to both Western and non-Western contexts.
Aside from Galatians, the other three letters have tables which elaborate on an important aspect found in the letter. Yarbrough puts together Paul’s uses of “we know” in Romans 2:2, 3:19, 7:14, 8:22, and 28. There are things that we as Christians know, such as the truth that all creation has been groaning since the fall, and that God’s judgment rightly falls on those who practice sin. Naselli had the most tables (and is the only one with any figures). He shows us what lies inside a Shepherds toolbox to minister effectively in your church.
He provides a page-long table on “What Is Unintelligible vs. What Is Intelligible in 1 Corinthians 14:1–25.” All in all, he provides 17 tables and two figures, with one figure looking at how we should act according to our conscience:
As for the commentaries themselves, the authors deal with the usual introductory matters (date, occasion, outline, genre/literary features, theology). Dane Ortlund sees “Strength through weakness” as “the basic theme of” 2 Corinthians, writing that, “Throughout the letter Paul looks at every aspect of theology through the upending gospel in which God brings life through death and strength through weakness” (400). Paul gives a lot of space to the Holy Spirit in 1 Corinthians. But if that letter gives us the “what” of the Holy Spirit, 2 Corinthians provides the “when.” We know the new-age has dawned because we receive the Holy Spirit as a guarantee of the new creation. As well, God reconciles us—estranged and exiled sinners—to himself through his Son Jesus Christ. “Reconciliation opens up to us the gracious heart of the triune God” (400). According to Ortlund, “the pervasive underlying structure of 2 Corinthians is the new age that has dawned in the resurrection of Christ. Paul’s burden throughout the letter is to reveal what true ministry looks like in the age of the gospel” (400). Christians who are united to Christ, the one “crucified in weakness” (13:4), “follow in his pattern of weakness unto strength and death unto life” (401).
This is a very helpful series to have, especially this volume in particular. You get four great books by four excellent theologians (Yarbrough and Thielman have written a few commentaries already), each book covering about 160 pages (on average, it isn’t quite that even). This volume helpfully lays out the flow of thought, theology, and application of each section, as well as what is actually going on in the letter. Paul’s argument is laid out clearly and is easily to follow, a blessing to have in a commentary (who likes reading a commentary where you’re more confused after you read it than you were before reading it?) I recommend looking into this one and into this whole series.
- Series: ESV Expository Commentary
- Hardcover: 688 pages
- Publisher: Crossway (September 1, 2020)
- Read the Introduction and up to Romans 1:17
Disclosure: I received this book free from Crossway. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.