A Great Lay Level Commentary Series

The Evangelical church has not always done a good job of developing preachers. Don’t misunderstand me. There are several really good seminaries that are training men to preach the Word accurately and passionately. But what about the average lay-elder in the church? These are men who are required to be able to preach by the scriptural qualifications for their office. Unfortunately, they often receive little training, and some of the most helpful study resources are written with seminary-trained pastors in mind. There is a need for good, solid commentaries that would help lay elders, students, and any preacher who simply doesn’t have the biblical language background to interact with a technical level commentary. 

Crossway has been publishing volumes in their ESV Expository Commentary series since 2018, and volumes continue to be released. I read through volume 11: Ephesians- Philemon and was pleasantly surprised. Commentaries generally fall into one of a few different categories. There are devotional commentaries, which offer very little exegesis and focus almost entirely on application. Pastoral commentaries tend to be targeted towards pastors and make minimal use of biblical languages, often transliterating Greek and Hebrew terms into English. Technical commentaries are scholarly in nature, diving deep into the text and interacting deeply with the original languages. 

The ESV Expository Commentaries are a bit of a cross between technical and pastoral commentary sets. I was reading the section on Ephesians as I was preaching through the book of Ephesians and found that the commentary is basically a distillation of all of the best technical work done on that text by the more technical commentaries. This makes it a perfect commentary for the lay-elder who wants to dive into the text but might feel a little overwhelmed by picking up volumes in the WBC or BECNT but who still wants technical work done at that level. The authors of the ESV series have taken all that work and summarized it in an easy-to-understand format. 

Another aspect I really appreciate about this series is that it can be used as a primary resource for someone preparing a sermon or as a starting point. All the material sourced from other places is thoroughly footnoted, which means that if a reader wants to chase down the underlying reasoning for a certain exegetical decision, there will be a reference pointing him to the original source (normally a technical commentary or journal article). Overall, this series by Crossway is a really good addition to the world of commentaries and fills a hole in the current body of scholarship. I would be happy to recommend the series to anyone who is seeking to prepare better sermons. I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.