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A Review of John Stott's Commentary on Ephesians

Posted in Bible, Book Reviews, Discipleship, New Testament

By Clay Shelor

Why Read a Commentary?

Have you ever read through a passage of Scripture and thought, "OK, that was nice. So what?" or "Not sure what that was about or how it connects to my life?" There are multiple things to do to get past our shallow "ho-hum" reading so that we can taste and see that God is good (Psalm 34:8). Pray, "Open my eyes, that I may behold wondrous things out of your law." (Psalm 119:18). Look up cross-references (the little references in the side or center margins of reference Bibles) to read how Scripture sheds light on Scripture. Read it. Pray it. Believe it. Sing it. In the Spirit, obey it.

One thing that has really helped connect the dots for my Scripture reading is reading a great commentary or two on a book I am studying—but not just any commentary. For our church's Sunday morning series on Ephesians, I commend the late John Stott's "The Message of Ephesians: God's New Society" (available in the book nook at our church, Amazon, etc). This is one of the commentaries in a series that Stott edited himself: "The Bible Speaks Today." These occupy a small, sweet spot in commentaries as medium length (not so short I still don't get it or go away "ho hum," but still short enough for the few minutes of reading I can eek out).

Stott gets into the meat of the Biblical text without losing me in the details. He masterfully connects Scripture with Scripture, always keeping the big picture in view. He writes like a pastor, shepherding my soul. These are ideal for us lay people who do not have the time or background for technical commentaries but want more than just a glance at the text. To get a small taste, here he is on Ephesians 2:10, "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."

Thus the paragraph ends as it began with our 'walk', a Hebrew idiom for our manner of life. Formerly we walked in trespasses and sins in which the devil had trapped us; now we walk in good works which God has eternally planned for us to do. The contrast is complete. It is a contrast between two lifestyles (evil and good), and behind them two masters (the devil and God). What could possibly have effected such a change? Just this: a new creation by the grace and power of God. The key expressions of the paragraph are surely 'but God' (verse 4) and 'by grace' (verses 5, 8). (The Message of Ephesians: God's New Society. Leicester, England: Inter-Varsity, 1986, page 85)

Read it, and savor the lavish grace of God in Christ in Ephesians!

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