The bottom line: Solid academic analysis with a preference for broad themes and teaching points.
In this commentary, Ralph Martin equips readers with a more profound and insightful understanding of three Bible books.
In Ephesians, he illuminates the cosmic, Christological dimensions of the church and how this animates the Christian life. In Colossians, he examines Paul’s argument (against heresy) that the divine Christ is the organizing principle of creation. In Philemon, he does an excellent job of depicting the social, political and theological currents that all converge in a brief but powerful chapter in the Bible. What you walk away with is the satisfaction that you have a firm sense of what the text “really means” and are able to communicate that understanding to others.
The approach that Ralph P. Martin takes in this book is to spend a significant amount of time “setting up” the formal commentary and making sure the reader is cognizant of the story behind the story on paper.
Subsequently, extrapolating general themes of the whole Bible book is usually the preferred approach of analysis as opposed to getting into the minutiae of the text. In my personal opinion, this helps to sharpen and re-focus the lens that the reader can use to exegete the text on his or her own. It also in a few instances works against the author because it may fail to give preferred attention to a unique topic. I, for example, would have like to have read more on the armor of God in spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6) and significantly less on the Colossian heresy, since the particular content of the heresy is not explicit in the Bible itself.
As a Bible teacher and a preacher, I certainly found the book to contain many more pearls for teaching as opposed to preaching. Especially for the commentary on Ephesians and Colossians, while the academic analysis is solid, it remains quite theological and thus isn’t necessarily readily transferable to the pulpit on Sunday. In my personal opinion, the most preachable material is located in the section on Philemon, yet for obvious reasons this section is much shorter than the rest (Philemon is one page in most Bibles).
I have read over 15 books in the Interpretation Series and the series in general is very solid. As with the other books in the series, this is not a word-for-word technical commentary.