Stephen Fowl on Philippians

Click for larger image While preaching through Philippians, I’ve found Stephen Fowl’s Philippians commentary (from the Two Horizons New Testament Commentary [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2005]) to be a great asset.  It is one of those commentaries that you’d love to just sit down and read.  In fact, I’ve had to stop myself from reading way ahead!  The commentary is not like one of those older more scientific commentaries where the syntax is treated like a math formula (which are sometimes helpful, to be sure), nor is it one that goes off into all kinds of rabbit trails and weird application, as do some newer commentaries.  It, in my opinion, is a nice blend of exegesis, theological interpretation, and clear textual application for us today.

Fowl utilizes the patristics, medieval, reformation, and modern commentators in his discussions.  The textual/Greek notes are mostly in the footnotes so they don’t bog down the flow of the narrative.  Fowl sometimes wrestles with different interpretations then gives a level-headed theological reason for his own.  The last section of the book is a narrative discussion of the main theological themes in Philippians such as friendship, Christian formation, humility, suffering, and joy.  I confess I did skip ahead and read that last section, which is outstanding and honestly worth the price of the book.

I’m not yet finished with it, but even the first half and the last section give me plenty of reasons to recommend it.  Here’s a short section on Philippians 1.27-30 to give you an idea of the content (from page 71).

“It is clear that Paul’s call to a common life worthy of the gospel, lived in fidelity to the Lord, will tend to generate opposition.  In the face of opposition, Christians in Philippi and elsewhere are to remain steadfast and courageous.  Of course, the point is not to be oppositional, but to be faithful.  Nevertheless, the question then becomes whether Christians in America or elsewhere testify in word and deed to a faith substantial enough to provoke opposition form powers that are either indifferent or hostile to the triune God.  Christians in the U.S. should not assume that the church here does not suffer state-sponsored opposition because of the benevolence of our government or the protective powers of our constitution.  I suspect that it is much more the case that the common life of most churches is so inadequate to the gospel and our disunity so debilitating that the state has nothing to fear from us.  I am also confident that should substantial numbers of Christians in America, under the Spirit’s guidance and provocation, repent and take Paul’s words to the Philippians seriously, then we, too, may find that we have been given that gracious gift of not simply believing in Christ but also suffering for his sake [1.29].”

This section has some other deep stuff well worth pondering, things that arise from textual studies, broader context, and meditation.

On a side note, I also just saw that Eerdman’s recently published a book on John’s Gospel by Jerome Neyrey, whose articles I found helpful in Johaninne studies.

shane lems

sunnyside wa

3 thoughts on “Stephen Fowl on Philippians”

  1. One may well ask, “Why don’t the churches in America see more persecution?” Most churches in America are classified as a 501c3 non-profit corporation. So which is it, a corporation or a church? A corporation is an extension of the state. I would bet that if more churches tried to govern themselves according to the freedoms granted to them by the Constitution, they would see more persecution, living as a called out assembly. What is this tax exemption going to cost us in the end? What has it cost us already?


    1. Tough questions, tough answers! What happens if the church becomes more “churchly” and less cultural? What happens to churches if the culture becomes more anti-Christian? These are things I wrestle over too; Fowl’s stuff teases out some good implications in the text which provoke thought.



  2. Shane, I really appreciate you posting this. I am very intrigued by what has stirred the pot on your blog as of late. In one of your former more recent posts, you got more scrutiny, not to mention some chiding malevolence to your assertion about the FV versus Reformed view on baptism, that they are different (which I agree with you, btw), which people seem to be ready to argue over to protect something they believe important, which, it is important. But when it comes to a post like this, not much is said. Are we so oblivious to the worldly influence and cultural saturation in our churches that no one sees the need to repent and turn our churches back to their first love? Or is it that the churches are attracting so much of the world that our gatekeepers have fallen asleep at the gate?
    Thank you again for this post. It was a breath of fresh air in the smoke.
    Thanks, Brandon


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