Philippians: IVP New Testament Commentary by Gordon D. Fee

Gordon D. Fee. Philippians: The IVP New Testament Commentary Series. (1999) Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press.

I want to say “thank you” to Adrianna Wright and IVP for providing me with a copy of Gordon D. Fee’s commentary on the Epistle to the Philippians. Fee has been one of my favorite biblical scholars over the years. For one he is a fantastic exegete of Scripture and second he is boldly Pentecostal which means I share a lot of presuppositions with him. Pentecostalism would do well to embrace exegetes like Fee in their midst; the scholarly world would do well to embrace people that “feel” and “hear” the text like Fee.

The IVP commentary is a smaller and more “mobile”version of his New International Commentary on the same book. This version has less footnotes, less technicalities, and more practicalities. It would seem to be a perfect companion version like owning both a truck and a sports car. One is for the “heavy lifting” (i.e. the NIC version); one is for academic mobility (i.e. the IVP version).

The introduction section is clear and simple. It provides a framework for the reader both as regards the historical setting and the key motifs of which the reader should be aware. The information is not so deep that you have a hard time moving through the book. Likewise, it isn’t so shallow that you wonder why the section exists. It is balanced and it fits the structure of the book.

The commentary itself  simple compared to the NIC version. It aims to comment on the “highlights” we could say. There is some discussion of the Greek text but someone with little to no experience with the Greek language can still benefit greatly from reading it.

Exegetical Highlights:

On 2.6-7:

“In displaying the mind of Christ, Paul begins with one of those sublime sentences whose essential intent and meaning seem clear as can be yet whose parts are full of mystery and wonder. The reason for this is simple enough; on the basis of what was known and came to be believed about Jesus’ earthly life, Paul is trying to say something about what could not be observed yet came to be believed about Christ’s prior existence as God. What is essential is this: In his prior existence as God, Christ demonstrated what equality with God meant, not by taking advantage of it for himself but by emptying himself, by taking the role of a slave/servant in becoming one of us.” (p. 92)

On 2.9-11:

“…every tongue (of every person on bended knee) shall express homage in the language of the confessing–but currently suffering–church: “The Lord is Jesus Christ.” This confession, which comes by the Spirit (1 Cor 12:3), is the line of demarcation between believer and nonbeliever (Rom 10:9). And here lies the ultimate triumph and irony in the passage. Those responsible for the suffering in Philippi proclaim that “the lord is Caesar.” But at the end, when all creation beholds the risen Jesus, both they and their “lord Caesar” will join with all others to declare that Kyrios is none other than the Jesus whom the Romans crucified and whom Christians worship.” (pp. 100-101)

On 3.20-21:

“Because heaven is our true homeland, we eagerly await our Savior from there, he goes on–in yet one more play on their Roman citizenship and clear attempt to encourage them in their present suffering. The primary title for the Roman emperor was “lord and savior”; Paul now puts those two words side by side: our Savior and Lord, Jesus Christ, who will not only transform our present humiliation into glory but do this in keeping with the power that enables him to bring everything under his control (including the Roman lord and savior, Nero Caesar!). All of this to ensure the Philippians that the heavenly prize is absolutely worth pursuing (vv. 12-14). (pp. 164-165)

On 4.13:

Here is a much-used sentence from Paul that is often taken out of context and thus abused. While everything seems to be all-embracing and is often applied to one’s activities (especially those that are personally demanding–athletics, learning to drive and the like), in context it refers primarily yo living in want or plenty. Paul finds Christ sufficient in times of bounty as well as times of need! Thus, rather than being a christenized version of the Stoic ideal, this passage points up the absolute Christ-centeredness of Paul’s whole life. He is a man in Christ. As such he takes what Christ brings. If it means “plenty,” he is a man in Christ, and that alone; if it means “want,” he is still a man in Christ, and he accepts deprivation as part of his understanding of discipleship.” (pp. 186-187)