1 Jun 2010

Preaching through Philippians

Author: Bobby Valentine | Filed under: Bible, Church, Exegesis, Hermeneutics, Philippians, Preaching

For a while now at Palo Verde we have been working our way through Paul’s letter to the Philippians. It has been an exhilarating journey for me and my prayer is that it has been a blessing for those who have accompanied me. Philippians with its delicate interplay of joy, suffering and unity within the colony of God makes it a wonderful resource for addressing contemporary Christians within a postmodern sea. A practice I have had with Philippians is simply reading the letter orally several times a week beginning on Tuesdays. This has been a wonderful blessing to me and helped me to “hear” the word. I believe that “hearing” was the primary context of the letter in the first place.

I have found several works helpful that I come back to on a routine basis. The commentaries by

Gordon Fee, NIC Paul’s Letter to the Philippians
F. F. Bruce, Epistle to the Philippians
P. T. O’Brien, NIGTC Epistle to the Philippians

are the best you can get in my opinion. The Dictionary of Paul and His Letters has not left my desk in months. Peter Oakes’ Philippians: From People to Letter has been rich with insight into the social context of the letter. Here are a few other resources that have made my study and hopefully my preaching better.

Jack Reese, The Broken Body: Embracing the Peace of Christ in a Fragmented Church (not limited to Philippians but a pastorally rich work)

Everett Ferguson, Backgrounds of Early Christianity

David deSilva, Honor, Patronage, Kinship & Purity: Unlocking New Testament Culture

Matthew Bunsun, Encyclopedia of the Roman Empire (especially the article on Colonies)

Paul Achtemeier, “Omne Verbum Sonat: The New Testament and the Oral Development of Late Antiquity” JBL 109 (1990): 3-27

David Black, “Paul and Christian Unity: A Formal Analysis of Phil 2.1-4” JETS 28 (1985): 299-308

John Gibbs, “The Relation between Creation and Redemption according to Phil II.5-11” Novum Testamentum 12 (1970): 170-183

Paul Sampley, Pauline Partnership in Christ: Christian Community and Commitment in Light of Roman Law

P. T. O’Brien, “The Fellowship Theme in Philippians,” Reformed Theological Review 37 (1978): 9-18

N. T. Wright, “Paul’s Gospel and Caesar’s Empire” … (see link)

Working through Philippians is an ongoing process right now. But the prayer, the meditation, the wrestling with the text has resulted in mediocre attempts at preaching the epistle here at Palo Verde. So far eight of these lessons have fallen upon the ears of my fellow travelers at PV … they are:

Thanksgiving the Heartbeat of the Kingdom, 1.1-11
The Silver Lining, 1.12-18
Jesus, Let Us Come to Know You, 1.27-30
What Would Jesus THINK?, 2.1-11
No Complaining, 2.12-18
No Pedigree, 3.1-11
Freshness for the Far Journey, 3.12-20
A Savior From Heaven, 3.17-4.1

For the brave at heart these sermons can be accessed online HERE. The lessons begin on 3/7 (March 7) to the present. You will need to click on the individual title to download the MP3.

It has been my prayer that God would use me to be a blessing. Fortunately his word empowered by his Spirit does its thing with or without me of this I am convinced. So I repent of all the shortcomings and give praise for anything that is true to what the Spirit said through Paul.

9 Responses to “Preaching through Philippians”

  1. Kent Says:

    Another good resource on Philippians that is often overlooked is the book “Paul’s Letter to the Philippians in Light of Disunity in the Church” by Davorin Peterlin. It is a very expensive book but can be found in most good theological libraries.

  2. Stoned-Campbell Disciple Says:

    Thank you Kent. I have “flipped” through Peterlin before but never dished out the 200 bucks to get it. But you are right a good resource … Reumann’s recent commentary in the Anchor Bible series I shelled out the money for and it is good but not as good as Fee for example. (My opinion).

  3. Wade Tannehill Says:

    Thanks for the resources. I love bibliographies–especially from competent folks like yourself. All your recommendations make my want list. I love the Fee commentary.

  4. Eric Says:

    That Dictionary of Paul… has been on my Amazon wish list for a while now. It is a great resource. Funny to see this list of sources and blog post, I’ve been preaching through Philippians myself over the past month.

  5. kingdomseeking Says:

    I will be preaching a short series through Philippians beginning in July.

    Grace and peace,


  6. mattdabbs Says:

    That is a really nice list. I just wrote some small group curriculum for our small groups on the prison letters and I used a decent sized chunk of these books including O’Brien, Dictionary of Paul and his letters, and Bruce. I also used Wright’s Paul for Everyone: Prison Letters. It was pretty good, depending on what you are trying to do. If you are going scholarly, it is obviously not the book. But the way he tells stories and illustrates the deeper principles he is trying to draw out is perfect for helping thinking through how to teach or preach through this material.

  7. Frank Bellizzi Says:

    I agree. A nice list of resources. Naturally, you lean towards the materials written by biblicists like us. (Haven’t spent any time with the Fee commentary, but can imagine how good it must be).

    But I’m curious; did you come across anything good among more-liberal commentators? I’m not asking that as a challenge. I have something specific in mind. The question I wonder about goes like this: According to people who think that Acts and the Pastorals are very late the offices of elders and deacons are sub-apostolic. They are not Pauline. They developed once the movement lost its zip and then became pedestrian and organized.

    And then there’s the first part of Philippians, . . . addressing the overseers and the deacons, . . . right where we wouldn’t expect to find that sort of thing. For crying out loud, it sounds almost as “late” as Ignatius of Antioch. So what do liberal interpreters of early Christianity do with that since hardly anyone denies that Paul wrote Philippians?

  8. Paula Harrington Says:

    I like the idea of reading the book aloud. Will try that. Thanks for the link.

  9. John Says:

    In a couple of sentences what does ’emptied Himself’ mean to you? Could you say that Ph 2.5-11 is to the epistles what Mt 5.3-10 is to the gospels?

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