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Issue 02

Preaching Philippians for All Its Worth

Dean Flemming’s Self-Giving Love: The Book of Philippians (Lexham, 2021), offers a concise, theological travel guide to Philippians and a helpful entry point to the letter. It shows how the story of Jesus and his self-emptying love is central to the entire letter. This book gives preachers a practically oriented overview of the key themes, literary design and missional implications of Philippians. Packed with memorable illustrations and chapter-ending discussion questions, it is also ideal for personal and small group Bible study.

Gordon Fee’s Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (NICNT, Eerdmans, 1995) remains the gold standard for serious exegetical commentaries on the letter. Fee interprets Philippians as a first-century letter of “friendship,” which continues to speak to God’s people in every generation. His in-depth approach to the text is consistently balanced, insightful, and theologically and spiritually sensitive. Don’t let the commentary’s length put you off. Fee is an engaging writer and this book deserves a place in any preacher’s library.

For a solid mid-size commentary, Markus Bockmuehl’s The Epistle to the Philippians (BNTC, Continuum, 2006) is a strong choice. Bockmuehl’s approach is scholarly but highly readable. This verse-by-verse commentary strikes a great balance between reading Philippians in its ancient literary and historical context on the one hand and exploring its theological message for the church on the other. Unfortunately, the commentary isn’t as easy to purchase as it used to be. But preachers who make the effort will be well rewarded.

Dean Flemming’s Philippians: A Commentary in the Wesleyan Tradition (NBBC, Beacon Hill, 2009) is accessible and well written. Flemming addresses all the major issues even-handedly without getting bogged down in the exegetical details. The commentary looks at each section of Philippians in light of its background (behind the text), message (in the text), and application (in front of the text), a format well suited to preaching a sermon series. What distinguishes Flemming’s commentary from many others is its persistent concern to address the relevance of the ancient text for Christians today, making it a rich resource for preaching and teaching.

Also strong on application is Lynn Cohick’s Philippians volume in “The Story of God Bible Commentary” series (Zondervan, 2013). As the series title suggests, the commentary seeks to interpret individual passages in light of the Bible’s grand story. It features concise, balanced explanations of the text, but its real strength lies in applying Paul’s message to contemporary concerns. The book teems with stories, illustrations and personal reflections, giving concrete examples of how Christians can live the story today. What’s more, unlike many commentaries, this one is a delight to read.

For a theological reading of Philippians, Daniel Migliore’s Philippians and Philemon (Belief, Baker, 2014) is hard to beat. Written by a respected systematic theologian, this commentary puts more weight on theological reflection than exegetical detail. In most cases, it deals with Philippians paragraph by paragraph rather than verse by verse. Along the way, Migliore repeatedly spotlights the communal thrust of the letter, a needed reminder for Western readers. The book’s rich pastoral orientation makes it a valuable resource for preachers.