Monday, July 29, 2013



Until now the attention has been on Paul and his circumstances and choices. Now Paul turns away from himself to his readers. The word “only” is transitional,[1] indicating a new direction away from himself to his readers. No matter what happens concerning himself, the readers are responsible to keep the faith. This section must be seen in the light of what follows in Philippians. There is a coherence of 1:27-2:28 that must not be overlooked. The clear theme of the whole section is obedience. Paul gives the believers at Philippi one exhortation here, for Philippians 1:27-30 is one sentence, having only one verb—conduct.[2]    

Live Worthily (1:27)

Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1:27a). This is a common exhortation by Paul (Eph. 4:1; Col. 1:10; 1 Thess. 2:12). The word conduct is the Greek word politeuo used in the middle voice indicating one’s conduct, or behavior as a citizen. It speaks of taking an active part in one’s citizenship. The word preserves the nuance of citizenship and its responsibility.[3] Being in the middle voice indicates the action is upon the subject to produce the results of the action. Thus, emphasis is placed on the idea of our responsibility as citizens. In other words the readers are to fulfill the exhortation. We are responsible to conduct ourselves in a worthy manner. A worthy walk is the responsibility of the believer which he is to fulfill as a citizen of heaven. To be a citizen is not merely having rights and privileges of citizenship, but also duties and responsibilities. It is the responsibility and duty of citizenship that is the heart of this exhortation.

We are citizens of heaven living in a foreign land. Thus we are Christ’s ambassadors in a foreign land. (2 Cor. 5:20), representing His message: the gospel. We are “separated unto the gospel of God” (Rom. 1:1). The gospel is that of power (Rom. 1:16), grace (Acts 20:24; Rom. 3:23-24; Eph. 2:6-10; Titus 3:4-7), and faith. To fulfill our responsibility to conduct ourselves worthy of the gospel means we walk by and in His power, by and in grace, and by and in faith. We are to represent the gospel by our presence, influence, speech, and actions.

“A good citizen will behave properly, with or without supervision” observes Gromacki.[4] This is seen in Paul’s reference: “so that whether I come and see you or remain absent” (Phil. 1:27). One must be faithful “in season and out of season” (2 Tim. 4:2). Consistent Christian living is a necessity for a worthy conduct in the gospel.

The Strategy for a worthy walk (1:27-28):

(1)   Standing firm in one spirit” (1:27). The word standing is used many times as an exhortation. It is a term used for steadfastness, and speaks of a defensive posture. If one is walking or conducting oneself worthy of the gospel, one needs to be steadfast, holding one’s ground. The word stand “conveys the idea of firmness or steadfastness, or unflinching courage like that possessed by soldiers who determinedly refuse to leave their posts irrespective of how severely the battle rages.”[5] That is a part of walking worthy. The idea of standing fast is demanded  in the midst of trouble, opposition, struggle, and suffering. This steadfastness is supported by unity—“in one spirit.”  There are two possible interpretations of this phrase. First, some take it as a reference to the Holy Spirit and seek support from Ephesians 2:18; 4:4; and 1 Corinthians 2:13. Others hold that it refers to the human spirit. This makes the most sense from the context with its strong appeal to unity. This is supported by the explanatory phrase “with one mind” (literally: with one soul), indicating the two phrases are speaking of the same thing (Acts 4:32). The textual pattern also indicates the one spirit speaks of unanimity:[6]

A.     You are standing firm
      B. in one spirit
      B. with one soul
A. Contending together
Unity must of necessity be a production of the Holy Spirit, however, in this context it is not the source, but the result that is stressed.[7] Thus, the two views are closely linked. However, in this context it is not an explicit reference to the Holy Spirit.

(2)   Striving together for the faith of the gospel” (1;27). This speaks of a common struggle for a common purpose. This speaks of an offensive move. No man can fight alone. It is a common struggle. The word striving together is one word in the Greek: synathleo. It means to struggle together; to contend together, and speaks of a joint or unified effort. It is used only in Philippians (here, 4:3). Common purpose calls for common support in times of struggle. It speaks of personal involvement moving as a unit. It is not just the Pastor, elder, of some group in the assembly that is to strive for the gospel. It is the responsibility of every believer to be involved and active in the community of faith. This striving is “for the faith of the gospel” (1:27). In this context it is not talking about a subjective faith, but an objective one—a body of truth. Hawthorne brings out that the phrase indicates three things: First, the term “the faith” had become a technical term for doctrine or creed, that which was believed. Second, it is a dative of interest or advantage, and could be translated “for the faith.” Third, the gospel is a subjective genitive which means the gospel is the source or generative power of the creed or doctrine believed.[8]

(3)   “In no way alarmed by [your] opponents” (1:28). It speaks of a fearless attitude. The word alarmed is the Greek word pturomenoi, found only here in the NT, meaning to be scared, terrified, or intimidated.  It is used of horses that get spooked and stampede uncontrollably. It carries the idea of panic caused by some outside stimulus. However, they are not to be scared of their opponents (cf. Luke 12:4). Do not panic—God is working and you can have victory (cf. John 16:33). Paul does not define these opponents.

Who these opponents were is a hotly debated subject among Bible scholars. Most scholars contend that they are Jewish in nature—Judaizers. Others point to Paul suffering at the hands of the Romans or Gentiles (Acts 16).  Bateman holds that they could be Gentiles who had become Jewish in practice and outlook.[9] We have already seen that Paul was opposed by a group (1:15-17), who wanted to cause harm because of envy and ambition. In Philippians 3:2-3, Paul is more condemning of his opponents calling them dogs, evil workers and mutilators, in contrast to true believers. Then, in Philippians 3:18-19, Paul characterizes them as enemies of the Cross of Christ; whose god is their appetite, and their minds focused on earthly things. Nowhere in Philippians is there enough information to indicate if these are Jewish or Gentile opponents. The debate continues. However, there seems to be indication of the existence of Gentile Judaizers from the writings of Ignatius (98-117 AD). “First, Ignatius' Letter to the Philadelphians states that ‘some (if not all) of the Judaizers were Gentile in origin,’ and second, Ignatius' Letter to the Magnesians suggests that the Judaizers were ‘Gentiles, who formerly (and presently) lived like Jews and expounded Judaism.’”[10] Add to the fact that the Jewish population seems small, and there was no synagogue in Philippi, it seems to point in favor of pagan or possible Gentile Judaizers as the source of opposition. There is no direct evidence, however, one way or another concerning the opponents at Philippi. The opponents were likely outside the church, but exactly who they are is unknown.

The rest of the verse is not easy to interpret. Simply put, the difficulty is a grammatical problem. It centers on the word “which” (1:28b) What is the antecedent? Is it the opposition or is it the faith of the gospel? While some argue strongly for the faith of the gospel.[11] I think it is more natural to hold that the word opposition is the antecedent. In light of the context it is the experience of opposition that is the sign. It is a close parallel to 2 Thessalonians 1:4-8, where persecution is seen as a sign of God’s righteousness and vindication.

This opposition is a sign.  The word for sign is endeixis, meaning manifestation; a token of; a proof. It is a legal term for evidence or proof. This sign is two sided. This is seen in the “them/you” contrast. The word sign is modified by “of destruction” and “of salvation.”[12] First, it is “a sign of destruction for them” (1:28b). By opposing God they are proving they are sign of destruction. The Greek word is apoleias meaning ruin, perdition, waste or destruction. The dative of disadvantage.[13]  It “refers to the state after death wherein exclusion from salvation is a realized fact, wherein man, instead of becoming what he might have been, is lost and ruined.”[14] Second, “but of salvation for you” (1:28c). In contrast, the believer sees such opposition to the gospel as a sign of salvation. It is a sign if the surety of our salvation. For the world will hate and persecute God’s people (John 15:18-19). It will oppose the truth of the gospel. Wallace says the subtleties of the text that is not found in translation is that, “the enemies of the gospel do not possess their destruction, but are the unfortunate recipients of it; but believers do possess their salvation.”[15]

There can be little question that a worthy walk entails mutual harmony, purpose, and united endeavor among the believing community. They must stand together in the defense of the gospel.

Why they are to take courage in walking worthy (1:29-30).

“For” (oti) is a conjunction of reason or explanation. It explains the why they are to take courage (not be alarmed) in the face of opposition (1:28). The reason refers back to verse 28 and indicates the reason for not being intimidated. The reason is “to you it has been granted for Christ’s sake” (1:29). First, it is important to understand that God has freely bestowed certain gifts. These are gifts of grace. The word granted (echaristhe) comes from the root word grace, and means to bestow or grant as a free favor.

This grace is bestowed in two forms: First, it is given as saving grace: “to believe in Him.” Saving grace is a gift (Ephesians 2:8-10; cf. Titus 3:4-7). However, grace is “not only” bestowed in believing, “but also,” secondly, to suffer. Note carefully, it does not say grace in suffering. The text is clear, suffering is the grace. Suffering is the gift. However, it is not simply suffering, but the type of suffering is specified: “suffer for His sake.”  Suffering has different causes. The cause is “for His sake.” Luke qualifies the suffering that is to take place. It is not suffering from sin, mistakes, or from disease. It is suffering for Christ.  Early believers rejoiced because they viewed themselves as “counted worthy to suffer shame for His name” (Acts 5:41). They saw it as an honor to do so. Kent reminds us “that the NT regards suffering as God’s means of achieving his gracious purposes both in his own Son (Hebrews 2:10) and in all believers (James 1:3-4; 1 Peter 1:6-7).”[16] Suffering is evangelistic (Phil. 1:12-14); brings the believer assurance and rewards (1 Peter 4:13-14), and to glory to God (Acts 9:16).

This grace units believers in a common experience: “experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me” (1:30). Both Paul and the Philippians have the same conflict on behalf of Christ. The word conflict (agona) is commonly translated fight or struggle (cf. Colossians 2:1; 1 Thessalonians 2:2; 1 Timothy 6:12; 2 Timothy 4:7; Hebrews 12:1). The common conflict gives us a common experience that is to produce a common unity.  

[1]  Silva, PHILIPPIANS, 81.
[2]  Hawthorne, Philippians, 55.
[3]  Silva, PHILIPPIANS, 93.
[4]  Gromacki, STAND UNITED IN JOY, 78.
[5]  Hawthorne, Philippians, 56.
[6]  Silva, PHILIPPIANS, 92.
[7]  Homer Kent, Jr, EBC: PHILIPPIANS, 118.
[8]  Hawthorne, WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 57.
[9]  Bateman IV, Herbert W., “Were the Opponents at Philippi Necessarily Jewish?” BIBLIOTHECA SACRA 155, January-March 1998, 39-61.
[10]  Ibid, 57
[11]  Hawthorne, WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 58-59.
[12]  Ibid, 59.
[13]  Daniel Wallace, GREEK GRAMMAR: BEYOND THE BASICS, 143.
[15]  Wallace, 144.
[16]  Kent, EBC: Philippians, 11:119. 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Role of Theology in the Church

Dr John Hannah in the book OUR LEGACY notes the role of Theology in the church:

First, the task of the skilled theologian or pastor is to gather together the knowledge of God available to us with a view to the church’s worship and service

A second function of theology, and here I have in mind historical theology, is to preserve the church from fads and novelty Knowledge of the past keeps the church from confusing the merely contemporary with the enduringly relevant; it distinguishes the transient from the permanent. 

Third, knowledge of history and theology provide a bulwark against pride and arrogance borne of the thought that any one church or ecclesiastical tradition stands in the exclusive heritage of first century orthodoxy.

Fourth, knowledge of doctrine supports the Bible’s witness to the triumph of the church. Through times of duress and trial the people of God have been preserved and steadfastly have proclaimed the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ.

John Hannah, OUR LEGACY: THE HISTORY OF CHRISTIAN DOCTRINE, NavPress, Colorado Springs, 2001.

Friday, July 19, 2013


"Since Isaiah’s message was directed to a sixth-century audience on the verge of national crisis, it only indirectly relates to people today. The key that enables the modern reader to discover an indirect relevance come from (a) understanding the meaning of the prophet’s message to his audience, (b) developing broad theological principles from these specific incidents and teaching, and (c) finding analogies between the Old Testament theological teaching and the modern world today.”

Gary V. Smith, NAC: ISAIAH 1-39, B&H Publishing, Nashville, 2007, p. 23.

Monday, July 8, 2013


ACTS 1:4
(An except from the commentary on Acts I am working on)

The Lord tells them to stay in Jerusalem. The reason for staying is “to wait for what the Father had promised” (1:4; cf. Luke 24:49). It was natural for the disciples to want to leave the city. First, their home was in Galilee, not Jerusalem, and it was natural to want to go back home. Second, it was the city that put their Lord to death, and they may have feared for their own well-being. But Jesus commands them to stay and wait for the promise of the Father. He clearly defines what they are to wait for—the baptism of power by the Holy Spirit, or as Jesus put it, to be “clothed with power from on high” (Luke 24:49). 

The promise of the Father relates to the Old Testament and the Messianic kingdom. In Isaiah 64:3 we see the Spirit is to be poured upon Israel’s offspring. Joel 2:28 relates to the restoration of Israel. It marks salvation-historical continuity between Jesus’ ministry and his disciples. This underscores God’s sovereign rule and salvation aimed at the restoration of Israel from where it was to spread to the nations. Therefore the promise of the Spirit is fulfilled as a foretaste of the kingdom and an empowerment of the people of the kingdom.

It not only connects with the Old Testament promise of the Spirit, but concerns Christ as well (cf. Luke 3:16).  It is Christ who will be the baptizer of the empowering Spirit. There is a parallel in Luke’s writings between Jesus’ baptism and the believers at Pentecost.[1]
·         Both are praying (Luke 3:21; Acts 1:14).
·         The Spirit descends, manifested in a physical way (Luke 3:22; Acts 2:3).
·         It takes place before they start their ministry and empowers them for their new ministry (Luke 3:23; Acts 2:4).
At both events the recipients receive Holy Spirit power to fulfill their mission.

[1]  Craig S. Keener, ACTS: AN EXEGETICAL COMMENTARY, 1:679. 


While most articles center upon modern commentaries, many have a tendency to overlook the older commentaries. Here are commentaries that are at least 20 years old, but still in print.

The student or Pastor should not overlook these commentaries on MARK.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST MARK by C.E.B. Crainfield. Although better known for his work on Romans, this is a valuable exegetical study. He interacts with ancient manuscripts and other Bible scholars. A worthwhile addition to your bookshelf.

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MARK by Vincent Taylor. Good exegetical commentary, although on the critical side. Some knowledge of Greek is needed. Still helpful. (May be out of print).

THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO ST. MARK by Henry Barclay Swete. At one time it was regarded as one of the best exegetical commentaries. It was first published in 1898 and is more conservative than Taylor. Some Greek knowledge needed.

Friday, July 5, 2013


While most articles center upon modern commentaries, many have a tendency to overlook the older commentaries. Here are commentaries that are at least 20 years old but still in print.

The student or Pastor should not overlook these commentaries on MATTHEW.

COMMENTARY ON MATTHEW, by John A. Broadus. This commentary has survived the test of time. He was a careful scholar and teacher. Valuable work even today.

OUTLINE STUDIES IN MATTHEW by W.H. Griffith-Thomas. His ability to outline and analyze the book of Matthew will be helpful to any preacher who is preaching Matthew. (May be out of print, check used bookstores)

 THE INTERPRETATION OF ST. MATTHEW’S GOSPEL by R.C.H. Lenski. May well be his best work. Lutheran and conservative in perspective. The work is a good expositional work. Worth having for detail study of Matthew. Insightful.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Book Review: ACTS Volume 1 by Keener

Craig S. Keener
Baker Academic, Grand Rapids, 2012
Product Details

I must confess I debated as to if to buy this because of the price and massive work that it is. It is going to be somewhat expensive to get all four volumes. However, I did invest in it because I am writing on Acts. As I am working through this volume, I observe:
(1) Keener is a serious and superlative scholar of the highest rank.
(2) It is a massive and detailed work. It is not a book for one who does not have some academic training. The depth and width of research numbs the mind. Commentaries come in different levels and are written for different audiences. It is clearly he is writing to an academic audience. It is one of the most academic works I have seen in some time.  
(3) His approach is social-historical more than exegetical. The term exegetical is almost a misnomer, which he seems to admit (p.6). He certainly emphasizes social-historical, rhetorical and cultural connections of Acts over grammatical and lexical details. This is important to know in considering this work.
(4) This surely will be the most comprehensive documented work on Acts to date.

In this massive work over 60% of this volume takes up introducing the book of Acts. The introduction is detailed, comprehensive and extensive, leaving hardly a stone unturned. He gives all sides of the major introductory issues, and completely documents his points. Many of the pages are filled half way with footnotes. I found much of the material interesting. The parts of the introduction that I found helpful are on Paul and Acts, and the dating of Acts (although his conclusion is not the same as mine). However, the introduction may be too academic for many.

The heart of the work is the commentary. I find it very worthwhile. He takes a little different approach in that he centers his comments on verses by subject, rather than phrase by phrase. For example in Acts 1:9-11 his breakdown is:
            Signs of Glory: Cloud, angels, Heaven and Return (1:9-11)
                        The Cloud (1:9)
                        The Angels (1:10)
                        Heaven (1:11)
                        Returning the Same Way He Left (1:11)
His comments are helpful and insightful. He has charts throughout his commentary. Along with a number of Excursus scattered throughout the commentary.  His comments are loaded with background and thought of the first century. He aims to bring out the meaning and thinking of the original readers. In these areas he is unsurpassed. He is fair in the consideration and presentation of other views. There are others that are stronger in grammatical and lexical details (i.e. Schnabel, Peterson). However, he excels in his social-historical approach. He is reader friendly. Interestingly there is no printed index, it is on a CD that comes with the book, which I find cumbersome. There is no quick way to look things up. But again it is another 400 pages.  

Overall, this is a top ranked commentary which will last the test of time. It may well become the best academic work on Acts and may be overwhelming for average readers or Pastors. It will become a necessity to use for any academic work and research. I urge caution before you decide to buy to make sure it will be useful to you. This is certainly not a work for the average layman. I am glad I decided to invest in this work.