Review: Philippians (Reformed Expository Commentary) by Dennis Johnson

4 out of 5 Stars
Author: Dennis Johnson
Publisher: P&R Publishing
Buy Philippians (Reformed Expository Commentary)
Reading Level: Moderate

Paul’s letter to the Philippians has ministered to my heart over the last two to three years. If you can have a favorite section of Scripture, this small epistle would be tops on my list. The Spirit has impressed its truths especially of chapter two on my heart and changed me as a result.

I enjoyed reviewing Richard Phillip’s contribution to the Reformed Expository Commentary, and Dennis Johnson’s volume didn’t disappoint. He describes his primary purpose, and then executes it flawlessly.

My purpose is to model how to address introductory and background questions in preaching and teaching the church in such a way that the meaning and power of the text are illumined, or objections that our hearers may have encountered are answered, in order to facilitate humble listening to God’s Word. (p xvii)

So what you’ll find in Philippians is a verse by verse commentary aptly suited for sermon preparation and personal study. He addresses issues in the text, doesn’t shy away from difficult passages, all while keeping the text approachable for the reader with moderate aptitude in biblical studies. Johnson also provides helpful historical context without weighing the reader down. Within the exaltation of Jesus, Johnson also shows how Paul’s letters are uniquely trinitarian. For instance, describing Philippians 2:1-4 he says,

Christ’s encouragement, God’s comforting love, and the Spirit’s partnership toward suffering and beleaguered believers in Philippi and elsewhere are not merely reinforcements sent by a distant monarch to troops at the front of the battle. They are concrete expressions of the deep affection and mercies that tie God’s heart to ours and show that he is with us in the valleys of life. (p. 114)

or later, in one of my favorite sections of the book, he explains,

Paul’s point is that Christ’s saving work is comprehensive. Jesus rescues us not only from sin’s guilt and punishment, but also from its controlling power; and not only from personal defilement, but also from interpersonal alienation. In rescuing us from sin’s guilt and punishment, Christ does it all apart from us: he obeys in our place, suffers in our place, rises to victorious life in our place, and even gives us faith by his Spirit (Phil. 1:29). On the other hand, in rescuing us from sin’s controlling power, Christ still does it all, but he does it through us: his Spirit enlivens, enlists, and enables us as allies. Our salvation from alienation includes not only reconciling us to God through the cross, but also reconciling us to one another through the cross (see Eph. 2:11–18). Members of the family of God will be able to “work out” the family’s “salvation” (communal harmony) only as each appropriates the comprehensive “salvation” that Jesus has achieved and is applying to individuals through Spirit-given faith and repentance. We need the Spirit to rescue us from our innate self-centeredness. God is the only One who can change both our desires and resolutions (“to will”) and our behavior (“to work”), conforming both motive and action to the Christ-shaped template that evokes his fatherly “good pleasure.” (p. 158 see also p. 273, 277, 308)

The commentary shines the spotlight on the person and work of Jesus Christ. Just as Jesus captivated Paul in his letter, so Johnson shares and explores that same awe for our humbled, yet exalted Savior. This commentary would be a great resource for pastors or a lay-person looking to do some serious study in the book of Philippians.

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Disclosure of Material Connection: I received Philippians (Reformed Expository Commentary) free from P&R Publishing. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”