Gordon Fee on Humility

In his commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians, in explaining the phrases within verse 3, he writes regarding humility:

In further application of vv. 6-11, especially v.8, Paul here contrasts “selfish ambition and rivalry” with, “in humility consider others better than yourselves.”  “Humility” is a uniquely Christian virtue, which, as with the message of a crucified Messiah, stands in utter contradiction to the values of the Greco-Roman world, who generally considered not a virtue, but a shortcoming.  Here Paul’s roots are in the OT – and in Christ.  In the OT the term indicates “lowliness” in the sense of “creatureliness,” and the truly humble show so by resting their case with God rather than trusting their own strength and machinations. 

Here is where the application comes, where we need to understand how humility works:

Humility is thus not to be confused with false modesty, or with that kind of abject servility that only repulses, wherein the “humble one” by obsequiosness gains more self-serving attention than he or she could do otherwise.  Rather, it has to do with a proper estimation of oneself, the stance of the creature before the Creator, utterly dependant and trusting.  Here one is well aware both of one’s weaknesses and of one’s glory (we are in his image, after all), but makes neither too much nor too little of either.  True humility is therefore not self-focused at all, but rather, as further defined by Paul in v. 4, “looks not to one’s own concerns but to those of others”  (187-188).   

So, real humility is simply realizing that there is a God of the Universe who is in control of all things, and you are not him.  He alone is the Creator, you are the creature, so live accordingly.   Pride, the opposite of humility, tries to convince the fool that he or she is the creator who can tell the Creator what to do and how to do it or that he or she doesn’t need the Creator and that he can handle things on his or her own.  Humility in contrast then submits to the Creator and lets him guide his or her life.  He or she seeks only to serve the Creator and his creation, thereby serves not one’s own concerns but to those of others. 



The collocation of Philippians 1:2

I am reposting this since I think it got overlooked:

Gordon Fee in his IVP commentary on the Philippians writes regarding Philippians 1:2:

philippiansIn a profound sense this greeting nicely represents Paul’s larger theological perspective.  The sum total of God’s activity towards his human creatures is found in the word grace; God has given himself to his people bountifully and mercifully in Christ.   Nothing is deserved, nothing can be achieved.  The sum total of those benefits as they are expereinced by the recipients of God’s grace is peace, God’s shalom, both now and to come.  The latter flows out of the former, and both together flow from God our Father and were made effective in our human history through the Lord Jesus Christ

The collocation of the Father and Son in such texts as these must not be overlooked.  In the theology of Paul, whose central concern is salvation in Christ, God the Father is understood to initiate such salvation and his glory is its ultimate reason for being.  Christ is the One through whom God’s salvation has been effected in history.  But texts such as this one, where Father and Son are simply joined by the conjunction and as equally the source of grace and peace, and many others as well, make it clear that in Paul’s mind the Son is truly god and works in cooperation with the Father and the Spirit for the redemption of the people of God (43-44). 


I remember noticing this possibility when I was learning NT Greek at my home church back in Washington.   I think in my case I was noticing the preposition απο in Galatians 1:3 that grace and peace come “from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”  I was warned not to make too much of it, but when I see this comment by a premier NT Scholar, who happens to also be a Pentecostal, I take encouragement to know I was thinking in the right way. 

I preached this very thing this Sunday I and I think it went well – I just talked about grace and peace in as simple of terms as I could and then showed how they come only from God and that our ability to show grace to others is only because we have ourselves received grace from God and understand that.   I also shared about how when we step out of the grace of God we tend to not be at peace because peace is the benefit of walking in the grace of God.  When we step out of that we start to worry, fret, have trouble, and all sorts of other things.  When we walk in the grace and the mercy of God, however, those kinds of things tend to be minimized since we are at peace, which comes when we walk in grace and so on. 

This kind of greeting is important to because in Philippians Paul exhorts the believers to be unified and to be humble and concerned for each others needs and to be joyful in the midst of suffering or persecution.  These kinds of things are not possible if we are not walking in the grace of God and have peace in our hearts as a result – when we are not in grace we grumble, complain, argue, become selfish, not care for others and so on.  So I think knowing the benefits of grace and peace are important to understand if we are to understand the book of Philippians or if we are to understand what it means to be followers of Jesus Christ and to live accordingly. 

Be Blessed!

New Book: Listening to the Spirit in the Text

listening-to-the-spiritAt the AZ District Council this last week, I was browsing the bookstore at the church building where we met and saw that it was the typical church book store – a few Bibles (believe it or not, both TNIV’s and ESV’s were sold here so that was a plus in showing balance) and then mostly books geared to the average reader (popular level).  As usual they had the “Left Behind” shelf, I suppose, to sell stuff more than anything, but really they need to be more careful about what they sell – we want to educate people in the church not denigrate them.  Of course too, there was next to nothing on the scholarly side except….  Gordon Fee’s Listening to the Spirit in the Text (Eerdman’s, 2000)!  Perhaps they had Fee’s How to Read the Bible for All it’s Worth and maybe the How to Choose a Translation book, but I can’t remember for sure.   So, what did I do?  Of course, I bought Listening to the Spirit When you find a book like this, and it’s the only copy they have, if you snooze, you lose

To me it seems like this would be a great text use in an exegetical methods class at the graduate level because it is the model of nearly supreme exegetical method and application by none other than one of the leading NT scholars in the world today, Gordon D. Fee.  Also, solid exegetical method requires that we listen to the Holy Spirit and what he is saying in and through the Biblical text.  I look forward to sitting and drinking in the wealth of exposition found in these pages.   One will have to be careful – he’s a Pentecostal!  What?   A Pentecostal who is among the leading New Testament Scholars in the world today??!! How can that be?  Well, there’s another one people hardly realize, (probably), Craig Keener, of whom I imagine many a pastor has his IVP Bible Background Commentary on their shelves.  There are others out there too you know, they just don’t necessarily go about waving their “I’m a Pentecostal” flag in everyone’s face as some Pentecostals tend to do. 

So what kind of book is it?  It is a complation of essays that are both written to be read in a book or a common journal (Regent College’s journal Crux) and written to be read for a lecture – he notes he intentionally resisted editing his manuscripts for the book – he wanted to keep the feel of the lectures and not smooth them out for the book.  These essays reflect on things, that at the time, Fee had been reflecting on in his own thinking – primarily, they reflect Fee’s “interests in Pauline studies and especially in the role of the Spirit in Paul’s own spiritual life and in that of his churches” (vii).  His first chapter gets a the very heart of things for him: “that the Spiritituality of the biblical text should be part of our historical investigation – and obedeince – as New Testament exegetes” (vii).