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!

Gordon Fee on exegesis

Mark put up a post I want to copy here from Grdon Fee that he titles “a word of advice to bibliobloggers”:

I want to say with great vigour that even though the first task of the exegete is the historical one (to determine the biblical author’s intended meaning), this first task is not the ultimate one.  The ultimate task, and now I repeat myself, is the Spiritual one, to hear the text in such a way that it leads its reader/hearer into the worship of God and into conformity to God and his ways.

(Gordon Fee, Listening to the Spirit in the Text, WB Eerdmanns Publishing, Grand Rapids, 2000, p.11)


Here is a question I have:

If exegesis does not lead us to the worship of, and a deeper more intimate knoweldge of, God, is it then an idol, something that sets itself against the knowledge of God? 

Now, I know this is not always the case but I wonder if it could be the case for some people in some instances?   Could some be more interested in knowledge of the Bible and it’s teachings than necessarily the One to whom the Bible points? 

I would assert that, yes, some are more interested in knoweldge of the Bible for it’s own sake and that for them the task of exegesis is not a spiritual one by any means but a strictly historical or literary one and so therefore it does not lead them to a deeper worship and or a more intimate knoweldge of the Holy One. 

So for these, yes, exegesis is a kind of idolatry.

Philippians 2:1-11

I am puting together a sermon on this section of Paul’s letter to the Philippians for this Sunday (sorry I am just not as ahead of the game as those who can have sermons ready a few weeks ahead of time).   Still doing some background reading but my sources at the moment are Gordon Fee’s 1999 IVP commentary on Philippians (it’s an autographed copy!) and of course the backgound articles in the IVP Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.   I’ll probably try to consult as much as I can of Moises Silva’s BECNT Philippians Commentary online as well since I do not yet have my own copy Peter T. Obrien’s NIGTC on Philippians and Frank Theilman’s work in the NIVAC set

My basic point will be that, in seeking to encourage unity in the church, Paul used this hymn to set forth the example of Jesus Christ as a humble, obedient, servant and that these three things are needed for us to maintain goldly and loving relationships with one another, and especially so within the local body of believers.  In the face of trials and persecutions and those things that would seek to destroy the unity of the body – the attitudes of humility, obedience, and service are needed to withstand attacks both within and without. 

that’s what I gots so far!

any other thoughts?

On being a Great Commission Christian

Ajith Fernando in his NIVAC work on Acts writes in relation to being a Great Commission Christian:

ActsWhen we realize the important place that the Great Commission had in the early church, I think we can endorse the use of phrases like “Great Commission Christian” and “Great Commission Lifestyle.”  Some object to these phrases, thinking that they will detract people from other aspects of Christian mission, such as fulfilling the social mandate.  This can happen and has, alas, happened with Christians who have overemphasized the Great Commission.  But it should not happen.  The social mandate is clear in the Bible, especially in the Old Testament.  We must never be afraid to be fully biblical.  True, combining these two elements of mission is not easy, as we have found in our own ministry with the poor.  But when was biblical ministry easy?  Thank God that there is a noble history of evangelicals who put into practice this dual commitment to the social and evangelistic aspects of our mission. 

In view of the urgency of Jesus’ commission, we should all seek to be Great Commission Christians and endeavor to have all Christian organizations and churches to be Great Commission movements.  We should constantly live under the influence of our mission, so that we are willing to pay whatever price is necessary in order to reach the lost.  Mission, of course, includes involvement across the street and around the globe.  It is the responsibility of Christian leaders first to burn with passion themselves for mission and to pay the price of such commitment (see 10Cor 9); then, out of the credibility won from such passionate commitment, they must constantly keep the vision of mission before the people they lead. 

Ajith Fernando.  Acts, NIVAC.  Zondervan, 1998, 69. 


Indeed and Amen!  This is what we try to do at least once a month when I or Debbie preach a sermon on missions – we try to keep the Great Commission before our congregation.  Why?  Because a passion for missions burns in our own hearts and we are paying the price.  We live here at the canyon and don’t get paid for this pastorate.  We work like everyone else does (the pay is quite low) but we also “work” as we seek to extend the kingdom of God in the Grand Canyon Village and in the lives of those who live and work here, which includes international students from all over the world, even those from unreached nations and people groups (Thailand, China, Vietnam, and other places)! 

Come, will you be a Great Commission Christian too?

John Bevere’s Breaking Intimidation

Due to some situations our church has been facing as of late, we were advised to read John Bevere’s book Breaking Intimidation: Say “No” without feeling guilty, be secure without the approval of man (Charisma House, 1995, 2006).   

Breaking IntimidationMany of my blog readers will probably think this sort of stuff is absolute silliness but ah well, let them.  Bevere’s book Breaking Intimidation is a really important book for many pastors and leaders to read.  While most often used in the context of ministry one can easily apply the concept to nearly any and every other situation from intimidation in the workplace, the home, the school or the community. This issue applies to all people as well because the spirit of intimidation is just that, a spirit and not a attitude or a disposition.  It is a spirit, therefore, even those with strong personalties and strong spiritual lives can be faced with or succumb to a spirit of intimidation, and a controlling spirit is not among only those with strong personalities, it can come from more quiet people too.  It is also not limited to men or women.  It does not take much – one can easily unwittingly submit to a spirit of intimidation without realizing it.  In my case, I was both unwittingly and somewhat aware of my giving into it.  The person I am dealing comes across as pretty intimidating and it takes a bit of effort for me to stand up to it.  Really, I need the Holy Spirit to help me deal with it.   What happens is when we do give into a spirit of intimidation is we loose (0r give up) our spiritual authority given to us in Christ (cf. Ephesians 1) and the gifts within us become dormant and we are not able to be free or hear from the Lord in our relationship with him (also that spirit then takes our authority and begins to use it agianst us).   To overcome intimidation we have recognize  what is going on and then repent for giving in, submit to the Lord and then pray against the intimidation, thenit will begin to break.  Reading this book will help you learn what the spirit of intimidation is (not unlike a jezebel spirit – it’s a controlloing spirit that does not want to be the leader but wants to control the leader and manipulate him or her so as to assert it own will and keep the leader from doing what God wants him or her to do), how to identify it, and how to break free of its grip on your heart and life.   Get it and begin your new life of spiritual freedom today!  Seriously. 

Paul’s Letter to Philemon

Nick commented on another blog that he thought Philemon was a throw away letter – that he did not see the point of it being in the NT.   This is a shame. 

Keeping it simple, if I were to sum up the gospel as I see it in the Letter to Philemon it would be that just as Paul was an advocate to Philemon on behalf of Onisemus to grant him freedom – so to Jesus Christ is an advocate before the Father on our behalf to grant us freedom from sin and death

Note that Paul asked that if Onisemus had done any wrong to Philemon to charge it to his account – this is the case with Christ on our behalf – our sin was charged to his account! 

Also, I think a very significant lesson we can learn from Philemon is one about characterdo you have to be told what to do or can a person know that on the basis of your character ask you a favor and know it will be done?   So I think a key issue Philemon addresses is that of character – do we have to be told what to do or can we do it willingly on the basis of our character?  Or, also, will we be willing to do even more than they ask us?

This is short but just a few thoughts on Philemon.

Craig S. Keener on reading the Bible

Craig Keener shared on the Koinonia blog about an influential book for him.  I am glad it was the Bible!  But listen to the interview – can you imagine? reading 40 chapters of the Bible a day? Reading the entire NT in a weekWow!!  I feel ashamed already.  Not really but dang.  How many of us have even read 40 seperate chapters of the Bible this year?

Craig S. Keener (PhD, Duke University)[and an AGTS grad!] is professor of biblical studies at Eastern Baptist Theological Seminary. He is the author of numerous commentaries, journal articles, and other works focusing on New Testament studies and Biblical Studies, including Revelation for the NIVAC series and a two volume commentary on John (Hendrickson, 2004). [bracket mine]

HT: Koinonia Blog

on Apostolic ministry

Luke G at ThinkTheology.org asked me in the comments if @ AGTS were I was required to interact much with the cessationist positions regarding the office of Apostle and what are your conclusions?

Here was my edited response:

We didn’t interact with cessationists positions – not too much.  As to apostles AGTS did have a symposium in the fall of 2004 on subject of Apostles and Apostolic ministry which turned into a short book He Gave Apostles (GPH, 2005).

At the moment I tend to follow that true apostolic ministry/function is seen in direct cross-cultural ministry work among unreached people groups – places where the gospel has yet to be preached and churches have yet to be planted.  In other words I see the true Apostle as being one who plants churches among the unreached.  Hey, that sounds kind of like Paul doesn’t it?

Peter Wagner is not a true Apostle in my estimation – but rather a self appointed one.

But that is me, others may have different ideas.

George Eldon Ladd on Biblical Theology

Biblical Theology is that discipline which sets forth the message of the books of the Bible in their historical settingBiblical Theology is primarily a descriptive discipline.  It is not initially concerned with the final meaning of the teachings of the Bible or their relevance for todayThis is the task of systematic theology.  Biblical theology has the task of expounding the theology found in the Bible in its own historical setting, and its own terms, categories, and thought forms.  It is the obvious intent of the Bible to tell a story about God and his acts in history for humanities salvation…. Biblical theology is theology:  it is primarily a story about God and his concern for human beings.  It exsits only because of the divine initiative realizing itself in a series of divine acts whose objective is human redemption.  Biblical theology therefore is not exclusively, or even primarily, a system of abstract theological truths.  It is basically the description and interpretation of the divine activity within the scene of human history that seeks humanity’s redemption (20-21).

Geroge Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, Revised Edition (Eerdmans, 1993).


I put up this quote because of some of the comments in my post about systematic theologies – I tend to think both biblical and systematic theology have their place – while biblical theology helps us get to the meaning and teaching of the Bible in its historical setting, systematic theology can help us understand how biblical theological themes are relevant for us today and how we can apply these teachings to our understanding of God and the world we live in.  So, that said, I think both systematic and biblical theology have their place.