Preaching Philippians

I felt the Lord calling me into pastoral ministry around 2004. Got married and moved to Louisville for seminary in 2006. Moved to Houston for a couple of years as an associate pastor in 2010, where I preached a handful of sermons but most of my time there was spent teaching. We then moved to Fort Worth to pursue a PhD at SWBTS, which I started, but changed to a ThM (details here), and graduate in December to begin my first post as pastor of Spicewood Baptist Church. Needless to say, I'm eager. I have preached dozens of times but this will be the first time to preach through a book of the Bible. I've long day-dreamed about which books I'd preach, passages that will be a delight, themes to trace, and commentaries to peruse. The time is finally here.

I am not sure what sort of preaching SBC is accustomed to so I wanted to introduce them to expositional preaching through a book that is short, easy to grasp, and gospel-focused. The Gospel according to Mark is often suggested as a good place to start, but it is still long and has many passages that are challenging to many (e.g. ch. 13). I can't wait to preach through Mark (and 13 in particular!), but I decided not to start with it. I asked Dr. Paige Patterson his advice and he said 1 Corinthians since it deals with every problem facing the modern church. I totally agree and also plan to preach through that letter in my first five to ten years (mostly due to its robust theology of the cross), but still thought it was a bit too long to start with. Others suggested something much shorter. That's the route I followed. I considered 1 John, 1 Peter, Galatians, and Philippians. After much counsel and thought, I went with my wife's suggestion: Philippians. It is only four chapters and is rich with such themes as suffering, joy, giving, mission, prayer, alien righteousness, the imitation of Jesus, unity, perseverance, and the resurrection. I have barely started to dig deeper and have already been surprisingly refreshed. I love the nature of God's Word in that way; one can read a book 50 times, then slow down and dig in and new insights flow from its pages. As long as the Lord wills, I look forward to a lifetime of this type of renewal and refreshment.

I thought I'd post the resources I plan to use. With the plethora of quality stuff available today, narrowing it down is part of the hardest part. Biblical resources abound and no doubt this list is too ambitious and will be hacked down along the way. I actually try to limit the secondary resources I consult for preaching. As Hafemann says, "One hour with the text is worth ten in secondary literature." He preacheth the truth.

This list is not necessarily the exact one I'd recommend to all, just the one I ended up deciding on (e.g. I'd probably recommend Fee, Silva, or O'Brien to most):

  • Stephen Fowl - Philippians. This will be my first commentary from the "Two Horizons" series that seeks to bridge the gap between biblical studies and systematic theology. Love the concept! I was turned onto Fowl by Gorman's work (see below). He and Gorman see Philippians 2 as central to the letter - and indeed - central to Paul's whole Christology and ethics. Me too.
  • Frank Thielman - Philippians. This one is in the NIVAC series. I have really enjoyed Thielman's NT theology and his stuff on the law. 
  • Morna Hooker - The Letter to the Philippians. This is in the "New Interpreter's Bible" commentary series that includes Hays on Galatians, Sampley on 2 Corinthians, A.T. Lincoln on Colossians, and Dunn on the Pastorals, among others. Have only read snippets from Hooker, but have found her stuff insightful and couldn't pass up this volume with its other contributors.
  • Jerry Sumney - Philippians: A Greek Student's Intermediate Reader. I am very thankful for resources such as this. It will simply serve to reinforce my Greek grammar. It analyzes morphology, syntax, and meaning of the Greek text. Dry - but important - reading.
  • N.T. Wright - Climax of the Covenant. Chapter 4 is "Jesus Christ is Lord: Philippians 2:5-11." Will reread. This one is already a classic. I just learned of Wright's forthcoming commentary on Philippians in the ICC series. If I had known about this one earlier, I may have postponed Philippians until its release (as I plan to do with Romans & Richard Longenecker).
  • Ann Jervis - At The Heart of the Gospel: Suffering in the Earliest Christian Message. Suffering is huge in Philippians so thought this would be a good addition. Ch. 3 is a 30 page treatment of Philippians.
  • N.T. Wright - Paul for Everyone: The Prison Epistles. If possible, I plan to consult this popular series for every NT book I preach. Wright is a masterful communicator of the big picture.
  • D.A. Carson - Basics for Believers. This is his older popular exposition. Can rarely go wrong with Carson.
  • Matt Chandler - To Live is Christ To Die is Gain. Based upon his sermon series, I am sure this will be good for application and edification and helping me think beyond the text.
  • Michael Gorman - Cruciformity. In some ways, this book could be considered a 400 page monograph on the implications of the theology in Philippians 2:1-11. This may be my favorite academic book. Will only reread section and consult where necessary.
  • Michael Gorman - Inhabiting the Cruciform God. Sort of a sequel to Cruciformity. Will consult ch. 1, a 30 page analysis of Paul's "master story:" Philippians 2:6-11.
  • Karl Barth - Epistle to the Philippians. I am reading this 40 year old commentary, well, because it is Karl Barth. He was doing "Theological Interpretation of Scripture" (TIS) long before it was sexy to do so.
  • John Chrysostom - Homilies on Philippians. My goal in preaching resources is to always consult writers from ancient times, Reformation times, and modern scholars (who needs the Medieval ages, right?). Chrysostom was ahead of his time in exegetical method. Loved his Galatians and sure this will be a treat as well.
  • I plan to preach from the HCSB. Here are my thoughts on why it is better than the ESV and NIV 2011. The more I do and hear exposition, the more I love this translation.

The heart and soul of sermon preparation, for me, is a prayerful reading and re-reading of the text itself. Over the next 4-6 months I hope to read through Philippians many, many times. If I read through it once a week that will be at least 16 times.

When dealing with the letters, the single most helpful part of sermon prep is diagramming the Greek text. Thank you Tom Schreiner. The biblical text has literally jumped off the page again and again as I have practiced this method. I have just started and have already seen the fruit. For example, verses 3-7 of chapter 1 read as several sentences in most English translations but from diagramming I learned that all that is in those verses are modifying one main verb: I thank (1:3). That'll preach. First sermon outline - check.

Here is a tentative schedule:

1. The Birth of the Church at Philippi (Acts 16:6-40, Phil 1:1-2, and Read Whole Letter)

2. Thankful Partners in Grace (Phil. 1:3-11)

3. The Advance of the Gospel (Phil. 1:12-19)

4. Life, Death, and the Glory of Christ (Phil. 1:20-21)

5. The Importance of Local Church Ministry (Phil. 1:21-26)

6. Living as a Worthy Gospel Citizen (Phil. 1:27-30)

7. The Mindset of Christ (Phil. 1:27-2:5)

8. The Christ Hymn 1 (Phil. 2:5-8)

9. The Christ Hymn 2 (Phil. 2:9-11)

10. Work Because God Works (Phil. 2:12-13)

11. A Colony of the Kingdom (Phil. 2:12-18)

12. Examples to Imitate (Phil. 2:19-30)

13. The Surpassing Value of Knowing Christ (Phil. 3:1-11)

14. A Righteousness From God (Phil. 3:9)

15. Reaching Forward (Phil. 3:12-21)

16. Practical Counsel (Phil. 4:1-7)

17. Dwell on These Things (Phil. 4:8-23) and Read Whole Letter