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Hebrews (Reformed Expository Commentary) Hardcover – November 13, 2006
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"Richard Phillips's Hebrews is faithful to the text, cordially committed to confessional Reformed orthodoxy, and alert to practical implications for the life of the church. Phillips keeps the focus where it is for the writer of Hebrews: on God's 'last days' speaking 'in his Son.' This volume, which can be read with profit by a wide audience, should serve to remedy the relative neglect of this important New Testament book in the proclamation and life of the churches of the Reformation. Along with the other volumes in this series, this commentary should contribute to preaching and teaching that more fully echo the whole counsel of God." --Richard B. Gaffin Jr., Professor of Biblical and Systematic Theology, Westminster Theological Seminary, Philadelphia
"The first liturgical reform of the Protestant Reformation was the implementation of lectio continua expository preaching in Zurich in 1519. Sequential Bible exposition has been a hallmark of Reformed Protestantism ever since. It is heartening to see the Reformed Expository Commentary series emerging to encourage the continuation of this great heritage of preaching. Richard D. Phillips is among the most gifted young preachers of our day. In his hands, Hebrews receives the kind of careful, scholarly, contemporary, and practical exposition that is so desperately needed today." --Terry Johnson, Pastor, Independent Presbyterian Church, Savannah, Georgia
"Hebrews emphasizes that God still speaks about Christ and his people through his written Word. Phillips's expository addresses ring with that authenticity, whether by way of admonition or assurance." --Hywel Jones, Professor of Practical Theology, Westminster Seminary California
About the Author
Richard D. Phillips (MDiv, Westminster Theological Seminary) is the senior minister of Second Presbyterian Church of Greenville, South Carolina. He is a council member of the Alliance of Confessing Evangelicals, chairman of the Philadelphia Conference on Reformed Theology, and coeditor of the Reformed Expository Commentary series.
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Top Customer Reviews
This was not my go-to commentary as I preached through Hebrews, Phillip Edgcumbe Hughes' work holds that place still. At the same time, this was a very helpful volume to read as the sermon was jelling in my mind. It was good to hear the thoughts of another preacher and how someone else handled the text before me.
Theologically, I'm a Reformed Baptist. Covenant theology all the way down the line except the inference that leads to infant baptism. I am covenantal in my thinking. Having said that, it was some of the Reformed part of this commentary that, for me, got in the way. Within Reformed circles, we kind of expect certain topics to be covered when certain texts are touched. I'm not sure those topics are really relevant today as they were in the 1980s and 90s and yet we still seem to have to cover them as a shibboleth to prove our Reformed creds and Phillips does that. It isn't wrong or but, but for me it just isn't very helpful.
A recommended help in sermon preparation nonetheless!
1) To be biblical - that is to pay careful attention to the text and exposit the Scriptures. There is less focus on the original language and structure and more focus on the story that the passage is telling.
2) Unashamedly Doctrinal - this series approaches the text from a Reformed perspective, as found in the Bible.
3) Redemptive-Historical - this means that they believe in the unity and continuity of the Bible, and interpret it in a Christ centered approach for all of Scripture.
4) Practical - by applying the truths found in the Scriptures to contemporary challenges in life.
Now on to aesthetics. This Commentary looks great. While this isn't a huge selling point, and certainly not a reason to chose one commentary over another, I must say that this one looks really nice on the bookshelf, especially when you have more than one in the series.
Richard Phillips is the contributor for the volume on Hebrews and he has done an outstanding job. His exposition is very readable for pastor and layman alike. This commentary, just like others in the series, reads like a book. I found that it flowed together nicely and thus would make a wonderful devotional read. Phillips has a way of making sense of difficult passages of scripture and making them easy to understand for his reader. This truth is clearly seen throughout this commentary. I want to focus on Hebrews 6:4-8 because this is one of the most difficult passages in all of Scripture. Phillips presents three main views of this passage:
1) The view that the "those who have fallen away" speaks of believers. The problem that this view faces is that it contradicts many other passages that speak of eternal security. (John 10:28-29; John 6:36-40; Romans 8:38-39). Also, the conclusion of this passage in Hebrews is one of assurance for those who have trusted in the gospel. For these reasons Phillips rejects this idea.
2) The second view is that the "language describes participation in the sacramental like of the church." This means that those who fall away participate in all the activities that would make one look like a Christian, but they are not and at some point fall away. Phillips says that he is not "hostile" to this view but feels the third view best handles this text.
3) The third view makes the point that the book of Hebrews contains "five major exhortations", with the other four making reference to the Old Testament, this exhortation focusing specifically on the exodus. The main thought being that there were many who received much of God's blessing during the exodus but eventually rebelled from Him.
Phillips closing statement tied the second and third views together well. He states, "This passage describes professors of faith who are within the church community - church members, as we would say today - who experience the benefits of God's blessing in the church without ever personally committing themselves to faith in Christ." This certainly does seem to be the best conclusion from this text when it is read in light of the rest of Scripture.
If you enjoy studying the Word of God and are looking for a solid commentary that is readable and will profit you greatly, then do yourself a favor and purchase this commentary. It is well worth it and would make a wonderful companion to the book of Hebrews.
I received a free copy of this commentary from P&R Publishing in exchange for an honest review.
Richard Phillips counters the push for 'critical thought' made so common by liberal theologians of a century ago in rejecting the doctrine of revelation. Retaining the whole counsel of God, Phillips makes his point of departure the sound exegesis of the deity of Christ - faithful to inerrant inspiration and committed to the cause of wholesome declaration. 'The author describes former revelation as 'coming at many times and in many ways'. These opening verses tell us not merely that God has spoken, but that His final and definitive revelation is in and through His Son.' p 13
'The perfect identification of Christ with God, therefore, is necessary to the belief that the Son has brought the highest and final revelation and raised the covenant-intercourse to a point beyond which it cannot be perfected.' Geerhardus Vos, Redemptive History & Biblical Interpretation ed. Richard Gaffin Jr p 189
We NT believers are all subjected to one very present, tangible reality; one standard - the divinely inspired Bible. Believers, even indwelt by the Holy Spirit, do not have the final authority as Christ's representative body on earth. Christ, Hebrews teaches, embodies the authority of God (2:8). He is, however, seated and at times standing at the right hand of the Father. The Christ of the covenants is the end/goal of the promises, prophets and the law. 'Jeremiah 31 shows that a new covenant will come to bring that to pass; the writer of Hebrews points out that this proves the deficiency of the old covenant. Now that the promised new covenant has come, it would be gravest folly to go back to the old one it supplanted: "Christ has obtained a ministry that is as much more excellent than the old, as the covenant He mediates is better, since it is enacted on better promises".' p 278
Phillips selects his following words with the utmost care: 'The point is reinforced in Hebrews 8:13, which points out that the old covenant religious system would soon be done away with altogether. It is possible that this reflects an awareness of the events of AD 70, which were perhaps about to take place, when the Romans conquered Jerusalem and destroyed the temple once and for all. The argument in Hebrews, however, is simply that the new covenant necessitates abandonment of the old: "In speaking of a new covenant, He makes the first one obsolete. And what is becoming obsolete and growing old is ready to vanish away".' p 278 The Greek word used here, paleios, which is the origin of the English word 'paleontology', means worn out, useless, or obsolete. Phillips is able to interpret the fall of the temple and the cessation of the sacrifices as God's suggestion that other means now replace temple service - means that make atonement eternally effective.
In charismatic circles another 'strange doctrine' is now seen at work: God detests the prayers of those who do not obey His Word. Is this based on Scripture? Phillips then questions rightfully, 'What does it mean to approach the throne of grace? It means to come to God in prayer on the basis of Christ's high-priestly ministry; that is, His propitiating sacrifice and present intercession.' p 150
'We come before the throne not for judgment, but for blessing.' p 36
Edmund Clowney, How Jesus Transforms The Ten Commandments
Concern for personal subjective experiences comes to the fore in Phillips' next chapter on Heb 9:1-10. 'Our access to God is secured forever through Jesus Christ because of His finished and sufficient work. The Spirit's work within us reminds us that we are now in fellowship with God and imparts to us the knowledge of His grace.' p 293 Grace is never inoperable where there is faith. Faith is that which most glorifies God (11:6). Phillips finds it pertinent to remind us of the victorious life coterie (e.g. Andrew Murray) whom BB Warfield expended much effort refuting. The same views have been upheld by the higher life advocates, and Phillips addresses their teaching of the 'zoë', higher life as opposed to the 'sarkical', carnal Christian, which differentiates between two types of Christian. Phillips forced analysis is evidence of the persistence of this 'strange doctrine' (e.g. Joyce Meier) and he carefully exegetes this section of Scripture to prove his contention that the distinction made by the author of Hebrews 'is not between two types of Christians, higher and lower, but between the old covenant and the new covenant.' p 294 Positive confessionists that promote perfectionism, remain ineffective, yet damaging as 'there are no spiritual Christians for whom struggle is gone in this life, who have entered into a stage of perfect sanctification.' p 295 The unnecessary distinction presuming and professing to offer a higher knowledge and a 'most blessed state' is decidedly not scriptural. All Christians enjoy the same degree of access to their heavenly Father through their perfect union with Christ. Perfecting the saints below, the author of Hebrews chooses to connect the work and Person of Christ to our blessedness: "Where there is forgiveness of these, there is no longer any offering for sin." Hebrews 10:18