Colossians and Philemon. By G. K. Beale. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2019. 514 pp. Cloth, $54.99.
This commentary is well laid out, making it easier to find the discussion of a particular verse. The publisher has put the start of a discussion of a new verse in the margin in bold font. So, the header tells the reader the section being discussed (e.g., Col 3:5-11, p. 275) and then in the margin the reader sees 3:6 and 3:7 and 3:8-9a at the start of each paragraph discussing those verses. This is a small feature, but I much appreciate it. Some if not many commentaries make it difficult to see where the discussion of a given verse begins.
A bit less helpful is the fact that the text of Colossians and Philemon is not given along with the exposition, but instead is given before the discussion of a given section begins. For example, the translation of Col 1:15-23 is found on the bottom of page 79 and top of page 80. The discussion of Col 1:15 begins half way down on page 80. The discussion of Col 1:16 begins on the bottom of page 91, twelve pages separated from the text. It would have been more helpful to have the text immediately before the discussion of each new verse.
One way I like to test commentaries is to go to key passages that deal with Free Grace issues. One such passage is Col 1:21-23. Paul says that Jesus reconciled the believers in Colossians in order “to present you holy, and blameless, and above reproach in His sight—if indeed you continue in the faith, grounded and steadfast, and are not moved away from the hope of the gospel which you heard…” Beale takes the typical Reformed understanding, saying “despite his [Paul’s] confidence [that his readers]” or “at least the majority” were born again, “this is a real condition: if the Colossians do not persevere, then they will not benefit from Christ’s work described in verses 19-22” (p. 116). That would show, he suggests, “that they were pseudo-believers all along.” He has a note indicating that “This is in line with his caveats in his other epistles, e.g., 1 Cor 11:19; 2 Cor 5:20; 11:13-15; 13:5; and Eph 4:20-21 [which] indicate that he is not sure about the genuineness of all who profess faith in his churches” (p. 116, note 109). While I disagree with that view, I much appreciate the clarity in which he states it.
Likewise, Col 3:24 is another key verse dealing with the Bema and eternal rewards. Once again, Beale sees the issue here as eternal destiny: “A third reason why slaves should be motivated to ‘work for the Lord’ (3:23) is in order to avoid God’s final judgment” (p. 327). He sees the reward of the inheritance to be a typological application of “the OT’s promised land inheritance” (p. 324). He thus understands the inheritance to be receiving “resurrection life through the new creation of Christ,” which he calls the “initial stage of resurrection existence [that] will be consummated for eternity at the final coming of Christ.” He then says, “It is this future completed inheritance of resurrection to which Col. 3:24 refers” (p. 325).
I appreciate the clarity with which Beale writes. While I do not agree with his Lordship Salvation conclusions, I really like this commentary. He makes many good observations (e.g., while commenting on Col 3:25, he indicates that in 1 Pet 2:18-21 when Peter speaks of a Christian slave “doing what is right and suffering for it,” he is alluding [at least in part] to the fact that Christian slaves were sometimes asked by their pagan masters for sexual favors, p. 326).
I recommend this commentary.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society