Faith Victorious: Finding Strength and Hope from Hebrews 11. By Richard D. Phillips. Phillipsburg, NJ : P&R Publishing, 2002. 234 pp. Paper. $12.99.
This book is based, according to the author, on a series of sermons he preached in the early morning service at Tenth Presby terian Church in Philadelphia in 2001 (p. x). Phillips is a graduate of Westminster Seminary and the book reflects a Reformed perspective on faith and assurance.
Each chapter is an exposition of a portion of Hebrews 11, with the final chapter covering 12:1-3. It isn’t a commentary per se since the author is preaching rather than teaching.
Phillips suggests that true faith works. Thus James and Paul are not in opposition. “There is no contradiction between Paul and James. Paul states that we are justified by faith alone. James merely qualifies that by insisting that such faith inevitably does good works, or else it is not true faith” (p. 50). He then quotes Calvin as saying “We are saved by faith alone, but the faith that saves is never alone.” Phillips adds, “Faith is always accompanied by obedience.”
In his discussion of Hebrews 10:35, Phillips implies that the men in question received eternal life because they persevered through persecution: “One of the brothers spat out to his tormentors, ‘The King of the universe will raise us up to an everlasting renewal of life, because we have died for his laws” (p. 182, emphasis added). While this might seem to be justification by works, Phillips would see it as justification by faith that works.
Not only in 10:35 , but in all the many places in Hebrews 11 where eternal rewards are in view, Phillips sees justification salvation. This is unfortunate. The net effect is that the reader cannot be sure he has eternal life since he cannot be sure that he will persevere.
The tone of this book is quite irenic. I recommend this book to pastors who anticipate preaching through Hebrews.
Robert N. Wilkin
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society
Irving , TX