Govett on Philippians. By Robert Govett. Miami Springs, FL: Conley & Schoettle Publishing Co., Inc., 1985. 127 pp. Paper, $5.95.
This practical study on Philippians is part of a series of commentaries by Robert Govett (1813–1901) published by Conley & Schoettle. Other works include commentaries on Isaiah, John, Romans, Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians, Thessalonians, Hebrews, 1 John, and the Revelation (2 vols.). This works is a reprint of Govett’s title, The Fourth Kingdom of Man and His City: Being the Argument of the Epistle to the Philippians, first published in 1894.
The commentary’s strengths include a high regard for the inerrant Scriptures, a clear distinction between the gift of eternal life and the rewards for faithful service, and a good analysis of Acts 16:12–40 as background to this Epistle. Govett sees the account in Acts as providing some clues to the central themes in Philippians: heavenly citizenship versus earthly citizenship (Phil 3:20; Acts 16:21, 37); sharing in the fellowship of His sufferings (Phil 3:10; Acts 16:22, 23); peace and joy in the midst of suffering (Phil 4:4–7; Acts 16:25). The Philippians must choose which kingdom they will live for: this present kingdom, as represented by Rome, or the kingdom which is yet to come (Phil 3:20).
Govett discusses at length the differences between justification received as a gift through faith (Phil 3:7–9) and sanctification by works of faith, which qualify a believer for reward in the Millennium (Phil 3:10–14). Govett views participation in the Millennium itself as a reward for faithfulness on the part of the believer. He argues that the unfaithful believer will be excluded from the millennial kingdom altogether. Thus, only the obedient Christian can “attain to the resurrection from the dead” (Phil 3:11). The unfaithful believer remains eternally secure, but forfeits participation in the first resurrection (cf. Rev 20:4, 5).
This reviewer does not agree with Govett’s position on exclusion from the kingdom, but the author does give good arguments that should be considered. Like most commentators, he equates “entering” the kingdom with “inheriting” the kingdom. Unlike most commentators, he defines the concept in terms of reward or merit, which is the idea found in “inheriting.” He fails to distinguish between “entering” the kingdom, which is solely dependent on childlike faith (Matt 18:3) and “inheriting” the kingdom, which is dependent on faithful obedience (Matt 18:4). Govett never clearly addresses the state of those believers not found worthy of the kingdom, except to say that they are not resurrected until after the millennial kingdom and that they remain eternally secure.
This position is one of the commentary’s primary weaknesses. The work is almost a hundred years old, so it does not interact with any recent works or arguments. The style is expositional and devotional, not technical. However, the author’s love and commitment to the Lord Jesus Christ comes through repeatedly in the book, which this reviewer found very refreshing. Govett’s work is a brief, but very helpful examination of the Epistle to the Philippians.
Grace Bible Church
College Station, TX