Philippians: Pursuing Christ to Know Him—A Commentary. By Thomas W. Finley. NP: NP, 2014. 135 pp. Paper, free.
Thomas Finley wrote this commentary on Philippians and offers it free of charge (though it is listed for $6.33 on Amazon). On the copyright page Finley writes, “Permission is granted to copy, translate, reprint or distribute this book. Free distribution is encouraged.” His purpose in producing the book is to help leaders and believers in developing countries. In many of these countries, Free Grace material is greatly needed.
In keeping with its purpose, it is not what many would consider an academic book. However, Finley does go verse by verse through Philippians. Pastors and laymen alike can benefit from the book. In addition, since Free Grace commentaries are a minority in the academic world, all can see Philippians in a new light by reading this book.
While many come to Philippians and find verses they think support Lordship Salvation’s view of faith, Finley rightly points out that Paul’s purpose in writing the book was to thank the Philippians for their participation in his work of advancing the gospel. This included their financial support of that work.
In order to keep supporting this work, the Philippians needed to be unified. They also needed to know Christ more intimately (p. 7).
Finley makes it clear that knowing Christ is not the same thing as being eternally saved. This is a mistake Reformed and Lordship Salvation teachers almost always make. Finley says that in Phil 3:10, knowing Christ deals with discipleship. It involves obeying Christ and following Him. He makes it clear that this results in rewards and is not a requirement for receiving eternal life (pp. 64-65).
Regarding the widely misunderstood Phil 1:6, Finley remarks that the “good work” Paul refers to is the partnership the Philippians have with Paul in the work of the gospel. The completion of that work is related to the “day of Jesus Christ” (the Judgment Seat of Christ, the Bema) when believers will be rewarded for such good works (pp. 13-15).
The “deliverance” or salvation that Paul prays for in 1:19 is for Christ to be manifested in his life, especially during the difficulties and suffering he was experiencing. Paul wanted Christ to be honored during those times (pp. 26-27). While most understand that Paul is not talking about eternal salvation in 1:19, they miss that Paul is discussing the same principle in 2:12.
In discussing Phil 2:12, Finley says that the Philippians needed to work out their salvation in the sense that they should work to be conformed to Christ’s image in order to receive a “full reward” at the Bema. Each difficulty in their lives, as in Paul’s life, was an opportunity to honor Christ by obeying Him in those circumstances. They do this in “fear and trembling” because it should be done in reverence and also with the knowledge that they could fail, be punished, and lose rewards (pp. 42-43).
Throughout the book, Finley has what he calls “Life Application” sections. In these sections, he applies what is being taught in Philippians to the lives of the readers of the commentary. For example, he points out that all of us go through difficult times, even though we may not go through exactly what Paul went through (pp. 28-29). This is an indication that the book is written primarily for the layman.
The book ends with four appendices. They address the issue of the eternal security of the believer as well as a Free Grace interpretation of James 2 and the importance of the Judgment Seat of Christ (pp. 99-133). While some may argue that such discussions do not belong in a commentary on the book of Philippians, one must remember the purpose of the commentary. It was written for the benefit of people in developing countries who, upon reading the commentary, will have questions about the things discussed in the appendices.
While this book has a foreign audience primarily in mind, anybody looking for a Free Grace understanding of Philippians will benefit from it. The church needs more commentaries on books of the NT from this perspective. I highly recommend it.
Kenneth W. Yates
Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society