A pastor’s ambitious examination of St. Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians in the New Testament.
Petrus, since 1994 the pastor of Oakdale Missionary Baptist Church in Lonoke, Arkansas, takes as the subject of his nonfiction debut one of the cornerstones of Christian dogma, Paul’s letter to the Philippians. The author analyzes and lays out the letter in 21 segments hinging on two interpretative axes, both central to Pauline doctrine: the delight in serving God (“a church should have great joy of service and joy in doing the pleasing things of their heavenly Father,” he writes) and the essential importance of harmony in the assembly (“unity of mind is our rightful manner of operation”). Petrus goes line by line through the epistle, grounding his readings in both a sharp historical contextualization of Paul’s world and a broader spiritual interpretation. For example, after reading “Moreover, since the result is to be living in flesh, then this is fruit of work for me,” Petrus enjoyably expounds, “Old-timers used to use the term good pickin’ as an exclamation about the goodness of a crop. Planting has a reward, a glorious side to it for the beneficiary. Surely there is satisfaction in seeing a plant grow from a seed.” Elaborations like this are scattered throughout the book, helping newcomers to understand Paul's sometimes-tangled Christology and fleshing out familiar issues and meanings for believers—and always to skillful pedagogical effect (“very little joy comes without a foundation of teaching,” he writes). Petrus follows Paul in downplaying individual egotism (“The self must be crucified! Selfishness must be thrown out and replaced”) and stressing community (“A church is in great need of more than just good organization, it needs true cohesion in unity, as the Bible expresses”). The thrust of the text is toward reinforcement; the target audience is obviously Christians, for whom—in both New Testament Bible study groups and seminaries—it will be an honest, invaluable guide.
A learned, illuminating, and highly personal exploration of a crucial text from St. Paul.