Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Exploring the Gospel of Matthew - by John Phillps

This is a commentary majoring on the application of the texts of Matthew. It sometimes applies and assumes more than it exegetes.   The application being rather forced at times, it often seemed as though insights were applied to, rather than derived from, the text(would that make them outsights?).  I know that typification is practiced in many commentaries, but I guess that I just didn't expect this much from a person with dispensational views.  For instance, in speaking of the Demoniac in Mathew 17,Phillips says that the boy is "a picture of the people in the world today who are in the grip of evil spirits and enslaving, tormenting lusts….he was his father's only son, a fact mentioned perhaps to remind us of the heavenly Father's only Son, who had just been acknowledged on high.  The boy's father felt that the disciples (representing the church) ought to be able to help…The world ignores the church partly because of its  evident lack of power in the face of the ever-worsening crises in human affairs…" (pg.359)  Besides his typification of some of the narrative accounts, I was quite taken back at Phillips viewing the mustard seed which becomes a tree, as representing an abnormal, unsanctioned, growth of the church( Roman Catholicism in particular is mentioned)(pgs 253-255).  I just didn't quite see how he got to that conclusion.  I would have appreciated it more if his speculations on various texts were not so dogmatic.

All of this is not to say that this commentary is no good, on the contrary, Mr. Phillips has several genuine insights.  Speaking of John the Baptist he points out that, "No other prophet made the wilderness the scene of his preaching.  No mass evangelist today would begin to preach far away from the haunts of men, but John did.  He did not go to the people…the power and authority of his message were so great that the people came to him. "  and commenting on Mathew 11:27("No man knoweth any man the Father, save the Son, and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him."), "No one can know God apart from Christ.  To seek for Him in the teachings of Hinduism, Buddhism, or Islam is to seek for Him in vain.  Those teachings do not reveal the Father.  To seek Him in creation is equally vain.  Creation witnesses to God's eternal power and Godhead, but it does not reveal the Father in all the glories of His person….  Only Jesus can do that.  And He does." (pg.211)

 I also like several of his other comments such as, "The genius of the gospel lies in the fact that as Christ once gave His life for us, He now gives His life to us.  He lived the life Himself for thirty-three and a half years and now continues to live that life in the lives of surrendered believers."(pg. 85) and "The appeal of (Matthew)11:26-29 leads to the assurance of 11:30:  'My yoke is easy, and my burden is light.'  The Lord will never tax us beyond our strength, never impose a task beyond the ability He gives.  He is on the other side of the yoke and He carries all its weight.  The responsibility is His.  The results are His burden, not ours. The Lord is the kindest and most considerate Master in the world." (pg. 214).

I also like this quote, " "A faith founded on miracles rarely a robust faith.  God normally shuts us up to His written Word."(pg. 84)  I just wish that Mr. Phillips  would have applied his last statement better in his writing of this commentary.  He didn't have to focus on the boy who had the five loaves and two fishes in Matthew 14(paralleled in john 6) and tell us what a marvelous little boy he was and how he had a great story he might tell to his grandpa when he arrived home and other such things.  These are things not found in the text, and actually , as far as I can tell, not even to be inferred from the text.  What if the disciples took the food from the little boy and he left before he saw what happened to it and sat on his grandpa's knee and cried because he hadn't wanted to share?  Focus on the text, stay within its boundaries and leave the rest as something that we do not need to know.  As Phillips says elsewhere, "The silence between Christ's birth and baptism, broken only once, was absolute.  There is something awesome about that silence, something that stamps the Gospel record with the signature of God.  Man could not have kept silent about those thirty years in the life of Christ.  In fact he hasn't.  He has invented the apocryphal gospels and stuffed their worthless pages with prodigies and wonders." So why try to fill in the gaps in other accounts? If things could be inferred from various information that is given  I'd feel better about it, but I don’t  see how the boy's response could even be inferred as we're really told nothing about him except that he had some food. 

Thanks to Kregel Academic for the free review copy! (My review did not have to be favorable)
 Click HERE to go to the website for this book and other commentaries in this series.

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