In 2019, I had the opportunity to teach a seminary course in conjunction with Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary’s Text-Driven Preaching Workshop. When developing the textbook list for the course, I included a commentary that I had found particularly helpful when preaching through Colossians—John Kitchen’s Colossians for Pastors. In it, the author engages with the more critical, exegetical commentaries in a helpful manner and brings the insights offered therein to a commentary that is equal parts scholarship and practical application.
It should not be of surprise that I found it helpful, considering my recommendation to my students. What increased my bullishness about this commentary and this author was that almost every student made the same observations I had made—Kitchen begins with the Greek, engages the major critical commentaries, and brings their insights together to form a brilliant, pastoral commentary—and one that, were the reader not familiar with the original Greek, instructs the reader in such a way as to benefit from the author’s analysis. His addition of “ministry maxims” throughout the commentary extend the influence of his work, establishing it as more than a sermon help, but a means of mentoring pastors.
So, when given the opportunity to review Kitchen’s latest offering, Philippians for Pastors, I was excited to put it to the test. Would it meet the standard I had found in his previous volumes on Colossians and Philemon and the Pastoral Epistles?
In short: yes.
Kitchen’s treatment serves as a trusted mentor coaching the reader through the interpretation and proclamation of Paul’s letter to Philippi verse-by-verse, phrase-by-phrase. Once again, he includes his ministry maxims such as “True unity comes from looking at Christ, not at one another,” in reference to Philippians 2:2 and “There is no apologetic for the gospel more effective than unity among those who claim to believe it,” in reference to Philippians 1:27.
Following each pericope (unit of thought), Kitchen offers questions for his reader. While they may be intended to help the expositor think through the application of the text, very often they serve as a devotional prompts. And that is, in my opinion, one of the tests of what makes a good commentary: does it help the reader understand the text AND does it lead the reader to walk more intimately with Christ?
Far too many commentaries fill the mind, but fail the heart. Kitchen’s offering, however, strikes both targets.
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Pastor at University Baptist Church, San Antonio.
Professor. PhD in Theology.
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Just give me Jesus . . . and coffee.