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Colossians & Philemon: Christ All-Sufficient

By J. Philip Arthur
November 2008 | Review by Walter Johnston

Synopsis

Phil Arthur reminds us that there was a problem with the church in Colosse, prompting Paul to write. It seemed there was a real danger that an impressionable young church might be dragged away from their devotion to Christ. Worryingly, as today, there were those who were influenced by false teaching. The letter to Philemon was personal – he was a member of the Colossian church. The theme here is simple: forgiveness. It is also vital as its lack between Christians brings God's cause into disrepute. Phil Arthur longs for the readers to understand Paul's mind better, grasping the fact that the fullness that we have in Christ is more sufficient for the church in any age.

  • Publisher: Evangelical Press
  • ISBN: 978-0852346556
  • Pages: 240
  • Price: £8.95
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Book Review

I well remember as a very young believer trying to use my first commentary on Colossians. It was like paddling through treacle. It wasn’t the author’s fault; at that point he was just far too advanced for me. What I needed was Christ All-Sufficient by Phil Arthur, a recent addition to the Welwyn series of Bible commentaries.

The Welwyn series has built a well-deserved reputation for thorough, straight-forward commentaries offered at reasonable prices. They are pitched at what I call ‘pew level’. Their usefulness is twofold – they can be read devotionally alongside the Bible; or used as a springboard for deeper study. This is a fine addition to the series.

Christ All-Sufficient covers both Colossians and the tiny letter to Philemon. That Phil Arthur has done his background work thoroughly is evident in both of the introductions and the main text.

The letter to the Colossian church is, above all things, Christ-centred. Paul is writing to counter the threat from false teachers. They were claiming that ‘although they might have Christ for their Saviour, some vital added extra is missing. Something more is needed’ (p.50).

The author handles these matters ably. He brings out the exalted Christ of the text and, as Paul did with the Colossians, roots us firmly in him. Who could ask for more? Illustrations abound, and there is helpful application throughout. The words of Scripture appear in bold type, and each chapter is rounded off with a conclusion to tie everything together.

Philemon is a delightful little letter. Philemon was converted under Paul’s ministry and the Colossian church met in his house. Onesimus (meaning ‘Useful’) is his runaway slave, now also converted through Paul.

So the two letters arrive together, along with Onesimus. What is Philemon to do? He must respond in front of the church; this is both a private and an open letter. Paul is full of gentleness, grace and charm – a lesson in itself. But his demands of Philemon are never finally spelled out. I was a little surprised that the book doesn’t discuss whether Paul was hinting at manumission (release from slavery) but that is a minor niggle.

Christ is all sufficient – this is Colossians and Philemon simply explained.

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