A few years ago, while sitting in a pastor’s office, I noticed a box of books sitting on the floor. Being the bibliophile that I am, naturally, I asked what they were. He replied, “Oh, those are a bunch of old Spurgeons that someone from my church gave me. You want them?” Dumbfounded, I replied, “You’re not going to read them?” He snickered, “No, are you?!” “Of course I will!” Then, I grabbed the twenty dusty volumes and raced out of his office like a Black Friday shopper. When I got home, I set them all up on my shelf—boy, they looked beautiful! Alas, they haven’t moved since then. And so it goes.
So many Christians know of Charles Spurgeon, but not many have read widely of him. Even preachers are challenged to find ways to interact with Spurgeon on a weekly basis. Random quotes, at best. But now, Lexham Press has brought us the Spurgeon Commentary Series. With many volumes already released digitally, Philippians is now in print for the first time.
The project was no doubt an enormous undertaking, edited together by Elliot Ritzema, and compiled in the style of a traditional commentary; this project pulls from Spurgeon’s massive body of work, assembling the best of his teaching on the biblical text. In the forward, Phil Johnson asks, “Why didn’t someone do this long ago?” Good question, but praise the Lord it’s here now!
The book itself is formatted nicely; crisp typeset, clear text divisions for easy reading. At the beginning of each main section, the Bible text is given, followed by three main features: exposition, illustration, and application.
Apart from his commentaries on the Psalms and Matthew, Spurgeon did not systematically comment on each Bible book, but Ritzema does a nice job of scouring the Spurgeon archives to get as much comprehensive material as possible. Spurgeon’s command of doctrine and clarity is commendable. But it’s the addition of illustrations and application material that shows Spurgeon at his best.
What I find so enthralling is that this project sets Spurgeon’s illuminated understanding and wit in the context of specific Bible passages. The format of these books is user-friendly and affords easy access to Spurgeon’s insights. As a preacher myself, I live in pericopes and revel in the excitement of interacting with gifted teachers on any given text. And now, I can add Charles Spurgeon to that dynamic teaching team.
Although Spurgeon was not a scholar, his keen observations and godly application of the text is second-to-none. On the Incarnation of Christ in Phil. 2:8, Spurgeon writes of Christ’s humility,
“There is no measure to His love; you cannot comprehend His grace. Oh, how we ought to love Him, and serve Him! The lower He stoops to save us, the higher we ought to lift Him in our adoring reverence.” (p. 54)
On knowing Christ, he writes,
“If you would see the excellency of this knowledge, look at its effects. Some knowledge puffs up, but this knowledge makes us humble, and the more we have of it the less we are in our own esteem. This knowledge sanctifies, purges, and delivers us from the love of sin. It saves the soul—saves it from present sin and from eternal woe. This knowledge elevates the motives, sweetens the feelings, and gives nobility to the entire life. The man who knows Christ lives after a loftier order of life than those who are ignorant of Him. This knowledge indeed is excellent, because it never can be lost. It is a knowledge that will continue to progress, even in eternity.” (p. 107)
“Do not indulge the silly notion that you can be contented without learning, or learn without discipline. It is not a power that may be exercised naturally, but a science to be acquired gradually… We need not be taught to murmur, but we must be taught to acquiesce in the will and good pleasure of the Lord our God.” (p. 164, italics included)
Truly, every preacher, teacher, Bible student, and believer can benefit from this wonderful work. Instead of gazing altruistically at a shelf full of unread tomes, begin purchasing the Spurgeon Commentary series, and employ them in your devotional Bible reading, as well as your sermon preparations. Charles Spurgeon is no doubt a gift to the church, and the work of Elliott Ritzema and Lexham Press has made this treasure accessible to all persons.
Title: Spurgeon Commentary: Philippians
Author: Charles Spurgeon
Publisher: Lexham Press (November 20, 2015)