PHILIPPIANS, Part 5

VICTORY OVER ADVERSITY

Philippians 1:19—26

Paul was an optimistic prisoner for two reasons. First, he realized that because of his imprisonment, many had come to know Christ as Savior. What was first thought to be a disadvantage to his work turned out to a great advantage in Paul’s evangelistic ministry. Second, Paul was positively convinced that Christ was being glorified in what he was doing, and would continue to be glorified whether he, the Apostle, was to be released (as Paul expected) or whether he would be put to death (a distinct possibility).

1. Foundation of victory, 1:19

I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.

This verse seems to be a rough quotation of Job 13:16—

Indeed, this will turn out for my deliverance, for no godless man would dare come before him!

Paul was sure his deliverance was just around the corner. But what was the “deliverance” he was sure of? Was it his release from prison? Or was he referring to his life being spared? Or did Paul have his salvation in mind? We know that the Apostle viewed salvation as having three aspects:

  • Past: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith…(Ephesians 2:8).
  • Present: …work out your salvation with fear and trembling…(Philippians 2:12).
  • Future: The hour has come for you to wake up from your slumber, because our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed. (Romans 13:11).

Of course Paul knew he was saved (past), but he seemed to view himself as being in a spiritual battle, that would determine his salvation in the present and future, and of which he wrote about on another occasion—

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms. (Ephesians 6:12)

Victory in this spiritual battle is assured, of this Paul was positive, but assurance of victory did not negate the necessity of the battle. For it was in the battle—that is, his imprisonment—that the nature of Christ would be perfected in Paul’s character, to the glory of Christ. With this attitude, no wonder Paul wrote what he did to the Romans—

And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Why was Paul so sure that he would be delivered from this spiritual battle in which he found himself? He had two reasons:

  • The effective prayers of his friends in Philippi. We should never underestimate the power of our prayers on another’s behalf. The Philippians needed encouragement, but their prayers were yielding the desired result, even though at present Paul was still imprisoned; he had not yet been released, but his current state did not mean his friends’ prayers were going unanswered.
  • The help of the Holy Spirit, here referred to as “the Spirit of Christ.” The Greek is far more descriptive, calling the Spirit’s help “bountiful.” The word is epichoregias, from the word chorus. The help of the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life is likened to a Greek chorus standing behind an actor on a stage. In back of ever single believer is that same Spirit, and in back of Him are all the resources of Heaven, ready to come to the believer’s aid when needed. The Spirit furnishes all that is necessary to maintain and advance his salvation, regardless of life’s circumstances. The Holy Spirit not only gives grace for salvation, but continues to pour abundant grace into us as it is needed.

It is clear that success in Paul’s mind depended on a combination of the work of man and the work of the Spirit in his life. As their prayers went up, the Spirit came down.

2. Hope of victory, 1:20—24

What a great attitude Paul had! Verse 20 ought to be a lesson for all believers—

I eagerly expect and hope…

Regardless of the outcome of his imprisonment, Paul knew victory was his, and this was his eager expectation and hope. The Greek, apokaradokian, illustrates single-mindedness or a deliberate turning away from other distractions to concentrate on one thing. It is, literally, “stretching out the head” to see as far into the distance as you can. In Paul’s case, his focus was on Christ, namely, Christ’s return, not on his present circumstances. The Apostle knew that despite his untimely imprisonment, he would stand before Christ unashamed because he was glorifying His Savior in his life, that is, he was diligently evangelizing as much as he could.

This was very important to Paul; that Christ would be glorified in how he lived his life. If he should gain release, he would continue the work. But if he should die a prisoner, Christ would still be glorified. This is an amazing thing to ponder. Whether in life or death, Christ would be glorified in Paul’s body. It’s not that Paul was not relying on his own resources and ingenuity to glorify Christ, but on the energizing of the Holy Spirit. Paul’s life and death were literally the screen on which the glory of Christ was being displayed.

For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. (verse 21)

Paul considered himself a winner whether he lived or died because he viewed each as a possible out-working of God’s will for him. Modern Christians cringe when they think of dying, but the Apostle had a very different view of death: it meant that he could leave this world and go to be with His Lord. He almost seemed to welcome the notion that he might very well die in prison. However, he was not 100% what his future held; Paul had not more a lock on God’s will that we do.

I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. (verses 23, 24)

Here is another side to Paul’s dilemma; one the one hand, he wanted to be with Christ, but working for Him on earth was almost as good, and on the other hand he wanted to be with Christ, but he had a solemn duty toward the Church, in particular, he felt he had a responsibility to continue working with his friends in Philippi. He was willing to postpone eternal blessedness for earthly service.

There is no clearer picture of the kind of attitude every believer ought to have when he considers his relationship to this world, to heaven, to his service, and even to his eternal reward. Paul did not long for death, he longed for Christ; death was simply one more hurdle to clear on his way to a deeper relationship with Him. He was not looking for an escape from this world. Paul did not walk around day after day with his head in the clouds, contemplating some pie-in-the-sky escapist philosophy. Indeed, as far as he was concerned, his continued work for Christ and his continued responsibility to other believers must always come first, ahead of anything he wanted for himself.

But while Paul’s work was on earth, his hope was firmly planted in heaven.

3. Result of victory, verses 25, 26

Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

Paul was confident of what? In the broadest sense, he was confident that his life was in God’s hands; that no matter what happened to him, whether he was delivered from prison or whether he died in prison, it was God’s will. In a narrower sense, Paul was confident that his life, even in prison, was a benefit to the Philippians.

A very important theme in Pauline literature is the idea of Christian progress. Here in Philippians, there are no less than four references to Christian growth:

  • Grow in love, 1:9;
  • Grow in knowledge, 1:9;
  • Grow in fruitfulness, 1:11;
  • Grow in obedience, 2:12.

As far as Paul could tell, his presence with the Philippians caused them to grow in all these areas. Progress or growth is essential for a Christian; there is no standing still, only progression or regression. Where there is growth, there is joy. However, there is no more miserable creature in all the world than a stagnant Christian, for they are of no use to anybody, not even themselves.

Paul hoped he would be released from prison and that when he was at last able to return to Philippi, that reunion would be more than just an occasion for a party or pot-luck dinner. His restoration to them would cause them to not only rejoice, but to boast even more about Jesus Christ. The KJV renders kauchaomai “rejoicing,” the TNIV “boasting,” both are correct and may be either positive or negative. It’s definitely negative to boast in yourself or of your own accomplishments, but to boast about Jesus Christ; to be exuberantly joyful about Him and to advertise His accomplishments and to promote His presence among you is more than acceptable; it is essential.

Here is a picture of a man who not only knew the power of God firsthand, but Paul also understood the influence he had on other people. But that influence was not based on who he was, it was a natural outworking of the Holy Spirit in him and who Jesus Christ is. Every single Christian is just like Paul in that regard. None of us lives only for ourselves. We have an influence over far more people than we imagine. We rarely consider how our lives impact those around us, for if we did, we would take our faith and our responsibilities toward others far more seriously.

(c)  2010 WitzEnd
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