The Gospel Observer

"Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations...teaching them to observe all that I commanded you, and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age" (Matt. 28:19,20).
December 25, 2011


1) Philippians 1:19-27 (Tom Edwards)
2) News & Notes


Philippians 1:19-27
by Tom Edwards

In our last installment, we closed with Paul's noble attitude to rejoice in the truth being preached -- even when it was being done by people with wrong motives who were seeking to bring distress to him during his imprisonment.  For Paul was more concerned toward others hearing God's word proclaimed, rather than merely his own personal vindication.  Philippians 1:19,20 shows another reason why Paul could have this positive and joyful outlook in spite of his circumstances.  He says, "for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death."

Paul believed in the power of prayer.  He knew that much could be accomplished by it and, therefore, prayed fervently for others (2 Cor. 13:9; Eph. 1:18,19; Phil. 1:9-11; Col. 1:9-12; 2 Thess. 1:11,12; Phm. 1:6); and also, at times, solicited prayer from the brethren for himself as well as for others (Eph. 6:19,20; 1 Thess. 5:25; 2 Thess. 3:1,2).  

The KJV refers to these prayers as helping with Paul's "salvation."  The term "salvation" is rendered as "deliverance" in the NASB, and is most likely referring to his deliverance out of his imprisonment -- which he later did receive.  It is from the Greek word "soteria," which Strong defines as "rescue or safety (physically or morally)...."  Thayer also shows that it can refer to either deliverance from things of this life or salvation in Christ.  It is the same Greek word that is used in Acts 7:25 with reference to Moses: "And he supposed that his brethren understood that God was granting them deliverance through him, but they did not understand."  Primarily, however, this word is used in the New Testament in referring to the salvation one can have in Christ.  But it appears in Philippians 1:19 that it is simply referring to Paul's deliverance from prison.  However, even if Paul would be put to death, he had faith in an even greater deliverance -- one from this world which would lead to heaven.  So he could have a very positive outlook either way.  

Though there were those who sought to bring distress to Paul, he knew he would not be put shame (Phil. 1:20).  For when one lives for the Lord, always striving to do what is right, then that one need not feel humiliated over persecution for righteousness' sake.  For example, did the apostles feel ashamed that they were whipped and imprisoned for preaching the gospel? Not according to Acts 5:40-42.  Rather, they were "...rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for His name...."  Instead of feeling disgraced, they could rejoice; because in God's eyes they were "blessed" and had an eternal reward in heaven that was surpassingly great (Matt. 5:11,12).  (See also 1 Peter 4:12-16.)

What enabled Paul to not be put to shame, coupled with his obedience to the gospel, was the "hope" and "earnest expectation" that he had in his Lord (Phil. 1:20). Many very difficult things can be boldly faced when our outlook is also filled with those positive qualities.  Consider, for instance, the great example the Hebrew writer sets forth in Hebrews 12:1-3: "Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God.  For consider Him who has endured such hostility by sinners against Himself, so that you will not grow weary and lose heart."  Various times, the people insulted and tried to humiliate the Lord; but He knew in His heart that He was doing right and had never committed any sin, or anything to be ashamed of.  

Rather than experiencing disgrace, Paul was filled with boldness as he strove to always exalt the Lord Jesus Christ in his life.  This should also be true of us.  

In making mention of exalting Christ in his body, "whether by life or by death," Paul implies that at that time he did not know what decision the court would make concerning his release.  This is also indicated in Philippians 2:23, where he states, "Therefore I hope to send him [Timothy] immediately, as soon as I see how things go with me."  Paul, as we have seen, believed in a God who could deliver; but, apparently, Paul did not know at that time whether it was the Lord's will to bring him physical deliverance from this Roman imprisonment or not; but Paul did desire to be released and goes on to say in Philippians 2:24, "and I trust in the Lord that I myself also shall be coming shortly."  But whether in prison or out of prison, Paul tersely sums up his life in Philippians 1:21, by declaring, "For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain."   Because he was living for the Lord, Paul was able to say that "to die is gain."  What a wonderful way to be able to view death.  Unfortunately, for most people today, this is not so because they have not yet met God's conditions to have their sins blotted out by the precious blood of Jesus and receive the Lord's grace and mercy.   However, we often hear many people refer to those who have been racked with much pain during this life as being better off when they pass away; but that is not so, unless they, too, belong to the Lord Jesus Christ.  For if they are faithfully His, then Revelation 14:13 holds true for them.  It states, "And I heard a voice from heaven,  saying, 'Write, "Blessed are the dead who die in the Lord from now on!"' 'Yes,' says the Spirit, 'that they may rest from their labors, for their deeds follow with them.'"  "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His godly ones" (Psa. 116:15).   While Lazarus enjoyed the blissfulness of Paradise after he passed away, the rich man who had not God in his life was in torment (Luke 16:19-31).  Yes, it makes a great deal of difference of whether we are right with God or not when we leave this world.  

As we think more about Paul's own attitude toward death, consider 2 Corinthians 5:6-8: "Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord -- for we walk by faith, not by sight --  we are of good courage, I say, and prefer rather to be absent from the body and to be at home with the Lord."  And, in view of that attitude, look what Paul strove to do, as the next verse shows: "Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home or absent, to be pleasing to Him" (v. 9).  

As we think of death being a gain for the faithful Christian, consider also what Jesus states in Matthew 16:25: "For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake shall find it."  In other words, those who would save their life are those who would deny the Lord in order to do so.  For in the early church, weak Christians could denounce their faith, deny the Lord, and save themselves from martyrdom; but for those who acknowledged their faith in and allegiance to Christ, many of those were put to death.  In understanding the possible martyrdom that many of the Christians faced in the early church, we can better understand the Lord's statement that "Everyone therefore who shall confess Me before men, I will also confess him before My Father who is in heaven.  But whoever shall deny Me before men, I will also deny him before My Father who is in heaven" (Matt. 10:32,33).  Notice, too, that it is in this same context that Jesus says, "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell" (v. 28).   So back in that time, Christians risked the loss of their physical lives by simply confessing their faith in Christ; but Jesus gives assurance to those who would.  

In Philippians 1:22-24, we read more of Paul's attitude toward death: "But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.  But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake."

The word "depart" comes from the Greek word "analuo," which has been used in old Greek and papyri with reference to "hoisting an anchor and putting out to sea."  Death will be like a voyage, metaphorically speaking, in which a soul will sail either to a shore of bliss or a shore of suffering.  (This word was also used with a military connotation of "breaking up camp.")

In thinking about remaining in this earth-life or departing from it to be with Christ, Paul speaks about being "hard-pressed from both directions" (Phil. 1:23).  The KJV translates this as "in a strait betwixt two."  For in either case, he saw advantages; and though he viewed it as far greater to depart and be with Christ, Paul also realized the good he could continue to do while on earth for the cause of  the Lord and that which would be, as Paul says, "fruitful labor for me" (v. 22) and "more necessary for your sake" (v. 24).

From this, we can also infer that man is not totally mortal or fleshly; but that, rather, he does have an eternal, spiritual soul that is separate from the body.  For Paul knew that he could leave the body and be with Christ.  Not everyone, however, believes that man has a soul.  The Jehovah Witnesses, for instance, believe that man is a soul; but not that he has an eternal soul within him that is separate from the body.  They, therefore, believe in what is referred to as the "total annihilation" of the soul.  In other words, when an unsaved person dies, there is nothing left for that person to continue on.  There is no eternal torment, no anything; for the individual simply ceases to be.  He or she has been completely obliterated.  Though "soul" is sometimes used metonymically to refer to all of man (Gen. 2:7, KJV), it is also used to refer to that eternal part of man that is separate from the body.  This distinction between the body and the soul can be clearly seen in Matthew 10:28, a passage we saw earlier, where Jesus states,  "And do not fear those who kill the body, but are unable to kill the soul...."  

Paul then specifies at least some of what this "fruitful labor" would be: "And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith" (Phil. 1:25).   Paul's fruitful labor would involve helping the Philippians grow in the faith and the joy of the Lord -- and that in itself would also be a reward to Paul.  For after speaking about there being only one foundation -- and that being Jesus Christ -- Paul goes on to say the following in 1 Corinthians 3:12-15: "Now if any man builds upon the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each man's work will become evident; for the day will show it, because it is to be  revealed with fire; and the fire itself will test the quality of each man's work. If any man's work which he has built upon it remains, he shall receive a reward.  If any man's work is burned up, he shall suffer loss; but he himself shall be saved, yet so as through fire."  The gold, silver, and precious stones represent those Christians who will remain faithful -- even during persecution -- and ultimately be eternally saved.  These are also those whom the ones who converted them to the Lord can truly rejoice in.  John says, "I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children walking in the truth" (3 Jn. 3:4).   Paul, also, speaks of the Thessalonians as being to him and others a hope, joy, crown of exultation, and glory (1 Thess. 2:19,20).  On the other hand, the wood, hay, and straw represent those Christians who will fall away.  They will perish.  And though the one who had initially won them to the Lord will not also be lost just because of their apostasy, yet he will suffer the emotional loss of those who have fallen away.  For instance, Paul says, "But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtlety, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ" (2 Cor. 11:3).  To the Thessalonians, Paul declares, "...when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor should be in vain" (1 Thess. 3:5). After he then received the good news of their faith and love, Paul was comforted and now could "rejoice before God on your account" (v. 9).

The fact that Paul saw his remaining as being "necessary" for the Christians, might have been in view of the false teachers that he knew many Christians would be confronted with.  For the New Testament warns in various places of those who would teach false doctrines and lead God's children astray.  

After showing that he was convinced of the need to remain and help build his brethren up in the faith, Paul then goes on to say the following in Philippians 1:26, "so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again."  As we have noted, Paul wrote this epistle during his first imprisonment in Rome.  The gospel does not mention Paul's returning to the Philippians; but, I would imagine they were praying for his release -- and not really knowing when that would be.  That is something to think about.  We know that Paul's imprisonment would be for 2 years, but it appears that these Christians would not have known that until Paul was finally released.  So they probably kept praying for him concerning that, up until that time, and could then view his release as an answer to their prayers.  

It has also been said that the fact that Paul positively speaks of coming to them again does not necessarily imply that the Lord had revealed to Paul that he would.  There were, of course, some future things that the Lord did inform Paul about, such as his going to Rome.  God had told Paul of that when he was in Jerusalem (Acts 23:11), and prior to his 2-year imprisonment in Caesarea.  But this doesn't mean that God always revealed future events to Paul, as to where he would go next.  

And the fact that Paul didn't know for sure if he would be seeing the Philippians again is implied in the next verse, where the apostle exhorts the brethren toward the proper behavior: "Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or remain absent, I will hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel" (Phil. 1:27).  The KJV renders this first part as, "Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ..."  In 1611, when the KJV was first written, the word "conversation" pertained to more than merely speech.  For the Greek word denotes one's entire behavior -- which is be godly.  "Conversation" is, therefore, rendered in some other Bible versions as "manner of life," "behavior," and "conduct."

In our next installment, we will consider more of Paul's message to the Philippians and conclude chapter 1.     


News & Notes

Let those of us who are Christians be praying for the following people:

* Clifton Trimble who was recently in ICU, due to not doing well after receiving a pacemaker.

* Shondra Kyle and family.
  Before giving birth, Shondra lost her baby and then developed some serious complications after a C-section was performed, which led to a longer hospitalization; but she is now doing somewhat better.

* Terry MacDonald whose wife had to take him home during the beginning of our Sunday worship, due to his not feeling well.

* Jean Calloway whose breathing problem has returned, due to fluid build-up. 

* Shirley Young whose fibromyalgia often causes much pain and discomfort.

* Mike Dubose who is receiving cancer treatment.

* Geneva Wilson, one of our elderly members, who has been very weak physically and not able to be with us at church for several weeks.

* Cheryl Crews who has been having chronic ailments.

The Steps That Lead to Eternal Salvation

1) Hear the gospel, for that is how faith comes (Rom. 10:17;  John 20:30,31).
2) Believe in the deity of Christ (John 8:24; John 3:18).
3) Repent of sins (Luke 13:5; Acts 17:30).
4) Confess faith in Christ (Rom. 10:9,10; Acts 8:36-38).
5) Be baptized in water for the remission of sins (Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38; 22:16; Rom. 6:3,4; Gal. 3:26,27; 1 Pet. 3:21).
6) Continue in the faith; for, if not, salvation can be lost (Heb. 10:36-39; Rev. 2:10; 2 Pet. 2:20-22).

Park Forest

9923 Sunny Cline Dr., Baton Rouge, LA  70817
Sunday services: 9:00 AM (Bible class); 10 AM & 6 PM (worship)
Tuesday: 7 PM (Bible class)
evangelist/editor: Tom Edwards (225) 667-4520
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/go (Gospel Observer website)
http://ThomasTEdwards.com/audioser.html (audio sermons)