Today’s post looks at Paul’s life for Christ and passion for ministry in Philippians 1:19-26. Previous posts in these series have been:
- An Introduction to the Book of Philippians
- Paul’s Greeting, Gratitude, and Group Focus (Phil 1:1-11)
- A Leader Rejoices When His Cause Advances (Phil 1:12-18)
“Paul Preaching at the Ruins” by Giovanni Paolo Panini (1692-1765)
19For I know this: it will lead to my deliverance through your prayer and support of Christ Jesus’ Spirit. 20Accoring to my eager expectation and hope, I want to be disgraced in nothing, but rather always in public and now in my body Christ is exalted, whether through life or through death. 21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. 22But if living in body is fruitful work for me, then I do not know which I will choose. 23For, you see, at this present time I am distressed between the two, because I want to leave be with Christ, for it is much better to be with Christ. 24But, it is necessary to remain alive for you. 25I know, since I am convinced of this, that I will remain and stay with you all in your progress and joy in the faith. 26Therefore, the reason for your boasting will abound in Christ Jesus because of my return back to you. (Phil 1:19-26)
I. PAUL WOULD NEVER BE ASHAMED BECAUSE HE LIVED FOR CHRIST (1:19-21).
“19For I know this: it will lead to my deliverance through your prayer and support of Christ Jesus’ Spirit. 20Accoring to my eager expectation and hope, I want to be disgraced in nothing, but rather always in public and now in my body Christ is exalted, whether through life or through death. 21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”
A. Paul Believed the Philippians’ Prayers and Assistance Would Lead to His Deliverance (v. 19)
“19For I know this: it will lead to my deliverance through your prayer and support of Christ Jesus’ Spirit.”
This “assistance” spoken of here is what Paul had and will reference about how the Philippians had supported him (4:10, 15-16, 18). Paul told the Corinthians that their prayers also helped him (1 Cor 1:11).
1. ἀποβήσεται (ἀποβαινω) “to result in a state or condition, turn out, lead (to) (BDAG, 107).
2. σωτηριαν (σωτηρια, ας, ἡ) – deliverance
This word can mean “deliverance, persecution” with a focus on physical aspect (such as impending death). Or, it can mean “salvation” with a focus on transcendent aspects. Also see Phil 1:28. Here it likely just means “deliverance.”
3. καὶ τοῦτό μοι ἀποβήσεται εἰς σωτηρίαν – It will lead to my deliverance
This is the same exact Greek text as in the Septuagint in Job 13:16. Paul’s thought here is that he might be released from house arrest in Rome. Like Job, Paul was counting on God’s faithfulness for a good result. It is important to note that this is very different than what he wrote to Timothy in 2 Tim 4:6 where he believed he would die in prison.
4. ἐπιχορηγίας (ἐπιχορηγία, ας, ἡ) – assistance, support.
“This word was originally used to describe the supply a choir manager would provide to all the members of a Greek choir (who performed in the Greek plays). In short, he took care of all their living expenses. The word then came to mean a full supply of any kind” (Comfort, Philippians, 160).
A Leader, His Helpers, and the Holy Spirit
The strongest leader of the first century church expressed thanks for two elements here. First, Paul believed that his deliverance would come from the prayers of the Philippians. In the book of Romans Paul asked the church to pray for him because of their love for him (Rom 15:30). In Paul’s letter to the Colossians he asked for the believers to pray for him and his companions (Col 4:3). Paul has shared not just here in Philippians but also in his other letters (Romans and Colossians as just cited) needed help through the prayers of others, how much more do leaders now need prayers from others? Leaders need the help of others if they are going to be successful.
The second element is that the Holy Spirit also helped him. Many passages in the New Testament reveal the ministries the Holy Spirit provides to believers. Paul was empowered by the Holy Spirit (Acts 13:4) to spread the Gospel to the Jews and Gentiles (Acts 13:46-47). Luke described the Holy Spirit as the person that would give the disciples the correct words to say (Luke 12:11-12). Matthew described the Holy Spirit as the one speaking through the disciples (Matt 10:20). I love Lewis Sperry Chafer’s comments about the relationship between the Holy Spirit and Christians, “The Spirit regenerates, indwells or anoints, baptizes, seals, and fills, thus not only creating the essential factors which together make the Christian what he is, but empowering him to walk worthy of that high calling” (Lewis Sperry Chafer, Systematic Theology, vol. 1 [Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1993], 413, emphasis added). Most important of all is to remember that while Jesus left his earth to be with his father, he sent the Holy Spirit to be our advocate and helper (John 16:7-11).
B. Paul Wanted Christ To Be Exalted through Paul’s Body Whether Through Life or Death (v. 20).
“20Accoring to my eager expectation and hope, I want to be disgraced in nothing, but rather always in public and now in my body Christ is exalted, whether through life or through death.”
1. Paul Wanted Christ To Be Exalted in Two Places:
- in public
- in this body.
Furthermore, Paul wanted Christ to be exalted through one of two means: life or death. For Paul, life or death did not matter. What mattered was that Christ was being proclaimed (cf. Phil 1:17-18).
2. ἀποκαραδοκίαν (ἀποκαρδοκια, ας, ἡ) – eager expectation.
This word is used here and in Rom 8:19 in the NT. The image of this word is that it portrays someone eagerly expecting something very important to happen (Comfort, Philippians, 161).
As Paul has already mentioned in his letter, he is suffering for Christ (Phil 1:1, 7, 13-14). Additionally, Peter wrote, “But it is no shame to suffer for being a Christian. Praise to God for the privilege of being called by his name! (1 Peter 4:14, 16, NLT). We see Paul’s thoughts on death in his letter to the Romans, “7For we don’t live for ourselves or die for ourselves. 8If we live, it’s to honor the Lord. And if we die, it’s to honor the Lord. So whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord” (Rom 14:7-8, NLT).
But why use the body? Paul uses the body because “19Don’t you realize that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit, who lives in you and was given to you by God? You do not belong to yourself, 20for God bought you with a high price. So you must honor God with your body” (1 Cor 6:19-20, NLT).
C. To Live Is Christ but To Die Is Even Better (v. 21)!
“21For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain.”
Other translations render this verse in the following ways, “For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better” (NLT). “For to me, to live is Christ, to die is gain” (ESV). “For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain” (NET).
Paul has just laid out the options of Christ being exalted through Paul’s life or Paul’s death (v. 20). But, which way of exalting Christ is better? According to Paul, dying is better!
κέρδος (κέρδος, ους, τό) a gain, profit, that which is gained or earned of something that is advantageous (BDAG, 541). This word is only used in two other places in the NT. When talking about rebellious people who engage in useless talk and deceive others, Paul told Titus, “They must be silenced, because they are turning whole families away from the truth by their false teaching. And they do it only for profit (Tit 1:11, NLT, emphasis mine). Similarly, when Paul talked about him being circumcised when he was eight days old, a pure blooded citizen of Israel, a member of the tribe of Benjamin, a member of the Pharisees, obeying the Law without fault (Phil 3:6), he wrote in response explaining, “But which was a gain to me?” (Phil 3:7, emphasis mine)
II. PAUL WAS TORN BETWEEN LIVING AND DYING, BUT WANTED TO LIVE (1:22-24)
“22But if living in body is fruitful work for me, then I do not know which I will choose. 23For, you see, at this present time I am distressed between the two, because I want to leave be with Christ, for it is much better to be with Christ. 24But, it is necessary to remain alive for you.”
A. Paul Did Not Know Which He Would Choose (v. 22)
“22But if living in body is fruitful work for me, then I do not know which I will choose.”
I believe O’Brien makes a good observation on this verse, “At this point Paul’s language becomes somewhat obscure, and the grammar of the passage reflects the conflict of feeling in his mind. He is tossed to and fro between the desire to labour [sic] for Christ here on earth and the desire to be united with him in death” (O’Brien, Philippians, 124).
An example of this difficult language and grammar is differences in translations. “I do not know which I will chose.” “Yet what shall I choose?? I have nothing to declare [i.e, from the Lord]” (O’Brien, Philippians, 116). “Yet I don’t know which I prefer” (NET). “Yet which I shall chose I cannot tell” (ESV).
Despite the obscure language, it is clear that while Paul preferred death (v. 21), he realized that life on earth meant fruitful work.
B. Paul Was Torn Between His Desire To Be with Christ or To Stay on Earth (v. 23)
“23For, you see, at this present time I am distressed between the two, because I want to leave be with Christ, for it is much better to be with Christ.”
1. In Paul’s Eyes, He Saw Two Compelling Options:
- to stay on earth and do fruitful work
- to go and be with Christ. Paul’s desire was to be with Christ, not just to get away from trouble (as some commentators advocate).
2. The Phrase Here, σὺν χριστῳ Needs a Brief Mention.
While there are no other exact phrases in the NT Greek text, there are equivalents (1 Thess 4:15-17; 2 Cor 4:14). The σὺν χριχτῳ construction suggests a close union with Christ and Paul. I have found Peter O’Brien’s summary on this small phrase exceptional, therefore a brief summary follows. The Greek συν- compounds indicate an intimate personal union with Christ in the future, yet that reality also exists right now. That reality exists right now because the believer has already been united with Christ in Christ’s death (Rom 6:5), buried with Christ in baptism (Rom 6:4; Col 2:12), the old self of the believer was crucified with Christ (Rom 6:7; Gal 2:20), yet the believer was also made alive with Christ and raised with Christ (Col 2:12; 3:1). While Paul speaks of being “with” Christ in the future after death, it is also clear that the Paul is currently “with” Christ even while on earth. It’s just different between being with Christ in heaven. (O’Brien, Philippians, 134).
C. It Was Necessary for Paul To Remain Alive for the Philippians (v. 24).
“24But, it is necessary to remain alive for you.”
Because Paul still had work to do! All of Paul’s letters are testimony that he needed to keep writing letters to answer questions, combat false teaching, and encourage believers.
Paul showed that his commitment to the Philippians by saying that it was necessary to stay on earth for the benefit of the Philippians. In this way, Paul substituted his own personal desires in order to serve the Philippian believers and work for their benefit.
III. PAUL REMAINED TO HELP THE PHILIPPIANS (1:25-26)
“25I know, since I am convinced of this, that I will remain and stay with you all in your progress and joy in the faith. 26Therefore, the reason for your boasting will abound in Christ Jesus because of my return back to you.”
A. Paul’s Commitment To Stay with the Philippians (v. 25)
“25I know, since I am convinced of this, that I will remain and stay with you all in your progress and joy in the faith.”
Paul believed that he would remain and stay with the Philippians in their progress and joy in the faith.
1. προκοπὴν – advancement
A movement forward to an improved state, progress, advancement, furtherance (Phil 1:12, 1 Tit 4:15)
This term has a distinct meaning based on its use with the Christian community and Gospel. One rendering is, “for a joyous furtherance of your life of faith,” or “for a cheerful advance in faith” (TDNT, 715). “As Paul’s work serves the προκοπή of the life of faith of the congregation, his suffering serves the προκοπή of the Gospel” (TDNT, 715).
2. χαρὰν (χαρά, ᾶς, ἡ) – joy, delight
This “joy” seems to always be bound up with Paul in his work as an apostle. And while martyrdom seems to be apparent and a possible outcome to Paul’s life, he still had joy despite the circumstances he faced.
B. The Philippians Will Have A Reason To Boast in Christ (v. 26)
“26Therefore, the reason for your boasting will abound in Christ Jesus because of my return back to you.”
Here καύχημα (boast) means “the matter or ground of glorying, rather than the act of glorying” (O’Brien, Philippians, 126).
Conclusion and Application
For Paul, he did not just chose between good and bad. Here, he was choosing between good and great. Now, most of us are not as holy as Paul was. For Paul, he was torn between two godly desires. Both were good and holy and both were good options. However, if you are like me you probably do not have a struggle between two options that are so holy. For me, I try to write these studies in my free time (after work, graduate school, and spending time with my wife). As a result sometimes I get torn between two desires in my free time when I need to be writing these lessons. Sometimes I am torn between playing the video game “Clash of Clans” or writing these studies. Sometimes I am torn between watching the show “MacGyver” or writing these studies. Sometimes it is a struggle (like on Thursday) between going golfing with friends or writing these studies. Yet, for Paul, he was torn between two godly desires. Yet, he chose the one that was best.
Leaders Benefit Others
Leaders exist for the benefit of others. A great example of someone that sought to provide for others is Francine DiCiano who was the president of the United Way of Stanislaus County while I worked there. Francine went out of her way to care for the people that worked for her.
Two examples are worth mentioning about how Francine cared for others while president of our local United Way. First, she allowed and encouraged me to go back to college. That meant I would need to leave work a little early on Thursdays and go into the office late on Fridays (because my night class was on Thursdays). Even though the degree I was working towards was not specifically related to my job responsibilities, Francine still encouraged me to attend college for my own personal benefit.
Second, when Francine came to my wedding she walked up to me before she left and handed me a check with a smile saying, “Have fun on your honeymoon!” In addition to the gift she had brought she gave me money out of her own personal finances to help my wife and I enjoy our time together as newlyweds.
There are other examples I could share about Francine and how she cared for others, but I think you get the point. Leaders exist for the benefit of others. They must use their influence and finances to help others.