Philippians Bible Study, Week 6
18bYes, and I will rejoice, for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20according 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.
21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labour for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again. 27Only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ.
Things to think about:
What, specifically, will bring about Paul’s deliverance (v19)?
Paul hopes that he will not be disgraced (v20-21). What might cause him to be disgraced?
What is Paul saying in verse 21-26?
In what ways can we conduct our lives in a way worthy of the Gospel (v27)?
The Provision of Prayer
God uses our prayers! Paul knew this, so he often asked that people pray for him and his mission. In this passage Paul told the Philippians that he is relying on their prayers for his deliverance. In other letters he asked for prayer so that he might have more opportunities to proclaim the Gospel message.
Prayer can be powerful (James 5:19) – particularly prayer that is guided by God and in line with his will.
Prayer is a powerful way of partnering with God in achieving his purposes. In the Lord’s Prayer, Jesus’ prayed to his Father and said: “Let your Kingdom come; let your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” This should be our prayer too.
I want to see God’s will being achieved in my life, in my friends’ lives, in the life of my church, and in my community; and prayer is where this often begins.
Seeking God’s will and praying for it to be fulfilled can be exciting. I feel very close to God when I am joining with him in prayer for his power to be released and his will accomplished. . . . The key of course is to discern and recognise God’s will. This can take time as we open our hearts and minds to God in prayer so that he can direct our thoughts.
So often when one of our friends is going through a difficult time we will say that we are praying for them. Saying that we will pray for them is not just a lovely thing to say to make our friend feel loved, it is a powerful, spiritual duty. When we pray we should approach God with expectation and faith that he will hear us and help us and grant our request. When praying we also need to be aware if God is guiding our thoughts to pray more specifically or differently.
The Greek word used in verse 19 for deliverance is the same word commonly used for salvation. It is very unlikely that Paul is speaking about his salvation here. Paul’s salvation is not in any way dependent on anyone’s prayers. It is also unlikely that Paul is thinking of deliverance in the usual sense of the word.
There are two clues as to Paul’s meaning in this verse. The first clue is in the following verse where Paul shows us his real concern. Paul’s earnest hope is that he will not be ashamed or disgraced. The other clue is that the phrase: “This will turn out for my deliverance” is a direct quote from Job 13:16.
Indeed this will turn out for my deliverance . . .
Listen carefully to my words
Let your ears take in what I say
Now that I have prepared my case
I know that I will be vindicated
Like Job, Paul is looking for vindication before God. Paul hopes that his testimony – his faithful defense and confirmation of the gospel – will vindicate him. True vindication for Paul, however, is not dependent on his acquittal and release from prison. Paul is conscious of the fact that even if he presents his case courageously and faithfully, he may not be exonerated of his “crime” and may still be executed because of his testimony. For Paul, true vindication means remaining steadfast to Christ and his message despite opposition and hardship.
The possibility of death is not a deterrent for Paul. It does not cause Paul to alter his testimony. In life or in death, Paul was determined to be courageous and bold and not diminish his witness.
Paul was depending on the prayers of the Philippians and on the undergirding strength and support of the Holy Spirit for his vindication. It is prayer and the Holy Spirit that will enable Paul to stay strong and not disgrace himself and his testimony of Jesus Christ. Prayer and the Holy Spirit is closely associated here. “Paul regarded the Philippian’s prayer as being answered by the Spirit’s increased activity on his behalf.” (Kent 1978:114) Paul placed his confidence, not in his own courage, but on the action of the Holy Spirit. (Kent 1978:114)
In Life or Death
Since his conversion, Paul had constantly endeavoured to be an ambassador and representative of Jesus Christ, and to display the Spirit of Christ within him (Eph 6:19-20; 2 Cor 5:20).
I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body I live by faith in the Son of God who loved and gave himself for me. Galatians 2:20
Paul’s life was all about Jesus and his mission. Death would mean that his mission would be over, but it also meant that Paul would be even closer to his Lord. Paul is torn and struggled between the two options of life or death. He tells the Philippians: “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 . . .”
Paul’s love for Christ meant that he wanted to tell as many people as he could about Jesus, and help them to become established and flourishing in the faith. So Paul concludes his deliberation with the resolve that he will continue to live so that he can continue to minister. This “statement represents his personal convictions based on what seemed to be probable in the light of all the factors. The need of many for his apostolic ministry outweighed his own need to be with Christ immediately.” (Kent 1978:116)
Perhaps Paul is candidly revealing his thoughts of life and death so that the Philippians would not to become disheartened or disillusioned if he were to die.
Philippians is well known for its theme of joy. In this week’s passage, Paul mentions “rejoicing” in verse 18, “joy in the faith” in verse 25, and “overflowing exultation” at Paul’s return in verse 26. This is despite the fact that this passage is talking about struggles and suffering and even the prospect of death. (We will be devoting a whole study to “joy” in week 12.)
Many English translations use the word boast in verse 26. While this is a literal translation of one of Paul’s favourite words kauchema, surely the real meaning here is “joyful exultation”. Paul anticipates that the Philippians will be overjoyed when he is released and able to return to them.
A Manner Worthy of the Gospel
After Paul’s extraordinary show of dedication to ministry, Paul instructs the Philippians that, regardless of what happens to him, they are to conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.
Paul repeats this instruction, with only slight variations, in several of his other letters. In Philippians he uses the word politeusthe for conduct which literally means “to live as a citizen”. Paul challenges the Philippians, many of whom were Roman citizens, to live by a higher code of behaviour – as citizens of heaven.
What does it mean to live or behave in a manner worthy of the gospel? Are you living your life in a manner worthy of the gospel? In Ephesians 4:1b-3 Paul gives some specific advice on this. Here, as in Philippians 1:27, Paul emphasises unity:
I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. Ephesians 4:1b-3
 See 2 Corinthians 1:11; Philippians 1:19; Romans 15:30; Colossians 4:2-4; Ephesians 6:19-20; 1 Thessalonians 5:25; 2 Thessalonians 3:1.
 This is a word for word quote from the Septuagint (Greek) translation of Job 13:16.
 There is no hint of the doubtful doctrine of “soul sleep” in this passage. (cf 2 Cor 5:8.) Neither is there any mention of “purgatory” here which has has no Biblical basis whatsoever.
 “better by far” uses three comparative words in the Greek: pollo mallon kreisson
 Kauchema can mean: a grounds for boasting, an object for boasting, pride or exultation.
 Ephesians 4:1-3; Colosians1:10; 1 Thessalonians 2:12.
 More on unity next week.
© 24th of June, 2010; Margaret Mowczko