COMMENTARY ON PHILIPPIANS
T E X T
“For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.” (Phil 1:19-20, NKJV)
A person can have spiritual insight into LIFE as well as Scripture. In fact, an understanding of God’s Word is the foundation upon which a proper comprehension of life itself is appropriated. The groping philosopher asks,Who am I?, Why am I here?, and Where am I going? You will observe our text is free from any such confusion. Paul knows how his adversity will turn out. He knows the means through which this outcome will be accomplished. The Apostle also perceives the effect of the outcome upon himself. With strong faith, he affirms Christ will be enhanced by his life, whether it is in living or dying. The confidence with which Paul speaks discloses his faith.
KNOWING THE OUTCOME
“For I know that this will turn out for my salvation” (KJV). In this text, I prefer the word “salvation” (KJV) to deliverance. The word used here is the one consistently used to identify the “great salvation” that is in Christ Jesus. Of the 44 times it is used in Scripture, all but one instance clearly refer to“eternal salvation.” The single exception is found in Acts 27:34, where Paul spoke of the imminent deliverance of those on a sinking vessel.
While the word “deliverance” is, technically, an appropriate translation, its use tends to accentuate temporal deliverance. In our text, this is not the case. Paul here uses “salvation” in the generally understood way. This is the“salvation” that begins with our extrication from sin, and is brought to completion when we are “forever with the Lord.” Christ is at the heart of it, not deliverance from earthly dilemmas (Rom 1:16). This is a salvation that has an appointed day of completion (Rom 13:11). It began with the exaltation of Jesus, and will conclude when He returns (2 Cor 6:2; 1 Pet 1:5). Let it be clear, Paul has seen an association of his imprisonment with the salvation of which he was an “heir” (Heb 1:14). This is the most elevated way to view trouble, opposition, affliction, and extraordinary hardship.
This was not something which Paul craved in a spirit of uncertainty. It was something he KNEW! In this matter, he was in accord with the Lord of glory, Who knows how to deliver the godly out of temptation (2 Pet 2:9). We know from the text he was not limiting himself to the consideration of temporal deliverance, because he spoke of glorifying God by dying as well as in living. He knew his “chain” could neither interrupt nor diminish his salvation. Faith views life through the prism of Divine glory. While an earthly prism tends to distort and color what is viewed, Divine glory clarifies what is perceived through it–as Scripture says it, “in the face of Jesus Christ” (2 Cor 4:6). Paul’s familiarity with Jesus produced this confidence.
The expression before us is another way of affirming Romans 8:28. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (NASB). The gracious intentions of God through Christ Jesus are not disrupted or thwarted by trouble (Eph 3:10). Our Lord has chosen to bring us to glory through “this present evil world.” In this way, He causes both glory and thanksgiving to be given to Himself. It is much like saving Noah by means of a flood (1 Pet 3:20), bringing Joseph to Egypt and the throne through slavery (Psa 105:17), and bringing Israel to Canaan through the Red Sea and the wilderness (Psa 106:9). This is the Divine manner.
It is one thing to be acquainted with this kind of language; it is quite another for the heart to lay hold of its truth. You may recall the “hope of salvation” is likened to a protective “helmet” (Isa 59:17; Eph 6:17; 1 Thess 5:8). The effect of putting on this “helmet” is seen in this text. It produces a sustaining confidence in the midst of difficulty. It constrains the believer to stand when all is not well. With the eagle eye of faith, those wearing this marvelous “helmet” peer into the future and behold “the end of their faith.”They know salvation will actually be enhanced by their greatest trials!
THE APPOINTED MEANS OF DELIVERANCE
“ . . . through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ”(KJV). Divine appointments are carried out through Divine means, or agencies. Thus sin is forgiven “through” Christ’s blood (Eph 1:7), and the“heirs of salvation” are brought on their way by angels (Heb 1:13-14). When God created the natural realm, it was summoned into being “by the Word of God” (Heb 11:3). He simply said “Let there be . . . ” and “there was” (Gen 1:3,6,14). In the creation of all animal life, God simply called the creatures into existence (Gen 1:20-25). In salvation, however, a degree of Divine involvement is found that cannot be found elsewhere. More agencies and personalities are involved in this enterprise than in the creation of the world.
Paul identifies two Divinely appointed means, employed in bringing us to the fulness of salvation. His statement is arresting, because it reflects a harmony between heaven and earth. The created and the Eternal join together in a common objective. In my judgment, these two means should be more of an emphasis than is common.
Through your prayers. Too often, prayer is viewed only as a means of human expression. However, this text reveals prayer is a means God uses to accomplish His will. An example of this type of reasoning is found in Ezekiel 36:37. After declaring His intentions and affirming He would fulfill them, the Lord says, “I will also let the house of Israel inquire of Me to do this for them.” In other words, the prayers of His people would be one of the means He employed to accomplish His will. Thus the Apostle sees the involvement of God’s people with the Divine will. As in the Revelation, what God has determined is mingled with the prayers of the saints (Rev 5:8; 8:4). By means of prayer, the people of God enter into the work of God. A persuasion of this will enhance our view of prayer, as well as our involvement in it.
The supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. This expression refers to WHAT the Spirit supplies. Thus other translations read, “the help of” (RSV),“help given by” (NIV), and “provision of” (NASB). The word literally means“contribution of.” What a marvelous consideration! The Holy Spirit is presently contributing things to us that ensure our salvation. One of these contributions is mentioned in Romans 8:26. “Likewise the Spirit also helps in our weaknesses. For we do not know what we should pray for as we ought, but the Spirit Himself makes intercession for us with groanings which cannot be uttered.” Other contributions include abounding in hope (Rom 15:13), putting to death the deeds of the body (Rom 8:13), waiting for the hope of righteousness (Gal 5:5), and obeying the truth (1 Pet 1:22).
At no point is the matter of salvation left in our hands alone. We DO have a part to play, but it is NOT the only part (Phil 2:12-13). Our salvation has both human and Divine involvements: i.e., the brethren and the Holy Spirit. Both have been given to us by our Lord, and we are to reckon on them. The prayers of the saints and the help of the Holy have been joined together by Divine appointment, and they will work together for our salvation. The persuasion of this contributes to praise to the Lord, and our thankfulness for and love of the brethren. It also strengthens a confident and joyful spirit.
HAVING THE RIGHT EXPECTATION
“ . . .according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death” (NKJV). What is to be EXPECTED by those in Christ–i.e., eagerly anticipated? Our adversary would have us expect unfettered life in this world–a life without setbacks, hindrances, or heartache. Those entertaining such notions are easily discouraged by hardship and sorrow, often drawing back from the Lord because of such things. But this is not the posture of faith.
We catch a glimpse of the heart of Paul in this statement of what he is earnestly expecting. Here he defines his “hope,” or what constrained and motivated him. Here we see what compelled Paul to do live, and respond to life, as he did. He gives both a negative and a positive view: what he is confident will NOT happen, and what he is persuaded WILL happen. These are not impersonal expectations, but reflect the fervent longings of his heart.
In nothing ashamed. Is this not a noble ambition? He is speaking of shame before the Lord. He looks to the end--the consummation of all things--and says he expects NOT to be ashamed. It is the peculiar prerogative of faith to bring this to pass. As it is written, “For they shall not be ashamed who wait for Me” (Isa 49:23), and “whoever believes on Him will not be put to shame” (Rom 9:33; 10:11). In the end, no person who has lived for, and relied upon, Jesus will be embarrassed, humiliated, or mocked. The knowledge of this reality sustained Paul in difficulty.
The fact that he says “in nothing” shows how thoroughly he lived for the Lord. He had abandoned personal interests to take hold of Divine purpose. He allowed nothing to dominate his life that was unrelated to life in Christ. We do well to maintain such a frame of spirit (Phil 3:15-16).
That Christ may be magnified. Flesh seeks self-exaltation. Spirit seeks for Jesus to become eminent. Mind you, Jesus exists and IS exalted above all. That is His current status. Paul, however, lived so this would become conspicuous. When Christ is “magnified,” He is exalted, drawing attention to Himself. But notice how Paul says this is accomplished: “in my body.”Showing this to be his consistent desire, he adds “now as always” (NASB). In beholding Paul’s condition, and response to it, attention was actually drawn to the Lord Jesus! His light was shining “before men” (Matt 5;16). Some might prefer Christ to be exalted through a great sign or wonder, or some historical event. Paul was confident it would occur in his “body.”
The means through which Christ would gain prominence were incidental. Whether in living or in dying, Paul wanted the attention to be drawn to Christ. Living well and dying well require Divine power. They require personal determination as well. The key ingredient here, however, is confidence–an“earnest expectation.” How God-glorifying it is when we exude a confidence like this: fully persuaded that Jesus will be perceptibly elevated by our living and our dying.
The manner in which we live, and the manner in which we die, is helped along by the prayers of our brethren, and supplies given by the Holy Spirit!