Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake, engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.
- Paul rejoiced because he knew he would be delivered.
- Paul would be delivered through the prayers of the Philippians and the Spirit of Christ.
- Paul expected that he would not be ashamed.
- Paul expected that Christ would be honored in his body.
- Paul expected that Christ would be honored whether he lived or died.
- Paul had an excited expectation.
- If Paul lived it would be to serve Christ.
- If Paul died he would be with Christ.
- If Paul lived he would have fruitful labor.
- Paul was torn between choosing to live or die.
- Paul desired to be with Christ.
- It would be much better for Paul to be with Christ.
- It was better for the Philippians that Paul live.
- Paul was convinced that he would continue to live on account of the Philippians.
- Paul would continue to live for the Philippians progress in both joy and faith.
- If Paul lived and was able to come to Philippians, they would have cause to glory in Christ.
- The Philippians were to live in a way that was worthy of the gospel of Christ.
- Paul desired to hear about how the Philippians were standing firm in the spirit.
- The Philippians were to work as one.
- The Philippians were to work side by side for the faith of the gospel.
- The Philippians were not to be frightened by their opponents.
- The Philippians had opponents.
- Standing unafraid before their opponents would be a sign of their opponents destruction.
- Standing unafraid before their opponents would be a sign of the Philippians’ salvation.
- The Philippians’ salvation is from God.
- Being able to believe in Christ was granted from God to the Philippians.
- Being able to believe in Christ was granted from God to the Philippians for the sake of Christ.
- Suffering for the sake of Christ is a gift granted from God.
- The Philippians what seen Paul engaged in a conflict.
- The Philippians had heard Paul was currently engaged in a conflict.
- The Philippians were to engage in the same conflict Paul was involved in.
Paul is assured that his current circumstance will end with his deliverance. It is clear from the context of the rest of this passage, Paul is not speaking physically but in the ultimate sense. The source of his deliverance is Christ. But the means is the prayer of the Philippians. To put it in Aristotle’s terms of causation, the Spirit is the efficient cause and prayer is the instrumental cause. God in His providence determines both the ends and the means to the end. In this case the means He has chosen is the prayer of the Philippians.
Paul says it his, “expectation and hope” that he will not be at all ashamed. By hope Paul does not mean wishful thinking. We hope for what has not yet come. Paul is assured of what will be, he is only saying he is hoping because it has not yet come to pass. Paul trusts in the sovereignty of God because he says whether in life or death his body will honor Christ. God will use all things to His glory.
When Paul says, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain,” he is not making a distinction between Christ and gain. Instead Paul is saying, since I have Christ it does not matter whether I live or die, both are gain because Christ will be glorified. If Paul lived then God will grant him fruitful labor. If he dies then he will worship and serve Christ in the heavenly realm. In either case, Paul will be working for Christ. So, it does not matter to Paul where Christ puts him. But if given a choice Paul would prefer to be with Jesus. Paul did not desire death. He desired to be with Christ Jesus.
Paul was convinced that he would remain in the flesh to aid the Philippians in their progress and maturing in the faith. We tend to see things in the very short term. The Philippians did as well. Paul’s death would have been a source of great sorrow for them. But with Paul remaining in the flesh it was a source of joy and they praised God for it. But Paul reminds them, they are to glory in Christ Jesus. They were not to rejoice or glory in Paul.
Paul then changes the focus from himself to the Philippians. It is as if he were saying, “Don’t worry about me I will be fine. But as for you, I want to hear about your steadfastness in the faith.” Paul reminds them they are to strive together. They are fellow-soldiers. They have a common enemy and common warfare. As such they ought to be united in a holy agreement concerning the gospel. The Philippians were to stand firm in the face of adversity. They will have opposition. The great comfort is that, when we are opposed for the gospel, it is a sign of our salvation. And Paul is quick to add that our salvation is from God. Note: Paul does not say that afflictions are the cause of salvation, rather it is a sign of salvation.
Paul concludes this section with a statement that seems a bit strange to our ears today. Paul says that not only is our salvation a gift from God but our suffering is also a gift. The very fact that we can believe in Christ is a gift. This is a fact denied by many in the church today. Believing, they say, is something we do. Here Paul states very clearly that believing or faith is a gift from God. It is something that is given to us. Secondly, the suffering we suffer is a gift from God. Neither of these are things that we normally think of as gifts. We think of our believing or faith in Christ as something we do. And suffering is something we do for Christ. Paul says, these are both gifts to us from God. The idea that God will protect you from suffering, disappointment, financial calamity or sickness is a concept completely foreign to Christianity. Suffering is what we are assured.
My prayer is that you and I along with Paul may say I do not care whether I live or die. I trust God will place me where I will bring glory to Him.
Saints of God, which we are, are to regulate their expectations according to the word of God, so as not to promise themselves more than God has promised. We have been promised peace with God and an eternal life with Him. We have also been promised sufferings. Let us rejoice and realize that our sufferings are for the glory of God.