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Philippians 1:21 ESV
For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Marvin Vincent in his commentary on Philippians stated:
For Paul life is summed up in Messiah. Messiah is its inspiration, its aim, its end. To trust, love, obey, preach, follow, suffer,—all things are with and in Messiah.
JNTC: Philippians, Chapter 1:21
This is better by far for Paul himself than staying alive, precisely because eternal life is the Messiah (v. 21; Yn 1:4, 11:25, 14:6). Nevertheless, Paul’s choice is to remain alive “because of you” (v. 24), because the Philippians need him.
Conclusion: precisely because of his Messianic faith Paul does not ignore the needs of this world; though recognizing the benefits to himself of the ˓olam haba, he chooses to minister to others here in the ˓olam hazeh.
Paul’s life is not a matter of seeking his own comfort or advancement. It is all about seeking the advancement of Messiah’s kingdom: to live is tantamount to serving Messiah. In fact, to die should be seen as gain, because it would mean that Paul would be freed from his trouble-filled life on earth to rejoice in Messiah’s presence.
Lane T. Dennis, ed., ESV Study Bible, The: English Standard Version, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles, 2008), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: "".
Philippians 1:22–26 ESV
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.
It’s truly a win-win situation. To live means honoring Messiah with fruitful labor, and to die means possessing Messiah in the fullest sense. He found a love greater than life itself, and this vision of being with Messiah inspired him to endure.
Tony Merida and Francis Chan, Exalting Yeshua in Philippians, ed. David Platt, Dr. Daniel L. Akin, Tony Merida, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2016), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 69.
When he thought about death, he thought about being in the presence of Messiah (cf. ).
We are confident, then, and would much prefer to leave our home in the body and come to our home with the Lord.
In light of v. 21, Paul is hard pressed as to which outcome he should desire. Being with Messiah now would be more attractive for him, while remaining alive (in the flesh) would enable him to help the Philippians further on their own spiritual journey. Since Paul knows that the way of Yeshua is the way of service (cf. 2:5-11), he is convinced that his own preferences will be put aside so that he can remain and continue with the Philippians for their progress and joy in the faith. Paul is not merely musing on his own crisis; he is giving the Philippians a model of the service-driven life.
27 Only conduct your lives in a way worthy of the Good News of the Messiah; so that whether I come and see you or I hear about you from a distance, you stand firm, united in spirit, fighting with one accord for the faith of the Good News,
This is key to the life of the follower of Yeshua to walk worthy. The experience of coming to know the Messiah is not a one time event, saying a prayer acknowledging Yeshua as Messiah, but a walk (the word where we get halakha, Jewish law), an ongoing living relationship. So walking worthy we are following the halacha of Yeshua.
The phrase be worthy of the gospel translates the Greek word politeuesthe. As the ESV footnote indicates, the Greek can also be translated as “only behave as citizens worthy [of the gospel of Messiah],” a phrasing that nicely captures Paul’s play on words here and in 3:20 (“our citizenship [Gk. politeuma] is in heaven”).
Philippi prided itself on being a Roman colony, offering the honor and privilege of Roman citizenship. Paul reminds the congregation that they should look to Messiah, not Caesar, for their model of behavior, since their primary allegiance is to God and his kingdom. They need to stand together with one another and with Paul in striving for the gospel. Paul’s emphasis on unity may suggest some division within the Philippian congregation (cf. 4:2-3). Perhaps the disunity is one reason he mentions the “overseers and deacons” at the outset of the letter (1:1), for they are required to minister in a way that promotes unity.
Lane T. Dennis, ed., ESV Study Bible, The: English Standard Version, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles, 2008), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: "”.
JNTC: Philippians, Chapter 1:28
With its context, verse 28 is important for Messianic Jews. Paul counsels boldness in communicating the truth of the Gospel. When, as Jews who trust in Yeshua the Messiah, we are united in spirit, fighting with one accord (using non-worldly weapons!—2C 10:3–5&N, &N) for the faith of the Good News, then we are enjoined to be not frightened by anything the opposition does. On the contrary, our boldness, reflecting our refusal to succumb to fear, will be for them, the opposition, an indication that our destiny is superior to theirs leading them to repentance.
CJB: Chapter 1:29-30
29 because for the Messiah’s sake it has been granted to you not only to trust in him but also to suffer on his behalf,
30 to fight the same battles you once saw me fight and now hear that I am still fighting.
Paul rounds out this paragraph by touching on the nature of Messiahian suffering. What he says may surprise some believers. Most Messiahians understand salvation as a gift from God (; ), but Paul points out that suffering for Messiah’s sake is also a gift. Suffering for the sake of Messiah is a privilege. Paul’s words are worth a careful, prayerful reflection.
How exactly is suffering for Messiah a gift? According to the previous verse, it provides a sense of assurance that we belong to Yeshua. Suffering also brings you closer to Yeshua. Paul relates this idea in 3:10-11. This attitude regarding suffering appears throughout the book of Acts. At one point, after the apostles had been beaten, Luke says, “Then they went out from the presence of the Sanhedrin, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to be dishonored on behalf of the Name” (). They did not just tolerate suffering, they rejoiced in it! They saw it as a gift.
This is where the walk with Messiah becomes even more difficult when suffering comes. We are called here to model the Messiah (more in Ch 2) and here the believers in Philippi are being called to learn from Paul's own example of being in prison.
What are the most difficult circumstances you are presently facing?
How can Messiah be exalted in that situation?
JNTC: Philippians, Chapter 2
In Paul directs us to Messiah Yeshua, a person equal with God yet whose incarnation and life are the supreme example of humility. This passage urges us to imitate Messiah’s attitude.
The unity spoken of in 1:27 above is grounded in a common purpose and that purpose is to follow the example of Messiah Yeshua.
The believer’s mind needs to reflect on the proper model, if life is to be lived for God.
Paul isn’t simply speaking to the private experience of individuals. He is writing about unity in the church, which comes through adopting a humble, Messiah-like mind-set. He wants to see “a community mindful of Messiah” (Hanson, Letter, 118).
Imitation is a theme of Philippians. Later in the chapter, Paul holds Timothy and Epaphroditus up as examples worthy of honor and emulation (2:19-30, esp. 20-21,30). In chapter 3 Paul tells the church to follow his example and to “observe those who live according to the example you have in us” (3:17). While we may emulate many role models in life, we must remember that Yeshua is the example par excellence.
Tony Merida and Francis Chan, Exalting Yeshua in Philippians, ed. David Platt, Dr. Daniel L. Akin, Tony Merida, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2016), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 92.
Ralph P. Martin’s The Epistle of Paul to the Philippians (Tyndale Commentary Series, Grand Rapids, Michigan: Eerdmans, 1959); he has also written a monograph on these six verses.
The unusual Greek words in this passage suggest that Paul may be quoting an Aramaic or Hebrew hymn used by the Messianic Jews in Israel when celebrating Pesach and Zikkaron.
This is used as a Messianic Jewish addition to the Aleinu given the similar language.
Yeshua is and always has been God. “Form” could also be a reference to Messiah being the ultimate image of God, “the exact imprint of his nature” (). It might also refer to the fact that he is the visible expression of God’s invisible glory (). Remarkably, Messiah did not imagine that having “equality with God” (which he already possessed) should lead him to hold onto his privileges at all costs. It was not something to be grasped, to be kept and exploited for his own benefit or advantage. Instead, he had a mind-set of service. “Messiah did not please himself” (). In humility, he counted the interests of others as more significant than his own ().
Lane T. Dennis, ed., ESV Study Bible, The: English Standard Version, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles, 2008), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: "".JNTC: Philippians, Chapter 2:6
But more likely it means refraining from seizing what was not yet his, namely, rulership over all created beings, including humanity, who, because of sin, required his death on their behalf in order to be eligible to share in that rulership. For this reason he chose the Father’s will over his own (; MJ 10:7, quoting (8)), accepting the path of obedience and suffering for the sake of the promised reward (vv. 8–11; MJ 2:6–14, 5:8, 12:2).
The pre-existence of the Messiah was a familiar concept in rabbinic Judaism (Yn 1:1–18&NN), so that it is unnecessary to resort to the idea that Paul is drawing on pagan notions of a “heavenly man” who descended and carried through a mission of redemption for mankind. The Tanakh provides more than sufficient ground for this passage in its material about Adam () and the suffering Servant of Adonai (); there is no need to resort to explanations that assume Hellenistic or Gnostic influence.
b. Pesahim. 54A
D. Seven things were created before the world was made, and these are they: Torah, repentance, the Garden of Eden, Gehenna, the throne of glory, the house of the sanctuary, and the name of the Messiah.
E. Torah: “The Lord possessed me in the beginning of his way, before his works of old” ().
F. Repentance: “Before the mountains were brought forth, or even you had formed the earth and the world … you turn man to destruction and say, Repent, you sons of men” ().
G. The Garden of Eden: “And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden from aforetime” ().
H. Gehenna: “For Tophet is ordained of old” ().
I. The throne of glory: “Your throne is established from of old” ().
J. The house of the sanctuary: “A glorious high throne from the beginning is the place of our sanctuary” ().
K. And the name of the Messiah: “His name shall endure forever and has existed before the sun” ().
May his name endure forever,
his name, Yinnon, as long as the sun.*
May people bless themselves in him,
may all nations call him happy.
JNTC: Philippians, Chapter 2:7
The Kenosis - What did Yeshua give up?
(1) He gave up his “equality with God” (v. 6), which may but does not necessarily imply that he had those attributes of God or that if he had them he fully gave them up.
(2) He took instead the form (same Greek word as in v. 6) of a slave, the Servant of Adonai (), by becoming like human beings are—except that he was without sin (; MJ 2:7, 14). “The Word became a human being and lived with us” (Yn 1:14); apart from his miracles and the Transfiguration () his pre-incarnation glory (Yn 17:5, 24) was hidden.
(3) He completed the emptying when he humbled himself still more by becoming obedient even to death—death on a stake as a criminal, the ultimate in degradation. “He has poured out his soul unto death” (). Only for someone sinless can death be an act of obedience, not a foregone conclusion (; –21N).
JNTC: Philippians, Chapter 2:7
Death by execution on a stake as a criminal, literally, “the death of the cross” (see :38N). This was the most humiliating possible death in two contexts. In the Roman setting, it was reserved for criminals who were not Roman citizens; citizenship entitled even capital criminals to better treatment when being executed. In the Jewish setting, the victim of crucifixion came under a curse (, quoted at in connection with Yeshua); for Jews this was “an obstacle” (1C 1:23) to regarding Yeshua as the Messiah. The curse of separation from God brought about by human sin () was endured by the sinless Savior () and thus removed as a barrier between human beings and God, as taught in .
At the same time Yeshua’s death both resembles and is distinct from what Jewish tradition understands as death ˓al kiddush-HaShem, martyrdom “for the sake of sanctifying the name” of God. On this see –60N.
How did each of Messiah’s actions illustrate humility and a concern for the interests of others ()?
JNTC: Philippians, Chapter 2:9
Yeshua the Messiah is Adonai (Greek kurios). As explained at :20N, the Greek word “kurios” can mean anything from the tetragrammaton (YHVH, “Jehovah,” the personal name of God, rendered “Adonai” in the Jewish New Testament) to “Lord” (in the sense of God as universal ruler) to “lord” (in the human sense) to merely “sir” (a respectful form of address). Because ,
23 By myself I have sworn;
from my mouth has gone out in righteousness
a word that shall not return:
‘To me every knee shall bow,
every tongue shall swear allegiance.’
which in its own context applies to YHVH, is quoted in v. 10 in reference to Yeshua, I believe this verse teaches that Yeshua the Messiah is YHVH and not only “Lord” in a lesser sense.
But in what sense “is” Yeshua Adonai? It is not that the Father “is” Yeshua, nor does Yeshua exhaust the full meaning of YHVH (the last line of v. 11 shows that neither of these can be meant), but that there is some intimate identity or unity or union between the Son and the Father. See comparable teaching at Yn 1:1&N, 18&N; 10:31&N; &N; Yeshua himself says more about this intimate identity as he prays to his Father in .
While Messiah now bears the divine name YHWH (“Lord”) which Jews in prayer use the substitute name “Adonai” which means “Lord” in Hebrew, he is still worshiped with his human name, Yeshua, since it was in the flesh that he most clearly displayed his divine glory to the world. This astounding union of Yeshua’ divine and human natures is reinforced by the allusion to in the words every knee should bow... and every tongue confess, which in Isaiah refer exclusively to Yahweh (cf. : “Only in the Lord... are righteousness and strength”). The fact that these words can now be applied to God’s messianic agent—Yeshua Messiah is Lord—shows that Yeshua is fully divine. But the worship of Yeshua as Lord is not the final word of the hymn. Yeshua’ exaltation also results in the glory of God the Father. This identical pattern is found in : God gives Yeshua messianic dominion over all creation, and everyone will one day rightly give praise to him as their Lord. But when his kingdom reaches its fullness, Yeshua does not keep the glory for himself. Instead, “the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all” (). Even in his exaltation, Yeshua remains the model of loving service to God.
Lane T. Dennis, ed., ESV Study Bible, The: English Standard Version, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles, 2008), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: "".
John Piper wrote:
It was his lordship and Messiahship—his messianic lordship—that was bestowed on him at his exaltation. Not that he wasn’t Messiah and Lord before his resurrection. He was. But he had not fulfilled the mission of Messiah until he had died for our sin and risen again. And therefore, before his death and resurrection, the lordship of Messiah over the world had not been brought to full actuality. The rebel forces were yet undefeated, and the power of darkness held the world in its grip. In order to be acclaimed Messiah and Lord, the Son of God had to come, defeat the enemy, and lead his people out of bondage in triumph over sin and Satan and death. And that he did . . . The name that is above every name, therefore, is Lord (Adonai) —the Lord victorious over all his enemies; the Lord who has purchased a people from every tribe and tongue and nation.
(“And All the Earth Shall Own Him Lord”; emphasis added)
Tony Merida and Francis Chan, Exalting Yeshua in Philippians, ed. David Platt, Dr. Daniel L. Akin, Tony Merida, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2016), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 101.JNTC: Philippians, Chapter 2:13
The paradox of human choice is clearly seen in the Tanakh when (“Turn us, Adonai, to you; and we will turn.”) is set alongside (“ ‘Turn to me,’ says Adonai of Heaven’s Armies, ‘and I will turn to you.’ ”). Rabbi Akiva expresses it even more succinctly: “All is foreseen and free will is given” (Avot 3:15). In this verse we see that God does not interfere with free will, but helps those who already seek to do his will to do it better.
Verses 14-16
How are we to be different from the "crooked and depraved generation" in which we live ()?
This can be seen in the prayers of the siddur focusing on the life of the people of Israel and is especially seen in all the corporate prayers of repentance at Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, especially the al Chet where we corporately confess dozens of sins.
Life with Messiah is an ongoing process and journey to live for God every day.
Eugene Peterson called this “a long obedience in the same direction,” which will be a difficult endeavor in this fallen world (Peterson, A Long Obedience).
Where repentance is turning around and going in the right direction, this call for long obedience in the same direction to right living walking in God’s way and living Torah lives is the exact opposite direction and if we keep up the long obedience we can avoid the pitfalls of needing to make radical repentance and if we fall off the path a little we can rejoin it rather than having to do a complete change of direction, a spiritual U-turn.
Tony Merida and Francis Chan, Exalting Yeshua in Philippians, ed. David Platt, Dr. Daniel L. Akin, Tony Merida, (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing Group, 2016), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, 107.JNTC: Philippians, Chapter 2:17
Even if my lifeblood is poured out as a drink offering over the sacrifice and service of your faith. Jacob poured out a drink offering of wine over the altar (). In Israel’s sacrificial system the material of a drink offering was wine (; ; , , ; ; ). In Yeshua’s time wine was a metaphor for blood ().
It was a vivid illustration of a life “poured out” for God’s service. The Philippians, too, are a sacrificial offering; they are to emulate Paul’s joyful service to God.
Lane T. Dennis, ed., ESV Study Bible, The: English Standard Version, (Wheaton, Illinois: Crossway Bibles, 2008), WORDsearch CROSS e-book, Under: "”.
How is Paul himself an example of the principles described in this passage ()?
The rest of the chapter we read of 2 examples of Godly examples. Timothy and Epaphroditus.
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