Philippians 1:19-26, Finding Freedom
1. Paul’s First Love
It becomes uncivilized to talk about religion in polite company because we don’t want to hurt people’s feelings.
Paul now returns to the matter of his future as a prisoner.
1:18b The apostle’s thoughts move from his present joy, concerning the preaching of Christ by any and every means, to his future joy regarding his own salvation and the honouring of Christ in all circumstances.
The sapping influences of self-indulgence throughout the western church weild their power.
it is a reinforcement of the idea of joy. For Paul it is no transient thing, for it will still be his ‘tomorrow when he presents himself before his earthly judges and the day after tomorrow when he appears before the heavenly judge’.2
Paul thus asserts immediately, ‘Yes, and I shall rejoice’,6 as he turns his attention sharply to what lies ahead.
The sapping influences of self-indulgence throughout the western church weild their power.
2. In CH1 Paul puts the Gospel at the center of his relationships with believers v3-8
2. Already we have seen that Paul puts the Gospel at the center of his relationships with believers v3-8
They continued their witness in Philippi. They persevered in their prayers for Paul. They sent money to support him in his ministry, all testifying to their shared vision of the importance and priority of the gospel. That’s more than enough reason to thank God, don’t you think?
The fellowship of the gospel, the partnership of the gospel must be put at the center of our relationships with other believers. That is the point. That is the burden of these opening verses.
Paul does not commend them for the fine times they had shared watching games in the arena. He doesn’t mention their literature discussion groups or the excellent meals they had. What lies at the center of all his ties with them, doubtless including meals and discussion, is this passion for gospel, this partnership in the gospel.
Now what ties us together? What do we talk about when we meet, even after a church service? Mere civilities? The weather? The Cup results? Our careers? Our children? Our aches and pains? None of these topics should be excluded, of course. In sharing all of life, these things inevitably come up. That’s right. It is good. But what must tie us together as Christians is this passion for the gospel, this fellowship in the gospel.
On the face of it, nothing else is strong enough to hold together the extraordinary diversity of people in many of our churches: men and women, young and old, blue-collars and white-collars, educated, uneducated, the healthy and the ill, the fit and the flabby, people from different races, with different incomes, different levels of education, different personalities.
What holds us together? The gospel.
If we are sold out to the gospel and to the Christ of the gospel, we will be committed to each other. If we are not, we’re far more likely to split. It is the gospel, the good news, that in Jesus Christ himself God has reconciled us to himself. This brings about a precious God-centeredness we share with other believers.
This means in our conversations we ought regularly to be sharing in the gospel, delighting in God, sharing with one another what we’ve learned that week in our devotions, in our prayer times, in our family, joining in prayer for the advance of the gospel, bearing one another’s burdens, encouraging one another in obedience and maturing discipleship, bearing one another’s burdens and growing in self-sacrificial love for those who are hurting in the fellowship. In short, we must put the gospel first, and that means we must put the fellowship of the gospel at the center of our relationships with other believers.
3. Put the priority of the Gospel at the Center of our Prayer Life v9-11
1:19 The ground (γάρ) for the apostle’s rejoicing is that he knows (οἶδα) that he will be vindicated by God in the heavenly court.
In words that correspond exactly to the LXX of Jb. 13:16 the apostle spells out the content (ὅτι) of his firm conviction: ‘this will turn out for my salvation’. He has applied these words of Job to his own situation, not because they were vaguely or marginally parallel,7 but because he, like Job, is certain of his vindication. In the original context of this OT book 13:16 is part of Job’s response (12:1–14:22) to his three friends, and this reply concludes the first round of speeches (4:1–14:22). Job states that he is prepared to speak out no matter what the consequences (13:13). Even though he was held in contempt for his misfortune (12:4), Job looked confidently to his vindication by God. At 13:2 he bluntly stated to those who chastised him, ‘I am not inferior to you’, and declared that he would maintain his ways ‘even though he slays me’ (13:15). Unlike the ‘godless man’ who would not dare come before God as he does, Job has prepared his case and asserts, ‘I know (οἶδα ἐγώ) I will be vindicated’ (v. 18). This vindication is his ‘hope’ (v. 15).8
The Spirit will empower Paul to proclaim the words without fear and not be put to shame—a shame that has nothing to do with public opinion but rather with one’s faithfulness before God.
3. Put the Advance of the Gospel at the center of your Aspirations v 12-18
4. Put the converts of the Gospel at the center of your principled sel-denial.
“Put the Gospel First,” in D. A. Carson Sermon Library (Bellingham, WA: Faithlife, 2016), .Hello hello hello
1:20 The apostle’s deep desire and hope are for ‘the progress of the gospel, the perseverance of his converts, and the accomplishment of God’s redeeming purpose’.26 His being acquitted at the heavenly tribunal (i.e., his σωτηρία) is in accordance with as well as part and parcel of that divine purpose. As Paul looks forward eagerly to its fulfilment he focuses on his desire that now as always Christ will be praised because of him. He hopes with full courage to bear faithful witness to his Lord so that he will be honoured whether Paul lives or dies.
Within this short paragraph Paul weighs up the two possibilities of life and death in the light of their significance for himself and the congregation.
In v. 20 the issues of life and death are clearly subordinated to Christ’s being glorified in Paul. But within the paragraph of vv. 21–26 death and life are examined as alternatives in the light of their benefit for Paul and his readers. The perspective has changed somewhat.
In the preceding verse death and life were viewed from the standpoint of glorifying Christ; here and in the apostle’s subsequent statements (vv. 22–26) these alternatives are viewed from the perspective of their benefit to Paul and his readers.
In this context, to live is Christ, surely means that for Paul to keep on living here means ministry, Christ-centered ministry, Christ-empowered ministry, Christ’s presence in his ministry. And to die? The ministry comes to an end, but even so, there is only gain. The ministry is not an end in itself, and it is now swallowed up in the glorious delight in the unshielded presence of the exalted Jesus himself. It’s only gain.
The expression ‘to be with Christ’ (σὺν Χριστῷ εἶναι) appears only at Phil. 1:23 in the NT
Paul’s deepest hopes for his own immediate future turn neither on the bliss of immediately gaining heaven’s portals nor on returning to a fulfilling ministry. It disturbs me when I ask young men and women in our seminary, “Why are you studying this subject?” “Oh, I think the ministry would be very fulfilling.” I don’t know. It led the founder to a cross! That’s not Paul’s reasoning at all.
His assessments are being worked out in terms of what would be best for his converts. So often we are tempted to evaluate alternatives by thinking through what seems best for us. How often do we raise, as the first principle, what is best for the church? When faced with, say, a job offer that would take us to another city or with mortal illness that calls forth our diligent intercession, how quickly do we deploy Paul’s criterion here established?
What would be best for the church? What would be best for others? What would be best for my brothers and sisters in Christ? It’s just not the way we think. There is a kind of asceticism that is frankly idolatrous. Some people gain a kind of spiritual high out of self-denial. But the self-denial that is motivated by the spiritual good of others in unqualifiedly godly. You see, there is a kind of self-denial that … Some people feel better if they whip themselves. That’s useless.
But a kind of principled self-denial that is a denying of self for the sake of others’ advance in the gospel? That’s wonderful, and that is what Paul displays. So here then, is the burden of the passage: Put the gospel first. In particular, put the fellowship of the gospel at the center of your relationships with believers. Put the priorities of the gospel at the center of your prayer life. Put the advance of the gospel at the center of your aspirations. Put the converts of the gospel at the center of your principled self-denial. Put the gospel first.
Brothers and sisters in Christ, such evaluation of the gospel ought not to be the exception in the church but the rule. We are talking about the good news, the gospel that reconciles lost men and women to the eternal God. We are confessing the gospel that God himself has provided a Redeemer who died, the just for the unjust that we might be reconciled to him and be raised on the last day and enjoy the bliss of the new heaven and the new earth, world without end, because of the death of a crucified Creator.
Without this gospel, we are cut off. Without this gospel, we have no hope in this world or the next. Without this gospel, we are utterly undone. Compared with this good news, what could possibly compete? Put the gospel first. One remembers what an aging Christian said to John G. Patton in the last century when Patton was planning to go as a missionary to the South Sea Islands. “You’ll be eaten by cannibals!” Patton was told.
Patton replied, “Mr. Dickson, you are advanced in years now and your own prospect is soon to be laid in the grave, there to be eaten by worms; I confess to you, that if I can but live and die serving and honoring the Lord Jesus, it will make no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms. And in the Great Day, my resurrection body will arise as fair as yours in the likeness of the Redeemer.” Put the gospel first.
Only one life, ‘twill soon be passed;
Only what’s done for Christ will last.
Put the gospel first.