A Fresh Look
“…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.”
Paul’s confidence was in the Lord but that confidence Godward had a human element. God used His people to strengthen Paul (see also 2 Tim. 4:9-17). That is reflected here: “…for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, this will turn out for my deliverance.” This does not imply that every difficulty would be removed, but that God would see him through future difficulties and graciously afford Him the “crown of righteousness” at the end of the journey (see 2 Tim. 6-8).
He encountered all difficulty head on, with his faith in the Lord, the help of the Spirit of Christ and the prayerful participation of his brethren.
Therefore, Paul – though persecuted, jailed and opposed – held to an eager expectation and hope, that though his body bore the injuries of hardship, it would all turn out to the glory and honor of Christ (verse 20).
“For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Paul’s life was all about Christ (Gal. 2:20). Because of that total absorption, he considered death to be gain. “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet, which I shall choose I cannot tell.” He is stating his desire to be with Christ, alongside his strong interests of heart – to continue his work on earth. “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.”
As these thoughts were processed by Paul, he came to a tentative conclusion: “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced on this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.”
For the Christians at Philippi this would mean: “…in me, you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.” His continuation in the Lord’s work would benefit the Christians in Philippi, especially if he could see them again. His hope and their possible reunion would be thoughts that would cause them “to glory in Christ Jesus.”
What do these verses demonstrate? (1) The depth of Paul’s devotion to the Lord, (2) his dependence on the prayers of the Christians in Philippi, (3) his reliance on the Spirit of Jesus Christ – therefore, his hope of deliverance.
As long as we remain here on earth, we ought – like Paul – to live in pursuit of the greatest good we are able to do for the Lord’s cause. Though we may have moments when we long to leave and be with Christ, we may conclude – it is more valuable for us to stay here, serve people and glorify God. The progress and joy of our fellow Christians is a compelling motive to remain.