Philippians

Philippians 1:19-26 The Joy Of Faith – Love For Christ.

Just as Paul saw in his confinement an opportunity to preach the gospel to “Caesar’s household” (4:22), he also saw in the preaching of the gospel a reason for his release, through the prayers of his readers, “and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” (v. 19b) Much could be written on these few words. Paul often couches a lot of theological truth, even in passing, as it were. It is important to be reminded though, that the Holy Spirit is “of Christ.” The Spirit serves not to glorify Himself, but to glorify Christ. The character of the Spirit is the same as Christ’s. The Spirit does nothing contrary to Christ. The fruit of the Spirit is the very image of Christ perfected in us. Anyone who has Christ has all of the Spirit, just as they have all of Christ. There are no more two classes of people with respect to the Spirit anymore than there are two classes of Christians.

It was also Paul’s “earnest expectation and hope” that he would not be ashamed, but rather that he would have boldness so that Christ would be magnified in his life-whether in living or dying (v. 20 Cf. Rom. 14:8; Eph. 6:19-20). It was for the same reason that he could be content with his circumstances, because the main thing was that Christ was preached (v. 18). This is what brought him joy. There is a good question to ask ourselves today. Does the preaching of Christ bring us joy? This is a good heart test. Does the preaching and magnification of Christ bring you joy? “For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” (v. 21) Paul was truly in love with the Lord. Living meant fruitful labour for his Lord and his kingdom (v. 22). However, to die was to be in his physical presence for all eternity (v. 23). Of course the choice was not his to make, but the Lord’s.

However, before leaving this passage it is also important to note that Paul was in complete harmony with the Lord concerning what we call “the intermediate state.” To die meant he would be with Christ immediately, that is why this was so appealing to him. Just as Christ promised to the sinner on the cross-“Today you will be with Me in paradise.” (Lk. 23: 43) “We are confident, yes, well-pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord.” (II Cor. 5:8) How then can any entertain that demonic popish monstrosity of purgatory? It is nothing but a sinful edifice to fallen man’s desire to postulate that there is ultimately something he can do to earn his acceptance. However, this truth also presses upon us the importance of pleading with people while they live, knowing that there is no second chance. This brings us back to our reason for living-that in whatever we do, Christ would be glorified.

This also poses a question for us today. Do we awake with the joy of knowing we have one more day to magnify our blessed redeemer, brother, and closest friend? I know that this is not always the case for me, and it brings tears to me to admit this truth. It is sometimes said that only those who have faced their own mortality can truly live. Perhaps, for the Christian, the only way to truly live, is to desire to be with Christ more than anything else in life. Maybe this is what makes those who give their all, to give their all. However, there is another reason Paul gives for remaining in this world-it afforded him the opportunity to serve the church. In the end, Paul was confident that this was the Lord’s plan for him-so that he might labour for their “progress and joy of faith.” (v. 25) There is that word again-joy! Is this what we are pursuing in our faith? Paul thought it should be.

Joy and rejoicing was what Paul had in view as he anticipated visiting his friends again. I must say that this is something I have rarely heard, at least in Reformed and Presbyterian circles. When we have an opportunity to gather together with the saints, is it for joy and rejoicing? When we make a call, or log on to the internet, does it bring us joy to meet and greet another follower of Jesus Christ? In humility, Paul will go on to ask his friends to fulfill his joy, “by being like-minded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.” (2:2) Clearly it is something we have to put our minds to. It is sad to see how far we are from this ideal. I’m not sure how high this ranks when we think of our sanctification. Something tells me if we saw it as part of our sanctification, which it is, things might be different. “In Your presence is fullness of joy; At Your right hand are pleasures forevermore.” (Ps. 16:11)

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