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Grappling (Phil. 1:19-26)

Lesson Six

Victor M. Eskew




A.   Paul has told the concerned Philippians about the positive nature of his imprisonment.  The positive was that the gospel was being spread far and wide.


B.    He now turns his attention to the final outcome of his imprisonment.  He sincerely believes that he will be released.


C.   There is a slight possibility that he would not be released. 

1.     In fact, he knows there is a chance that he could face the sentence of death.

2.     In this section, Paul grapples with his feelings about living and dying for Christ.


D.   Outline


i.               PAUL’S DESIRE (Phil. 1:19-20)

ii.              PAUL’S DISCORD (Phil. 1:21-24)

iii.            PAUL’S DEFINITENESS (Phil. 1:25-26)


I.              PAUL DESIRE (Phil. 1:19-20)


A.   Assistance (Phil. 1:19)


For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.


1.     Turn to my salvation

a.     Salvation

1)     Strong (4991):  rescue or safety         :- deliver

2)     Thayer:  deliverance, preservation, safety, salvation, deliverance from the molestation of enemies

b.    All of the events that had happened to Paul had furthered the gospel.  He now asserts that he knows they will turn (to turn out, result in, to be the outcome) to his salvation.

c.    Stewart sets forth four different views about this salvation:

1)     Release from prison

2)     Vindication from his detractors, that is, those who sought to add afflictions to his bonds

3)     Eternal salvation

4)     Boldness in court that would lead to his release

2.     Two avenues of assistance

a.     The prayers of the Philippians

1)     Paul was confident that the Philippians’ prayers would aid his situation.

2)     James 5:16


Confess your faults one to another, and pray one for another, that ye may be healed.  The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man availeth much.


3)     Paul’s desire was that

a)     Doors of utterance would be opened (Col. 4:3)

b)     To speak boldly (Eph. 6:19)

c)     To speak rightly, as he ought to speak (Eph. 6:20; Col. 4:4)

b.    The provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ

1)     Supply

a)     Strong (2024):  contribution, comes from 2023 meaning to furnish besides, that is, fully supply, (figuratively) aid or contribute

b)     Thayer:  a supplying, supply

2)     We need to remember that Paul was an apostle of Jesus Christ.

a)     He had the power of the Holy Spirit given to him just like the twelve had received (Acts 2:1-4; II Cor. 11:5).

b)     He said that “the signs of an apostle” had been wrought among the Corinthians (II Cor. 12:12).

c)     These men had been promised a Comforter (John 14:16, 26; 15:26; 16:7).


But the Comforter, which is the Holy Ghost, whom the Father will sent in my name, he shall teach you all things, and bring all things to your remembrance, whatsoever I have said unto you.


-        Comforter

+   Strong (3875):  an intercessor, consoler  :- advocate

+   Thayer:  summoned, called to one’s side, one who pleads another’s case before a judge, counsel for defense, an advocate.

-        The Holy Spirit was given to the apostles to assist them in the very situation in which Paul found himself in Rome (Mark 13:9-11).


But take heed to yourselves:  for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten:  and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake; for a testi-mony against them.  And the gospel must first be published among all nations.  But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate:  but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye:  for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Ghost.


-        NOTE:  The Holy Spirit is not promised to us as our Comfort-er.  We do not need this ability.  We have the Word of God in revealed form to argue our case.

3)     QUESTION:  If Paul had the power of the Holy Spirit to speak, why did he need the prayers of the Philippians?

a)     It would still take courage to speak.

b)     Paul had the choice to speak or not to speak.  The Holy Spirit did not override the free-will of the prophet (I Cor. 14:32).


And the spirits of the prophets are subject to the prophets.


B.    Aspiration (Phil. 1:20)


According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.


1.     Anticipation

a.     Paul uses two words to express his anticipation of what he desired to happen when he went back before the Roman officials.

b.    Earnest expectation

1)     Strong (603):  composed of two words:  “the head” and “watching.”  Thus, the meaning is to watch with outstretched head, intense expectation

2)     Thayer:  anxious and persistent expectation

c.    Hope

1)     Strong (1680):  anticipate, usually with pleasure

2)     Thayer:  expectation of hope

2.     ABCs of Paul’s expectation

a.     Ashamed not

1)     Strong (153):  disgrace, to feel shame

2)     Thayer:  to suffer with shame, make ashamed

b.    Bold

1)     Definition

a)     Strong (3954):  all out spokenness, frankness, boldness

b)     Thayer:  freedom in speaking, unreservedness in speech, openly, frankly, without concealment, free and fearless confidence, cheerful courage (See Daniel 3:16-18).


Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, answered and said to the king, O Nebuchadnezzar, we are not careful to answer thee in this matter.  If it be so, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us out of thine hand, O king.  But if not, be it known unto thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods, nor worship the golden image which thou hast set up.


2)     Osiek:  “Paul virtually ignores his shameful situation (as a prisoner) caught up in the honor of Christ that is being won through his bold speech and that will come through no matter what the outcome for himself” (as quoted by Stewart, 195).

c.    Christ magnified

1)     Magnified

a)     Strong (3170):  to make great, that is, increase

b)     Thayer:  to make great

2)     Paul used his body in such a way that Christ would be enlarged on the earth.

a)     Those who had not heard of Jesus were educated by Paul.

b)     Some who heard Paul would be added to the Lord by obedience to the gospel.

3)     Paul knew he could magnify Christ in both life and death.

a)     This is the first indication we have that Paul realized that there was a chance that he might receive a negative sentence.

b)     Magnify in life – through preaching, good works, and a good example

c)     Magnify in death – his martyrdom would ignite the preaching of the gospel much like his imprisonment had

d)    Romans 14:8


For whether we live, we live unto the Lord; and whether we die, we die unto the Lord: whether we live therefore, or die, we are the Lord’s.


II.            PAUL’S DISCORD (Phil. 1:21-24)


A.   Paul’s Position (Phil. 1:21-22a)


For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labor.



a.     Cloud:  His life is surrounded by, filled up with, and summed up in Christ.

b.    Michael:  Christ is the object, the motive, the inspiration, the goal of all he does.

2.     And to die is gain.

a.     Gain

1)     Strong (2771):  gain

2)     Thayer:  gain, advantage

b.    How would death be gain?

1)     Merely being able to escape from the tribulations of life?

2)     Enjoying the eternal reward that awaits in the hereafter?

3)     Being back in the presence of those who have gone before?

4)     To be in the very presence of Christ?

a)     Philippians 1:23


…having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ, which is far better.


b)     II Corinthians 5:8


We are confident, I say, and willing rather to be absent from the body, and to be present with the Lord.


3.     Living for Christ involves the bearing of fruit through one’s labor.

a.     Two verses:

1)     Fruit:  winning converts (Rom. 1:13)

2)     Labor:  missionary activity (Rom. 15:18)

b.    If Paul were released, he would continue to labor and bear fruit as he had always done.


B.    Paul’s Perplexity (Phil. 1:22b-24)


…yet what I shall choose I wot not.  For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:  nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.


1.     Paul had spoken of living and dying.  As he contemplated both options, he grappled with which one he would really choose.

a.     Choose

1)     Strong (138):  to take for oneself, prefer

2)     Thayer:  to take for oneself, to prefer, choose

b.    Some question why Paul would reason like this.

1)     Was he indicating ways that he could be involved in the outcome of his end:  suicide? bribery?  etc.?

2)     Was he speaking hypothetically?

3)     Did he understand the role that he played in his defense as he spoke to the Roman court?

a)     One type of defense would bring life.

b)     Another type of defense would bring death.

2.     As thought about these choices, he said:  For I am in a strait betwixt two…

a.     Strait

1)     Strong (4912):  to compress, perplex

2)     Thayer:  to press on every side

b.    It was as if Paul were walking through a pass with walls on both sides.  As he walked, the walls continually narrowed until his arms and body were squeezed on both sides.

3.     Two options:

a.     Paul’s need


…having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better.


1)     Desire

a)     Strong (1939):  a longing

b)     Thayer:  desire, craving, longing

2)     Depart

a)     Strong (360):  depart

b)     Thayer:  to unloose…to depart from life

c)     Loosing or untying would be a fit imagery for a tentmaker (Acts 18:3).  In death, we lay aside the tent of our body (2 Cor. 5:1; 2 Pet. 1:13-14).


For we know that, if our earthly house of this tabernacle were dissolved, we have a building of God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.


3)     Paul longed to depart so he could be with Christ.

a)     Some have thought that Paul is teaching that the moment a person dies, he is judged, and goes to either heaven or hell.  This does not seem plausible since judgment is said to take place on a certain day and all nations will be gathered before the judgment seat of Christ (Rom. 2:6; Matt. 2 5:31-32).

b)     Paul knows that the ultimate end after death for the faithful is to be with Christ (John 14:1-3).

c)     LESSON:  Do Paul’s words trouble us?  We make every effort to extend life.  Barnes suggests:  “It may be that our maddening fight to hold on to life is an indication of our lack of spiritual depth” (Barnes, 54).

d)    LESSON:  Here we have an argument against the doctrine of “soul-sleep” as taught by the Jehovah’s Witnesses.


“If there is no conscious existence after death, it was foolish for Paul to desire to depart (die) and be with Christ.  If we know nothing after death, and will not see Jesus until the resurrection, Paul could not have hastened his being with the Lord by dying.  The doctrines of soul-sleeping and annihilation just do not fit Paul’s teachings” (Fields as quoted by Stewart, 203).


4)     Paul says that being with Christ is “far better.”

a)     Far

1)     Strong (3123):  more (in greater degree)

2)     Thayer:  more, to a greater degree, much

b)     Better

1)     Strong (2909):  better, nobler

2)     Thayer:  more useful, more advantageous, more excellent

c)     Some translate this as:  “…which is very much better.”  Caffin writes:  “’He piles up comparatives, as if unable to find words capable of expressing the glory of his hope’” (Stewart, 204).

b.    Philippian’s necessity (Phil. 1:24)


Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.


1)     Paul’s need to depart and be with Christ is now put in contrast with that which was necessary for the Philippians

a)     Needful

-        Strong (316):  necessary

-        Thayer:  necessary, what is required by the circumstances

2)     To abide in the flesh

a)     Definition

-        Strong (1961):  to stay over, remain

-        Thayer:  to stay with, to tarry still, to abide, continue

b)     LESSON:  A person might be left in this world longer than he wants to stay because of what he can do for someone else.

-        Elijah did not want Jezebel to take his life, but he pleaded for the Lord to take it (I King 19:4).  Yet, God had errands that he needed Elijah to complete (I Kings 19:15-16).

-        God may have more for a grandparent or a spouse left by his/her mate to accomplish.


III.       PAUL’S DEFINITENESS (Phil. 1:25-26)


A.   Paul’s Confidence (Phil. 1:25)


And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith.


1.     Paul ambivalence turns to confidence.

a.     Confidence

1)     Strong (3982):  to assent (to evidence or authority)

2)     Thayer:  to be persuaded, to trust, have confidence

b.    Some believe that Paul may have been told of the outcome by God.  Others believe that Paul is assured of what he will do at his trial:  not be ashamed and be bold in the presentation of his defense.  This is being his release.

2.     I know that I shall abide and continue with you.

a.     Abide

1)     Strong (3306):  to stay

2)     Thayer:  to remain, abide, not depart, continue to be present

b.    Continue

1)     Strong (4839):  to remain in company, that is, still live

2)     Thayer:  to abide together with, to continue to live together

3.     …for your furtherance and joy of faith

a.     Furtherance

1)     Definition:  Strong (4297):  progress, advancement

2)     Paul could assist the saints at Philippi with their advancement in sanctification:  correspondence, messengers, and personal visits.

b.    Joy

1)     Definition:  Strong (5479):  cheerfulness, that is, calm delight

2)     Their joy fits hand in hand with their spiritual progress.  “As one grows close to the Lord in his attitude, actions, and outlook, his life will have more happiness and peace of mind” (Stewart, 207).


B.    Philippian’s Celebration (Phil. 1:26)


That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.


1.     The Philippians would rejoice when the learned of the release of the apostle and know that he would be able to be with them again.

a.     Rejoicing

1)     Strong (2745):  a boast

2)     Thayer:  that in which one glories or can glory, a glory or boasting

b.    Their glory would be directed toward Jesus Christ

2.     Their rejoicing would be “more abundant” “for me by my coming to you again.”

a.     More abundant

1)     Strong (4052):  to superabound, be superfluous, to cause to superabound or excel

2)     Thayer:  to exist or be at hand in abundance, to abound, overflow

b.    The reasons they would “superabound” in joy:

1)     Their prayers on Paul’s behalf would have been answered.  God’s providence would be working on their behalf.

2)     The one they loved was returned to them.

3)     Paul labors among them could continue.