Why so confident?
Philippians 1:18-26
Paul is confident—no matter what—Christ will be magnified, whether by fruitful ministry or faithful death; therefore, Paul keeps rejoicing.
Published December 11th, 2021; Updated December 29th, 2021
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Initial Questions
Devotional Reflections
Exegetical Remarks
A Bonus Song
Provisional Phrase & Translation
Initial Questions
How can Paul be so confident in the face of admitted uncertainty (1:22–24; 2:23)? What deliverance (σωτηρία, 1:19) is he confident of ? In response to these questions, I will share some devotional reflections based upon the small exegetical study that follows it (for the interested reader).
Devotional Reflections
Even though Paul was uncertain about his release (2:23), he was confident about his deliverance/salvation (σωτηρία, 1:19). Are these the same thing? Well, after considering the passage (see below), I believe that the deliverance Paul has in mind is spiritual (divinely preserved faithfulness to the end) which he anticipates includes his physical deliverance as well: Paul's certainty comes not from his lineage (3:4–6) nor from his righteousness (3:9), not from his strength (4:13) nor from that of his friends Timothy or Epaphroditus (2:19–30); rather, the certainty Paul has about his physical deliverance from imprisonment (1:25–26; 2:24) is anchored firmly in the magnifying (1:20–21) of his Savior (σωτήρ, 3:20)! Paul's foremost desire is to glorify Christ by living faithfully through whatever lies ahead (3:12–16), and in that light, his deliverance in 1:19 is first a way of speaking about the Lord working in him unto that end (1:6; 2:13), making Paul an example of 2:12. D. A. Carson writes, "Paul’s driving concern is not that he should be released from jail or that, if he must die, he should have a relatively painless departure, but that he should do nothing of which he would some day be ashamed" (Basics, 28). The reason then that Paul is confident he will come to them soon is that he believes this will most magnify Christ—notice that he understands his coming to them for their joy (1:25) will result in boasting/glorying in Christ (1:26). Paul intends to magnify Christ by being faithful to the end (1:20–26; 3:7–21), and he enjoins us to imitate him in that (3:17). Therefore, if we desire to have such firm confidence, let us anchor our hope not in ourselves, nor in others, nor in our removal from our circumstances (though God may grant it), but in Christ magnified (cf. Heb 6:19–20). This was the ground of Paul's joy (1:18), his aim for Philippian joy (1:25), and the reason for his repeated exhortations that we rejoice (2:18; 3:1; 4:4). In the words of John Piper, "God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in him." Rejoice and be glad because he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Christ Jesus (1:6; 2:13), the day for which we gladly live and long as citizens of Heaven (1:27–30; 3:20–21)!
Exegetical Remarks
When Paul says that τοῦτό μοι ἀποβήσεται εἰς σωτηρίαν (this will turn out for my deliverance/salvation, 1:19), we need to ask about the referents of (1) οὗτος (this) and (2) σωτηρία (deliverance/salvation). 1) Regarding the referent of οὗτος, the most logical options are (a) the τούτῳ of 1:18, which refers to Christ proclaimed, or (b) the τὰ κατ’ ἐμὲ of 1:12 (or as a general reference to Paul's present circumstances), which refers to the things about Paul—the set of circumstances he is in, including his imprisonment. On the whole, (b) is preferable; thus, Paul is confident that his present circumstances will turn out for his deliverance (see Fee, 131; Harmon, 132; O'Brien, 109; cf. Silva, 69). This leads to our second question, what deliverance is in view? 2) Regarding the referent of σωτηρία, generally speaking the options are (a) physical deliverance (i.e., from prison) or (b) spiritual deliverance (i.e., salvation on the last day). If option (a) is taken, then Paul is confident in some kind of physical deliverance, whether than means release from imprisonment (cf. Rom 15:30–31; 2 Tim 3:11) or freedom from bondage to sinful flesh (cf. Rom 7:24–25; not in a Gnostic sense [!]). If option (b) is taken, then σωτηρία carries eschatological sense of ultimate salvation on the last day. In favor of physical deliverance, (1) Paul has already referred to his δεσμός (imprisonment/bonds) 4 × leading up to this verse, such that deliverance may naturally call release from prison to mind; (2) Paul seems confident that he will remain with them and visit them (Phil 1:25–26), signifying confidence in a physical release; (3) Paul later states that he is persuaded by the Lord that he will come to them quickly (2:24); and (4) Paul and Silas are delivered from imprisonment in Philipi in Acts 16:11–40, after the conversion of Lydia (in whose house they stayed) who no doubt prayed for their release and received them gladly when they were released (Acts 16:40). Since Lydia was (in all likelihood) one of the original members of the Philippian church, we are warranted to think that deliverance is part of the Philippian church's collective memory; thus, physical deliverance is a natural reading for the original audience. These contextual arguments need consideration for they are weighty. On this reading, the Philippians' prayer and the support from the Spirit would function as means to the deliverance (as request and answer) for the Lord's turning the hearts of kings and leaders to release Paul (cf. Prov 21:1). In favor of spiritual deliverance, (1) Paul uses σωτηρία in Phil 1:28; 2:12—both of which point to eschatological salvation; (2) the salvation of Phil 1:28 is comparable to Paul's (1:19) because Paul was being afflicted by opponents motivated by selfish ambition (1:15, 17) just as the Philippians were faced with opponents (1:28); (3) this final "last day" salvation fits with the way Paul prayed that God would finish his work in the Philippians at ἡμέρας Χριστοῦ Ἰησοῦ (the day of Christ Jesus, 1:6, 10; 2:16); (4) the work that God finishes probably corresponds to the work that he does in them (2:13) with respect to their σωτηρία (2:12), and since the σωτηρία of 1:28 is an outworking of "standing firm" (στήκετε, 1:27; 4:1), the σωτηρία of 1:28 and 2:12 appears to be the salvation of one faithful to the end; (5) Paul describes himself as pressing on, striving to be faithful to the end in Phil 3:12–21; (6) the result of that striving in Phil 3:7–8 is gaining Christ (κέρδος/κερδαίνω), which are the only other uses of that word-family after 1:21; (7) since Paul urges the Philippians to imitate him (3:17) and practice the things they have seen him doing (4:9), it is difficult to construe his σωτηρία as different than theirs in 1:28 and 2:12; (8) because Phil 1:19 alludes to Job 13:16 and the salvation in that text appears eschatological, it would be odd for Paul's use not have that flavor of final vindication/deliverance as well. These arguments are also weighty. On this reading, the Philippians' prayer and the support from the Spirit would function as means to sustain, empower, and encourage Paul to stand firm faithful to the end. In this case, the prayer is asking the Lord to work in Paul. While the arguments for spiritual deliverance/salvation are more numerous and make good sense of the term σωτηρία in the context of Philippians, it is also true that Paul seems confident about physical deliverance (1:25–26; 2:23–24). A closer look at the context of Job 13, to which Paul alludes, may help us. The passage comes from the middle of Job's first reply to Zophar (Job 12–14). In Job 13:3, Job determines to make his case before the Almighty, before God, because he is seeking vindication from the charges brought against him (by his friends no less[!]). In Job 13:13–19, Job indicates that his confidence in his earthly vindication from the charges brought against him is grounded in his confidence in God (Job 13:15). Job 13:15a says, "Even if he slays me, I will hope in him" (NET2; see also KJV, NIV 2011, ESV, against RSV; see NET tn37 and Andersen, 179–80; Ash, 167). In other words, Job knows that it is better to fall into the Lord's hand than the hand of men (2 Sam 24:14); he knows the Lord of all the earth will do right (Gen 18:25); therefore, Job anchors his vindication before his friends in his ultimate salvation before the Almighty (moving from the lesser to the greater). This is what Paul does in Phil 1:18–26. Paul anchors his confidence for physical deliverance (1:25–26; 2:23–24) in his certain hope (ἐλπίς, 1:20; cf. יָחַל in Job 13:15) that—no matter what—Christ will be magnified. In Paul's understanding, when the Lord of all the earth does right, Christ is magnified, and Paul is firmly persuaded that what would magnify Christ most in his present moment is physical deliverance for the glory of Christ (1:26) in the joy of the Philippians (1:25)—just as Christ magnified fuels and occurs in Paul's continued rejoicing (1:18–20). Therefore, on my reading, the deliverance may include both physical deliverance and spiritual deliverance inasmuch as the latter seems to include the former in Paul's mind.
A Bonus Song
The song "Though You Slay Me" by Shane & Shane comes from Job 13:15, and I encourage you to watch this version of it here (you will not regret it): https://www.desiringgod.org/articles/a-song-for-the-suffering-with-john-piper.
Provisional Phrase & Translation
Philippians 1:18-26
Delivered Either Way
Delivered Either Way
(...) Ἀλλὰ καὶ χαρήσομαι,
(...) But I also will rejoice,
Main Assertion (19–26 support this)
οἶδα γὰρ ὅτι τοῦτό μοι ἀποβήσεται εἰς σωτηρίαν
for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance
Grounds for 18b (Sure Deliverance)
διὰ τῆς ὑμῶν δεήσεως
through your supplication
Means of 19a (Prayer and the Spirit's effective work)
καὶ ἐπιχορηγίας τοῦ πνεύματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ
and support from the Spirit of Jesus Christ
κατὰ τὴν ἀποκαραδοκίαν καὶ ἐλπίδα μου,
according to my eager expectation and hope:
Elaboration on Why Paul is Sure in 19a
ὅτι ἐν οὐδενὶ
that in nothing
Scope of Shame [negative]
will I be put to shame,
ἀλλʼ ἐν πάσῃ παρρησίᾳ ὡς πάντοτε καὶ νῦν
but in each opening—as always, so also now—
Scope of Magnifying [positive]
μεγαλυνθήσεται Χριστὸς ἐν τῷ σώματί μου,
will Christ be magnified in my body,
εἴτε διὰ ζωῆς εἴτε διὰ θανάτου.
whether by life or by death.
Means of 20b–e (merism?)
Ἐμοὶ γὰρ τὸ ζῆν Χριστὸς καὶ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν κέρδος.
For to me to live is Christ and to die is gain.
Ground for 20f [22–26 elaborate on this]
How Christ is Magnified Either Way
How Christ is Magnified Either Way
εἰ δὲ τὸ ζῆν ἐν σαρκί,
Now, if [I am] to live in the flesh,
Condition of 22b
τοῦτό μοι καρπὸς ἔργου,
this [would result in] the fruit of labor for me,
Living Magnifies Christ, see 25c–26b
καὶ τί αἱρήσομαι οὐ γνωρίζω.
yet what I will choose I do not know,
Concession of Paul's Internal Struggle
συνέχομαι δὲ ἐκ τῶν δύο,
but I am torn between the two,
τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχων εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι καὶ σὺν Χριστῷ εἶναι,
because I have the longing to depart and be with Christ,
23b–24a Ground 22c–23a, providing the reasons Paul is torn: for him deliverance from his flesh to be w/Christ is better (cf. Rom 7:24); for them deliverance from prison is better.
πολλῷ [γὰρ] μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον•
for that is certainly better,
τὸ δὲ ἐπιμένειν [ἐν] τῇ σαρκὶ ἀναγκαιότερον διʼ ὑμᾶς.
but to remain in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.
καὶ τοῦτο πεποιθὼς
And because I am persuaded of this,
Reason for 25b based on their need of 24
οἶδα ὅτι μενῶ καὶ παραμενῶ πᾶσιν ὑμῖν
I know that I will stay and reside with you all
Paul is convinced of his release to labor, 22a–b
εἰς τὴν ὑμῶν προκοπὴν καὶ χαρὰν τῆς πίστεως,
for your progress and joy of faith,
Goal/Purpose of Paul's Christ-exalting labor
ἵνα τὸ καύχημα ὑμῶν περισσεύῃ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ
in order that your boast might abound in Christ Jesus
Ultimate Goal, Christ Magnified in Believer's Abundant, Shared Joy
ἐν ἐμοὶ διὰ τῆς ἐμῆς παρουσίας πάλιν πρὸς ὑμᾶς.
with me during my next visit to you.
Echo of Job13:16. τοῦτό μοι ἀποβήσεται εἰς σωτηρίαν draws upon Job 13:16 (LXX): καὶ τοῦτό μοι ἀποβήσεται εἰς σωτηρίαν οὐ γὰρ ἐναντίον αὐτοῦ δόλος εἰσελεύσεται See Hays, 2o–24; O'Brien, 108–12. E.g., Hays writes, "Whereas Job, seeing through a glass darkly, endured his suffering with obdurate puzzlement, Paul, suffering as an apostle of Christ, interprets his suffering as a participation in the sufferings of the crucified Christ and thus finds himself able to rejoice in the midst of adversity. Job’s tenacious assertion of his own rectitude becomes in Paul’s mouth a triumphant affirmation of trust in the power and faithfulness of the God who raised Jesus from the dead" ( Echoes , 22).
Τί γάρ; πλὴν ὅτι παντὶ τρόπῳ, εἴτε προφάσει εἴτε ἀληθείᾳ, Χριστὸς καταγγέλλεται, καὶ ἐν τούτῳ χαίρω. Ἀλλὰ καὶ χαρήσομαι,
οἶδα γὰρ ὅτι τοῦτό μοι ἀποβήσεται εἰς σωτηρίαν διὰ τῆς ὑμῶν δεήσεως καὶ ἐπιχορηγίας τοῦ πνεύματος Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ
κατὰ τὴν ἀποκαραδοκίαν καὶ ἐλπίδα μου, ὅτι ἐν οὐδενὶ αἰσχυνθήσομαι ἀλλʼ ἐν πάσῃ παρρησίᾳ ὡς πάντοτε καὶ νῦν μεγαλυνθήσεται Χριστὸς ἐν τῷ σώματί μου, εἴτε διὰ ζωῆς εἴτε διὰ θανάτου.
Ἐμοὶ γὰρ τὸ ζῆν Χριστὸς καὶ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν κέρδος.
εἰ δὲ τὸ ζῆν ἐν σαρκί, τοῦτό μοι καρπὸς ἔργου, καὶ τί αἱρήσομαι οὐ γνωρίζω.
συνέχομαι δὲ ἐκ τῶν δύο, τὴν ἐπιθυμίαν ἔχων εἰς τὸ ἀναλῦσαι καὶ σὺν Χριστῷ εἶναι, πολλῷ [γὰρ] μᾶλλον κρεῖσσον•
τὸ δὲ ἐπιμένειν [ἐν] τῇ σαρκὶ ἀναγκαιότερον διʼ ὑμᾶς.
καὶ τοῦτο πεποιθὼς οἶδα ὅτι μενῶ καὶ παραμενῶ πᾶσιν ὑμῖν εἰς τὴν ὑμῶν προκοπὴν καὶ χαρὰν τῆς πίστεως,
ἵνα τὸ καύχημα ὑμῶν περισσεύῃ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ ἐν ἐμοὶ διὰ τῆς ἐμῆς παρουσίας πάλιν πρὸς ὑμᾶς.
Andersen, Francis I. Job: An Introduction and Commentary . TOTC 14. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 1976. Ash, Christopher. Job: The Wisdom of the Cross . PW. Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2014, pp165–69. Carson, D. A. Basics for Believers: An Exposition of Philippians . Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1996, pp28–31. Fee, Gordon D. Paul’s Letter to the Philippians . NICNT. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1995, pp126–55. Hays, Richard B. Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul . New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989, pp20–24. Harmon, Matthew S. Philippians . Mentor Commentary. Fearn: Christian Focus, 2015, pp131–53. Motyer, J. Alec. Jesus Our Joy: The Message of Philippians . The Bible Speaks Today. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1983, pp82–91. O’Brien, Peter T. The Epistle to the Philippians: A Commentary on the Greek Text . NIGTC. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1991, pp107–41. Silva, Moisés. Philippians . 2nd ed. BECNT. Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2005, pp68–78.
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