Text: Philippians 1:18-20
Sometimes we can be hopeful of something, but unsure about whether it may happen. That’s perhaps how some of you feel about the prospect of your loved ones coming to know Christ. Hopeful, but not certain. That’s how Paul felt about his release from being a prisoner of Rome. Compare 1:25-26 and 2:23.
Even an apostle can’t be certain about the future. He should have got one of the prophetic friends to give him a direct revelation. In all seriousness, if some Christians spent as much time concerned about the present as they do trying to figure out the future they would be much better off. You don’t need to know the future to in order to know how best to live for Christ today.
And this has been proven by the previous verses we’ve looked at. Paul didn’t foresee how his imprisonment would further the gospel, but it had. As long as he lived for Christ as Christ expected him to, he could fulfill God’s will for his life every day.
Having shown the Philippians that everything that had happened had resulted in extending the kingdom of God, Paul anticipates the question that may have been in some of their hearts, ‘well what’s going to happen if Nero decides to kill you?’
I. THE FUTURE AWARENESS OF JOY – v18b “I will rejoice”
Paul makes it clear that the future could pose no threat to his joy. Can you say that? Can you say as you look into an unknown future, I will rejoice? Paul was assured of continued joy in his heart.
Why was He so sure? Because He continues “For I know…”. And beloved, it’s the things we know that enable us to face difficulty. Theologically impoverished Christians are more likely to struggle in life. Yes, there are other variables that can cause a knowledgable Christian to be found out, such as unbelief and backsliding, but all things being equal, the one who knows the Word best will do best.
This is the marriage of knowledge and experience. Knowledge will govern his experience. And it’s important for us to keep in mind that knowledge for the sake of knowledge is mere pride, but we garner knowledge in order to govern our experience.
If you are here today and you know Christ promises you joy, that He desires you to have joy, and that the fruit of the Spirit is joy – a fruit that the Spirit wishes to manifest in you life, then whatever you’re facing you ought to have the future awareness of joy!
II. THE FOUNDATIONAL ASSURANCE OF JOY – v19 “For I know…”
But Paul goes on to give the specific reason why he was so assured of joy. It wasn’t just that Christ promises joy to his people, it was more than that.
Just as Christ was magnified in the furtherance of the gospel in Paul’s imprisonment, so Paul knew he could rejoice in whatever was in the future as well, because he was confident that Christ would be magnified in him and through him in the future. And this wasn’t him merely being dogged and determined to rejoice no matter what he felt, but his knowledge gave him the confidence that he would have reason to rejoice in the future. He was sure Christ would be glorified through him regardless of the particulars of the circumstances.
Christ and his cause was the reason for all of Paul’s joy. Notice his confidence in the grace of God. Paul ‘knows’ this. How can he be so certain? What is true in what he said to them, also applies to himself 1:6. His entire life was testimony to the power of grace and he knew God wouldn’t abandon him in this trial. To Paul, sufficient grace was predictable.
And what specifically was it Paul knew? “that this shall turn to my salvation” i.e. ‘this will lead to salvation for me’ “salvation” = deliverance.
So many commentators are divided on understanding this concept of salvation here. Salvation from death, imprisonment, eternal judgment, etc.
Paul’s fear was not that he might die. v20 makes it clear that he sought this deliverance whether it resulted in life or death. This salvation then must be understood to refer to his own perseverance in faith: the magnification of Christ, not his own freedom or even his life. but that he might not stand for Christ the way he ought. That he might be overcome with fear and rob Christ of the glory when given an opportunity to take a stand for Him before the authorities. Because a humble yet bold testimony brings great glory to the Lord.
Paul here may have been using the idea of salvation and deliverance in this context a bit like Job, “Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him: but I will maintain mine own ways before him. He also shall be my salvation: for an hypocrite shall not come before him.” Job 13:15-16
How some of you need to learn this. To rest more confidently in the sufficiency of God’s grace for your circumstances. The child of God is never a victim. Were those Christians who gave their bodies to the burning stake victims or victors? They were victors, and you ought to look into the future with bold confidence, not in your own strength, but believing in the strength of the Lord.
III. THE FRATERNAL AGENTS OF JOY
Paul writes to a body of believers who he wants to contribute to his certainty of continued joy. He is convinced that he ‘will’ rejoice, but he suggests in v19 that the Philippians were going to help him.
i) Their Action – “prayer” = supplication i.e. specific prayers of the Philippians.
While it is not true doctrinally speaking, Paul shows no fear in attributing the supply of the Spirit directly to the prayers of God’s people. One would argue that it’s the Lord that gives the Spirit and He gives it sovereignly, and that’s true. But in Christian practice, Paul identifies the fact that supplicatory prayer actually works to supply the Spirit of God. Do you have that confidence in prayer? “your prayer” i.e. the prayer of the church. The church body were praying for Paul, and Paul expected them to pray for him.
Beloved, I want to first of all reflect my sincere appreciation for those of you who attend the public seasons of prayer. Some of the times have been tremendous blessings to my own heart. So much of the prayers reflect wisdom, sincerity, and genuine desire. And I want you to know this is a ministry is something most of us can enter into. I’ve been a Christian almost 13 years and I’ve always attended the prayer meeting. When the kids came along we would take it in turns, but always at the prayer meeting.
And Paul valued the public seasons of prayer conducted by the church. But not only on those occasions, but what about our prayer times in public worship. Do you pray with me as we lead from the opening prayer? Do you value those minutes we give in prayerful worship to God? Do we believe that as we pray together God grants a supply of the Spirit for our seasons of worship? Perhaps it’s your lack of understanding and belief in the efficacy of public prayer that you don’t see why you should take an extra 30 minutes to join with us at 5:30pm?
ii) Their Appeal – Paul was confident in God’s deliverance on his behalf, which he reflects in the words “According to my earnest expectation and my hope” but he leaves the prayer requests he desires with the Philippians as well. Negatively – “in nothing I shall be ashamed” Positively – “but that with all boldness”
His sense of shame was directly connected to God’s gracious appointment to defend the gospel (1:7,16). He would be ashamed if he did or said anything that was not consistent with the proclamation of Jesus Christ. So his requirement was boldness, and that’s what he’s wanting the Philippians to pray for.
Peter and John: Had it – Acts 4:13 Needed it – 4:29. Obtained it – 4:31
iii) Their Answer – “the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” = the Spirit himself filling the heart and life of the believer inevitably fills that believer with holy boldness and courage.
Now, we must be careful here. Because an external appearance of boldness and courage can be deceiving. I’ve known bold and brash people who were cowards, and timid people who were bold for Christ. But it appears to me that Paul’s acknowledgement of their prayers depicts a man who is not dependant upon his confidence, but confident in what he depended upon, namely God and His willingness to answer His people.
And since it’s the Spirit of Jesus Christ, Paul further reflects the knowledge he had that he was not alone. The presence of the Spirit is the presence of the Spirit of Christ. He would face his trial as the three Hebrew children where the pre-incarnate Christ stood in the furnace with them so that there wasn’t so much as the smell of smoke upon them. It’s this same presence Paul seeks for. Christ was the most bold and courageous man that the world ever saw, and it’s His Spirit Paul needs. And it’s that same Spirit we need to be faithful witnesses for Christ. That “Christ shall be magnified in my body whether it be by life, or by death.”
Close – One thing was the basis of Paul’s joy…Christ and the glory of His name. It wasn’t about personal comfort, ease, or reputation, life is all about Christ.
The reason some of you lack real Christian joy is because you have a divided heart. You love carnal things too much. Some of those things there’s no harm in, but you love it too much. Your love is divided. If the Lord asked you to choose between that carnal pleasure and Christ, you would fight for your Christian right to maintain both, which proves that you’re compromised.
I’m not saying Christ wants to rob us of everything we enjoy, no. He just wants Him to be our chief joy, and He constantly works in His people to obtain that position. And you know you love something too much when God takes one of your loves and you fall into a state of unconsolable misery. Why? Your heart is divided.
But when Christ has the chief place without threat of rivals, joy flows into our hearts unhindered. Perhaps you’re here this morning and you think this is all crazy. No man imprisoned like Paul would be so resolutely joyful. You say that only because you’re ignorant of the grace of God. Every Christian here this morning, while they may not all possess it, they all understand the source of Paul’s strength and joy. His life is not a confusion to the Christian, it is a challenge.