Thursday, 22 December 2016
And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, Philippians 1:25
As noted in the previous verse, there is a hint of the overriding of the Spirit in Paul’s words. He may not be speaking as if he is fully aware of the matter in his human nature, and yet his words are being directed by the Spirit. This is evidenced by the fact that they are included in the pages of the Bible. There are other times where Paul spoke of the future as if he was certain of a matter, and yet his words were proven incorrect. This occurs when the narrative is speaking about what he is saying, and it is intended to show that he and the other apostles and prophets were not fully aware of the future in their humanity. And yet, when writing or prophesying, they were guided by the Spirit. It is an amazing thing to see unfold in Scripture!
In this feeling of surety which is both lacking in his humanity, and yet prophetic because of the prompting of the Spirit, he states, “And being confident of this…” In these words, he yields himself to the prompting which is from the Spirit. Again, this must be the case as the words are now included in Scripture. And yet, other scholars disagree and state that he is simply voicing a confidence which is one of continued uncertainty. Because of this, the next words have to be somewhat manipulated. He says, “I know that I shall remain and continue with you all.”
Albert Barnes states, “The word “know,” however, … is not to be pressed as denoting absolute necessity – for it appears from Philippians 1:27 and Philippians 2:17, that there was some ground for doubt whether he would live – but is to be taken in a popular sense, as denoting good courage, and an earnest hope that he would be permitted to live and visit them.” This is a possible explanation of Paul’s words, but it does not coincide with the conflict which he was struggling with. It was suddenly resolved with the words of this verse. Further, if Paul had instead died, the words which he wrote, as part of an epistle of doctrine to the Philippians, would have been proven false. Such would not be the case if it was inspired by the Spirit.
And so, in his confidence, he notes that he will continue with these disciples “for your progress and joy of faith.” It was necessary for their continued doctrinal education that he stay. The Spirit had so indicated it, and he came to realize that this was true. And in receiving this, it would strengthen their joy of faith. Faith is something we possess in varying measure. When our faith is weak, our joy in what our faith is directed to is weak. But when our faith is strong, our joy in what it is directed to is also strong.
If we are certain of the outcome of a presidential race, having faith that our candidate will win, we will be joyous in that fact. However, as the odds of probability drop, so will our level of joy in what lies ahead. Paul understood that he had not yet given the full measure of doctrinal knowledge out that would be necessary for full joy and confidence in the work of the Lord. And so, as led by the Spirit, he assured his audience (and thus us!) that he would continue on until that work was complete.
Life application: If the surety of our “joy of faith” is based on our knowledge of the work of Christ, and if that knowledge is only imparted to us in the pages of Scripture, then why on earth would we not want to know this marvelous body of doctrine completely and perfectly? How sad it is that Christians waffle in their faith because they are not well-grounded in the word of that faith! Whose fault is it then when we struggle with life’s uncertainties? Read the word! Study to show yourself approved!
Lord God, we all have varying levels of faith. Some of us are weak in our faith; others are strong. Those who are weak, are like little boats tossed about on a giant sea of confusion. And whose fault is that? You have given us everything we need to know for life, doctrine, and fully-assured faith right in the pages of the Bible. And yet, so many would rather remain on the sea of chaos, struggling with every little thing that happens, than to devote the time and hard work necessary to be well-grounded in Your word. That is a sad thing to consider. Help us to be people of faith by being people of sound doctrine. To Your glory! Amen.