Philippians 1:20

Saturday, 17 December 2016

…according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. Philippians 1:20

The opening words of this verse tie back to Paul’s note in the preceding verse that “this will turn out for my deliverance.” That was not speaking of deliverance from prison, nor his salvation as a Christian, but rather salvation as a simple fact. No matter what occurs, he would be saved through it. Understanding this, he says that it is “according to my earnest expectation and hope.”

The word translated as “earnest expectation” is found only here and in Romans 8:19 when speaking that “the earnest expectation of the creation eagerly waits for the revealing of the sons of God.” It is a word, apokaradokia, which comes from three separate words – apó, “away from;” kara, “the head;” and dokéō, “thinking.”  And so it gives the idea of “thinking forward” as if the head is literally outstretched. And so, in turn, it refers to eager and even intense expectation. One would then mentally think of the eager straining of a marathon runner, running with his head outstretched and his eyes only on the finish line. For Paul, it means that he has ignored all that is lesser and has his eyes focused solely on that which is greater, the exaltation of Christ in his body.

This is why he next says, “that in nothing I shall be ashamed.” The word for “shall be ashamed” is in the passive in the Greek. It is better rendered, “I shall be put to shame.” He is in prison, and yet he finds no shame in this, but to let down his Lord while in prison by not preaching the gospel would be accounted to his shame. By failing to represent Christ, he would then “be put to shame.”

Instead of such a thing, he makes a contrasting proclamation that “with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body.” Again, he uses a passive word for “will be magnified.” He has just spoken of boldness in his actions, and so one might expect him to state this in an active form, such as “I shall magnify” Christ. But he chooses rather the passive. “Boldness of speech was to be his part, the glory should be Christ’s” (Pulpit Commentary).

Thus we see in Paul’s view of his walk (and which should be ours), the idea that when failure comes our way, it is our own fault, but when success, triumph, or glory comes our way, it is the work of Christ. As Charles Ellicott notes, “If he fails, it must be through his own fault; if he triumphs, it will be through his Master’s strength.”

Paul finishes up this marvelous thought with the words, “whether by life or by death.” Thus, we see that the “deliverance” or “salvation” which was referred to in the previous verse is one which is a simple fact. He will be saved through any circumstance; he will get through it, and it will be by the power of Christ working in him and for him.

Life application: We should never fear that we will not get through any and every ordeal we face. It may not be the way we expect, but we will get through it as Christ has ordained. What we should fear is failing the Lord along the way. All error and failure is to be reckoned to our account. All glory is to be reckoned to Him, simply because if we do something right, it is because He has already ordained that the right thing is the thing we are to do. We are merely showing obedience to our heavenly Master in doing that which is appropriate. This begs the question, “How can we know what is the right thing to do? Anyone?…. Yes, you I the back row. What do you say?”

“Know your Bible.”

“Very good! Excellent! A++++! No homework for you tonight!”

Lord God of all power and might, we are the work of Your hands, but because of our own free-will, we often fail to bring You the glory You deserve. In our failings, only we are to blame, but in our triumphs, only You are to receive the praise. You have already shown us what it right and just and what is wrong and unjust. Should we do what is right, it is in obedience to You – to You be the glory. Should we do what is wrong, it is because we have failed You – the shame is ours alone. Help us to remember this simple truth so that our lives will be in accord with Your will at all times. Amen.


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