Summary: Paul's future circumstances are entirely certain, since he knows that “whether by life or by death” “Christ will be exalted.”
Lesson # 5
Title: By Their Prayers and the Provision of the Holy Spirit, He Knows All Will Turn Out Well For His Salvation
Scripture: (Philippians 1:19-20, NIV)
19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
Paul’s report on his own circumstances continues in verses 19 and 20 by turning to the future. He not only rejoices to see God at work in his present circumstances to advance the Gospel, but he “will continue to rejoice” (v. 18b) as God’s faithfulness perseveres into whatever circumstances await him. The ultimate outcome of Paul’s imprisonment is at one level not entirely certain. Paul’s twofold “I know” in verses 19 and 25 does not reveal that he is certain about his future. It is spoken in faith and describes what he thinks will happen, but verses 20b-24 shows that he is not sure about the outcome of his impending trial.
At another level, however, his future circumstances are entirely certain, since he knows that “whether by life or by death” “Christ will be exalted.” (v. 20)
19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
Although it would be natural for Paul to consider the antagonism of the Judaizers as another aspect of his affliction, he rejoices in it, not only because it furthers the Gospel, but because it stimulated prayer on the part of his friends. His circumstances being what they were, he expresses confidence that because of their prayers and “the supply of “the Spirit of Jesus Christ” literally, “the bountiful supply,” he will experience salvation. By this he means God’s total deliverance, not only spiritual but from the prison. “The Spirit” of God is both the one who supplied and the Supplier of Paul’s needs, both the Giver and the Gift ( Romans 8:9; Galatians 4:6; Acts 16:7).
The word soteria is commonly used in the New Testament, and especially in Paul’s letters, to mean “deliverance” [salvation] in the ultimate sense of rescue from God’s wrath on the final day. This is clearly its meaning only a few verses later in 1:28, where Paul contrasts the Philippians’ future salvation with the destruction that awaits their persecutors. It is probably also the meaning Paul intends here, since he equates the “deliverance” of verse 20 with Christ’s being exalted in His body and says that this exaltation can happen either “by life or by death.” Even Paul’s death, in other words, can result in his deliverance, because the deliverance of which he speaks is unrelated to his physical release from the chains that bind him. It is instead his eschatological “salvation.”
The “Spirit of Jesus Christ” is the divine means through which this help will come. The word “help” in the NIV rendering of verse 19 can also mean “supply” and is closely related to a Greek verb that means to “furnish, provide, give, grant,” and, less frequently, “support.” Paul used this verb in Galatians 3:5 to speak of God as the one who has “given” his Spirit to the Galatians. It seems likely, then, that here in Philippians 1:19 the word does not mean the help that the Spirit gives to Paul but the Spirit Himself, whom God supplies to Paul. This supply of the Spirit, moreover, is more closely tied to the prayers of the Philippians than the NIV implies. Paul is suggesting that the presence of the Spirit will be supplied to Him through the prayers of the Philippians. In some mysterious way, those prayers are linked with God’s furnishing of the Spirit to him, and together they provide the help he needs to face the Roman tribunal with courage. The Bible makes it clear that God hears and answers the prayers of His people. We need to ask God’s people to pray for us. Paul says that through their “prayers” he hopes to be set free.
Second, Paul qualifies his statement with confidence that he will ultimately experience salvation by saying that his salvation will occur according to his expectation that he will endure successfully the trials that lie ahead of him (v. 20). The way in which Paul phrases this second qualification has created intense debate among commentators. (1) The word the NIV translates “eagerly expected” appears to have been coined by Paul, and many scholars believe that Paul did coin it. What then does it mean? (2) The rest of the verse (“and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage”) has sometimes been understood to mean that Paul hoped he would not be ashamed of his behavior during his future appearance before a Roman court of justice. Is this Paul’s concern? The answers to these two questions are related to each other. He sees the upcoming test in court as a divinely appointed opportunity to defend the Gospel ( Philippians 1:16) on his way to the final salvation he eagerly awaits.