My Body for Jesus' Glory
What’s In You?
“Yes, and I will rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance, 20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. 23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again” (Philippians 1:18-26).
Psychologists now know that most of what makes you a unique personality isn’t consciously determined. It is sub-conscious—below consciousness. And it takes a certain prompt or intentional stimulus to bring out what’s buried below.
One of the most basic prompts is a question. Questions often bring out what is buried in the recesses of our thinking. Even the Psalmists knew to do this. Two times in Psalm 42, the sons of Korah ask, “Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me?”
This particular thought from Paul in Philippians 1 fascinates me, because he’s not sure what he wants more, so he starts thinking about it and forms a conclusion. I’ll try and summarize because this is not my main point this morning, nor was it Paul’s, but I think it will serve as a launching point into the meat of the text.
He wishes that “now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell. I am hard pressed between the two.”
So his dilemma is obvious—does he choose life or death? There’s a disguised question in the text—“Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.” He’s asking himself, “Which will be my next course of action?” Well, what’s the most obvious thing to do when you’ve got two courses of action that both seem good? Compare them. Paul does just that: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.”
When met with Paul’s two options—(1) Go away to paradise, or (2) remain in the trenches of spiritual warfare on behalf of the people he loves—he says, “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith.”
Just moments before, he was uncertain whether he’d choose to leave the world or remain here. And after presenting himself with both options, he chose selflessness. This is a picture of a heart totally renewed by Christ—and it is glorious. So what basic framework was in Paul, which led to this disposition? Well, first of all, he says he is this way because of their prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus. You can’t get this way without Jesus. But let’s get more specific.
Magnify Christ in Everything
Over the past few weeks, we’ve learned that Paul is in prison for Christ (1:7, 13); and as far as he can tell, death may be the result of his conviction. He says so in verse 20. Despite this possibility, he’s rejoicing over two things, (1) that his imprisonment has advanced the gospel (1:12-18), and (2) that he will be saved (1:19).
[As a parenthesis, I don’t think verse 19 means “deliverance” from jail, as NASB and ESV suggest. Two reasons: (1) The word more naturally means “salvation,” and (2) Paul goes on to say he may die. So he’s clearly not confident that he will be delivered from this jail. Rather, he’s confident that he will be saved no matter what happens.]
So here’s what he says: “Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my salvation, according to my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame, but that with full confidence, as always, Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.”
Notice what makes him so confident in his salvation. I’ll state only the necessary parts of the text, removing a few supporting clauses: “this will turnout out for my salvation, according to my eager expectation…that with full confidence…Christ will be honored (lit. magnified) in my body, whether by life or by death.” Paul knows he’ll be saved because in everything he uses his body to magnify Christ. That’s what the word literally means—magnify. Did you see that connection?
Paul’s inner man willed that his body—his vessel—would be, as it were, a magnifying glass for Christ. What do magnifying glasses do? They make things bigger. So imagine Jesus is a teeny tiny blip on somebody’s radar; but they know Paul. If ever they’re around Paul, they’re seeing Christ—because Paul’s presence magnifies Christ, and in time spent with Paul, Jesus is moved out of their peripheral and into a central view.
Imagine if everything you did brought awareness to Jesus Christ, the King. The gospel would spread like wildfire. And your salvation would be sure. Paul’s saying, “I will to magnify Christ in my body, whether by life or by death.” Why would he eagerly desire to magnify Christ in everything—in life and death?
To Live is Christ!
He anticipates that question and answers it: “For (because) to live is Christ, and to die is gain!” (v. 21).
Why would you desire to magnify Christ with your body, whether you live for it or die for it, Paul?? And he says, “Because, to live IS Christ, and to die is gain!” What in the world does that mean?
Let’s answer each part individually. What does he mean, “to live is Christ?” Well, importantly, he says this is true of him personally. Not everybody can say that. He says, “Because to me to live is Christ.” To be alive and have vitality and be breathing is to have Christ and to know Christ and to accomplish the will of Christ. To live is Christ. The very essence of Paul’s existence is Christ. Why?
Later in this letter, Paul tells of his prestige as a Pharisee; he tells of his status as a Jew; he tells of his zeal and his righteousness according to the Law (see 3:3ff). He was really somebody by the world’s standards at the time. But he says, “But whatever gain I had, I counted as loss for the sake of Christ. Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ” (3:7-8).
Why do you say, “To live is Christ, Paul?” He says, “Because Christ is of supremely more value than anything man sees as valuable.” And therefore, because Christ is a jewel far more valuable than anything, my life is Christ. To live is Christ. This is the answer to why Paul chooses to magnify Christ with his very body. There’s no other way to truly live. Everything else is cheap frills.
Paul knew what Jesus really meant when he said, “Whoever loses his life for my sake will find it” (Matthew 16:25). True life—as God made it in his very good beginning—is one in perfect harmony with the Creator. To live is Christ.
To Die is Gain!
Now, as for the second part of his statement, let me first ask a question. What do we say to a grieving family when a loved one dies? We say, “I’m sorry for your loss.”
Paul says, “My deepest desire is to magnify Christ with my body, whether by life or by death.” Why would you magnify Christ to the point of dying, Paul? His answer: “Because to die is gain!”
What a reversal of the natural outlook on death. The Christian doesn’t lose anything when they die; they gain everything. If there’s no other reason for the world to obey Christ than this reason alone, all should turn to him.
Why is dying gain? Half way through verse 23, he answers: “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” In dying, the Christian goes to be with Jesus, the greatest friend a man ever knew, the greatest brother a sibling ever had, the greatest king men could fathom. In 1 Corinthians 2:9, Paul quotes Isaiah, who said, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.” The greatness of the presence of Christ in eternity is beyond imagination. But it’s worth magnifying Christ unto death in order to gain it. What we lose in order to gain Christ is totally inconsequential. In chapter 3, Paul calls all of it “rubbish.”
Magnifying Christ in His Church
I want to finish this morning with some practical examples of what it might look like to magnify Christ with your body within this church family. Paul lists three Christ magnifying mechanisms he intended to use by his life for the brethren. He generically describes them this way: “If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me” (v. 22); and he says, “But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account” (v. 24).
So he wishes to labor for spiritual fruit on account of the Philippian Christians. Now, specifically, fruitful labor on behalf of the Philippian Christians means this: “Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus” (vv. 25-26).
Our work in this place should directly affect each person’s spiritual progress. In other words, my presence should grow your faith.
Paul aimed for their joy in the faith. Later he calls for every Christian to rejoice always. Paul was rejoicing even in prison. Is your presence bringing joy to your brother’s or sister’s faith? If your body is a magnifying glass for Christ, it should be.
Lastly, Paul ultimately wanted his presence to bring the saints to glory in Christ Jesus. It should be such that each saint brings other saints to glorify Christ. If Christ is magnified by my body, you can do nothing but glorify him, for he is an all-consuming glory.
Let’s pray to God that he would use our very bodies to magnify the name and nature of Jesus.
This week, be intentional as to how you might show Christ’s glory through your actions and thoughts. May God be with us all.
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