Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Deliverance for the Glory of God

I recently preached again from Philippians, specifically verses 19-26 in the first chapter, and I was struck by the passion and conviction that Paul expressed regarding his desire to be delivered by God. I suppose that someone’s desire for deliverance is not shocking, but it was the fact that Paul was really torn between his desire to die in order to be with Christ and his desire to stay alive to serve the church. And I think what really made it very encouraging wasn’t the conflicted desires to do both, but it was his conclusion that he’d stick around for the benefit of others and the glory of God. Well, anyway, that conclusion and my thoughts stemming from that will be in my next entry, but I couldn’t write about that without dealing with the first few verses of this text in an attempt to give some context.

19 for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. (Phil 1:19-20)

Paul is absolutely confident that his circumstances, whatever they may be, will turn out for his ultimate deliverance from his present situation. He is so confident in the plan and purpose of Christ that he goes on to say that his hope does not rest in physical deliverance only, but he will consider that the result would be the same if he is either set free from his bonds or he is executed and fully and finally released from “the body of this death” (cf. Romans 7:24) that he is so loathsome of as it relates to his perpetual sinfulness.

The word “this” in verse 19 refers back to the reason for Paul’s rejoicing in verse 18 which is the preaching of the gospel and the lifting up of Jesus’ name. His hope does not rest on the motivations of those preachers, nor does it rest on their specific attitudes and inclinations towards himself, but it is based on his trust in the same sovereign Lord Jesus Christ who holds all things together by the power of His might, who knows the number of hairs on my head, and who, from before the beginning of time itself, had ordained the circumstances, the means, and the ends of all things so that He would be glorified. And Praise be to God that the same God who began the good work in anyone’s life will perfectly complete it in the day of the Lord Jesus Christ!

If the merit or conviction of Paul’s own words of exhortation and comfort to the church in Rome were questioned or ever perceived to be hollow or unbelieved by the apostle when he wrote them, he is displaying his unyielding faith in the God who inspired his own words,

28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose. 29 For those whom He foreknew, He also predestined to become conformed to the image of His Son, so that He would be the firstborn among many brethren; 30 and these whom He predestined, He also called; and these whom He called, He also justified; and these whom He justified, He also glorified.

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not spare His own Son, but delivered Him over for us all, how will He not also with Him freely give us all things? 33 Who will bring a charge against God's elect? God is the one who justifies; 34 who is the one who condemns? Christ Jesus is He who died, yes, rather who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who also intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 Just as it is written,


37 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Romans 8:28-39)
Paul is absolutely confident that he will be delivered. He is not in any doubt that there will be a deliverance, and there will be a few factors that will play vital roles in this deliverance. First of all, the preaching of the gospel of Christ, the gospel preachers, and the persecution of the saints results in fervent prayer from the believers. These prayers, especially in times of crisis, deep concern, or fasting, are raised to God pleading for Him to move among His people. And I think that if persecution were as real to us in America today as it was for the 1st century church and for much of the rest of the church in our modern world, we would pray fervently and daily for our brothers and sisters who are being “killed all day long” (Rom 8:36 NKJV) that they would hold fast to the Word of Truth, cling to the Savior, long for their God, and proclaim the gospel with their freedom or with their blood.
”The effective, fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much.” (James 5:16b NKJV)
Our prayer is nothing if God does not hear our prayers or if we are praying in a selfish and self serving manner. We must pray in this way, “Father, let Your kingdom come! Father, may Your will be done and not my own!” And even when we do not even know exactly what to pray for or exactly how to pray for it…but we know that we need to petition the Almighty,

26 In the same way the Spirit also helps our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we should, but the Spirit Himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words; 27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.” (Rom 8:26-27)
And in this way, it is only through the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ that Paul will be delivered from his current situation. The word “provision” or “supply” carries the meaning of “furnishing whatever is necessary”1 and carries with it an understanding of the “ampleness”2 of what is provided. In other words, when God provides what is necessary in this time, it will be enough to take care of everything.

Paul is absolutely confident that he will not be put to shame, that he will be vindicated in the face of his accusers. He knows that he only proclaims the Truth relating to God. And whether it is the false accusations of the Jewish authorities who pursued him and wanted to kill him, the untrue and selfishly motivated attacks on him while he is in prison by some amongst the brethren, or if it is the civil legal proceedings that he is in the midst of now, he has no fear of truly being found as a fraud, a liar, or an insurrectionist. He hopes and anticipates the exaltation of Christ and the proclamation of the gospel in this time.

Paul is absolutely confident that whether he lives or dies, Christ’s name will be lifted up in his body. If he lives, he will have more time to be made a public spectacle, a man condemned to death for the glory of God. Paul is no stranger to being made a spectacle, and we can see that in his chilling description found in 2nd Corinthians of what he has undergone for the furtherance of the gospel,

“beaten times without number, often in danger of death. 24 Five times I received from the Jews thirty-nine lashes. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, a night and a day I have spent in the deep. 26 I have been on frequent journeys, in dangers from rivers, dangers from robbers, dangers from my countrymen, dangers from the Gentiles, dangers in the city, dangers in the wilderness, dangers on the sea, dangers among false brethren; 27 I have been in labor and hardship, through many sleepless nights, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.” (2 Cor 11:23-27)
Any death that the Christ, the apostles, or any other Christian for that matter, suffer is not ultimately due to the completion of the design of men. All of these things, persecution, death, torture, and cruel mistreatment of God’s people come about because they are God’s design. One of the reasons this is done, other than that God has set this up because this is the way that He receives the most glory, is so that the truth of the individual’s preaching would be sealed with his greatest endorsement of assurance and of personal commitment, that is their very life blood (cf. 1 Cor 4:9). And whether Paul’s death comes later or at that time, he is ready to testify to the end of his body that Jesus Christ is everything.

1 (from Adam Clarke's Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1996 by Biblesoft)

2 (from Jamieson, Fausset, and Brown Commentary, Electronic Database. Copyright (c) 1997 by Biblesoft)/span>

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