Article of the Month
ST. PAUL’S ERNEST DESIRE
Paul writes some verses in
Philippians which are often poorly translated and even
more often totally misinterpreted. They are found in
Philippians 1:20-25. Because Benjamin Wilson’s
EMPHATIC DIAGLOTT translation comes closest to
being the most accurate of available translations, we
will quote it here:
20. Christ will be
magnified in my body, whether by Life or by Death.
21. Therefore, for me to live is [to live] for
Christ, and to die, gain.
22. But if to live in the
flesh, this is to me a fruit of labor; and what I should
choose I do not exactly know.
23. I am, indeed, hard
pressed by the two things; — (I have an earnest desire
for the returning and being with Christ, since it is
very much to be preferred); —
24. but to remain in the flesh is more requisite on
25. And fully believing
this, I know I shall remain and continue with you all
for your progress and Joy in the faith.
Inherent in most
translations and explanations is that they do not allow
most students to see that Paul is speaking of NOT TWO,
but THREE situations. They are not all three available
to him; but he IS MENTIONING three options.
The “TWO things” which he
mentions in verses 20, 21, and 23 are LIFE and DEATH.
NOTE CAREFULLY: He states that he doesn’t know
which of these he would choose! (Verse 22) THAT is
part of the secret to understanding these verses. Paul
really DOESN’T KNOW, if he had the choice, which of
these TWO available options he would choose. Thus, when
he brings up a THIRD option (verse 23), it is QUITE
DIFFERENT. Of the third option he clearly states that “it
is very much to be preferred.” In other words, if,
indeed, he COULD have the third option, he would not
hesitate to take it. But of the two options which WERE
AVAILABLE TO HIM AT THE TIME, what he would choose he
did “not exactly know.” (Verse 22)
So, what is the THIRD
option? The third option is THE RETURNING. Paul, of
course, doesn’t mean HIS returning. He’s never been
anywhere else except on earth. So, we must not
misinterpret “returning” to mean that HE was going to
return somewhere. He is speaking of the second advent of
Jesus — THE RETURNING OF CHRIST. Paul well knew that
THAT event was in the remote future from his lifetime.
Thus it was not an option for him. If it were,
THAT IS WHAT HE WOULD CHOOSE WITHOUT HESITATION!
The options of (1)
continuing to live in the service of Christ and the
brethren or, (2) to die and rest in sleep from all the
burdens of his difficult life were both POSSIBLE for
him. Obviously, HE was not going to choose. He would
leave that to God. But Paul knew that both options had
advantages. Hence he says “what I should choose I do
not exactly know.” It is a fair assessment of the
possibilities. Fortunately. he didn’t have to choose. He
was, however, eminently certain of the
then-non-available option: He would choose death when
the time came that death would mean his glorification
and his being with his Lord. That would not happen until
the “returning” of Christ (verse 23).
He DOES reckon, however,
that for the sake of the brethren, Paul’s continuance in
life WAS A DEFINITE ADVANTAGE FOR THEM. That is
his conclusion in verse 24. In verse 25 he says that,
because he fully believes his continuing ministry is for
the Church’s benefit, that the Lord will have him
continue to live for their spiritual progress and
growing joys in the faith.
The entire context becomes
quite beautiful when we realize these factors. All
mystery disappears. We will paraphrase Paul’s message
with as much clarity as is possible for us:
I continue to live, or whether the Lord relieves my
burdens by my death, in either case, Christ will be
magnified by whatever happens to my flesh.
21. Thus it
is abundantly clear that if I keep on living, I will be
living for the service and interests of Christ. If I
should die, it will be a personal gain for me because
that will indicate that the Lord has been pleased by my
service and has allowed my labors to cease.
22. But if,
indeed, I continue to live, it will indicate that
my labor is bearing fruitage. So, you can see why I
would be hard pressed to make the choice between life
and death if I actually had that choice! I really don’t
know which I would be inclined to choose!
23. The two
options constitute a dilemma for the thought process!
BUT I DO HAVE AN OPTION I WOULD SURELY PICK if it were
available at the moment! What I truly want is the second
advent, the return of our Lord, when, in resurrection
glory, I could be with him! — THAT is the option which
any of us would prefer; but we all must await THAT time.
now, however, it seems to me clear that my continuing in
life is for YOUR benefit.
of that, I am sure the Lord will yet let me remain in
the flesh for your spiritual benefit, growth, and joy.
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