Friday, March 12, 2021

2021.03.12 Hopewell @Home ▫ Philippians 1:22–26

Read Philippians 1:22–26

Questions from the Scripture text: In what might the apostle live on (Philippians 1:22)? What would it mean if he did? Which would he choose? What are his options doing to him (Philippians 1:23)? What does he desire? Why? What is the other option (Philippians 1:24)? For whom is it more needful? Therefore, what does he know that he will do (Philippians 1:25)? For what? What will be more abundant (Philippians 1:26)? By what? 

If you’re a believer, then why are you still alive? 

It’s an important question for those for whom to live is Christ. If you depart, you will “be with Christ” (Philippians 1:23b) in a way that you are not with Him now. And that is “far better” (verse 23b). If you depart, you will finally love Christ perfectly. If you depart, you will lay aside your current corruptible flesh (Philippians 1:22a)—which must be done so that you can put on an incorruptible and immortal flesh later (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:35–58).

It’s no wonder that the apostle “could not tell what to choose” (end of Philippians 1:22) and found that his options pressed him hard (Philippians 1:23a)! If we run on to the reasons for remaining alive too quickly, without considering just how much gain there is for us in departing, we will not be able to feel the difficulty of the options. What a marvelous Lord we have, Who redeems us into such blessedness that there are ways in which it is actually preferable not yet to enter glory.

In a world where the selfishness of self-murder has become so common, it is important that we note that Philippians 1:22 isn’t saying that the apostle had an actual choice. He knows why he’s still alive: his work isn’t yet done. We don’t know how much work the Lord has called us to do in this world and this life, but we do know one thing: as long as we are living, we have work to do. 

That’s why he says “if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor.” As long as the fruitful labor that we have been assigned is complete, we have fruitful labor to do. As soon as it is complete, we will depart this mortal body.

Already, the apostle has answered believers who feel that they are useless. Since it is not up to you, and since you are still here, Christ Himself considers your ongoing life to be useful. But for what uses? The apostle gives us several, and though his list is not exhaustive, it’s worth noting that these are the specific things that “outweighed” for a time his departing and being with Christ.

His labor was fruitful because it was needful for the Philippian church (Philippians 1:24). The gathering and perfecting of the church is, after all, the great project of the remainder of human history (cf. Matthew 28:18–20, Ephesians 1:20–23, Revelation 6:10–11, etc.). There is no believer, in whatever condition, that is exempt from this purpose for their ongoing life. Paul in Rome was laboring with needful labor for the church, as was the most enfeebled saint in Philippi whose prayers were as necessary to this work as the ongoing supply of the Spirit (cf. Philippians 1:19!). 

If you can attend corporate worship, you must attend corporate worship (cf. Hebrews 10:24–25). You must be careful to attend upon and heed the doctrine-stabilizing ministry of your pastor teachers (Ephesians 4:11–14) so that you will be a strong joint for the body’s health and a productive part of the body’s growth (Ephesians 4:15–16). If you can sing, you must sing (Ephesians 5:29–21, Colossians 3:16). Not only must you pray for the rest of the body, but you must sincerely agree in your heart as you are led in corporate prayer, so that you can give the hearty ‘Amen’ at its conclusion (cf. 1 Corinthians 14:16). Add to all of these, all of the private duties of faithful Christians and all the “one-another” commands that go beyond the corporate worship (cf. WCF 26.1–2 and the passages of the proof texts). 

His labor was fruitful for increasing believers’ joy in Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:26). The apostle’s remaining was not only for their progress of faith but for their joy of faith (end of Philippians 1:25). He anticipated that when he next made it back to Philippi, they would rejoice in Christ Jesus all the more on his account. 

This should be a motivator for us in whatever our daily tasks are. Whether diapers or school or manual labor or administration or preparing sermons or simply suffering well on a sick-bed while lifting our hearts in prayer… we can relish the idea, “wait until other believers find out how faithful their Jesus Christ has been to me as my Jesus Christ! Their rejoicing in Him will become even more abundant!”

So, why are you still alive? Because your assignment from Jesus isn’t yet completed. And a great part of that assignment is participating in the progress of the church in faith and promoting the increase of the church’s joy in Jesus! 

Why are you still alive? What are your daily duties, and how does this affect how you do them? What are the parts of corporate worship? For each one, how does your Christ-assigned purpose inform and shape how you do it?

Suggested songs: ARP87 “The Lord’s Foundation” or TPH405 “I Love Thy Kingdom, Lord”

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