Philippians 1:22-24 22But if in the flesh, this is fruitful labor for me, and which will I choose I cannot know. 23I am hard pressed between the two, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. 24But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.
Paul now reflects on the two possible outcomes before him. He desires to be with Christ, but that would take him away from his ministry of preaching the gospel. In verse 24, he personalizes this by connecting his ministry to the Philippians. As he stated in verse 6, Christ’s work in their lives is not finished, and Paul believes he can have some part in their spiritual growth. His part may not even be in person. This letter will be one way to help them grow and his prayers for them another way. If possible, he hopes even to be restored to them in person, which would be a grand reunion and time of mutual edification. He is also a realist and recognizes that there is a good possibility that he will not be released, and so his time in the flesh may be limited.
Verses 23 and 24 gives the conundrum in Paul’s thinking. To depart this life of flesh through death would usher him into the full presence of Christ. He echoes this thought in 2 Corinthians 5:1-10. While we await the promise of resurrection, we must live by faith in Jesus Christ. This life is not easy for anyone. Some of us will face more severe testing, trials, and suffering. The spark of faith God plants in us through grace can grow to the point of having a hope that will outlast this suffering. Faith brings hope.
Paul believed that his suffering in prison was only temporary compared to the eternal reward he would receive in resurrection. He will clearly restate this idea in words in 3:10-11: “that I may know him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his sufferings, being conformed to his death, that I may somehow attain the resurrection from the dead.” This knowledge is more than cognitive but is deeply spiritual. This is the hope in which we grow as we learn to live by faith and not by sight. This hope motivates us to preach the gospel without shame and fear. The good news is that God gives us his very presence in the Holy Spirit to sustain us and give us the victory.
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