Rejoice!

Feb 19, 2016 1022

If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labour for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! I am torn between the two; I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me. – Phil.1:22-26.

You have to hand it to Paul. He was a courageous optimist. In the face of death while under house arrest in Rome he looked forward confidently to ministering to the Philippians once more. He never made it, being put to death by the Roman authorities.

In this final message to the Philippians he tosses up two alternatives —– dying at the hands of the Roman government or being released and re-joining fellow Christians at Philippi. Whatever happens he feels he will be a winner.

He uses graphic language to pose the two possibilities. The best possibility, he says, is “to depart” or die, literally “to let down the tent ropes and shift camp,” in order to be with Christ. The other possibility is for him to be re-united with his friends at Philippi. In this respect he employs a play on words to express his confidence —- “I will remain” (Gk. meno) and “I will continue” (Gk. sumparameno), literally meaning “I will survive and I will stay by your side in order to help all of you.”

Paul, if he is released, wants nothing more than to increase the Philippian’s joy in the Christian faith, specifically in Christ Jesus. He urges them in his parting message, “Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again: Rejoice!” (4:4). Paul would be very uncomfortable in The Church of Long Faces. I get the impression that he may even be a tad miffed if anyone shed a tear at his funeral. He saw his death as the door to eternal life with Christ.

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