The following are some additional notes which given out along with the sermon "Life: Overrated" given at the Inversion Fellowship on September 14th 2006.
In verse 19 there is a very powerful word Paul uses to describe the outcome of his upcoming trial in Rome. He tells the church that through their prayers and the Spirit’s help his ordeal in Rome will turn our for his deliverance. The word he uses for deliverance is a big word in the New Testament. It is the word soteria and it is most often translated as salvation. Now you can see why it is such a “big word.”
There is some debate among students of the Scripture as to how Paul uses the term. In his referring only to his deliverance and vindication in his coming trial or if he is using it to refer to “ultimate” salvation/deliverance despite whether he is set free or is executed.
One interesting factoid is that the phrase “turn our for my deliverance/vindication” is an example of what literary critics call intertextulality—the direct use of one text in the composition of another1. This phrase is directly from Job 13:16, this will turn out for my deliverance/salvation. This quotation of Job, who is defending his case against friends blaming his suffering on “secret sins”, gives us a clue that the deliverance spoken of here. Indeed, it appears that it is perhaps beyond simply being let out of prison. Rather it refers to the ultimate vindication and salvation of Paul in a higher court of appeals. Even if an earthly court in Rome (much like Jobs “friends”) condemns him, he will still ultimately be delivered. It is in his standing before God, and the righteous judge, where Paul will be finally vindicated.
This ultimate salvation, justification before God, is clearly the use of the soteria in verse 29 of the same passage so there is good reason it holds the same meaning in verse 19 due to the context. Certainly, Paul’s deliverance from jail could be also be in view, but it seems his deliverance is also much more than release from his house arrest in Rome.2 John Calvin said it this way: For it is evident from what follows, that he is not [merely] speaking of the safety of the body.3
What Does Paul Mean by "Depart" and Be with the Lord?
What happens when I die? There is no greater issue of more importance to human beings who all some day arrive at this fate. There are many interesting questions which arise around this issue in the New Testament. Do believers in Jesus go directly to heaven upon their death or does this happen at the resurrection of our bodies? Do dogs go to heaven? Oops, we’ll save that for another discussion.
Here in Philippians Paul makes something clear for us; upon death we depart this world to “be with the Lord.” Thanks, Now what the heck does this mean? Do we become ghosts until our bodies are resurrected at the last day? (See 1 Corinthians 15 and 1 Thessalonians 4 concerning the resurrection) How are we with him? In what sort of place do we exist? One thing is clear in verse 23, when our body dies, we depart. It seems clear then that the New Testament declares that “YOU” cannot be reduced to “your body.” Certainly, all people are a unity of soul and body and we never exist here on the earth as a disembodied ghost or spirit. Theologians call human beings a psychosomatic unity (psyche—meaning soul and soma meaning body) and you never see your friends walking around without their body; that would be weird.
Yet the language here speaks of us departing or setting sail. Additionally, Paul in 2 Corinthians 5 compares our bodies to tents in which we take up our earthy residence. He even goes on to say “We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord.” Yet it would be a mistake to say that we need to leave our bodies behind in order to be with God. The Christian faith has always held that the body is holy and that in the Kingdom of Heaven we will have new and glorified bodies. So how do we understand this teaching. Let me summarize before we go on:
- You are a unity of body/soul
- Upon your death, the soul of those who know Jesus go to be with him
- At the last day all people will be resurrected and have new bodies. Some will continue on the new earth, in the Kingdom of Heaven. Others who persisted in rebellion against God, will be consigned to hell.
So in wrestling with these truths, many have discussed the idea of an intermediate state where we exist with the Lord awaiting the resurrection of the body at the end of time. Some have conjectured that we will have bodies in this state, others describe it as a conscious relational reality while held in being by God. This stuff is really fascinating, and can make your head explode, but the thing that is certain is that we will be with Jesus, we will know it, and it will be far better than life now.
For some deeper reading on Body/Soul stuff see my paper at entitled Are Human Beings Constituted of One, Two, or Three Substances? available at TheResurgence.com.4 For a treatment of the many issues surrounding our understanding of Heaven, see Randy Alcorn, Heaven, (Grand Rapids: Tyndale, 2004). We can ask our questions about our dogs from that book.
"Joy" and "Glory In" In the NIV
The NIV is a great translation of the Bible. I trust it, memorized it for years and studied it as my primary Bible for the first ten years of my Christian life. So please don’ t here me hating on the NIV here. But, I want us to look at verse 25 and 26 in the NIV and then see that there is actually a bit more happening there:
25Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.In this case the word “joy” appears two times in this particular English translation. A quick read of this and we actually miss something as the words translated “joy” are actually different words in the original. In verse 25 the word is a recurring New Testament word for Joy - χαρά chara; which means: joy or delight. In verse 26 the word is καύχημα kauchēma; which means a boast or reason to be proud, reason to glory, something to boast about.5 So in this case the rendering in the ESV is more helpful.
25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.
In other words, Paul's coming to the Philippians at some point in the future would provide an occasion to glory in Jesus—to worship him and to rejoice in him and to boast about what God has done in their midst. This fits Paul’s view of boasting throughout the New Testament, that we should boast only in the cross, only in Jesus. Oh yeah, there are places where I like the NIV much better than the ESV (1 Thessalonians 2:8 for example). My recommendation is to use a translation (NASB, ESV, NKJV) for study and read paraphrases devotionally (NLT, NIV, The Message) to help your understanding. But do not let a person's paraphrase keep you from your own study of the Scriptures.
- Gordon D. Fee, Philippians, The Ivp New Testament Commentary Series ; 11 (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 67.
- For a very thorough discussion of this see Silva, Moisés. Philippians. 2nd ed. Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2005. 69, 70.
- John Calvin, Commentary on Commentary on Philippians, Colossians, and Thessalonians, 1509-1564. Commentary on this passage available online—http://www.ccel.org/c/calvin/comment3/comm_vol42/htm/iv.ii.iv.htm. Accessed 9/14/2006.
- Reid Monaghan. Are Human Beings Constituted of One, Two, or Three Substances? The Resurgence, 2005, accessed September 8 2006; Available from http://theresurgence.com/reid_monaghan_2005_are_human_beings_constituted_of_one_two_or_three_substances. Just do a search on the title to find the paper. That URL is too long.
- Robert L. Thomas, New American Standard Hebrew-Aramaic and Greek Dictionaries, Updated ed. (Anaheim: Foundation Publications, Inc., 1998, 1981). Chara—5479 and Kauchema—2745.