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Philippians 1:22-26

Verses covered in this passage:

  • Philippians 1:22
  • Philippians 1:23
  • Philippians 1:24
  • Philippians 1:25
  • Philippians 1:26

Under house arrest in Rome, Paul pens this letter to the Philippian believers as he awaits trial. He expresses how thankful he is for the Philippians in his prayers. They have financially supported Paul throughout his ministry, so he views them as co-laborers, and is confident that Jesus will continue to work through their faithfulness until His return.

Paul tells the Philippians how dear they are to him, that they share the favor from God that he receives for his suffering for Christ, since they are supporters of Paul’s ministry. He encourages them to grow in love and understanding, to pursue all good things until Christ returns, experiencing the result of living harmoniously with one another, which brings glory to God.

Despite being imprisoned in Rome, Paul’s ministry has increased. He has become well known to the emperor’s guards and has preached the gospel to them. Seeing how Paul has endured his hardships so well, the Roman believers have grown more courageous in sharing their own faith. Many do it out of sincerity, but there are some who preach Christ to gain status among the believers; they think that since Paul is a prisoner, he is out of the way, and they have an opportunity to gain influence and admiration in the church. They even seem to think their preaching would bother Paul, projecting their own envious attitudes onto him. But Paul is simply happy that the gospel is preached, whether the motive is pure or selfish.

He rejoices that he is imprisoned. He views his circumstances as positive, because they embolden him to continue to preach Christ with all his strength. Whether he is executed or set free, he will exalt Christ, and will not forsake his calling. If he lives, Paul gets to continue to preach Christ. If he dies, he gets to be with Christ in glory. Either circumstance is favorable. However, Paul admits that he believes that he will be set free from imprisonment so that he can continue his ministry. Specifically, Paul anticipates returning to Philippi to further grow and mature the believers there.

Paul urges the Philippians to live out a life that reflects the gospel of Christ. They should not be surprised or dismayed when enemies oppose them. The fact that anyone opposes them means they are honoring God, and that those who attack them will be judged for it by God. The Philippians have been given the privilege of suffering for Christ, just as Paul has suffered; it is a badge of honor that we suffer for Christ, for it means rewards in the next life, and a fulfilling life of faith in the present. It is a good thing to have the comforts of life taken away, because they are ultimately distractions from service to God.

Despite the challenging situation he is in, Paul takes on a perspective that no matter what, his only concern is to remain faithful in his ministry of preaching the gospel of Christ. He wants the Philippians also to have this attitude, one that is true and right in the face of suffering. In Chapter 2, Paul will expound on this proper mindset, which believes that radical obedience to God is the path of our own true self-interest.


Paul admits he wants to be with Christ, for that will be far better than remaining on earth. But he is convinced that he will be set free from imprisonment so that he can continue his ministry. Specifically, Paul anticipates returning to Philippi to further grow and mature the believers there.

Paul has just stated that “to live is Christ and to die is gain” fully revealing his eternal perspective on life. Now Paul contemplates the reality that he might in fact die in the near future. Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen and appealed to Caesar to escape false charges against him (Acts 28:30). He is now under house arrest, awaiting his hearing at the time of the writing of this letter to his faithful disciples in Philippi. A possible outcome of his appointment before Nero is that he will die. Paul now reflects that if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Paul’s reason for desiring to continue to live on the earth is that it will allow him more time for fruitful labor in the service of the gospel of Christ. Paul is not looking forward to retirement. He is not seeking comfort for himself. He only sees a continuation of life as an opportunity to lay up more treasure in heaven by seeking more benefit for people through the spreading of the gospel.

Paul reflects that it is hard for him to “root” for one outcome over the other. He says I do not know which to choose, speaking of life vs. death. Paul has just stated that “to live is Christ and to die is gain.” There is clearly benefit either way. Paul says he is hard-pressed from both directions, in considering whether it is best for him to live or to die. Nero will decide. But of course the heart of a ruler is in the hands of the Lord (Proverbs 21:1). Paul notes that he has the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better. Paul apparently had a sneak preview of heaven. He was not allowed to speak much of it, but it apparently was sufficiently compelling to lead him to desire to go there (2 Corinthians 12:2-5). Paul considered that dying and going to be with Christ was much better than any life that could be conceived on earth.

However, Paul has a great tug on his heart yet to remain on in the flesh, meaning living life on earth in his current body. He already told us one reason, because it would be fruitful. Paul recognized that serving and benefitting others was the thing he could take with him and possess forever. That is “fruit” Paul can harvest that will last for eternity. Paul reasons that him remaining alive for the time being is more necessary for your sake.Paul’s reason for living is tied with his belief in what he can contribute to others, including the believers in Philippi.

Paul adds: Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy in the faith. Paul is convinced that he has some ministry with the Philippian believers yet to accomplish, and believes his life will be spared for that reason. Paul was released, as he anticipated. However, he was later rearrested and martyred. He wrote 2 Timothy while awaiting his execution, during his second imprisonment in Rome.

Paul’s reason for believing he will remain with the Philippian believers was to help along their progress and joy in the faith. It is completely consistent with all Paul has said to this point that he would desire to aid the Philippian believers to progress in the faith. But Paul says he believes he will continue with them for their progress and joy in the faith. Paul considers it a joy, a great privilege to have been given stewardship of the gospel. He does not consider the great hardships he has endured as being worthy to be compared with the glory he will gain from the approval and rewards of Christ for his faithful obedience (Romans 8:18; Philippians 3:7-11). It is accordingly joy to live and work in the faith, in spite of difficulty.

Paul’s hope to live rather than to die will result in him coming to the Philippians again. Paul brought the gospel to Philippi along with Silas, on his second missionary journey (Acts 16:11-40). Paul hopes to be released from prison, and that he will be able to visit them in person again. Paul says that in his coming to you again, the Philippians’ proud confidence in him might abound in Christ Jesus. The Philippians had a proud confidence in Paul. There were many former Roman soldiers in Philippi. It seems likely they would have a particular appreciation for someone who did not fear death, and who was willing to serve a mission so fully. Paul was a dedicated soldier of Jesus.

Paul in fact used faithful soldiers on multiple occasions as an illustration on how believers should walk faithfully with the Lord (2 Timothy 2:3-4; Ephesians 6:10-20). Paul hopes their proud confidence will abound in Christ Jesus, because that is Paul’s primary hope and objective for his disciples in Philippi. He does not desire for them to follow him. Paul desires for them to follow Christ.

It is worth noting that Paul’s imprisonment was of great benefit to us. This letter is a part of scripture, and serves to build us up in the same way Paul sought to build up in the Lord those whom he brought to faith. The occasion of imprisonment led to Paul’s necessity of writing rather than visiting in person, which was his preference. We are the great beneficiaries of this circumstance.

Biblical Text

22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better; 24 yet to remain on in the flesh is more necessary for your sake.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 your proud confidence in me may abound in Christ Jesus through my coming to you again.

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