Pastor David B. Curtis


The Joy of Ministry

Philippians 1:22-26

Delivered 07/26/1998

We ended last week with verse 21, where Paul says;

Philippians 1:21 (NKJV) For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

We saw last week that this was not some pious platitude, Paul was in a Roman prison facing death when he wrote this. We may not think much about dying but Paul did. He was awaiting the results of his trial at Rome, wondering if he would live or die. He really didn't care one way or the other. He desired both. He desired to live, yet he also desired to die. His life was Christ, he lived only to glorify him, and to die was to be with the one he loved so dearly. He was single minded and selfless. He said:

Philippians 1:18 (NKJV) What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

It doesn't matter to me what I have to go through as long as God is glorified. Paul lived out what he taught in:

1 Thessalonians 5:18 (NKJV) in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.

It we realize that the things that we go through are God's will for our lives than we can give thanks in them.

We saw last week that Paul had no disappointments in his life because he trusted in God's perfect plan, what ever it was. Do you believe that God is sovereign and that He is ruling the universe? If you have confidence in His plan, you shouldn't have any disappointments in your life either.

All Paul wanted in life was to do God's will. That was the only thing that mattered to him. This passage that we are going to look at, could be called, "The joy of ministry." Paul wants to minister, he loves to minister. Ministry brought him joy.

We see a conflict in these verses between two desires; the desire to minister, and the desire to depart and be with Christ. He is clearly torn between these two. Look at:

Philippians 1:22 (NKJV) But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell.

The "if" here is a first class condition which means "since." But since I live in the flesh, this will be the occasion of my bringing in the fruit of labor. The word for "flesh" here is sarx. Sarx is a theological term and when used theologically, it has reference to the sin principle that dwells within everyone of us; that propensity toward sin; that draw of the body that drags us downward. Paul uses it this way in Romans 7:5,18,25; 8:8. He talks about the flesh and the destruction it causes. The term "sarx" is not only used in this way, it is used in many ways in Scripture. The important thing is for us to determine its usage in this passage. Is he saying, "If I live on with the sin principle, I'm going to bring glory to God?" No! That is not what he is talking about here. He is talking about his humanness." If I continue to live in the body." He is referring to physical life. Look with me at:

2 Corinthians 10:3-4 (NKJV) For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh. 4 For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds,

If you compare this to:

Romans 8:8 (NKJV) So then, those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Paul is obviously using the word "flesh" in different ways. In Romans 8:8 he is talking about the natural man or unsaved man and in 2 Corinthians 10, he is using it of just living in the body.

Galatians 2:20 (NKJV) "I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me.

Again, flesh is used here in the context of "body." So Paul is saying, "Since I'm in the body, it's going to mean fruitful labor." As long as he is in the body, as long as he is physically alive, he is going to be fruitful in his labor. To Paul, being alive was synonymous with being fruitful. "I'm only alive to produce fruit to God's glory," he says.

John 15:8 (NKJV) "By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples.

This was Paul's goal. If he lived, it was for Christ, so he was going to be fruitful.

The Greek word for "fruit" is karpos. It means, result, outcome, or fruit.

Romans 1:13 (NKJV) Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.

He wasn't saying that he wanted to come and eat apples with them. He wanted to produce some spiritual results from their life. He also uses it this way in:

Romans 16:5 (NKJV) Likewise greet the church that is in their house. Greet my beloved Epaenetus, who is the firstfruits of Achaia to Christ.

Here he is speaking of the fruit being converts to Christianity. This is the fruit or result of preaching the gospel.

Philippians 1:11 (NKJV) being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

Righteousness is the fruit of Christ's work in our life.

So, Paul is talking about spiritual results, or outcome of his labor. The word "labor" is ergonwhich means work, or toil, effort. It is used of missionary effort:

Philippians 2:30 (NKJV) because for the work of Christ he came close to death, not regarding his life, to supply what was lacking in your service toward me.

It is work, toil or effort for the Lord.

Fruit comes from work! Please understand that. Now, if you are familiar with John 15:5, you might say, "I thought that fruit comes from abiding."

John 15:5 (NKJV) "I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.

So, we see here that as we abide in Christ, the fruit is produced by Him through us. If that is true, and it is, then why do we have to work or labor? Look at verse 3:

John 15:3 (NKJV) "You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.

He is speaking to his eleven disciples here, Judas was not present. He says they are "clean" which is the Greek word katharos. He uses katharos to refer to the new birth, salvation or regeneration. If you go back to John 13:10, you can see it there:

John 13:10 (NKJV) Jesus said to him, "He who is bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you."

The disciples were clean, they had been saved. So, in John 15:3, he tells them they are clean. Then in verse 4 he says:

John 15:4 (NKJV) "Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me.

So, abiding in Christ is different from being saved. Because he told believers to abide in him. Abiding is a relationship of discipleship where you walk with the Lord in obedience. He is telling his disciples to abide in Him, and fruit comes from abiding, and abiding is work.

John 8:31 (NKJV) Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you abide in My word, you are My disciples indeed.

So, you become a disciple by abiding in His word. Discipleship and abiding are the same thing. This is not a work of the flesh but is dependant discipline. It's you disciplining your life, structuring your life to live in obedience, while all the time depending upon God to provide the power to live it out.

1 Timothy 4:7 (NKJV) But reject profane and old wives' fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness.

The subject of chapter four is apostasy, turning away from the faith. In verse 7, he gives us the key to godliness. It is "exercise" which is from the Greek word gumnazo from which we get our word gymnasium. It means to work, toil, it implies great effort. If you are going to be godly in your practice, it won't happen by sitting around waiting for it to happen. It takes applying the disciplines of the Christian life; Bible study, prayer, fellowship. Spiritual growth doesn't come easy, sin does.

Don't ever be confused, fruit comes from labor, spiritual discipline. You don't grow and produce fruit by accident. You must abide in Christ, and that takes effort.

Paul's desire was to bear fruit. He knows that the only way he will bear fruit is through labor, effort. This is a strong desire. This is not desire against duty. It's not like he wants to go to heaven, but he's stuck with having to do his duty of ministry. It's the tension of two desires. He loves to minister. He desire to stay in the flesh, not for selfish reasons but for Christ's glory. He's not saying, "I want to stay here because I just bought a condo at the beach and I'd like to enjoy it." He only wants to stay in the flesh to bear fruit for God's glory.

Ask yourself a question. Why do you desire to continue to live? Why would you not want to leave this world right now? Are your reasons selfish? Paul's reasons for staying in the body were not selfish, he wanted to stay so he could minister.

Now, look at what Paul says in verse 22, "Yet what I shall choose I cannot tell." The word for "choose" is airer. It means, prefer. The word "cannot" is gnorizo. Paul uses it 18 of its 26 uses in the New Testament. Paul is saying, " I can't reveal, I can't make known. I don't know which I prefer-- to live or die." Paul doesn't know what he prefers.

Have you ever had a strong desire to leave this life and go to heaven? Why? Trials? I remember a time when the trials were pressing in so hard that I wanted desperately to leave this life and go to heaven. It wasn't that I wanted to be with Christ, I was in a tight spot and I wanted to escape. I didn't want to die. I wanted the Lord to come and rapture me out of this world.

Death for the Christian is never pictured in the Bible as a gain over the worst in this life. It is portrayed as an improvement on the best. John Calvin said, "As men in despair are perplexed as to whether to prolong their life any further in miseries, or to end their troubles by death, so Paul, on the other hand, says in a spirit of contentment that he is so well prepared for death or for life, because the condition of believers in both cases is blessed, so that he is at a loss which to choose."

To us, life and death often look like two evils of which we know not which is worse. To Paul, they look like two immense blessings, of which he knows not which is better. Most people would say, "I want to live!" Why? "We're getting a new house," or "I'm getting married," or "I'm going on a trip," or "I'm expecting a bonus." Paul wanted to live only to glorify God and he wanted to die only to fellowship with Christ.

Let me give you an example that many of you ladies can relate to: If your husband were to leave you to go on a deployment with the military, the separation would be difficult and painful. As the husband writes letters to his wife, she awaits the arrival of the mailman each day. She longs to hear from her husband and to communicate with him even if it's only by mail. Then one day she receives a letter from her husband with a plane ticket in it so she can fly to where he is and spend some time with him. The wife would rejoice at the opportunity to be with her husband. Yet, if she had children, she would not want to leave them. She would be torn; She wants to leave and be with her husband yet she doesn't want to leave her children. This is the tension that Paul is experiencing-- he is torn between two strong desires.

Paul is saying, "I can't choose, I desire both; fruitful labor and fantastic fellowship. I am torn." He says in:

Philippians 1:23 (NKJV) For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

"Hard pressed" is the Greek word sunecho. It is a Greek idiom for dilemma. It means to be hemmed in on both sides. It is used of travelers in a narrow defile, with a wall of rock on either hand, unable to turn aside and able only to go straight on. It's pressure to live, and pressure to die. Paul is saying, "I want to live and minister, and yet, I want to die and be with the Lord." It is not a good and a bad desire, it's two good desires. This is a good dilemma. It's between Christ and Christ; Christ much and Christ more; Christ by faith and Christ by sight.

Paul says his desire it to depart. The word "desire" is epithumia. Almost every use of this word in the New Testament has to do with a lustful desire to sin. It is used in:

Galatians 5:16 (NKJV) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.

The word "lust" here is epithumia.

James 1:14 (NKJV) But each one is tempted when he is drawn away by his own desiresand enticed.

The word "desires" her is epithumia,.

1 John 2:16 (NKJV) For all that is in the world; the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life; is not of the Father but is of the world.

The word "lust" here is epithumia. The majority of its usages are speaking of a sinful desire. But context must verify its usage.

Luke 22:15 (NKJV) Then He said to them, "With fervent desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer;

Here it is used in a good sense of longing, desire. This is how Paul uses it-- a strong desire.

The word "depart" is analuo. This is an interesting word. Paul uses this word in 2 Timothy 4:6 to speak of his death. He says, "The time of my departure is at hand." So Paul is basically saying, "I have a desire to die." The entomology of this word is to "untie" or "breakup." The background of this word is helpful. It is used of breaking camp. It is used of sailors weighing anchor and sailing out to sea; of freeing a prisoner; of solving a problem; of taking a heavy burden off of an animal. Why does Paul use it of death? Because this is how Paul sees death. He sees it as breaking camp-- he's going to take down his earthy tent and move into a permanent dwelling.

2 Corinthians 5:1 (NKJV) For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

It's used of weighing anchor-- dropping the physical body and sailing off to glory. That is how he sees physical death. He sees it as freeing a prisoner, solving a problem, removing a burden. To Paul, physical death will be great. That is not how most Christians see death. Paul wants to depart and "be with Christ." This is unhindered fellowship with Christ forever.

Do you know that Paul feared death? He did. You should ask, "How could he have feared death when he desired it?"

Let's go over the different deaths found in Scripture. When we hear death, most of us think of one thing-- physical death. But the Bible uses death in seven different ways. There are seven different biblical usages of death;

1. Physical death-- this is the one we are most familiar with.

2. Spiritual death-- This is separation from God because of sin.

Genesis 2:17 (NKJV) "but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die."

3. Second death-- this is eternal punishment that comes when you die physically in spiritual death.

Revelation 20:14-15 (NKJV) Then Death and Hades were cast into the lake of fire. This is the second death. 15 And anyone not found written in the Book of Life was cast into the lake of fire.

4. Positional death-- this is separation from our position with Adam.

Romans 6:7-8 (NKJV) For he who has died has been freed from sin. 8 Now if we died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him,

5. Temporal death-- this is loss of fellowship with God that a believer experiences due to sin.

Ephesians 5:14 (NKJV) Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light."
Luke 15:24 (NKJV) 'for this my son was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.' And they began to be merry.

I believe that if you study the context of Ephesians 5:14, you will see that it is clearly written to believers who are out of fellowship with God.

6. Operational death-- separation from productive Christian living or fruitfulness.

James 2:26 (NKJV) For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.

7. Reproductive death-- this is the inability to physically reproduce.

Romans 4:19 (NKJV) And not being weak in faith, he did not consider his own body, already dead (since he was about a hundred years old), and the deadness of Sarah's womb.

Operational death relates to the spiritual life and Reproductive death related to the physical life. Operational death and Temporal death are basically the same thing. When you are not producing fruit because of sin, you will loose your fellowship with God.

Paul feared death. Look with me at:

Ephesians 5:8 (NKJV) For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light
Ephesians 5:14 (NKJV) Therefore He says: "Awake, you who sleep, Arise from the dead, And Christ will give you light."

If you, as a believer, walk in spiritual darkness, you will die in the sense of your fellowship with the Lord. Let's look at how Paul feared this death.

1 Corinthians 9:24-27 (NKJV) Do you not know that those who run in a race all run, but one receives the prize? Run in such a way that you may obtain it. 25 And everyone who competes for the prize is temperate in all things. Now they do it to obtain a perishable crown, but we for an imperishable crown. 26 Therefore I run thus: not with uncertainty. Thus I fight: not as one who beats the air. 27 But I discipline my body and bring it into subjection, lest, when I have preached to others, I myself should become disqualified.

Paul feared temporal or operational death, a loss of fruitfulness or fellowship with God because of sin. So he worked very hard to keep his body in control. Paul feared this but he has absolutely no fear of physical death, he desired it.

It seems to me that most Christians today have this backward -- they fear physical death. But they have no fear of operational or temporal death, no fear of losing their fellowship with God because of sin. Look at the way most Christians live, they have no fear of God.

Death is always separation. All seven of these deaths refer to separation. Reproductive death is separation from physical fruitfulness; Operational death is separation from spiritual fruitfulness; Temporal death is separation from fellowship; Positional death is separation from our position in Adam; Spiritual death is separation from God; The second death occurs when you die physically in spiritual death. It is separation from God forever; Physical death is the separation of the spirit from the body.

There is a principle found in verse 23 of Philippians 1:

Philippians 1:23 (NKJV) For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.

Principle: when you physically die, you are immediately in the presence of Christ. Paul doesn't say, "I have a desire to depart and go to Purgatory; or to be reincarnated; or to go to Sheol, the Old Testament place of the dead." No! Paul knows that when he leaves the physical body, he will be with Christ. That is why death is gain to him.

The Roman Catholic doctrine of Purgatory is a purifying process where you suffer for a time to work off your sins before entering heaven. This is an attack on the finished work of Christ. He paid for your sins in full-- total payment.

Acts 7:59-60 (NKJV) And they stoned Stephen as he was calling on God and saying, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." 60 Then he knelt down and cried out with a loud voice, "Lord, do not charge them with this sin." And when he had said this, he fell asleep.

The spirit goes to Christ and the body goes to the grave and dust.

Luke 23:42-43 (NKJV) Then he said to Jesus, "Lord, remember me when You come into Your kingdom." 43 And Jesus said to him, "Assuredly, I say to you, today you will be with Me in Paradise."

For a believer, to die is to be with Christ in paradise. "Paradise" is derived from a Persian word meaning "garden" or "park." The Greek Old Testament (Septuagint) used "paradise" to translate the Hebrew words for the Garden of Eden in Genesis 2-3. Over the years, the terms became synonymous, and eventually paradise came to refer to heaven. Paradise is only used three times in the New Testament. It is used here, and in Revelation 2:7, and in 2 Corinthians 12:4. Paradise is the presence of God.

2 Corinthians 12:1-4 (NKJV) It is doubtless not profitable for me to boast. I will come to visions and revelations of the Lord: 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago; whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows; such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man; whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows; 4 how he was caught up into Paradiseand heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Paul knew what he was talking about, he had been to paradise. At physical death, your body goes to the dust and your spirit goes to heaven. You are a spirit, and you live in a body. The body is your tent, a temporary dwelling place. The body is not you, the spirit is you. Paul says in verse 22, "If 'I' live in the body."

2 Corinthians 12:2-4 (NKJV) I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago; whether in the body I do not know, or whether out of the body I do not know, God knows; such a one was caught up to the third heaven. 3 And I know such a man; whether in the body or out of the body I do not know, God knows; 4 how he was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which it is not lawful for a man to utter.

Paul didn't know weather he was in or out of the body. So obviously the "he" cannot be the body. For he, Paul, could be either in the body or out of it. We are a spirit and we dwell in a body.

2 Corinthians 5:1 (NKJV) For we know that if our earthly house, this tent, is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens.

Paul is referring here to the spiritual body. A person can exist apart from the physical body. The body is not the person, it is a temporary place in which the person dwells while on the earth.

2 Corinthians 5:6-10 (NKJV) So we are always confident, knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord. 7 For we walk by faith, not by sight.

To be in the body is to be absent from the Lord. While in the body, we walk by faith.

8 We are confident, yes, well pleased rather to be absent from the body and to be present with the Lord. 9 Therefore we make it our aim, whether present or absent, to be well pleasing to Him. 10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive the things done in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad.

We will be rewarded according to what we do in the body. This is not a philosophical dualism. I am not saying that the body is evil and it doesn't matter. What we do in the body is important, we are to bring the body under control of the spirit.

Romans 6:12 (NKJV) Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body, that you should obey it in its lusts.

Sin wants to reign in you but you are not to allow it.

We are created in the image of God, but this has nothing to do with the body. God is spirit. The image is the spiritual.

Are departed saints aware of what is going on in the Church? I don't know for sure, but I would think so. They are in fellowship with Christ, and he knows. They are in fellowship with the angels, and they know according to:

Ephesians 3:10 (NKJV) to the intent that now the manifold wisdom of God might be made known by the church to the principalities and powers in the heavenly places,

Your spirit never dies, only your body dies.

Paul, speaking of death, says in verse 23, "Which is far better." The Greek is pollo gar mallon kreisson. It is a triple comparative. It is very far better. The NAS says, "Very much better." This is a Greek idiom meaning, "It's better by far." There is no comparison. To be with Christ is by far the best. Do we believe this? When you are at the funeral of a departed love one, do you believe it? Should we not sorrow or grieve at the death of a love one? We sorrow but not for them.

Philippians 1:24 (NKJV) Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you.

Paul uses "flesh" here to refer to the physical body. This is a mature disciple. His needs and their needs create an equal desire. His personal desire is to be with Christ, which is better for him, but for them it's better that he stay. His desire for them is as great as his desire for him, so he can't choose.

Philippians 2:4 (NKJV) Let each of you look out not only for his own interests, but also for the interests of others.

Paul lived what he preached. Paul was a selfless man, who lived for others. A life lived for others brings joy.

He said that to remain in the body was "more needful for them." The Greek here is anagkaios, it means more necessary for you. They needed him. Why?

Philippians 1:25 (NKJV) And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith,

For Paul, to be with them meant that they would make spiritual progress in the faith.

To Paul there was only two things in life; Christ and His church. He loved Christ and demonstrated it by his life of service to the Church. Too often the dilemma in our lives is between Christ and the world, when it should be between Christ and the Church. Someone might protest, "Paul was an apostle, his commitment is beyond our grasp. We're not apostles, and we haven't seen paradise like Paul did."

Adanirum Judson-- was the first American missionary to be sent over seas-- Berma. Fourteen years after leaving America, all he had to show for his labor were graves of his wife and all his children. He was alone, he experienced imprisonments and life threatening situations, he contracted diseases of a dangerous nature. Yet he was faithful to remain, he never quit. He said, "If I had not felt certain that every trial was ordered by infinite love and mercy, I could not have survived my accumulated sufferings." His theology gave him strength. He understood God's sovereignty.

He prayed that God would let him live! He wanted to live so he could meet the needs of the Bermese people who were in pagan darkness. He prayed to live long enough to translate the entire Bible into the native tongue and to see a native church of at least 100 believers. His reason for living was Christ. He had the spirit of Paul. He loved Christ and he loved His Church.

Philippians 1:25 (NKJV) And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith,

The word "confident" is the Greek oida, I know. "Remain"is meno and "continue" is parameno. Para means beside and meno means to continue. He says, "I'm going to remain and remain along side you." How did he know this? Revelation? I don't think so. This is a strong personal conviction based on the need of the church.

"Progress" is prokope. It means progress or advance. To blaze a trail for an army's progress. Here used of their spiritual progress, their maturity. "Joy" is chara, inner happiness which comes from spiritual growth. The more mature in the faith, the greater your joy. So get growing!

Philippians 1:26 (NKJV) that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.

"That" is hina, a purpose clause. "Rejoicing" is kauchema. It means boasting as stating confidence. This is confidence in Jesus Christ, not themselves. "Abundant"is perisseuo, to overflow, abound. "In Jesus Christ," this is the sphere of confidence. "For me" is "by means of me." "Coming" is parousia which means personal presence. "Again" is palin, return to a previous activity once more.

When I come along side you and minister to you, and you grow, and your joy increases, your confidence will abound in Jesus Christ through me by reason of my personal presence with you again.

Philippians 1:26 (NIV) so that through my being with you again your joy in Christ Jesus will overflow on account of me.

What a dilemma-- to go to heaven and glorify Christ or to stay here and strengthen the church so it will glorify Christ.

Paul was released around 63 AD, and for four years fervently served the Lord on a fourth missionary journey. He was then imprisoned again at Rome and beheaded.

2 Timothy 4:6-8 (NKJV) For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure is at hand. 7 I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith. 8 Finally, there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will give to me on that Day, and not to me only but also to all who have loved His appearing.

Verse 7 is a worthwhile goal for every believer. When your life on earth is over, will your course be finished? Will you have kept the faith? If you have Paul's attitude, it will be-- to live is Christ, and to die is gain. Is Christ your life?

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