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June 13, 2011 / Daniel

Paul’s use of the OT in Philippians 1:19

Philippi

Image by wallygrom (very busy at work) via Flickr

Over the last few weeks, I’ve been preaching on the book of Philippians. Paul’s words in Philippians 1:19 have really stood out to me.  He writes,

For I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance”  (ESV).

Translations wrestle with this last word.  The word “deliverance.”  The KJV translates it “salvation.”    The question is, Is Paul talking about getting out of prison here?  Or is he talking about his eternal salvation—the hope of the resurrection?   I’ve gone back and forth on it, but I think that the best conclusion is to say that Paul is intentionally vague here, because he does not know just how God is going to deliver him.  God could deliver him by giving him his freedom from prison, or could deliver him at the final resurrection.

But there’s more.  The phrase “this will turn for my deliverance” has been borrowed.   It is an allusion to the book of Job.  Job 13:16.   We all know the story.  Job is a righteous man.  God tells Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job? He’s blameless.  He’s a righteous man who truly serves me.”  Satan tells God, “Well, Job only loves you because you bless him.  It’s in his best interest to serve you.  If you didn’t bless him, he wouldn’t serve you.”  So God allows Satan to destroy Job’s health, all of his possessions, and he even allows Satan to kill Job’s family.

Job’s friends enter in the picture.  They say, “Job, you must have sinned.  God is punishing you.  You have to repent and get right with God and then God will give you all your stuff back.”  But Job insists that he is innocent.  He’s done nothing wrong.   And in chapter 13, he makes this statement.

Though he slay me, I will hope in him;
yet I will argue my ways to his face.
This will turn out for my salvation.

Job says, “God is more valuable to me than anything else.  My hope is in him.  And somehow, someway he is going to rescue me.  I will be vindicated.  I will be delivered.”

I think that this verse was especially meaningful to Paul.  Here Paul is in prison, facing a similar situation as Job.  He’s suffering even though he’s done nothing wrong.  Other Christians are trash-talking Paul (Phil. 1:15).  And so Paul is reading the book of Job.  And he is meditating on this verse.  He says, “Somehow, someway God will rescue me.  But no matter what happens, I will honor Jesus Christ.  I will bring Him glory.”  “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain!”

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2 Comments

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  1. revmlee / Jun 13 2011 4:52 pm

    Bro, been memorizing Philippians, and 1:19 and been so much more existentially powerful to me as a result of it. There’s just so many people and situations I’m running across where such confidence is needed.

    Not sure if I completely buy your allusion to Job – it’s rather maximalist (Beale would be proud!). But nonetheless, it encourages me to remember from where and how my vindication will come (Ps 121).

  2. Daniel / Jun 13 2011 6:08 pm

    Yeah, I’ve been thinking about all the great memory verses in Philippians. You’re the second person that I’ve ran across recently who is memorizing the book. It’s a great book to put to memory.

    My wife Shelley wasn’t so sure about the Job allusion, but it’s word for word from the LXX.

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