In Trial Or Opposition: Paul Desires That Christ Be Magnified (Wed. Oct 14)

Editor’s Note: this post is for Wednesday, October 14. My apologies for the error!The word of the day is “magnified.”  St. Paul writes our reading of Philippians 1:12-20 as he faces his trial and possible execution.  Paul spent two years under house arrest. Yet at any time while he was “in chains,” Paul could be taken to court before the Roman Emperor. Our reading suggests that Paul waited in uneasy anticipation throughout those years. He hoped and prayed  that God would be magnified by his inevitable ordeal, whether in life or death.In our reading, the Apostle states he is “appointed for the defense of the gospel” at his trial (vs. 17). Therefore, he asks for the prayers of his beloved congregation. Because of their prayers and the work of the Spirit, Paul hopes that the case against him will turn out for his “deliverance” (vs. 19).  But that does not mean he will survive the ordeal—not at least “in the body.”

 Whether in Life or Death, God Would Be Magnified

The Greek word for “deliverance” is the term generally used for “salvation” (Romans 1:16).  But it has the basic sense of rescue and preservation (Strong’s 4992, 246). In this case, Paul’s “rescue” may mean his death.  Thus Paul asks that the prayers for him be aligned with his “earnest expectation and hope” that he will not be put to shame and that Christ will be “magnified in my body, whether by life or death” (vs. 20).  Thus, as the Mother of God magnified the Lord in her song of praise (Lk. 1:46), so Paul deeply desires that his trial and its result will enlarge the greatness and glory of Christ  (Strong’s # 3170, 158).

Looking at this passage from Paul’s point of view, we note that St. Paul’s overriding concern is the “furtherance” of the Gospel so that Christ may be glorified. Remember Paul’s distress about his rivals? In 2 Corinthians, he warns against the deceit of a preacher of “another Jesus” (vs. 2 Cor. 11:4).  And in Galatians he curses those who would preach “another Gospel” (Gal. 1:9). Now, even in Rome, Paul has opponents. Paul says that they are preaching Christ from “selfish ambition” and the desire to “add to Paul’s affliction in chains” (vs. 15).  St. John Chrysostom suggests that they were trying to incite the Emperor ‘s anger over the spread of the Gospel. The result would be that he would inflict his wrath on Paul (NfPf1: 13, 190).  Whatever the explanation, we only learn from Paul that they were preaching the Gospel out of “envy and strife” (vs. 15).

Nothing Matters Except the Progress of the Gospel

But now how does Paul react to his contenders?  Facing his day in court and possible execution, Paul takes the long view.  He responds to his opponents with equanimity.  Nothing matters to him except the advance of the Gospel.  And if that results from his opponents’ jealousy, then  Christ will be magnified, and Paul will rejoice (vs. 18).

For Reflection

In his comment on this passage, Chrysostom praises Paul’s noble attitude toward his contenders. The preacher thinks it remarkable that the Apostle could rejoice over his opponent’s success in preaching the Gospel. The preacher writes: “Not one of the grievous things which are in this present life can fix their fangs upon that lofty soul, which is truly philosophic, neither enmity, nor accusations, nor slanders, nor dangers, nor plots. It flies for refuge as it were to a mighty fortress, securely defended against all that attack it from this lower earth. Such was the soul of Paul; it had taken possession of a place higher than any fortress, the seat of spiritual wisdom, that is, true philosophy” (NfPf1: 13, 193).

It is not so hard to believe that God is magnified when we and our friends are successful in spreading the Gospel and serving the Lord.  But what if our opponents are also effective in the same endeavors?  What attitude does it take for us to say that the Lord is magnified even in the success of our adversaries?

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Fr. Basil

About Fr. Basil

Now retired, the Very Rev. Archpriest Basil Ross Aden has served as a parish priest, parish pastor, diocesan mission director, writer, and college teacher of New Testament and Religious Studies. He has a Master of Theology and a Doctor of Ministry degree from the University of Chicago and has published daily devotional and stewardship materials as well as a college textbook on Religious Studies. He also has published papers and/or lectured on the Orthodox perspective on Luther and the Reformation. religious freedom, current issues of religion and society, and St. John Chrysostom. He is married to Sandra and has two sons and three grandchildren. He is still active as a priest as well as a writer of articles and materials on Orthodoxy and topics of faith and life today.

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