Lesson 15 - Consider Paul's Imprisonment as a Reason to Rejoice - Page 1 of 2 (series: Lessons on Philippians)

by John Lowe
(Woodruff, S.C.)

Date: 9/18/18
Lesson #15

Title: Consider Paul's Imprisonment as a Reason to Rejoice

Scripture: (Philippians 2:17-18, NIV)
(17) But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you. (18)So you too should be glad and rejoice with me.

Though he faces the real possibility of eminent martyrdom, Paul humbly compares death with a drink-offering that is poured out as the accompanying libation{1] to the sacrificial libation of the Philippians’ faith, which is proved to be genuine by their own willingness to suffer for the gospel (1:29-30).
(Philippians 1:29-30) 29 For it has been granted to you on behalf of Christ not only to believe in him, but also to suffer for him, 30 since you are going through the same struggle you saw I had, and now hear that I still have”

It is because Paul knows that his friends are united with him in the great work of advancing the cause of Christ in the world that he can greet even the prospect of death with undaunted joy. So from his grim prison in Rome he rejoices with them all, and bids them also to rejoice with him. Paul here piles up the terms to express his joy under the most adverse circumstances, because he clearly expects his fellow-suffers at Philippi to meet their trials in the same spirit.

Paul’s joy was real, as it was an expression of his great love for Jesus Christ, and it came from a submissive mind. But we do not have to wait for the return of Christ to start experiencing the joy of the submissive mind. “Sacrifice and service” are marks of the submissive mind (2:7-8, 21-22, 30), and the submissive mind experiences joy even in the midst of suffering. That Joy is a present reality, and it comes through “sacrifice and service.” It is remarkable tome that in two verses that discuss sacrifice, Paul uses the words “glad (joy) and rejoice”―and repeats them! Most people would associate sorrow with suffering, but Paul sees “suffering and sacrifice” as doorways to a deeper joy in Christ.

Lesson #15

(2:17) But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.

The standard which the apostle is holding up before the Philippian church is one which he himself is willing to apply to his own life. If anyone had a right to complain, it was Paul, who had already spent years in prison as a direct result of his faithfulness to the Lord. Here however, he is stating his own point of view: he is willing to die if necessary to accomplish his mission. He writes, “But even if I am being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service coming from your faith{3], I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” Paul informed the Corinthians in 2 Corinthians 11:23-29 of those things he had suffered for Christ and them.
(2 Corinthians 11:23-29) 23 Are they servants of Christ? (I am out of my mind to talk like this.) I am more. I have worked much harder, been in prison more frequently, been flogged more severely, and been exposed to death again and again.24 Five times I received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was pelted with stones, three times I was shipwrecked, I spent a night and a day in the open sea, 26 I have been constantly on the move. I have been in danger from rivers, in danger from bandits, in danger from my fellow Jews, in danger from Gentiles; in danger in the city, in danger in the country, in danger at sea; and in danger from false believers. 27 I have labored and toiled and have often gone without sleep; I have known hunger and thirst and have often gone without food; I have been cold and naked. 28 Besides everything else, I face daily the pressure of my concern for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I do not feel weak? Who is led into sin, and I do not inwardly burn?

The Drink offering
The “drink offering” is one of the earliest offerings in the Old Testament. When we go back to Genesis 35:14, we find that Jacob set up a pillar at Bethel― “Jacob set up a stone pillar to mark the place where God had spoken to him. Then he poured wine over it as an offering to God and anointed the pillar with olive oil.” Then in the books of Leviticus and Numbers the sacrifices are described. We learn that there was a drink offering which was to be added to the burnt offering and the meal offering. It was never added to the sin offering or the trespass offering. It was a most unusual offering in that it had nothing to do with redemption; it had nothing to do with the person of Christ. They would bring in a skin of wine and just pour it on the sacrifice which was being consumed by fire. What happened to it? It would go up in steam and just disappear.

Paul is saying, “I want my life to be poured out like a drink offering on the offering of Christ.” Paul knew that the Lord Jesus Christ made the supreme sacrifice. He wanted his life to be a drink offering―just poured out to go up in steam. He wanted to be so consumed and obscured that all that is seen is just Jesus Christ. He wanted Christ to receive all the honor and the glory. This was the mind of Paul. I can think of no higher wish for the Christian life.

Paul had already suffered much for Christ. Now he is willing to be a “sacrifice poured out,” whether as a libation{1] complementing their faith, like the “drink offering” of Jewish sacrifices, or in the sense of pouring out his blood. If his own suffering and even death would further the cause of the Philippian church, he is willing to submit to the will of God with joy and rejoicing. Thus, Paul anticipates that his lot in life may be martyrdom. On the other hand, he had experienced too many beatings and threats to his life to fail to realize he could be put to death by a mob or court―it is possible that Paul’s trial would go against him and he would be executed. His death would be a willing sacrifice, a priestly ministry, on behalf of Christ and His church, and that would give him joy. He did not seek death, nor did he have a morbid fear of it. He was prepared for life or death (1:21). Should martyrdom come, it would be his libation{1] added to their sacrificial offering. Paul was content, knowing he had helped the Philippians live for Christ. When you are totally committed to serving Christ, “sacrifice” is more rewarding than painful. If he should be called upon to pour out (sacrifice) his life, he wants no pity or sorrow. For him it will be a time for gladness and joy, and in it he wants them to be “glad and rejoice.” This joyous outpouring of life is a proper response to Christ’s own outpouring of his life in obedient service and in death (2:6-8).
(Philippians 1:21) For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
(Philippians 2:6-8) 6 Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be used to his own advantage; 7 rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. 8 And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to death—even death on a cross!

Have you ever known a Christian, who like Paul, maintained a joyful spirit in the face of difficult circumstances? Perhaps this was someone who encouraged fellow believers who were struggling in spite of his own diagnosis of terminal cancer. Maybe it was a widow who ministered to grieving family members and friends in the midst of her own sorrow. God gives grace so that His people can “rejoice” even when assaulted by trials at every turn; we know God is maturing us (James 1:2-4) and that He orchestrates everything for our good and His Son’s glory (Romans 8:28-29).
(James 1:2-4) 2 Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds, 3 because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. 4 Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything.

(Romans 8:28-29) 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whoi have been called according to his purpose. 29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters.

One of the most striking accounts of joy in all of Scripture is Paul and Silas praying to and praising God in the deep recesses of the Philippian jail (Acts 16:25). Luke’s account of this prison praise service provides a window into the apostle’s mindset of finding joy in God while sacrificing to proclaim His gospel.

( Acts 16:25) About midnight Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners were listening to them.

(2:17) Special notes and Scripture
[1} A “libation” is a ritual pouring of a liquid, or grains such as rice, as an offering to a god or spirit, or in memory of the dead. It was common in many religions of antiquity and continues to be offered in cultures today.
[2} The word “service” has in view a sacred ritual or form of worship. There was more to the sacrificial system than just the sacrifice itself.
[3} “What is meant by “your faith?” It does not mean the offering up of their faith but a sacrificial offering of themselves arising out of their faith, their trust or commitment to Christ.

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