Christ Magnified, the Apostle Paul’s Joy

“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death”; (Philippians 1:20).

Paul’s joy was caused by Christ being magnified.  This concept reminds the Bible student of one John the Baptist who explained, “He must increase, but I must decrease”; (John 3:30).  John went on to say, “There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose”; (Mark 1:7).  Oh, that Christ Jesus the Lord be exalted!  The apostle desires as all believers should “that in all things He (Christ) might have the preeminence (or the first place)”; (Col. 1:18).  This was the fervent desire of Paul that the gospel be vindicated at his trial. In this verse we see (a) Paul’s expectation (v. 20a), (b) Paul’s hope (v. 20b), and (c) Paul’s boldness (v. 20c).

I. Paul’s expectation—;“According to my earnest expectation”; (v. 20a). The vindication of the gospel is Paul’s“earnest expectation.”; The word meant to watch with an outstretched head in anxious and strained expectancy or eager longing. One writer said, “The word is used in the Greek classics of the watchman who peered into the darkness, eagerly looking for the first gleam of the distant beacon which would announce the capture of Troy.”  Paul’s most ardent expectation was not his release but it was that all circumstances might be used for the furtherance or honor of the gospel.  Paul was truly the gospel apologist!

II. Paul’s hope—;“and my hope”; (v. 20b). “Hope” is a more certain form of expectation than was previously mentioned because it was based on a sure foundation.  Hope is that concentrated, intense hope which ignores other interests and strains forward as with outstretched head, that was Paul’s attitude of heart.  “Hope is expectation combined with assurance” [John Eadie, Philippians, 46].  The hope that this world offers is one in which uncertainty and doubt hold it hostage.  Hope in the Biblical sense is a certainty of expectation.

III. Paul’s boldness—;“that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death”; (v. 20c).   This part of the verse specifies some of the contents of Paul’s hope.  Paul wants to face his future trial and testing in a way to not dishonor Christ.  He said of the future, “that in nothing I shall be ashamed.”; Paul does not want to be ashamed by the way he handles himself under this trying or testing time.  However, Paul wants to handle himself ‘with all boldness’; or confidence “as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified.” Paul’s desire is that Christ shall be magnified or held up to the view of others as the true and only Saviour no matter what happens to him.  This living or dying was only incidental to the primary purpose of magnifying Christ.  Christ magnified “in my body”; is his desire and should be our desire as well–“my body shall be, as it were, the theatre on which Christ’s glory shall be displayed” [Charles J. Ellicott’s Philippians, 39].

We magnify Christ by making him visible to those who could not see him otherwise. A Christian physician, successful in her career and highly respected by her profession, was relating to a group of friends how she had come to meet Jesus, whose power to save had transformed her life. One of the steps that led her out from the atheism she once boasted was the manner in which a young Christian husband and his wife received a great disappointment. “It was a hard thing to tell them,” she said. “I knew how they had longed for children to gladden their hearts and home, and now their hopes were blasted. But it was the way they took it that impressed me. I knew that God was real to them. I was haunted by the realization that they had something I did not possess–and I wanted it” [Ralph A. Herring, Studies in Philippians, 57].

This young couple magnified Christ to this physician during a time of great testing.  They did not realize they were magnifying Christ but they were following Him.  “Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; and walk in love,(how?) as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour”; (Eph. 5:1-2).

Paul’s plea, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God” (Rom. 12:1-2; see 2 Cor. 11:23-27). Someone said, “It is harder often to make Christ great in the body than in the spirit” [A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures, 440].  Paul wants Christ to get glory from his body “whether it be by life, or by death.”;   If the verdict is favorable or unfavorable he wants Christ glorified and the gospel of Christ advanced (see v. 21).  “Paul knows that his present troubles will turn out at last for his eternal salvation, not merely rescue from imprisonment, for it applies (verse 20) both to death and life.  He will get the spiritual development that God means for him to receive from his imprisonment and from the personal antagonisms in Rome.  It is all one to Paul what the future holds in store for him on earth.  He is sure of the prayers of the Philippians and of the presence of the Spirit of Jesus and of the triumph of Jesus in his work whether by life or death.  So he faces the future with calmness whatever doubt as to the course of events may exist” [A.T. Robertson, Paul’s Joy in Christ, 91].

Whatever happened to Paul personally his primary purpose was for Christ to be glorified and praised.  Why?  “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain”; (v. 21).  Whatever happened he wanted Christ honored and then there was no way he can lose if his Lord was glorified!  Do we have the same desire that Paul had that Christ be magnified?

– H. Rondel Rumburg