Study Guide

Galatians, Philippians, and Philemon Suffering

Suffering

My little children, for whom I am again in the pain of childbirth until Christ is formed in you, I wish I were present with you now and could change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. (Galatians 4:19-20, NRSV)

My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you, I desire to be present with you now, and to change my voice; for I stand in doubt of you. (Galatians 4:19-20, KJV)

Ever had a broken heart? That's what Paul feels like right now. He's so upset with the Galatians that he's in pain right now. Sure, it's metaphorical, but it still hurts a whole bunch.

It is those who want to make a good showing in the flesh that try to compel you to be circumcised—only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ[…] From now on, let no one make trouble for me; for I carry the marks of Jesus branded on my body. (Galatians 6:12, 17, NRSV)

As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ[…] From henceforth let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. (Galatians 6:12, 17, KJV)

Paul accuses his opponents of trying to dodge suffering. If they say that Christians should obey Jewish law, then they won't upset any of the Jewish Christians out there. Paul's never taken the easy road, though. Especially when he's knows he's right.

I want you to know, beloved, that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; and most of the brothers and sisters, having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word with greater boldness and without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14, NRSV)

I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14, KJV)

Getting thrown in prison? It's actually a good thing. Not only is Paul able to spread the good word to his Roman jailors, he's also showing everyone that he'll stick by Jesus through thick and thin.

Others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice. (Philippians 1:17-18, NRSV)

But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:17-18, KJV)

Paul's opponents think that they're gonna get him down by bad-mouthing him while he's locked away? They've got another think coming. They might have bad intentions, but the joke's on them. They're still telling people about Jesus. Score one for Christianity, says Paul.

I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance. It is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be put to shame in any way, but that by my speaking with all boldness, Christ will be exalted now as always in my body, whether by life or by death. For to me, living is Christ and dying is gain. If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which I prefer. I am hard pressed between the two: my desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better. (Philippians 1:19-23, NRSV)

I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 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. For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. (Philippians 1:19-23, KJV)

Who says dying has to be a bad thing? This is Paul's version of "to be or not to be." Sure, he could go on living and help the Philippians grow in faith in love. But dying would bring him closer to Jesus. Tough choice.

I will know that you are standing firm in one spirit, striving side by side with one mind for the faith of the gospel, and are in no way intimidated by your opponents. For them this is evidence of their destruction, but of your salvation. And this is God's doing. For he has graciously granted you the privilege not only of believing in Christ, but of suffering for him as well—since you are having the same struggle that you saw I had and now hear that I still have. (Philippians 1:27-30, NRSV)

Ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel; And in nothing terrified by your adversaries: which is to them an evident token of perdition, but to you of salvation, and that of God. For unto you it is given in the behalf of Christ, not only to believe on him, but also to suffer for his sake; Having the same conflict which ye saw in me, and now hear to be in me. (Philippians 1:27-30, KJV)

What a privilege! The Philippians get to suffer for Jesus. Paul sure knows how to make lemonade out of lemons.

[Epaphroditus] was indeed so ill that he nearly died. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, so that I would not have one sorrow after another. I am the more eager to send him, therefore, in order that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious. Welcome him then in the Lord with all joy, and honor such people, because he came close to death for the work of Christ, risking his life to make up for those services that you could not give me. (Philippians 2:27-30, NRSV)

[Epaphroditus] was sick nigh unto death: but God had mercy on him; and not on him only, but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow. I sent him therefore the more carefully, that, when ye see him again, ye may rejoice, and that I may be the less sorrowful. Receive him therefore in the Lord with all gladness; and hold such in reputation: Because for the work of Christ he was nigh unto death, not regarding his life, to supply your lack of service toward me. (Philippians 2:27-30, KJV)

Epaphroditus is a pretty solid dude. He almost died trying to help Paul out in prison, but now that's he out of the woods, Paul thinks he deserves a warm welcome. A little suffering can win you a whole lot of brownie points.

I regard everything as loss because of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things, and I regard them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but one that comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God based on faith. I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the sharing of his sufferings by becoming like him in his death, if somehow I may attain the resurrection from the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11, NRSV)

I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ, And be found in him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith: That I may know him, and the power of his resurrection, and the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death; If by any means I might attain unto the resurrection of the dead. (Philippians 3:8-11, KJV)

Loss and suffering? Just another day for Paul. He welcomes this giant loss because it's brought him closer to Jesus. He's hoping his suffering—beatings, prison, near-death experiences—will work the same magic, too.

I have learned to be content with whatever I have. I know what it is to have little, and I know what it is to have plenty. In any and all circumstances I have learned the secret of being well-fed and of going hungry, of having plenty and of being in need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me. In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress. (Philippians 4:11-14, NRSV)

I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content. I know both how to be abased, and I know how to abound: every where and in all things I am instructed both to be full and to be hungry, both to abound and to suffer need. I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me. Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate with my affliction. (Philippians 4:11-14, KJV)

This is an interesting thank you note. Paul is grateful to the Philippians for the supplies they've sent him in prison, but he also would have been fine without them. He doesn't mind a little hardship because, basically, he's just learned to roll with the punches.

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