Bill Mounce

For an Informed Love of God

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Monday, March 19

Do We Rejoice in the Midst of Pain, or Run from It? (Phil 2:18)

Having established that God is at work in his children, giving them godly desires and the ability to accomplish those desires (2:12–13), Paul then draws out one way those desires manifest themselves. “Do all things without grumbling or arguing, that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God above reproach in the midst of a crooked and perverse generation, among whom you shine like stars in the universe.”

As an aside, wouldn’t it be wonderful if this actually characterized the church? No negative words. No senseless debate. We would actually shine into the darkness of this world. And isn’t it interesting that if we could stop grumbling and arguing, then we will be “ blameless and innocent”? (And please don’t comment on the blog post about why it is so important that you argue about theology; that’s not the point.)

Paul continues, “But even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with all of you.” And then our verse. “So you too should be glad and rejoice with me. (τὸ δὲ αὐτὸ καὶ ὑμεῖς χαίρετε καὶ συγχαίρετέ μοι.)” (NIV).

I have frequently said that there is no random translation; even we disagree with a translation’s position, you can always see why they did what they did. But I cannot tell why the NIV does not translate τὸ αὐτὸ. The καὶ is emphasizing that the Philippians are also to rejoice in the midst of their circumstances, just like Paul is rejoicing in the midst of his imprisonment. The τὸ αὐτό makes this quite emphatic; the Philippians should be rejoicing in the same way that Paul is rejoicing, i.e., in the midst of their difficult circumstances. Perhaps the NIV sees “too” as an adequate translation of “τὸ ... αὐτὸ καὶ,” but to my ears the English is not nearly as emphatic as is the Greek.

You can see how most other translations treat τὸ αὐτό as an adverbial accusative. “In the same way you should also be glad and rejoice with me” (CBS, also NRSV, KJV). “Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me” (ESV). Only the NLT skips the phrase, “Yes, you should rejoice, and I will share your joy,” unless they translated τὸ αὐτό with the “Yes.”

I have been reading about a health and wealth preacher who believes all pain is the result of sin and the lack of faith. He famously says that he doesn’t need Job because he has Jesus. So convenient! When arguing for a position, you either deal with the text or you simply remove the facts contrary to your position. The church has historically treated the “canon within a canon” approach as heretical. The heresy continues.

Whether we like it or not, pain is the greatest teacher, giving us the best opportunities to grow up into Christ-likeness. Paul knows this and wants the Philippians to share in his experience of rejoicing especially in the midst of their own difficult circumstances. He doesn’t tell them to run from the pain or explain it away; he tells them to lean into it.

Robin (my wife) and I were talking to a couple the other day about growing up in marriage. We married pretty quickly, well before we really knew each other. But when we went through our first major loss, the miscarriage of our first daughter, we both leaned into the pain and grew together and grew up in Christ. As we tell people, the one thing we do well is pain.

The Christian’s goal in life is not the avoidance of pain and the pursuit of wealth and comfort — despite what you hear repeatedly from some megachurches. The goal for our lives is to love God, to love others, and in the process become more like Jesus, who perfectly loves his heavenly father and perfectly loves others.

Anyone who says otherwise is selling something.