Many years ago, I was able to purchase a new affordable (barely) edition of the Oxford English Dictionary. Up to that time it had been published only in an eight volume edition designed for the use (and budgets) of academic institutions. The edition I purchased was less expensive because it had been reduced to only two massive volumes—literally reduced that is. Each page of my edition contained what appeared to be four photocopied pages of the older edition. Having four pages reproduced on one page resulted in a practical problem: the print was almost too small to read with the naked eye. So the editors graciously provided a little drawer in the top of the boxed set that I had purchased that contained a magnifying glass to aid in the reading of the dictionary. Of course, the glass was able to focus on (hence magnify) only a small portion of the page at a time, but moving the lens across and down the page did enable the reader to obtain the information he was seeking. What’s the point? To the Philippians, Paul wrote (picking up a key thought in the middle of the sentence) concerning his “earnest expectation” and “hope,” which was that “Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death” (1:20). Since we ought to share that desire and determination, we also ought to consider this brief thought.
“Christ shall be magnified.” The Greek verb rendered magnified means to make great or to increase. Figuratively, as it is used here, it means to extol or to exult. It was Paul’s earnest expectation and hope to exult the Lord Jesus. Anything other than that or less than that, he explained earlier in the verse, would result in his being “ashamed.” His calling was to be a “magnifying glass” for the Person and Work of Christ: to be or to do anything else would be to fail and to reap the shame of failure. Now just as that magnifying glass that came with my dictionary could not enlarge the entire page, so we are not capable of “magnifying” all that Christ is or has done. But as we submit to His Word in faith and obedience, we become more and more Christ-like in life and action and little-by-little demonstrate to the eyes of those around us various aspects of the grace of Christ. It is the holy calling of believers to live so that others may “see Jesus” in us—and that should be our “earnest hope” and “expectation.”
“In my body.” This phrase lends a concrete and practical element to Paul’s desire. He is not talking about something merely philosophical or so ethereal as to be immeasurable. “In my body” means that Christ is to be seen in us right where we live and work, in our daily lives. It is not a matter of meaningless words; it is not a Sunday thing. What we do and how we do it; where we go and when we go there; what we say and how we say it—in all these areas we are to show forth the character of our Lord and Savior. We are not faithful because we think we are or because we say we are. Our lives tell the story. Our spouses know. Our children know. Our coworkers know. The fruit of the Spirit (Christ magnified) is manifest or it is not.
“Whether . . . by life, or by death.” This phrase further qualifies Paul’s desire by saying that there is actually no qualification on it. In effect he says, “I belong to the Lord. I am His to do with what he will. I yield my will and any apparent rights to Him as both Savior and Sovereign, regardless of what kind of life He calls me to, and even if He calls me to die.” Now, that is rare devotion, but it ought not to be because it is deserved devotion. Christ gave Himself for us; we ought to give ourselves to Him.
When I bought my OED, I didn’t rejoice that I had a magnifying glass: I rejoiced that I could read the dictionary. May it be our joy that the Lord would be able to use us to enable others to see Jesus Christ more clearly.
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