The Chorale and the Good Choreographer

Blog / Produced by The High Calling
Default image
That St. Paul had many good friends is evident in the lists of people he greets in his New Testament letters. However, the men and women of the Philippian church, I think, stand out as among his very best friends. Throughout Paul’s journeys, they followed him with practical help. When he was in his final imprisonment at Rome, one of their members came to help him survive in prison. “I received from Epaphroditus the gifts you sent” (Phil. 4:18). Paul thanks them in the Philippian letter for their direct and concrete expressions of friendship. “In any case, it was kind of you to share my distress” (Phil. 4:14-15). These friends prayed for Paul and his welfare. “. . . for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance” (Phil. 1:19). Then, in God’s providence, the Philippian friends themselves became a part of the answered prayers. One member, Epaphroditus, actually arrives to be with Paul in the harsh and dangerous time of his fatal imprisonment.

Early in Paul’s letter, while he is assuring the Philippians not to despair in the face of his imprisonment, one sentence intrigues me: Paul remarks about their prayers in his behalf: “I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance.” (Phil. 1:19).

The word translated “help” particularly caught my eye. At first I assumed from the English text that it was the same Greek word in Philippians 4:3 where Paul instructs the church to help Euodia and Syntyche (who are having an argument). Here Paul employs the Greek word sullambano—“to lift with” (lambano means “lift” and sul “with”). This is a beautiful word in the Bible’s caring vocabulary; we care concretely when we lift together, alongside, and for our brothers and sisters. This is similar to Paul’s word in the Romans letter (Rom. 14:1), which translates as our English word welcome. This is the word proslambano, literally “lift toward.” We welcome when we lift toward us the people we meet.

At first I wondered whether Paul was rejoicing because of the Philippians’ prayers and the Holy Spirit’s lifting care in his life. But the Philippians 1:19 word is different; it is the word epichorogus. Chorogus becomes our English word chorus and chorale. These two musical words have as their root this Greek word chorogus. Then I saw it: Paul is thanking God that through the prayers of his friends and the choreography of the Holy Spirit, this present crisis of his at Rome will “turn out for my deliverance.”

Thus Paul introduces us to two wonderful mysteries: first, the mystery of divine appointments because of the Great Choreographer. God is the choreographer who holds history in his hand. He is not immobilized by even tragedies in the jarring passageways of human stories.
{ body #wrapper section#content.detail .body .body-main blockquote p { font-size: 0.875rem !important; line-height: 1.375rem !important; } }