Philippians 1:22-24 Commentary



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Philippians 1:22-24 Commentary

Philippians 1:22.  But if I am to live  (PAN) on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know (1SPAI which to choose (1SFMI)  (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: ei de to zen (PAN) en sarki, touto moi karpos ergou; kai ti hairesomai (1SFMI) ou gnorizo. (1SPAI
Amplified: If, however, it is to be life in the flesh and I am to live on here, that means fruitful service for me; so I can say nothing as to my personal preference [I cannot choose], (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT: Yet if I live, that means fruitful service for Christ. I really don't know which is better. (
NLT - Tyndale House)
Wuest: But if for me [continued] life in this physical existence be my lot, this very thing [namely, continued life on earth] is that in which the fruit of my ministry will be involved and is the condition of that fruit being produced. Then what I shall prefer for myself I do not know.  (
Young's Literal: And if to live in the flesh is to me a fruit of work, then what shall I choose? I know not;


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Philippians - Q & A Format
Philippians Commentary
Philippians 1 Commentary
Philippians 1:19-26
Philippians 1 Commentary
Philippians 1-2; 1:1-8; 1:7-9; 1:10-11; 1:12-20; 1:21-26
Philippians Commentary

Philippians Homilies
Philippians 1 Commentary
Philippians 1:19-26 What Are You Living For?
Philippians 1:19-26 A Christian Perspective on Death
Philippians Commentary
Philippians 1:12-30
Philippians 1:18b-26 Paul’s Perspective on Life and Death
Philippians 1:21-26 To Be or Note to Be
Philippians 1:21ff Commentary
Philippians - Easy English Commentary
Philippians 1:18b-30: Mutual Encouragers
Philippians 1 Commentary
The Epistle to the Philippians - Commentary
The Epistle to the Philippians Commentary
The Epistle to the Philippians
Philippians 1 Commentary
Philippians 1 Commentary
Philippians 1:19-26; 1:27-30
Philippians 1 Notes; Philippians 1:3-6

Philippians 1 Commentary
Philippians 1:18b-26; 1:27-30
Philippians Commentary

Philippians 1:20-26 I'd Rather Be Dead
Philippians 1 Commentary
Philippians 1 Commentary
The Epistle to the Philippians
Philippians 1:12-26 The Happiness of a Humble Spirit
Philippians 1 Commentary
Philippians 1:18-26 The Joy Of Suffering Service - Part 1

Philippians 1:18-26 The Joy Of Suffering Service - Part 2

Philippians 1 Commentary
Philippians 1:22-26-Joy in Spite of the Flesh
Philippians 1:27-30 Conduct Worthy of the Church

Philippians 1:21-25 A Strait Betwixt Two
Philippians Mp3's - Thru the Bible
Philippians 1:21-26 Whether to Live or to Die!
Philippians 1:21 Life and Death (ODW)
Philippians 1 Commentary
Philippians 1 Commentary
Philippians 1:12-30
Philippians 1:19-26 Piper's Candidating Sermon

Philippians 1:19-26 The Life That Wins

Philippians 1:22 1:23 1:24 1:25 1:26 1:27 1:27 1:28 1:29

Philippians 1 Greek Word Studies
Philippians 1:21-30

Philippians 1 Notes; Philippians 1
The Epistle to the Philippians
Philippians 1 Commentary
Philippians 1 Exposition
Philippians 1:23 Paul's Desire to Depart
Philippians 1:23 Forever with the Lord - Pdf
Philippians 1:12-26; P2; P3; P4; P5; P6; P7; P8; P9; P10
Philippians 1 Greek Word Studies
Philippians 1 Commentary
Philippians 1 Christ Shall Be Magnified
Philippians 1:12-26; 1:27-2:11

Philippians Illustrations
Philippians: Download lesson 1 of 16; Misc Helps
Philippians 1:1-2

BUT IF I AM TO LIVE ON IN THE FLESH: de to zen (PAN) en sarki: (2Co10:3; Gal2:20; 1Pe4:2)

Flesh (sarx [word study]) (see also Chart contrasting in the flesh vs in the Spirit) here refers not to one’s fallen humanness (Ro7:18, 7:5) but to physical life (2Co10:3; Gal2:20; 1Pe4:2). Paul is referring here to remaining in this world.

The following discussion is adapted from W E Vine's discussion of the various meaning of sarx in the New Testament. The specific meaning of any Greek word is always determined by the context and that principle is especially critical in correctly interpreting the meaning of sarx.

Flesh according to W E Vine "has a wider range of meaning in the NT than in the OT." The following summary of NT is based primarily on W E Vine's analysis but has additional notes obtained from a variety of sources too numerous to mention...

(a) The substance of the body. The material that covers the bones of a human or animal body. Whether of beasts or of men.

"All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one [flesh] of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish." (1Co15:39) Paul speaks of the amazing variety of earthly bodies God has made. We need only look around us to see the virtually infinite assortment of created beings and things. The flesh of men is absolutely distinct from the flesh of beasts, the flesh of birds, and the flesh of fish. In short, all flesh is not of the same kind. In context Paul is saying that if God is able to make different kinds of bodies for men, animals, birds, and fish, why can He not make a different kind of body for us at the resurrection? He has arranged all things in nature in the differing degrees of glory and so has power to bring about the state of glory to be manifested in the resurrected bodies of believers. Note: Differences in degrees of glory in the believer's glorified bodies is not in view.

"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh (in this physical human body) I live by faith in the Son of God, Who loved me, and delivered Himself up for me." (Gal 2:20)

 (b) “the human body,” 2 Cor. 10:3a; Gal. 2:20; Phil. 1:22;
 (c) by synecdoche, of “mankind,” in the totality of all that is essential to manhood, i.e., spirit, soul, and body, Matt. 24:22; John 1:13; Rom. 3:20;
 (d) by synecdoche, of “the holy humanity” of the Lord Jesus, in the totality of all that is essential to manhood, i.e., spirit, soul, and body John 1:14; 1 Tim. 3:16; 1 John 4:2; 2 John 7, in Heb. 5:7, “the days of His flesh,” i.e., His past life on earth in distinction from His present life in resurrection;
(e) by synecdoche, for “the complete person,” John 6:51-57; 2 Cor. 7:5; Jas. 5:3;
 (f) “the weaker element in human nature,” Matt. 26:41; Rom. 6:19; 8:3a;
(g) “the unregenerate state of men,” Rom. 7:5; 8:8, 9;
(h) “the seat of sin in man” (but this is not the same thing as in the body), 2 Pet. 2:18; 1 John 2:16;
(i) “the lower and temporary element in the Christian,” Gal. 3:3; 6:8, and in religious ordinances, Heb. 9:10
(j) “the natural attainments of men,” 1 Cor. 1:26; 2 Cor. 10:2, 3b;
 (k) “circumstances,” 1 Cor. 7:28; the externals of life, 2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 6:5; Heb. 9:13;
(1) by metonymy, “the outward and seeming,” as contrasted with the spirit, the inward and real, John 6:63; 2 Cor. 5:16;
(m) “natural relationship, consanguine,” 1 Cor. 10:18; Gal. 4:23, or marital, Matt. 19:5.”
Adapted and modified from Vine, W. E. Vine's complete expository dictionary of Old and New Testament words. Vol. 2, Page 242-243. Nashville: T. Nelson

Metonymy: the substitution of a word referring to an attribute for the thing that is meant, as for example the use of the crown to refer to a monarch.  This is a figure of speech in which an attribute of a thing or something closely related to it is substituted for the thing itself. Thus, “sweat” can mean “hard labor,” and “Capitol Hill” represents the U.S. Congress. Another example is "The White House denied the allegations,” which uses White House to mean the president or his staff."

Synecdoche: a figure of speech in which a part is substituted for a whole or a whole for a part, as in 50 head of cattle for 50 cows. It represents an indirect mode of expression, often used in rhetoric, whereby the whole is put for the part, or the part for the whole. Typical examples of this figure of speech occurring in the Bible are “for they have come under the shelter of my roof [my house]” (Ge19:18), and “How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of him [the messenger] who brings good tidings” (Isa52:7). "The house was built by 40 hands" for "The house was built by 20 people." In this figure of speech a part is put for the whole (as fifty sail for fifty ships), the whole for a part (as society for high society), the species for the genus (as cutthroat for assassin), the genus for the species (as a creature for a man), or the name of the material for the thing made (as boards for stage) Synecdoche represents a more inclusive term is used for a less inclusive term, or vice versa, as in “Brazil lost the soccer game,” which means that a soccer team from Brazil lost the game. In the expression “all hands on deck,” “hands” stands for the whole person.

THIS WILL MEAN FRUITFUL LABOR FOR ME: touto moi karpos ergou: (Ps 71:18; Is 38:18; 38:19)

Fruitful (2590) (karpos [word study]) refers literally to fruit or produce both of trees and plants and of the earth. Karpos is often used (as in the present context) to describe the natural result of what has been done and so can refer to a deed, an activity or the result of deeds.

Don't miss what he just said...spiritual work is not easy but is work and it is hard work. Epaphroditus almost died in the "work of Christ" (Php 2:30-
note) Spiritual fruit may be converts to Christianity (1Co 16:15), deeds, praise to God (Heb 13:15-note) -- whatever is of eternal value. That kind of fruit comes from  hard work, which is the natural activity of the godly on earth.

AND I DO NOT KNOW WHICH TO CHOOSE: kai ti hairesomai (1SFMI) ou gnorizo. (1SPAI): (Ge 21:26; 39:8; Ex 32:1; Acts 3:17; Ro11:2)

Choose (138) (haireomai [word study]  from haireo = to take a particular position for oneself) means to make a choice of one or more possible alternatives and so to choose, select or prefer.

In the middle voice haireomai means to take for oneself (the pronoun "oneself" indicating the reflexive aspect of the middle voice) and so to choose, elect  or prefer. It means to make a choice of one or more possible alternatives.

Haireomai can mean to choose, for the purpose of showing special favor as in Thessalonians

But we should always give thanks to God for you, brethren beloved by the Lord, because God has chosen (haireo) you from the beginning for salvation through sanctification by the Spirit and faith in the truth. (2Th 2:13).

Haireo is the root word of the Greek word hairesis, which means "heresy" (an opinion, doctrine, or practice contrary to the truth or to generally accepted beliefs or standards) which can mean a false teaching or a division or group based upon different doctrinal opinions and/or loyalties and hence by implication in certain contexts an unjustified party or group.

Paul knew that the only reason to remain in this world was to bring souls to Christ and build up believers to do the same. Paul couldn't say what he would choose. He knew it was an issue that was in the Lord's hands and, given the choice, couldn't choose either heaven or earth for himself.


Philippians 1:23. But I am hard-pressed (1SPPI from both directions, having (PAPMSN the desire to depart (AAN)  and be (PAN) with Christ, for that is very much better  (NASB: Lockman)
Greek: sunechomai (1SPPI) de ek ton duo, ten epithumian echon (PAPMSN) eis to analusai (AAN) kai sun Christo einai, (PAN) pollo [gar] mallon kreisson; 
Amplified: But I am hard pressed between the two. My yearning desire is to depart (to be free of this world, to set forth) and be with Christ, for that is far, far better; (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT:  I'm torn between two desires: Sometimes I want to live, and sometimes I long to go and be with Christ. That would be far better for me, (
NLT - Tyndale House)
Wuest: Rather, I am being held motionless by an equal pull from the two (namely, life and death), so that I cannot incline either way, having the passionate desire towards striking my tent and being with Christ, which is by far better (
Lightfoot: I am hemmed in, as it were, a wall on this side and a wall on that. If I consulted my own longing, I should desire to dissolve this earthly tabernacle, and to go home to Christ; for this is very far better.

BUT I AM HARD-PRESSED FROM BOTH directions: sunechomai (1SPPI) de ek ton duo: (2Sa 24:14; 1Th 2:1; 2:13 Lk 12:50; 2Co 6:12)

I am hemmed in, as it were, a wall on this side and a wall on that (Lightfoot)

Hard pressed (4912) (sunecho from sun = with + echo = hold) literally means hold together and is a picturesque word which serves to heighten the magnitude of Paul's dilemma.

Sunecho means to be hemmed in on both sides and was used of a traveler in a narrow passage or gorge, with a wall of rock on either hand, unable to turn aside and able only to go straight on. The picture is that of a man pressed on both sides. The idea is not urging or driving, but shutting up to one line and purpose, as in a narrow, walled road. Literally Paul is saying "I am held together, so that I cannot incline either way". There is an equal pressure being exerted from both sides, from the desire for continued life and from the desire for death & to be with Christ. Paul was perplexed, held in, kept back from decision. There was a strong pressure bearing upon him from both sides, keeping him erect and motionless.  Hard pressed means to be required to make a difficult decision between two possibilities—that of going home to heaven or that of remaining on earth as an apostle of Christ Jesus.

Francis Patton (1843–1932) a former president of Princeton University observed that whereas the high watermark of the Old Testament was Psalm 23:4, that of the New Testament was Philippians 1:23. David was willing to go, but wanting to stay, but Paul was willing to stay, but wanting to go.

HAVING THE DESIRE TO DEPART: ten epithumian echon (PAPMSN) eis to analusai (AAN): (Lk 2:29 Lk 2:30; Jn 13:1; 2Co 5:8; 2Ti 4:6)

The desire (1939) (epithumia [word study]) means passionate desire and most of the NT contexts are negative (and so it is often translated "lusts") but in this context clearly the "lust" is positive. There is an equal pressure being exerted from both sides, from the strong desire for continued life and from the strong desire for death into the presence of Christ. Paul was perplexed, held in, kept back from decision. There was an intense desire and strong pressure bearing upon him from both sides, keeping him erect and motionless.

The Puritan Thomas Watson wrote,

Spiritual things satisfy; the more of heaven is in us, the less earth will content us.... Fly aloft in your affections, thirst after the graces and comforts of the Spirit; the eagle that flies above in the air, fears not the stinging of the serpent; the serpent creeps on his belly, and stings only such creatures as go upon the earth

APPLICATION: Consider what your heart and mind are set on. If you're set on the right things, you'll be content with the circumstances in which God has placed you.

Depart (360) (analuo) used here as euphemism of "to die" and in secular Greek was used of loosing the anchor or mooring of a ship so it could depart port and set sail, of striking one’s tent as one would do in the military metaphor when "breaking camp" (cf 2Cor5:1). The latter figure may have been the main idea Paul wanted to convey here since he was a tent maker by trade and spoke of the human body as a tent. In the NT, this verb is used twice, first to return from wedding (Lu 12:36) and here in Philippians where Paul says that "setting sail" to a better and a more blessed world is very much better.

William Barclay has this note on "depart" (analuo)


(i) It is the word for striking camp, loosening the tent ropes, pulling up the tent pins and moving on (read 2Cor 5:1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8). Death is a moving on. It is said that in the terrible days of the war, when the Royal Air Force stood between Britain and destruction and the lives of its pilots were being sacrificially spent, they never spoke of a pilot as having been killed but always as having been “posted to another station.” Each day is a day’s march nearer home, until in the end camp in this world is for ever struck and exchanged for permanent residence in the world of glory.

(ii) It is the word for loosening the mooring ropes, pulling up the anchors and setting sail. Death is a setting sail, a departure on that voyage which leads to the everlasting haven and to God.

(iii) It is the word for solving problems. Death brings life’s solutions. There is some place where all earth’s questions will be answered and where those who have waited will in the end understand.

Wiersbe adds that "depart" (analuo) had 2 additional secular usages that Paul may have had in mind:

"departure was also a political term; it described the setting free of a prisoner. God’s people are in bondage because of the limitations of the body and the temptations of the flesh, but death will free them. Or they will be freed at the return of Christ (Ro8:18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23) if that should come first. Finally, departure was a word used by the farmers; it meant “to unyoke the oxen.” Paul had taken Christ’s yoke, which is an easy yoke to bear (Mt11:28, 29, 30), but how many burdens he carried in his ministry! (2Co11:22-12:10.) To depart to be with Christ would mean laying aside the burdens, his earthly work completed. (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996, c1989). The Bible exposition commentary. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.)

AND BE WITH CHRIST: kai sun Christo einai (PAN): (Job 19:26;19:27 Ps 49:15; Lk 23:43; Jn14:3; 17:24; Acts 7:59; 2Co 5:8 1Th 4:17; Rev 14:13)

The destination for which Paul yearns. There is no soul-sleeping; there is no intermediary probation

FOR THAT IS VERY MUCH BETTER: pollo [gar] mallon
kreisson: (Ps 16:10; 16:11, 17:15; 73:24, 73:25, 73:26; Rev 7:14, 7:15, 7:16, 7:17) (Daily Bread)

Very much better - This phrase is a doubly strengthened comparative and as such expresses the highest superlative. More than "better" or "much better," to be with Christ so far surpasses anything in this life that it is "very much better." It's as though Paul could find no superlative adequate to express the comparison between being on earth and being with Christ in heaven & sharing complete, conscious, intimate, unhindered fellowship.

Labor for Christ is sweet, but rest with Christ will be sweeter. Paul was ready to go and willing to wait. Life has its attractions; death has its advantages. Paul desires to live and labor, preferring Christ’s purpose.

Francis Patton (1843–1932, a former president of Princeton University, observed that whereas the high watermark of the Old Testament was Psalm 23:4, that of the New Testament was Philippians 1:23. David was willing to go, but wanting to stay, but Paul was willing to stay, but wanting to go.

The great English Evangelist preacher George Whitfield said

“I am often weary in the work, but never weary of it.”

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Illustration of Php 1:23 in the Life of Adoniram Judson

The book "To the Golden Shore" tells the story of Adoniram Judson, one of the first American missionaries sent overseas (Courtney Anderson [Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1956]). He was a brave ambassador of Jesus Christ who served his Lord in what was then known as Burma. After fourteen years of enduring wretched imprisonments and life-threatening diseases, all he had to show for his pains were the graves of his wife and all his children. He was all alone, yet was faithful to remain there. He wrote that if he had not felt certain that every trial was ordered by God's infinite love and mercy, he could not have survived his accumulated sufferings. Judson understood his trials were a part of the sovereign plan of God. Although he must have longed to be with Christ and enjoy the fellowship of his beloved family, he also longed to meet the needs of the pagan Burmese people. Therefore he prayed God would allow him to live until he had translated the entire Bible into Burmese and had presided over a native church of at least 100 Christians. Judson had the spirit of the apostle Paul, who longed to be with Christ but also desired to be useful to the church. (Click here for more on the incredible sacrificial life of Adoniram Judson & be challenged by his life even as you are by Paul's words in Philippians) (from John MacArthur)

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Death Means (Our Daily Bread) - For the believer, death means entering into the glorious presence of Christ. The 18th-century Bible commentator Matthew Henry expressed this confidence in words he hoped would be read after his death by anyone who might unduly mourn his passing. He wrote:

“Would you like to know where I am? I am at home in my Father’s house, in the mansions prepared for me here. I am where I want to be—no longer on the stormy sea, but in God’s safe, quiet harbor. My sowing time is done and I am reaping; my joy is as the joy of harvest. Would you like to know what I am doing? I see God, not as through a glass darkly, but face to face. I am engaged in the sweet enjoyment of my precious Redeemer. I am singing hallelujahs to Him who sits upon the throne, and I am constantly praising Him. Would you know what blessed company I keep? It is better than the best on earth. Here are the holy angels and the spirits of just men made perfect. I am with many of my old acquaintances with whom I worked and prayed, and who have come here before me. Lastly, would you know how long this will continue? It is a dawn that never fades! After millions and millions of ages, it will be as fresh as it is now. Therefore, weep not for me!” (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)

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Stay Or Go? - Falmouth, Kentucky, residents faced a nightmare of a decision in early 1997. The nearby Licking River was rising at the rate of a foot an hour, and local officials were urging people to evacuate. Most people left, but others, either fearing looters or downplaying the severity of the flood, refused to go. We can understand why the people had such a tough time leaving. Each of us has possessions or places we want to protect and not let go of.

In Philippians 1, Paul spoke of being torn between two locations: "I am hard pressed between the two" (v.23). He longed to join his Savior in heaven, but he also knew that God had given him a purpose to fulfill on earth. He was torn between his desire to be with Christ and his calling to minister to people.

If you have placed your trust in Jesus Christ as your Savior and Lord, you can understand Paul's dilemma. You look forward to being with Jesus, yet you realize God has a reason for you to stay on this troubled planet.
To stay or to go? The time for you to leave this world is God's decision, so make the most of your life while you're here. Give each day to Jesus Christ. Keep living for Him and rescuing others. --J D Brannon  (


Not what I wish to be, nor where I wish to go,
For who am I that I should choose my way?
The Lord shall choose for me, 'tis better far I know,
So let Him bid me go, or stay. --Miles

Heavenly-minded people do the most earthly good.

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Pulled In Two Directions - As Christians, we are pulled in two directions. We all want to go to heaven, but this life also holds great appeal. We are like the youngster in Sunday school who listened intently while the teacher told about the beauties of heaven. She concluded by saying, "Raise your hand if you want to go to heaven." Every hand shot up immediately--except one. "Why don't you want to go to heaven, Johnny?" "Well," he replied, "Mom just baked an apple pie for dinner."

Now, we don't need to feel guilty for having a strong desire to enjoy life. Marriage, a family, a fulfilling job, travel, recreation--these all have a legitimate appeal. But if the delights of our earthly home are so attractive that we lose sight of God's purpose for putting us here, something's wrong.

The apostle Paul had mixed feelings too. Although he believed he would be released from prison, he knew that he could possibly fall victim to Nero's sword. This created a conflict. He longed to be with Christ, for that would be "far better" (Phil. 1:23). He also wanted to live--not merely to enjoy life but because he was needed by his fellow believers (Php 1:24).

Paul was pulled in two directions, and in both cases it was for the highest reason. What about us? --D J De Haan (


Tempt not my soul away--Jesus is mine;
Here would I ever stay--Jesus is mine.
Perishing things of clay, born but for one brief day,
Pass from my heart away--Jesus is mine. --J. Bonar

To make the most of your time on earth,
always keep heaven in mind.


Philippians 1:24 yet to remain (PAN) on in the flesh is  more necessary for your sake  (NASB: Lockman)

Greek: to de epimenein (PAN) [en] te sarki anagkaioteron di' humas 
Amplified: But to remain in my body is more needful and essential for your sake. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
NLT:  but it is better for you that I live. (
NLT - Tyndale House)
Wuest: but still to remain with my flesh is more needful for your sake. (
Young's Literal: and to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account,

YET TO REMAIN ON IN THE FLESH: to de epimenein (PAN) [en] te sarki: (Jn 16:7; Acts 20:29; 20:3;0 20:31)

Remain (1961) (epimeno is a strengthened form of meno which means to abide, remain. From epi = upon + meno = abide) means literally to remain upon and so to stay at or with, to continue, to tarry still. The addition of the prefix preposition epi (upon) gives the force of adherence or persistence and hence a more protracted stay. Thus the idea of the phrase "to remain on in the flesh" is to hold on or cling to this life in the body. Personal desire gives way to spiritual need. Always with one eye toward heaven, Paul made the most of each day and so should all believers.

IS MORE NECESSARY FOR YOUR SAKE: anagkaioteron di' humas:  

Vine explains Paul's meaning here

If personal advantage is the consideration it is much better to be with Christ, but if the consideration is that of obligation toward the saints in Philippi, then it is more needful to continue with them still serving the Lord.

This is the mark of a spiritual man who manifests an unselfish great hearted spirit and yields his own comfort, needs and desires to meet the legitimate needs of others. Paul’s “heaven on earth” was helping others! While he longed to be with Christ, he eagerly yearned to remain and help these believers grow in Christ.

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