Studies in Galatians, Ephesians and Philippians
17. Philippians 1:12-20 - Rejoice in the Gospel
Priority of the gospel
The believers in Philippi had heard of his arrest and imprisonment, so Paul reassures them “that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel” (v. 12). The gospel is what is important, he implies, not my comfort. So what looks like misfortune for Paul is really turning out quite well. Since he could talk to his guards, “it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ” (v. 13).
Instead of other Christians being frightened by Paul’s arrest, they became encouraged by Paul’s boldness in captivity. “Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly” (v. 14). Paul could be restrained, but the gospel spread even more.
Some people were trying to take advantage of Paul’s restrictions, but Paul does not worry about them. He judges everything by one standard: the gospel. “It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.
“The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached” (vv. 15-18). Paul is encouraged by those who preach out of love, but he sees good even in what the others are doing, because more people are learning about Christ.
“And because of this,” Paul writes, “I rejoice.” His joy was in the gospel, not in his own advantage.
Paul has reason to be confident, because his confidence is in Christ. “I will continue to rejoice,” he writes, “for I know that through your prayers and the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ, what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance” (v. 19). Paul knows that he will be released, but in the meantime, the gospel is going to more people. So he is happy.
To live is Christ
Paul does not know whether he will be released alive, or released by death. No matter which, he is sure that Christ will give him strength to be faithful. “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death” (v. 20). If Paul escapes alive, he will praise Christ. If he is killed for his faith, that will also be a witness for Christ.
Author: Michael Morrison, PhD