Lesson Text: Philippians 1:12-26
Background Scripture: Philippians 1
Devotional Reading: Psalm 119:169-176
Philippians 1:12-26 (KJV)
12But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
13So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;
14And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will:
16The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds:
17But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel.
18What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.
19For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
20According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.
21For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
22But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot not.
23For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better:
24Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.
25And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;
26That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.
To tell how the Apostle Paul kept his eyes on Christ while accepting difficult circumstances.
To know that you can do all things (find purpose, hope, and joy in living) through Christ who strengthens you!
To know that your courage to live and speak for Christ inthe midst of adversity can be a strong motivator for both believers and nonbelievers alike!
Philippians is one of Paul's four Prison Epistles, the others being Ephesians, Colossians, and Philemon. They are so called because Paul specifically refers to himself as a prisoner in these letters. These references situate the writing of Philippians late in Paul's career, when he was living in Rome under house arrest while awaiting a hearing before Caesar (see Acts 28:16, 30, 31) in about A.D. 60. Obviously, Paul was unable to visit the churches during this time, so he communicated with them through letters and a network of messengers. Two such messengers, Timothy and Epaphroditus, are mentioned in Philippians 1:1; 2:19-30.
During Paul’s second missionary journey, he planted the first European church in Philippi (see Acts 16:9-40). This probably occurred around A.D. 50. A few of the converts of Philippi, such as Lydia, became some of his dearest friends. The dramatic conversion of a jailer and the exorcism of a slave girl also occurred in this city. In any case, the Philippian church always held a cherished place in Paul’s heart. He came back to visit this city on his third missionary journey around A.D. 55-56 (see Map#121). In fact, he may have passed through the city twice on this particular trip.
After the Philippian believers sent Paul a generous gift while he was under house arrest in Rome, the apostle wrote this letter to thank them for their kindness and to report on his current situation.
In spite of his difficult circumstances as a prisoner in Rome, Paul is rejoicing. The secret of his joy is the single mind; he lives for Christ and the Gospel. (Christis named eighteen times in Philippians 1, and the Gospelis mentioned six times.) "For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain" (Phil. 1:21). But what really is "the single mind"? It is the attitude that says, "It makes no difference what happens to me, just as long as Christ is glorified and the Gospel shared with others." Paul rejoiced in spite of his circumstances, because his circumstances strengthened the fellowship of the Gospel (Phil. 1:1-11), promoted the furtherance of the Gospel (Phil. 1:12-26), and guarded the faith of the Gospel (Phil. 1:27-30). Because of Paul's chains, Christ was known (Phil. 1:13), and because of Paul's critics, Christ was preached (Phil. 1:18). But because of Paul's crisis, Christ was magnified! (Phil. 1:20). It was possible that Paul would be found a traitor to Rome and then executed. His preliminary trial had apparently gone in his favor. The final verdict, however, was yet to come. But Paul's body was not his own, and his only desire (because he had the single mind) was to magnify Christ in his body.
Does Christ need to be magnified? After all, how can a mere human being ever magnify the Son of God? Well, the stars are much bigger than the telescope, and yet the telescope magnifies them and brings them closer. The believer's body is to be a telescope that brings Jesus Christ close to people. To the average person, Christ is a misty figure in history who lived centuries ago. But as the unsaved watch the believer go through a crisis, they can see Jesus magnified and brought so much closer. To the Christian with the single mind, Christ is with us here and now.
The telescope brings distant things closer, and the microscope makes tiny things look big. To the unbeliever, Jesus is not very big. Other people and other things are for more important. But as the unbeliever watches the Christian go through a crisis experience, he ought to be able to see how big Jesus Christ really is. The believer's body is a "lens" that makes a "little Christ" look very big, and a "distant Christ" come very close.
Paul was not afraid of life or death! Either way, he wanted to magnify Christ in his body. No wonder he had joy!
Proclaiming the Gospel In Spite of Restrictions (Philippians 1:12-14)
1. What did Paul want the Philippian Christians to know about his arrest (Philippians 1:12-14)?
Undoubtedly, the Philippian Christians knew that Paul was under house arrest and was awaiting his trial before Caesar on serious charges. The consequences of those charges could be terribly grievous for the apostle, at least physically. It was possible that he could be sentenced either to death or a long, harsh imprisonment for sedition against Rome.
In view of all this, Paul wanted to inform them that his bonds led to a wider witness. Paul turned his house arrest into a gospel chapel. His chains did not curtail the gospel, but advanced it (Phil. 1:12).
Paul was especially excited about the Lord’s work among the emperor’s guards, for everyone there knew that the apostle was under arrest because of his unswerving faith in Jesus and courageous defense of the Gospel. Some of them had received the Son as their Lord and Savior. It was clear to everyone that the apostle was not under house arrest because he had violated a civil law or because he was a political agitator. The sentries who were responsible for guarding Paul probably observed how he lived out his faith in the Messiah. Some may have listened to the apostle’s teachings about the Savior and shared what they learned with other palace guards, noting that Paul’s characteristics were nothing like those of roost other criminals they guarded. Moreover, the Gospel was advanced not only among these guards but to many other people as well (v. 13).
Furthermore, Paul attributed the proclamation of the Gospel by other Christians in Rome to his being in “bonds” for Christ.” Paul was elated that his example encouraged other Christians to be brave and bold in declaring the Word of God (v. 14). There was the possibility that all of Paul’s believing readers might also come under the iron fist of the Roman authorities. If the Lord could still bring fabulous fruit to the apostle’s ministry while he was under house arrest, they, too, could be fruitful for the Lord whether in or out of prison. (Cook)
In Light of Differing Motives (Philippians 1:15-18a)
2. What motivated others to preach Christ while Paul was in bonds (vs. 15-17)?
The “waxing confident” of verse 14 indicates enthusiasm. But this enthusiasm leads in turn to the fact that not everyone who is emboldened to proclaim Christ does so with good motives. The terms envy, strife, and good will (v. 15) probably refer to the attitudes people hold toward Paul rather than toward God (this will become clearer in vs. 16, 17). Some preach to support Paul's work, while others are rivals to his mission. This fact undoubtedly adds stress to Paul's already difficult situation, but he refuses to be discouraged. Paul proceeds to examine the various motives.
Those who have issues with Paul's leadership view his imprisonment as a chance to advance their own agendas (v. 16). Some may merely want to be in charge (compare 3 John 9). Others may disagree with Paul's doctrinal viewpoints. The latter opponents probably are Judaizers—Jewish Christians who insist that Gentiles must be taught to obey the Law of Moses before they can join the church (compare Philippians 3:1-6). Paul consistently opposes the teaching of the Judaizers (Acts 15:1-21; Galatians 3:1-14; 2:14; 5:1-12).
For now, however, Paul cannot visit his churches to counteract either kind of adversary; he is confined to house arrest while his opponents are free to roam. Paul therefore must address the problem by writing letters. In so doing, Paul challenges the motives of his opponents: while they claim to be concerned with the spread of the gospel, they are also clearly taking advantage of Paul's situation.
In verse 17 of today’s lesson we see that positively, some have risen to the occasion to ensure that Paul's mission continues during his imprisonment. They further the cause of Christ by proclaiming the gospel from a motive of love. These individuals include Timothy (Philippians 2:19-24) and Epaphroditus (2:25-30). Inspired by Paul's example, they continue the work despite the risks. Paul's claim in verse 12 is thus verified further: the gospel advances through his suffering.
3. What was most important to Paul regarding the preaching of the Gospel (v. 18a)?
Despite the malevolent intentions of the apostle’s rivals, he didn’t care about their ill will toward him as long as the Gospel was preached. If nonbelievers were hearing the Good News about Jesus Christ and receiving Him as their Lord and Savior, that was all that counted to Paul. He didn’t care what happened to him as long as people were coming into the kingdom. Therefore, he was not concerned about the motives behind the preaching of selfish competitors. The apostle only wanted to be sure that people were receiving the right message about the Savior. Evidently they were, for Paul was overjoyed at knowing that Christians were advancing the Gospel even within the capital of the Roman Empire (v. 18a).
What Do You Think?
How should we address a problem of wrong motives within a church's ministry teams?
Talking Points for Your Discussion
Preventing wrong motives from developing | Addressing wrong motives after they have already developed
1 Chronicles 28:9; 1 Corinthians 4:5
Exalting Christ (Philippians 1:18b-26)
4. What reasons did Paul have to rejoice (Philippians 1:18b-19)?
Paul was confident that he was securely in God’s hands. The apostle believed that whatever befell him would bring glory and honor to the Father because He was in control of Paul’s life and the circumstances that affected his existence. Therefore, he could rejoice and keep on rejoicing, for the Lord was with him and sustaining him (v. 18b). Also, Paul knew that his Philippian friends were praying for him (v. 19). Paul depended much on the intercession of God’s people and the supply of the “Spirit of Jesus Christ.” The ample supply comes as a result of the supplication. Note the cooperation of the human (petition) and the divine (ample supply).
5. Was Paul’s “earnest expectation” to be delivered from his situation (vs. 20-24)?
As Paul awaited his trial, his major concern was not whether the Father would save his life, but whether the apostle would present himself in such a way that the Son would be exalted. In fact, Paul was both eager and hoping to bring glory and not shame to the Lord. The Greek word rendered “earnest expectation” (Phil. 1:20) provides a vivid picture of one who cranes his or her neck to catch a glimpse of what lies ahead. The apostle was letting his readers know that, while ignoring all other interests, he keenly anticipated honoring of the Lord during his trial.
Paul realized that the verdict could mean life or death for him physically. That is why he referred to “my body” in verse 20. Throughout the long ministry in which he preached the Gospel, whether to friendly crowds or hostile ones, the apostle always sought to exalt Christ in his body. Now, whether the Romans released or executed Paul, he desired above all else that his Lord still be exalted in him. In a few words the apostle beautifully summed up the no-lose situation of belonging to Jesus: “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain” (v. 21). This immortal affirmation expresses a believer’s faith and hope. To Paul the gain meant much more than the eternal benefit of heaven. The profit was that the Gospel of Christ would be further advanced if the apostle was martyred for his faith and hope in the Son.
Paul was confident that he would continue to be fruitful in his ministry if the Romans did not execute him. In fact, even if he was forced to serve more time in prison, he would continue to proclaim the Gospel. He remained certain that nonbelievers would turn to faith in Christ because of his preaching. Indeed, due to Paul’s strategic position in Rome, he would have additional opportunities to be God’s instrument in bringing more people into the kingdom (v. 22).
Nonetheless, to be with the Son in heaven was also appealing to the apostle. In fact, if he were given a choice to continue to minister God’s Word or be in the presence of Christ, Paul confessed that the decision would be difficult to make. Yet he stated that he would choose to be with the Savior “which is far better” (v. 23). Despite the apostle’s own inclination to depart, he believed it was more important for him to remain. In fact, his whole reason for staying was for the sake of tending to other people’s spiritual welfare, specifically for the pastoral care of his friends in the church at Philippi (v. 24). (Cook)
6. What was Paul’s confident rationale in ministering again to the Philippians (vs. 25, 26)?
With bold confidence, Paul told the Philippians that he was certain he would live in order to fulfill his duties in bringing them to spiritual maturity. Perhaps the great responsibility he had in caring for so many young believers throughout the Mediterranean world convinced him that it was too soon for him to die. Evidently, the Lord gave the apostle a premonition or an assurance that he would not be executed. Maybe word was passed to him that the Roman authorities looking at his case were favorable to him.
Whatever the reason, Paul was confidently upbeat (Phil. 1:25). Moreover, the apostle thought that the Romans would not only spare his life but also give him his freedom, for he promised the Philippians that he would visit with them once again (v. 26). Thus Paul provides additional encouragement to them.
Having been in Philippi and encountered persecution because of his faith, Paul knew what the believers in the city were up against. Whatever difficulties might arise against the Philippians, Paul exhorted them to be faithful to the teachings about Christ. This demanded a high standard of godly behavior (v. 27). Only by maintaining this high calling toward one another would they be worthy examples of the Christian life.
POINTS TO PONDER
1. Knowthat God can use your difficult circumstances to advance the Gospel of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:12-14).
2.Love for others, and their spiritual well-being should motivate us to proclaim the gospel of Christ! (Philippians 1:15-18).
3.“Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 15:58). Philippians 1:19-26.
As Christians, we too, must check our reasons for living, since it is easy to follow the world’s values and goals. If we really believe the message that “to live is Christ” (Phil. 1:21), we will devote ourselves to more than successful careers, money, and retirement. Jesus will determine our interests and how we spend our time, energy, and money.
Father, sometimes we don't understand what motivates people to do what they do, and often our own motives aren't as pristine as they should be. Purify our hearts, help us not to become discouraged, and keep us focused on the ultimate goal. In Jesus' name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
May the gospel shine through no matter what!