Summary: In Phil. 1:12-18 we get a glimpse of Paul's attitude toward his circumstances and his critics. Paul sees beyond what Satan is doing and rejoices in what God is doing. He does not allow contentious, sectarian Christians to irritate him.
We are learning from Paul’s epistle to the Philippians. Our text today is Philippians 1:12-18. Let's read that to get a general feel of what Paul is saying in the passage.
“Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly. 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice” (NIV).i
Philippians is a book about attitudes. Your attitudes not only affect your own moods and emotional state, but your attitudes affect those around you as well. Paul’s attitude while in prison was affecting other Christians and non-believers. As we study this epistle, watch for attitudes: attitudes that Paul tells others to have and attitudes that he exemplifies. In this passage we will examine: (1) Paul’s attitude toward his circumstances and (2) Paul’s attitude toward his critics.
I. Paul’s attitude toward his CIRCUMSTANCES.
Paul was in Prison at Rome. The circumstances in and of themselves were not pleasant. Four times in this brief letter he mentions his chains. Paul was literally chained to prison guards twenty-four hours a day.ii He is awaiting a trail that could end in a death sentence. At the time of this letter he has been in Rome for two years.iii
Acts 28:11-31 describes his situation there. Luke says in 28:16, “When we got to Rome, Paul was allowed to live by himself, with a soldier to guard him.”iv Luke then reports Paul’s interaction with the Jewish leaders in Rome, his effort to lead them to Christ. That is followed by this summary in the last two verses of Acts. “For two whole years Paul stayed there in his own rented house and welcomed all who came to see him. 31 Boldly and without hindrance he preached the kingdom of God and taught about the Lord Jesus Christ” (Acts 28:30-31). So he had some freedom even though he was chained to a guard all the time. That in itself would not be pleasant.
The events leading to his imprisonment began back in Acts 21:15 at Jerusalem. There a riot broke out when some of the Jews accused Paul of desecrating the Temple by bringing a gentile into it—something Paul did not do. To keep Paul from being killed by the Jews the Romans took him into custody. He was taken to Caesarea for a trial before Felix who was governor. Paul was a prisoner in Caesarea for two years (Acts 24:7). When Festus replaced Felix Paul endured another trial. At that trial he had to appeal to Caesar to avoid being sent back to the Jews who would have killed him. His appeal to Caesar meant he would go to Rome for trail. That’s why Paul was sent to Rome.
His journey to Rome was filled with hard experiences. Acts 27 describes the shipwreck that he endured. It is difficult for us to comprehend the stress that Paul went through during that four or five year period. The mob in Jerusalem tried to kill him. He goes to trial before Felix, Festus, Agrippa, and then in Rome. On his way to Rome he is almost killed in a shipwreck. At Malta he is bitten by a poisonous viper (Acts 28:3). I think at that point I would have been asking, “What else can happen?” We need to see in all of this that Paul had plenty to complain about if that had been his disposition. Paul was not rejoicing because his life was easy.
Observing the events going on in Paul’s life, it looked like the devil was having a field day. And the devil was at work. He was doing everything he could to put Paul out of business. He incited the riot in Jerusalem. He inspired the Jews to try to kill Paul. He may have had a hand in the storm and the snake as alternative ways to do away with Paul. And if he couldn’t kill him, he would at least shut down his ministry by keeping him in prison.
We are naïve if we think the devil is not involved in world events and in the opposition that we personally experience. He is the “adversary.” He goes about like a roaring lion seeking to devour.v He is the “god of this world.”vi All you have to do is read the latest news to see his works. All you have to do is listen to the media to hear his lies. He inspires hate. He inspires violence. He is at work stirring up trouble and hate. Paul said, “We are not ignorant of his devices.”vii