Summary: Philippians 1:12-18. God uses Paul’s unusual circumstances to advance the gospel despite opposition.
AGAIN I SAY REJOICE
FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOSPEL
- I have a general dislike for clichés. There’s just something about them that makes me cringe. Not all clichés, however. I suppose I could be more specific by saying that I dislike those clichés that over simplify things so as to avoid difficult topics or complicated issues. I use other clichés all the time, even in my preaching, and I’m sure you use them as well. They can be helpful in communication. One common saying that I have heard over and over again in my life is “God works in mysterious ways.”
- I have mixed emotions about this saying because I can picture people using this cliché as an excuse for not understanding something they should understand. However, my reservations concerning this little phrase usually subside when I think about how true, given the proper context, this saying really is. God does, in fact, work in very mysterious ways. The hand of God is at work doing things that we can’t possibly understand; even sometimes right under our own noses. If you’re counting how many clichés I use in this sermon now, there’s number one: right under our own noses.
- But I bring this topic to our attention because the passage before us in Philippians 1 is one of those passages where we see God working in very mysterious ways. We see here what Isaiah proclaimed centuries before when he wrote on God’s behalf: My thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways, declares the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts. God does things in ways that we wouldn’t ordinarily do them. And he always accomplishes what he intends to accomplish.
- Paul, as you know from our first few looks at this letter, is in house arrest in Rome. Now you would suppose that God would want one of his primary servants to be able to travel across the world to spread the gospel. And in fact, Paul did do some extensive traveling. But at the height of his ministry, as it were, he finds himself confined to prison-like quarters.
- But instead of seeing this situation as some kind of abandonment by God, he understands that God is doing a work in him; and that things are happening because of his imprisonment that otherwise would not have taken place. On the heels of thanking the saints at Philippi for their support and their sharing with him in the defense and confirmation of the gospel; and on the heels of his encouragement to them to continue doing these things with knowledge, discernment, and excellent living; Paul now shares with them what exactly is going on as a result of his incarceration.
- Look at Philippians 1 beginning at v.12.
Read Philippians 1:12-18
- Those who opposed Paul thought that the best way to shut him up was to lock him up. If he was not free to travel and spread his message then certainly his influence would fade. That, however, is not what happened. This gospel that Paul preached continued to gain momentum. So here is what I want us to take careful note of: God can use unusual circumstances to further the supernatural progress of the gospel.
- Let’s take a closer look at what was happening here – starting with vv.12-13; which say again: I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.
- We see here that:
PAUL’S CIRCUMSTANCES CREATED A POWERFUL WITNESS
- When he writes “what has happened to me” he is talking about his imprisonment, of course. Notice what his imprisonment had done. He says that it had served to advance the gospel. And this is an interesting way of wording his point. The word advance is actually a noun in Greek and it refers to progress or forward movement. The related verb actually suggests progress despite difficulty.
- And the way this is phrased sort of carries this idea: I want you to know that being locked up in this house has actually increased my gospel ministry even though you might expect it to decrease it. Paul was experiencing this truth: no amount of apparent difficulty can stop the progress of the gospel.
- The church is the most powerful force on this planet; because it is the only corporate institution fueled by the power of the Holy Spirit. The church is Christ’s bride. It is God’s program. God’s true, authentic church – all believers in Jesus Christ around the world – will never be stopped.