Summary: First, God advances the gospel through our difficult circumstances, intercessory prayers, and good news testimonies.
God calls all followers of Christ to advance the gospel.
Paul recognized his imprisonment was the will of God to advance the gospel of Christ, encouraging the Philippian ‘saints’ or ‘followers of Christ’ to stand firm side by side as partners, in prayer for one another, and boldly, fearlessly preaching Christ.
Has anyone here spent any time in a US prison? They are much different from ancient Rome.
Modern day US Prisons
- Incarceration is the primary form of punishment—Over 2.2M in US prisons--largest population in the world--70% of those released end up back in prison within 5 years
- Capital punishment rarely used--just 20 in 2016--1,458 since 1979--1,283 by lethal injection, 158 by electrocution, 11 by gas inhalation, 3 by handing, and 3 by firing squad.
- US prisons have ‘standards of living’ requirements:
o Cells—mattress bed, natural light, reading light, writing area, and secure storage
o Hygiene—warm shower, individual hygiene items appropriate for their gender; towels and bedding laundered weekly, ability to purchase supplies in commissary, choice in the selection of their own hair styles and personal grooming
o Food—adequate nutritious, healthful, and palatable food, one hot meal daily
o Clothing—daily change of clean, correctly sized, suitable clothing
o Activities--daily significant out-of-cell time, recreation to maintain physical health and to socialize, opportunity for at least one hour/day of exercise
o Health care--preventive, routine, urgent, and emergency health, dental, and mental health care including gender identity disorder treatment
o Religion--Recognize and respect prisoners’ freedom of religion; opportunities to exercise religion; dietary alternatives in accordance with religious beliefs
o Education—provided to develop social and technical skills, prevent idleness and mental deterioration, and prepare the prisoner for eventual release; access to a library, educational courses, and technical trade training; access to newspapers, periodicals, and broadcast media
o Discipline--Never corporal punishment, never extreme isolation or restraints, no form of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment
Ancient Roman Prisons
- Prisons primarily a place to keep prisoners pending execution or awaiting trial
- Preceded by being stripped naked and then flogged--a humiliating, painful, and bloody ordeal.
- Bleeding wounds went untreated; prisoners sat in painful leg or wrist chains. Mutilated, bloodstained clothing was not replaced, even in the cold of winter.
- Prisons were more like dungeons
- Conditions were so deplorable that many prisoners died before reaching trial
- Unbearable cold, lack of water, cramped quarters, and sickening stench from few toilets made sleeping difficult and waking hours miserable
- Male and female prisoners were frequently incarcerated together, which led to sexual immorality and abuse
- Prison food, when available, was poor
- Most prisoners had to provide their own food from outside sources
- Many prisoners begged for a speedy death; others simply committed suicide
- If a Roman was caught in the act, or confessed to the crime, their sentence was immediately imposed and no trial was held. Frequently, the penalty was death.
- Forms of capital punishment included being burned alive, thrown off a cliff, hanging, and crucifixion.
- Exile was sometimes imposed as an alternative, in exchange for all their possessions and Roman citizenship.
- Romans also used the prison to hold high profile prisoners of war. Prisoners of war would be held in these dungeons until a public procession, where they were paraded and strangled in public.
- A prominent individual, or one expected to be released, might be kept under house arrest if he or she could afford the rent.
Please turn in your Bible to Philippians Chapter 1. I am going to read Verses 12-19.
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually 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 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of 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.
Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance.
Who is Paul speaking to in this letter? In Verse 12 he mentions, “brother and sisters” and up in Verse 1 he calls the audience “saints.” Does anyone here consider himself or herself a “saint?” That seems like a high bar, at least in our society today. Many may be believers in Christ, once sinners, now saved by grace. None of us has arrived. None are perfect. Few, if any of us, feel like we’ve done enough to call ourselves ‘saints’.