Summary: Philippians 1:12-18 teaches us to put the advance of the gospel at the center of our ambitions.
We are in a series of sermons on Paul’s letter to the Philippians that I am calling, “The Christian’s Contentment.”
After the opening greeting of his letter to the Philippian Christians, Paul gave thanks to God for them, and then he prayed for them. He had planted the church in Philippi about ten years earlier, and the Philippian church was probably Paul’s favorite church. He wrote this letter to the Philippians while under house arrest in Rome. As he began to write the body his letter to the Philippians, Paul wanted them to know that despite his imprisonment, the gospel was advancing.
So, let’s read about the advance of the gospel in Philippians 1:12-18:
12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. (Philippians 1:12-18)
In his book titled Battling Unbelief, John Piper tells the story about Charles Simeon, who was a pastor in the Church of England for 54 years, from 1782 to 1836, at Trinity Church in Cambridge. He was appointed to his church by a bishop against the will of the people. They opposed him, not because he was a bad preacher, but because he was an evangelical—he believed the Bible and called for conversion and holiness and world evangelization. For twelve years the people refused to let him give the Sunday afternoon sermon. And during that time they boycotted the Sunday morning service and locked their pews so that no one could sit in them. He preached to people in the aisles for twelve years! The average stay of a pastor in America is less than four years. Simeon began with twelve years of intense opposition—and lasted fifty-four years. Charles Simeon was committed to Christ, and endured all kinds of opposition for the sake of advancing the gospel.
Simeon was a little like the Apostle Paul, who endured all kinds of hardships for the sake of advancing the gospel.
Philippians 1:12-18 teaches us to put the advance of the gospel at the center of our ambitions.
Let’s use the following outline:?
1. Paul’s Report (1:12-13)
2. Paul’s Reaction (1:14-17)
3. Paul’s Rejoicing (1:18)
I. Paul’s Report (1:12-13)
First, let’s look at Paul’s report.
Paul became a Christian a few years after Jesus was crucified. He served the Lord Jesus Christ zealously and unceasingly for over three decades. He planted almost a dozen churches, preached innumerable times, and wrote thirteen letters that are in the canon of the New Testament.
At one point along the way, Paul, who was a missionary to the Gentiles, wanted to take the gospel to Spain, after returning once more to Jerusalem and stopping for a visit Rome. He had even hoped to preach the good news of the gospel in Rome to Caesar and the Roman government, the most powerful government in the world at that time.
But Paul’s plans were not fulfilled. Instead of traveling to Jerusalem, then to Rome, and finally on to Spain, he found himself a prisoner under house arrest in Rome on trial for his life. When Paul wrote this letter to the Philippians he had no assurance that he would ever be a free man again.
James Montgomery Boice quotes another commentator, J. A. Motyer, who summarized the things that happened to Paul in the following stirring way:
What…happened began in Acts 21:17 when the apostle set foot in Jerusalem, forewarned by the Holy Spirit that bonds and imprisonment awaited him….An entirely false accusation was leveled at him by his own people (21:28); he was nearly lynched by a religious mob, and ended up in the Roman prison, having escaped a flogging only by pleading citizenship (22:22ff.). His whole case was beset by a mockery of justice, for, though right was on his side, he could not secure a hearing. He was made the subject of unjust and unprovoked insult and shame (23:2), malicious misrepresentation (24:5; 25:6f.), and deadly plot (23:12 ff.; 25:1ff.). He was kept imprisoned owing to official craving for popularity (24:27), or for money (24:26), or because of an over-punctilious facade of legalism (26:32)….