Summary: Second in my Philippians series, looking at how Paul’s devotion to the gospel helped him be an effective minister despite his imprisonment.
Philippians 1:12-18 – “ What truly matters?”
By James Galbraith
First Baptist Church, Port Alberni
September 17, 2006
Text - TNIV
12Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14And 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.
15It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18But 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.
Medical missionary Bruce Olson was captured by Columbian communists in October 1988. He was beaten and kept bound most of the time. The soldiers were waiting for a ransom, but the mission wouldn’t pay. Olson endured pain by concentrating on the spirit and doing God’s will in his current situation. He was tortured but able to influence the guerrillas by teaching and healing them.
After a while they even let him conduct worship services. They couldn’t understand how he could pay back evil with good. Olson was able to lead some of them to the Lord. While he was very ill, a bird sang outside, reminding him of how the Motilone Indians sang the Scriptures.
When the soldiers could not break him, they apologized and released him.
Today we are going to look at another Christian who was imprisoned for his faith, and how God used him to do amazing things despite his chains.
Hopefully, we see how God can use us to do great things for him,
no matter where we find ourselves,
when we learn to concentrate on what truly matters.
By this point in the letter Paul has greeted his readers and shared an initial blessing with them, all the while praising God for taking care of him while he is imprisoned.
In doing so, he shares from the depths of his heart how thankful he is to know the people who are the church in the city of Philippi.
His words of gratitude are sincere and his prayer for an ever-growing and deepening love is a model for us to follow as we pray the very best for those God brings into our lives.
Getting the word out
Having shared these introductory thoughts,
he now turns his attention to explaining in more detail his current situation.
If his first words of greeting teach us how to pray for each other,
his next words make me think about what’s really important to me.
His tone is reassuring - he is not complaining of his lack of freedom, living conditions, quality of food or anything else you’d expect a prisoner to be pre-occupied with.
He’s preoccupied with something all right, but it’s not his own suffering,
it’s the fact that the gospel is thriving despite his imprisonment.
He stresses that the good news, non-fiction story of Jesus Christ has not suffered one bit because Paul is locked up - in fact it’s thriving all the more.
His imprisonment has brought him a whole new audience:
the guards of the Emperor himself!
The palace guard mentioned in vs. 13 are the personal troops of the Emperor himself, also known as the Praetorian Guard. These are men who have proven themselves loyal and competent; the emperor would surround himself with such men to protect his own interests in the empire.
One of their tasks was to guard the prisoners who have appealed to the Emperor for a trial. They would take turns in this duty, and they never worked alone, so it would not take long for Paul to be exposed to a good portion of the Emperor’s men.
In addition to guarding the prisoners, they would also report any information they learned from these prisoners back to the Emperor.
Nero had been Emperor in Rome for years now,
and was just beginning to crack down on the Christians in the Empire.
He hadn’t resorted to wholesale slaughter, as he would in his later years, but he would certainly be interested in making good use out of Paul as a known leader of the Christians.
SO, under house arrest and guarded by the Emperor’s troops who would record every word he said, how does Paul react to all this attention?