Musings on Philippians 1:12 - 21
13so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,
14and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.
15Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will;
16the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel;
17the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.
18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice,
19for I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
20according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
21For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain.
If you were one of Paul's companions and someone told you that he was going to be imprisoned for a lengthy period of time, I doubt you would have responded by saying "Great! Now the gospel is going to make even more progress than before!" But, that is exactly what happened. And isn't this a wonderful example of the Lord "causing all things to work together for good" for the sake of his people, and His own glory? His ways truly are "past finding out," as He is able to further the advancement of the gospel by even imprisoning the very one who had done more to advance that gospel than any one of his time.
To "speak the word of God" is defined in the following verses as "preaching Christ" (v. 15) and "proclaiming Christ" (vv. 17 & 18). In Paul's mind, to preach the gospel, to "speak the word of God" to someone, was to talk about a Person. Not to just talk about a set of beliefs or abstract principles, but to proclaim the excellencies of a real, living Person: the Lord Jesus Christ. May we never lost sight of that!
Paul saw himself as "appointed for the defense of the gospel," as all Christians are who have been commanded to "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all handed down to the saints" (Jude 3).
Paul was able to rejoice because his happiness wasn't bound up with his worldly circumstances, but with the advancement of the kingdom of God. If we are truly "seeking first His kingdom and His righteousness," then even if we are thrown in prison (as Paul was), or people are doing things to cause us distress (as Paul's opponents were doing in v. 17) we can still rejoice. Our need is to "set our minds on things above" and to get our perspectives right and our priorities straight.
Paul seems to imply here that one of the ways "the Spirit of Jesus Christ" is supplied to His people is through the prayers of God's children, one for another. Quite a thought.
Paul was banking on the promise of Romans 10:11 (originally from Isaiah 28:16) that "whoever believes in Him will not be put to shame." That is a promise worth committing to memory.
Paul's greatest desire was that Christ would be exalted in his body, whether that would occur by living or by dying. Can we say that about ourselves? Can we say "Lord, I don't care if it's by my living or dying, I just want you to be exalted in me"? May the Lord help us in this.
Stop everything you are doing and read ML-J's sermon "He and He Alone," which was preached on this verse.