Good from Bad
(Submit to God in Christ)
Background Reading: Philippians 1:12-21
Devotional Reading: 1 Peter 4:12-19
Keep in Mind:
"12But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel," (Philippians 1:12).
ANALYZE Paul’s circumstances spreading the Gospel despite other’s responses;
DECIDE to be faithful and forgive others; and
REJOICE in opportunities to do God’s work in the world through Jesus Christ.
Philippians is letter written by Paul during a time of imprisonment. While scholars debate the exact time and location of Paul’s writing, lessons from his imprisonment about how the Philippian community should appropriately respond to persecution and adversity considering the Gospel is clear. In Philippians 1, we read Paul’s opening words that are surprisingly full of joy and gratitude something one would not typically expect from an inmate. Paul grounds his usual response to his situation in his life’s mission—the advancement of the Gospel. Imprisonment has assured Paul of this mission as he has found greater zeal to proclaim Christ. He has used his situation as an opportunity to showcase the power of the Gospel as he preaches to his fellow prisoners and even to the imperial guard! In jail chains, Paul concludes that no matter what is happening in his life, the Gospel of Jesus Christ can be proclaimed with power and efficacy. Paul emerges with joy, from proclaiming Christ despite his circumstances, and with gratitude, for the prayers of the Philippian saints and the help of the Holy Spirit empowering him to preach with perseverance.
12But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel,
13so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;
14and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
While the location and timing of Paul’s imprisonment is not clear, its purpose is. Instances of Paul’s incarceration elsewhere in Scripture (Acts 16:29-34; 21:10:14; 23:10-11; 26:21-22; 28:30-31), and from Paul’s own pen here in Philippians, expresses his imprisonment is explicitly for the “furtherance of the Gospel” (1:12). Through Paul’s life, we see even the chains of imprisonment could not stop the Gospel from being spread through the life of a believer. The Gospel can be shared even in the most oppressive and adverse situations in life. The Gospel is not limited to a physical place, like a church, but can be effective wherever there are convicted believers and open hearts. Paul discovered that no situation could hinder the mission of his life so that he was “waxing confident…without fear” (1:14) in a situation that would suggest the opposite.
1. Describe a time wen your perspective changed in a bad situation, and it made all the difference.
2. How can you spread the Gospel in your life now?
People Can’t Stop the Gospel (Philippians 1:15-18)
15Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will:
16The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;
17but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.
18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.
Paul discovered nothing could stop the spread of the Gospel—not prison, and not other people with bad motives. As Paul had gained “greater boldness without fear” (1:14), so had other preachers, some of whom preached “of envy and strife” (verse 15). This group of preachers added to Paul’s suffering, but through their preaching, they also added new believers to the church. Although these preacher’s motives were bad, the results were good. There were other preachers who preached from “goodwill” (1:15), and like their counterparts, also added new believers to the Church. Instead of focusing on motives, Paul chose to focus on mission. He trusted that God would work out His plan of salvation regardless of how it was preached or who preached. What truly mattered to Paul was that the Gospel was preached and that new believers were brought into the church.
1. What really matters to you such that you do not have to participate in it to fully support it?
2. How can you glorify God in your suffering? How do you rejoice in suffering?
The Gospel Goes Forth by Prayer (Philippians 1:19-21)
19For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
20according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
21For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain.
Paul acknowledged the difficulty of maintaining his joyful perspective. He realized it was only through the Philippines’ prayers and the help of the Spirit that he could rejoice at the Gospel’s spread despite his imprisonment and other preachers’ bad motives. These things not only emboldened his preaching, but also emboldened his hoe for his life. While Paul desired release from prison, he trusted that the result of the legal proceedings associated with his incarceration, whether free or chained, would result in the glory of God. He had the confidence of being in Christ. Paul concluded that living in Christ does not free one from problems, difficulties, persecution, or adversity, but Christ is the totality of the believer’s life. He was assured that his life was guaranteed in Christ and that his experiences had a greater purpose.
- How does knowing “Christ is life” affect how a Christian should live?
- How do you find the strength to keep working when people are against you?
- How can facing challenges or opposition sometimes help us accomplish a goal?
- What is your initial reaction to suffering in your life? What is your perspective on what you face in life and in society?
Lesson in Our Society
Paul make sit clear that his imprisonment is purposeful. His suffering advances the spread of the Gospel, even reaching those who inflicted suffering upon him (the imperial guard). The liberating Gospel can and must be preached even when the preacher is in chains. From police brutality, to disproportionate rates of unemployment and under employment, to many other forms and expressions of racial injustice, suffering seems to mark the everyday existence of African American life in the United States. As these injustices are sinful and cause much suffering, like Paul, we are to preach the liberating Gospel even while suffering in chains. We can resist through our suffering with the joy that come from prayer and the Holy Spirit. We can find our hope for living through suffering with purpose because Christ has guaranteed us eternal life.
Daily Bible Readings
God Sent Me to Preserve You –
Sharing Life in Christ Now – Philippians
Biblical Studies Press: The
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