Paul wrote in Philippians 1:12, “But I would you should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.” Paul was in prison, but he looked for the good side of things. There is always a good side, especially if you are a Christian. Remember that Paul wrote Romans 8:28 that says, “And we know that all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to His purpose.” Paul knew that the purpose that God had given to his life was to help in the spread of the gospel. If Paul had his way, going to prison would not have been part of spreading the gospel. But God’s ways are often not our ways, nor are His thoughts our thoughts. One thing that we can be certain about is that whatever God brings into our lives, He brings for a good reason and for the fulfilling of His will.
Paul saw the good results of having been cast into prison. He mentioned one of them in Philippians 1:13 and another in Philippians 1:14. In Philippians 1:13 Paul said, “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places.” The word that is here translated “palace” is the Greek word “pretorium.” The pretorium was the building where the highest officials of the land would meet to hold their proceedings. Paul was a Roman citizen, and he could not be denied due process. Paul was called before Caesar to give a defense of the accusations that had been made against him, and in his defense Paul gave testimony to Jesus Christ. Paul was not unfaithful to the heavenly vision. God knew he would be faithful, and God permitted the things that happened to Paul for the furtherance of the gospel. God knows what He is doing. There is a purpose to all things. What appears to man to be a tragedy, to God is an opportunity.
The second great positive result to Paul having been put into prison is given in Philippians 1:14 that says, “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” There is no greater sermon than that of a good example. One of the primary reasons that some believers do not speak a word of testimony is because of the fear of the opinion of others or the fear of persecution. Because Paul was brave in the face of persecution, it encouraged others to follow his example. Don’t ever fear to go against popular opinion. You might get persecuted, but you also might start something that will change the world.
What did these believers speak when they followed the example of the Apostle Paul? According to Phil. 1:14 they spoke the word. If you want to be a testimony in the same way as the believers of the first century and in the same way as the Apostle Paul, do not speak about yourself or about your church or the activities of your church. Speak the word. The word is alive and powerful. The word can touch hearts. If you do not speak the word, your attempts to be a witness might just be a waste of time.
The Bible says in Phil. 1:15-18, “Some indeed preach Christ of envy and strife; and some also of good will: The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds: But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel. What then? Notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence or in truth, Christ is preached: and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.” In the world of organized Christianity today there are many divisions. Some divisions are based upon doctrinal differences and others are based upon personality differences. There were divisions among the early Christians also. Those who cause divisions limit the spread of the gospel. Christians who are right with God can do more united than they can separated. If you preach the gospel, there will be those who will oppose you, and some of your opposition will come from those who call themselves Christians. Evidently that’s what happened to Paul when he was in prison in Rome.
Notice the words that Paul used to describe those who opposed him: “envy and strife.” Could it be that a believer or even a preacher of the gospel could be envious of someone else who preaches the gospel or of someone else’s success? It happened in the first century, and it happens much too often today. Of course, Paul being the optimist that he was, he still was thankful for the good side of that circumstance. After all, the number one goal of the Apostle Paul was that the name of Christ would be spread throughout the world. Paul knew that there were many people who had never heard about Jesus Christ. Some of those preachers may have been envious of him and some of them may have opposed him personally because of their own human selfishness, but at least they were making public the name of Jesus Christ. For that he was thankful. The important thing is that the name of Christ be proclaimed publicly. It’s not near so important who does it.
Paul said in Philippians 1:19-20, “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.” Paul spoke of his salvation. He was not speaking of the salvation of his soul, but of being saved from the predicament that he was in. He knew that prayer was the answer because prayer changes things. He knew that the Spirit of Christ was the answer because in order to live for Christ in this world, we must be led by the Spirit and empowered by he Spirit.
The situation that Paul was facing was a life-and-death situation. He knew that it was possible for him to receive the death penalty. Paul also knew that it was not really important if he lived or died. What was important was that he remained faithful to Christ and that he remained faithful to his calling: to be a witness to Christ in whatever situation he found himself. Paul shows a wise humility and a genuine dependence upon God to be able to face his difficult circumstance. Paul did not rely on his experience as a witness for Christ, nor did he talk about all the years in which he had already been faithful to the Lord. He simply asked for the prayers of other Christians in order that he might be able to face this trial faithfully. Paul knew that he would not be able to face this trial nor any other trial without total reliance upon the Spirit of Christ. The battles of the Christian life are not won by the efforts of man or the abilities of man. We are in a spiritual warfare and the only possibility of victory for any believer is to be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
In the battle that Paul was facing, life and death were at issue. Concerning the possibility of being put to death soon, Paul made three points. First Paul said that whether he lived or died, he only desired that Christ would be glorified in his body. Every believer should have that motivation. We should always hope and pray that everything we do would be done to the glory of God through Christ.
Secondly, Paul said in Phil. 1:21, “For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” To Paul, life was meaningless other than to live for Jesus Christ. To have the option to deny Christ in order to live was not an option. All Christians who have learned to follow the Lord day after day would have this same attitude. Of course, this is the way that life was meant to be. It’s also why people who do not know the Lord often find life so meaningless. Paul said, “For me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.” Dying is a gain for a believer because we go to be with the Lord in the eternal happiness of heaven. It’s a gain to escape the wicked world of woe for the perfect place of peace.
We should not fear death or think that something awful has happened to us when we reach the place of death, as long as we have been born again through faith in Christ. But until that day comes we should make the most of life. Life is a gift and we should be thankful for the gift of life, and we should make sure that we understand the purpose for which God has given it to us. Concerning the third point that Paul made about his impending death, he said in Philippians 1:22-27, “But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I know not. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better: Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you. And having this confidence, I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith; That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again. Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.”
After God saves us through faith in Christ, there are reasons that He leaves us on the earth. God has given each believer gifts and abilities, and one of the primary results from exercising our gifts is so that other believers will benefit. Paul knew that he would gain if he died and left the earth, but he also knew that other Christians would benefit if he remained alive and continued on the earth to exercise his gifts of preaching and teaching. Notice that Paul said the result in the lives of other believers would be their “furtherance and joy of faith.”
The “furtherance” of our faith refers to the advancement or increase in our faith. Faith starts as small as a grain of mustard seed, but then it grows. If we are believers, we should be growing in faith. The Lord was very displeased with the disciples when they were weak in faith. Heb. 11:6 says, “Without faith it is impossible to please Him.” God wants your faith to increase, and He is going to be doing things in your life so that your faith can increase. He will bring situations into your life so that you will have the opportunity to exercise your faith. Your faith may get proven in the fiery trials of life, but it’s all for a good purpose. The purpose is that your faith would become purer and finer and stronger. What do you have that is more important than your faith? God will also bring you into contact with a teacher or a preacher so that you can be taught the Word of God. “Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God.” Of course, don’t believe everything you hear. Be careful that you “search the scriptures daily to make sure that those things are true.” The believers in Philippi were very fortunate. They had the Apostle Paul and his teachings to help them accomplish the “furtherance” of their faith. We also have the writings of the Apostle Paul.
Paul said that he hoped to see the furtherance of their faith, and he also wanted them to be able to know the “joy of faith.” According to this verse, true joy comes from faith. If you want to know how much faith you have, then simply look at how much joy you have. That’s a good way to measure it. If you do not have joy, it might be because of a problem with your faith. Why does faith bring joy? If you have faith, then you are confident in regards to God’s existence, God’s love and care for you, and God’s promises to shower you with blessings freely through Christ. If you have faith, you know that nothing is impossible because God can do anything. If you have faith, then you are a positive thinker who always looks on the positive side of things because you know that there is a good purpose to all things. If you have faith, then you are never defeated because faith is the victory that overcomes the world, and faith is your shield that quenches all the fiery darts of the wicked. If you have all these things, you will have joy, and you will have them if you have faith.
Paul told the Christians in Philippians 1:27, “That you stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel.” The first thing that Paul mentioned was the importance of standing fast, in other words being persistent and keeping what they had accomplished. In the Christian life many people have seen spiritual victories only to eventually fall away from what they had accomplished. Don’t take anything for granted. If you have arrived somewhere, you may have to redouble your efforts in order to stay there. There is such a thing as falling away, and if you are not careful you will fall away from some very important principles. One of those principles that is very important, the one that Paul is talking about here, is Christian unity.
The unity of Christians in emphasized here because it’s mentioned three times: one spirit, one mind, striving together. This kind of spiritual unity has nothing to do with organizational affiliation. It has everything to do with your attitude, your effort, and your thought process in regards to all other believers. If someone else knows Christ as their Savior, then they are your brother or sister in Christ. They are a part of the same spiritual family. Unity among believers is important because it’s a part of the will of God. Jesus died to accomplish it. Unity among believers is important because we need each other. We can accomplish more for the Lord together than we can individually.
The Bible is a wonderful book. In it the Lord has given us all the information that we need to serve Him in this world, and the book of Philippians is an important part of it.
Copyright; 2001 by Charles F. (Rick) Creech
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