Study Notes

Philippians 1:12-30

1:12-14 My Bad Circumstances For God's Good

You may recall from the book of Acts that Paul was imprisoned by the Romans on three different occasions. Scholars have debated about which of the imprisonments Paul was in when this letter was written, but it really doesn't matter much to me. We know that he did write this letter while in custody of the Romans. We also know what his thoughts were regarding being jailed.

I imagine that if most of us had been arrested for committing no crime, we'd be calling our congressman, writing the appeals board, and generally making a nuisance of ourselves complaining about the injustice that we were suffering.

We would probably be complaining about the extreme temperatures in our cells, the horrible taste of the food, the inadequacy of sanitary toilet facilities.

But Paul didn't let his imprisonment devastate him like many of us would. Instead, he reminded himself of this truth:

Rom. 8:28 And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to {His} purpose.

Although Paul's circumstances were beyond difficult, he knew that God was in control, and that He was working these difficulties together for good.

Paul actively looked for the good that was resulting, and he found it. The same will be true for us - if we look for the good that results, we will see it. But if we spend our time whining and complaining about how tough it is, how stretched we are, we will never see it. Paul could already see a couple of immediate examples of that "good" happening: Number one, because he was in prison, the guards that watched over him had heard the gospel many times. Can you imagine being an unbeliever chained at the wrist to an evangelist like Paul?

The second thing he saw was that his boldness to witness while in jail was contagious among the other Christians that were free. They also began to boldly proclaim their faith.

A lot of us have gone through or even now are going through incredibly difficult times. There are trials that we are overwhelmed by, life circumstances that we can't imagine being able to survive. Times that we don't know how we're going to carry on even one more minute. Seasons where we're ready to just completely give up and check out.

But the victory comes when we stop and get the proper perspective, the view that Paul had. "God's working my bad circumstances for good!"

Rom. 8:37-39 But in all these things we overwhelmingly conquer through Him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

No matter how out-of-control things seem, if you are one of God's children, you have not been abandoned. God is working it out, whether you can see that or not. Paul, sitting in prison, knew this to be true, and encouraged the Philippians of the good things already coming out of his difficult circumstances.

1:15-18 Two Motivations, One Proclamation

People were preaching the gospel as a result of Paul's imprisonment. But those people fell into two different categories. The first group were sharing Christ with others out of good will and love. But the second group were doing it out of envy, strife, selfish ambition, and impure motives. These people were in it for what they could get: things like fame and notoriety, respect and honor, authority and control, money and favors. They envied Paul's popularity, the apostle's ministry. They wanted to prove that they were just as - or even more - effective a minister than he.

The amazing thing to me is that Paul rejoiced at both situations. Why? Because although he knew that God would judge their motives, he knew that the gospel was being proclaimed.

I know people that have been saved through the ministries of men that were later exposed to be false. But their impurity and insincerity did not invalidate the true message of the gospel. It did not negate the conversion that many people experienced when they heard of the grace of God and believed it for salvation. That's because...

Hebr. 4:12 ...the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart.

The Word is alive, and when it is quoted, it accomplishes its work - to bring faith to the hearer.

Rom. 10:17 So faith {comes} from hearing, and hearing by the word of Christ.

There are evangelists who are dead or in jail from sin, those who have walked away from the faith, but when they preached Christ, people believed. There is at least one Christian comedian who was exposed as a fraud, but I know several who were saved because he preached the gospel.

So Paul greatly rejoiced because Christ was proclaimed. People in the prison were being saved, and people in Philippi were being saved.

I have seen that ministry becoming contagious among the believers in this church as well. There has been such a neat work happening in so many people over the last year. Folks who were once shy and timid are stepping out and witnessing to their friends, their neighbors, their coworkers. Others are getting bold enough to invite unsaved people to church. And what is happening is that these people are getting saved. And that breeds the excitement to share with even more people. And just like what was happening in the early church,

Acts 2:47 ...the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

For this, Paul was rejoicing.

1:19-21 To Live Is Christ, To Die Is Gain

Paul knew that he was going to be delivered one way or another. Either he would be released from prison, or he would be put to death, thus releasing him also. But it was no big deal to him, because he had a healthy view of life and death.

Every day that he lived, he would be consumed with Christ - living for God and learning more of Him, preaching the gospel and praying for others. And when death came, he would not be afraid, because he knew that death for the Christian is a promotion.

The Bible says,

1Cor. 15:54-55 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, "DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. "O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?"

The worst thing in the world's eyes is to die. But for the Christian, it is the beginning of the adventure, the step into eternal glory and communion with God.

However, though we should not fear death, we should fear something: shame. Paul said, "I will not be put to shame in anything." John the apostle told us that those who do not abide in Christ will have cause for shame. He wrote,

1John 2:28 And now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.

I want to truly live with the philosophy that Paul did - to live is Christ, to die is gain.

1:22-26 Heaven Or Earth?

Thinking about Paul's situation, it is certainly understandable to see why he had the desire to die and be with Christ. There are times that we as Christians long for death, because we know that heaven will be so much better than this earth. But it's important not to lose perspective. We should not seek death. We should have Paul's attitude of living every day exalting Christ and performing ministry. We should understand that every minute of every day is an opportunity to bless someone, to help others progress in their faith.

Your life is important. God has given it to you to make a difference in other people's lives. The world's view is, "What can I get? What fun can I have? How much can I make? How can this satisfy my desires?" But we should be living with a view towards others. "What can I do for you? How can I bless this person? How can I meet her need? What can I do to edify him?"

Even though Paul longed for heaven, he knew that his life on earth was necessary to other believers like the Philippians. It was necessary for them that he remain.

And so he was convinced that he would be released from prison and would have the opportunity to again minister to the Philippians personally.

1:27 Conduct Yourselves In A Worthy Manner

Whether Paul was released from prison or not, whether he was able to meet with the believers in Philippi again or not, what he really wanted to know was that they were living the Christian life right. He wanted to get word that they were walking "in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ." What does that mean? He explains what it is: standing firm in one spirit and striving for the faith together with other Christians.

The Scriptures tell us to stand firm regarding several things: against manmade religious systems and traditions (Gal 5:1), and for the traditions given to us by God (2Thes 2:15), for the faith (1Cor 16:13; 2Cor 1:24), against the schemes of the devil (Eph 6:11-14), and in the true grace of God (1Pet 5:12).

Paul tells the Philippians here to stand firm in one spirit. Whether we are talking about standing firm in grace and faith, or against religion and the devil, it is so much easier and more productive when we do it together with other Christians. We need to help one another, keep each other accountable, encourage one another. If we are walking in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ, we are standing firm together in one spirit, we are striving together with one mind.

1:28-30 Granted To Believe And Suffer

The Philippians did encounter opposition to their faith in Christ and their evangelism of the gospel. Even today in the United States, we see people lose their jobs because of it, get beat up because of it, and get discriminated against because of it. But this should not alarm us - it is to be expected. John said,

1John 3:13 Do not marvel, brethren, if the world hates you.

Jesus had warned John and the other apostles of this very thing.

John 15:18-20 "If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before {it hated} you. If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. Remember the word that I said to you, ‘A slave is not greater than his master.' If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you..."

Suffering for the cause of Christ is a privilege. In Acts 5, the apostles were arrested by the officers in Jerusalem for preaching the gospel. After they were released, we read,

Acts 5:41 So they went on their way from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they had been considered worthy to suffer shame for {His} name.

I pray that we can get past our silence and begin to preach the gospel. That we will no longer fear death, but live lives glorifying to God. That we will stand firm, united in spirit. And that we will not be alarmed at our opponents, but rejoice that we have been considered worthy to suffer for Christ.

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