“But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places; And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even 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 defence 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. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ” (Philippians 1:12-19).
Paul was not in prison for any evil thing he had done; instead he had simply been preaching the gospel of Christ. Also, his ordeal was prolonged due to the fact that the Jewish prosecutors had not bothered to travel to Rome to accuse him of the trumped-up charges they had levelled against him. He would spend two years in prison, though it seems that he was allowed visitors.
The Philippian church may have feared that Paul’s imprisonment would be detrimental to the spread of the gospel; he assures them that will not be the case. Being bound with chains in a Roman prison cell may not appear to be a good base from where the truth might be preached, yet Paul used the situation, not to whimper and moan, but to tell others about Christ. The “palace” was in fact the Praetorium, which housed the Emperor’s elite army of 10,000 men. The building was probably within the palace grounds. His imprisonment made him even more determined to spread the word of God by whatever means at his disposal, so we can be sure that Paul was delighted to present it to the greatest nation on earth at that time. He saw himself as an ambassador in the service of Christ, “For which I am an ambassador in bonds: that therein I may speak boldly, as I ought to speak” (Ephesians 6:20). It seems that he had influenced his guards with the gospel, which offered him the opportunity to write letters to various churches, and the message they contain are a blessing to readers even today. Therefore he would have called this ‘fortune out of misfortune’. “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” (Romans 8:28). Nothing should be allowed to hinder the progress of God’s word. “Wherein I suffer trouble, as an evil doer, even unto bonds; but the word of God is not bound” (2 Timothy 2:9). We should aim at being faithful witnesses regardless of the difficulties life and the enemies of God throw against us.
Instead of cowering in fear of arrest and imprisonment, the early church boldly continued to preach and teach about Christ. It is said that the winds of persecution often fan the flames of revival. Every time the authorities attempted to stamp out the faith, the Lord would raise up more warriors. We notice the word “many”, for as we shall see, not everyone was delighted about the preaching of the gospel. Persecution is a frightening thing, but if we trust in the Lord, He will strengthen and make us courageous. “Yea, and all that will live godly in Christ Jesus shall suffer persecution” (2 Timothy 3:12).
There were some believers who did not agree with Paul’s message and belittled and condemned him. Maybe they thought by taking such a position the authorities would not bother them. While the faithful proclaimed the gospel under the anointing of the Holy Spirit, others did so with a contentious spirit. The word “contention” means ‘selfish ambition’, the root of it is similar to the modern word ‘electioneering’. Maybe those false brethren thought they had been given a golden opportunity to completely discredit Paul and his ministry. This is the position of the hireling that has no love for the sheep. It is also likely that some felt intimidated by Paul’s dedication to God. Were they jealous of his ministry? This proves that a person can preach a sound word but be motivated by the flesh rather than the Spirit of God. Paul was not like them, for while they loved their positions, he loved the Lord. It is possible that these people believed that persecution was a sign that God was not with Paul. “As many as desire to make a fair shew in the flesh, they constrain you to be circumcised; only lest they should suffer persecution for the cross of Christ” (Galatians 6:12). Nevertheless, we can assume that his chains felt a little heavier whenever he learned what these foolish people were doing and saying against him. A mature follower of Christ must not allow personal jealousy or desire for recognition to hinder the work of God.
God had commissioned Paul with the important task of defending the gospel of Christ. All truly saved believers have exactly the same responsibility to resist whoever seeks to distort the truth. “As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed” (Galatians 1:9). Such a godly conviction is foreign to those who love the world and avoid obedience to Christ.
Paul was determined to battle on and “Fight the good fight of faith” (1 Timothy 6:12). He would not, as so many have done, water down or compromise the truth to avoid personal suffering. Believers are called to stand squarely for the word of God. “Earnestly contend for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints” (Jude :3). While it would have been understandable for Paul to become discouraged, he choice to rejoice, and thank God that His word was being preached even by those who did not like him. “Surely the wrath of man shall praise thee” (Psalm 76:10).
“Salvation” in :19 refers to Paul’s belief that he might be released from prison. Some commentators write that it was deliverance from criticism and opposition. Did he have in mind Job 13:16 when he wrote these worfds? The Septuagint version of that text reads, “This shall turn out to my salvation.” Whichever is true, we can be certain that the apostle had his faith firmly fixed in Christ. “For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day” (2 Timothy 1:12). He believed that the Lord would answer the prayers of the Philippian church for his release and protection, and that the message of truth will continue to be spread abroad. Even the weakest saint can be strong in prayer and have an influence on the destiny of others. “Ye also helping together by prayer for us, that for the gift bestowed upon us by the means of many persons thanks may be given by many on our behalf” (2 Corinthians 1:11).
The “Spirit of Jesus Christ” is not separate from the Holy Spirit, but is the same person. “But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his” (Romans 8:9) … “And because ye are sons, God hath sent forth the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, Abba, Father” (Galatians 4:6). Paul believed that the Holy Spirit would supply all he needed to get him through the circumstances he was enduring. This of course is part of the ministry of the Spirit. “And I will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever” (John 14:16) … “The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children of God: And if children, then heirs; heirs of God, and joint–heirs with Christ; if so be that we suffer with him, that we may be also glorified together” (Romans 8:16-17).
How far do we think the gospel would have reached if everyone commissioned to preach it were too scared to do so? Weak people are not an encouragement to others, but those who are strong in the Lord always are. We should remember to thank God for the courageous preachers, missionaries and evangelist, many of whom were martyred for their faith, for without them we might not have the liberty to spread the same gospel today. They are a good example for us when we face our times of trial and trouble. “Be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might” (Ephesians 6:10).