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Philippians: Week 2 (Thursday, August 16 2018)
Chapter 1: 12-26
The results of the fact that Paul is in prison 1:12-14
v12 Now, the things that have happened to me have helped the gospel to advance. And I want you Christian brothers and sisters to know that. v13 As a result, all of the emperor’s own special guard and all the other people here know why I am in prison. It is because I am a servant of Christ. v14 And the fact that I am in prison has given most of the other Christians more confidence in the Lord. Therefore they talk about God’s message much more bravely and they are not afraid.
Verse 12 ‘I want you ... to know’ suggests that Paul is replying to a message from the Christians at Philippi. They are worried about his coming trial and what the result will be for the gospel.
‘brothers’. Paul uses this word for Christians, both men and women. He wants to remind them that they all belong to God’s one family.
‘to advance’ means to go forward, because everyone knew why he was in prison.
Verse 13 ‘all of the emperor’s own special guard’. The Roman emperor’s own special guard consisted of nine thousand men. A member of this guard would be with Paul. The guard changed duties every four hours. So, more and more of the soldiers would hear about Paul and why he was in prison.
‘and all the other people here’. The news would spread, so that many other people would hear about Christ.
Verse 14 There was a second result of the fact that Paul was in prison. The Christians at Rome became aware of his courage and the strength of his faith. So most of them gained courage too and began to talk about the gospel without fear.
Two different reasons why people are declaring the *gospel 1:15-17
v15 Some of them speak about Christ because they are jealous. Or they speak about him because they want to compete against me. But some speak about Christ for good reasons. v16 These people do so from love. God has given me the work of defending the gospel. And they know that. v17 The other people do not preach about Christ for sincere reasons but from selfish ambition. They hope to make things worse for me while I am in prison.
Verses 15, 17 There were Christians in Rome before Paul arrived. People probably knew some of these well and respected them. Then Paul arrived. And people came to know him well, although he was in prison. So the other Christians lost some of their fame. They became jealous and they wanted to attract attention to themselves again. This is the most probable cause of their wrong attitude.
Paul wishes to bring honour to Christ by his life or death 1:18-26
v18 It does not matter. I am happy so long as people talk about Christ, whether for wrong or right reasons. I shall continue to be happy. v19 I know this: By your prayers, and with help from the Spirit of the Lord Jesus, I will become free. That is why I shall continue to be happy. v20 My great desire and hope is that I shall never be ashamed about anything. I hope that, as always, so now I will be without fear. I hope that I will give honour to Jesus in my body. I want to do that, whether I live or die. v21 For me to live is Christ. And to die will be gain. v22 If I continue to live in this world, then I shall be able to do more useful work. But I do not know which to choose. v23 It is extremely difficult to decide. I want very much to leave this life and to be with Christ. That would be very much better. v24 But for your benefit it is more important that I remain alive. v25 I am sure of this. And so I know that I shall stay. I shall be able to help you all to make progress in the faith. And I shall be able to help you to have more joy. v26 So you will be able to praise Jesus Christ when I come to visit you again.
Verses 18b-19 Paul continues to be happy, and confident that the Romans will free him. He gives two reasons for that. One reason is that the Christians at Philippi are praying for him. Paul is praying for them (1:4). And he knows that they are asking God to free him. He knows well the power of prayer (Ephesians 3:20). But our prayers do not remain alone. The Holy Spirit helps us. The Holy Spirit whom Jesus promised would help both Paul and the Christians at Philippi.
Verse 20 Paul does not want to be ashamed. Perhaps he is thinking that he might not complete his work for Christ. Perhaps he is thinking that he might have a lack of courage in front of a judge. His whole desire is to bring honour to Christ, whether he continues to live or not. He may live. Then, he can bring honour to Christ by continuing his work as an apostle. If he dies, he will be a loyal witness to the strength of his faith.
Verse 21 ‘to live is Christ’. This can mean:
1 Paul has the power to live in the right way. That is because Christ ‘lives in him’ (Galatians 2:20).
2 The only reason for Paul’s life is to bring honour and praise to Christ. To love and serve Christ is life.
‘to die will be gain’. This can mean:
1 For Paul himself (as for all Christians) death will mean to be ‘at home with the Lord’ in heaven (2 Corinthians 5:8). There he will be completely free from sin. Pain and trouble will end. There he will know great joy and he will receive his reward after his struggle (2 Timothy 4:7-8).
2 If Paul dies, his death will be a witness to the faith. So even his death will help the gospel to spread. A later Christian writer said, ‘The blood of martyrs is like the seed of the church.’
Verse 22 If Paul goes on living, he will be able to go on encouraging Christians. And he will be able to establish new churches. He knows that his work will be ‘useful’. ‘Your work (for the Lord) will not be without value. Since you belong to the Lord, you can be sure about that.’ (See 1 Corinthians 15:58.)
Verse 23 Paul’s great desire is to ‘leave this life’. The Greek word means ‘to move a tent’. Paul wanted to leave the temporary home of his body for a permanent home in heaven.
Verse 24 What the Christians at Philippi needed was more important to Paul than his own desires. The Christians at Philippi formed a young church with many good qualities but some weaknesses. They were also in danger from false doctrine. Therefore Paul was willing to postpone his joy in heaven in order to help them.
Verses 25, 26 Paul wants them to make progress in their faith. They must love each other more (1:9). They must work together more (2:2). And they must become able to approve the best things (1:10). As their faith grows, so will their joy.
Paul first visited them on his second journey (Acts 16:12-40) and again during his third visit to Macedonia (2 Corinthians 8:1-5; Acts 20:5). At the end of Acts, Paul is in prison in Rome. We do not know if he ever saw the Christians at Philippi again.