Philippians (04): Dealing with a Bad Situation Like an Apostle
Philippians 1:12–20 Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, 1:13 so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, 1:14 and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. 1:15 Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; 1:16 the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 1:17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. 1:18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice. 1:19 For I know that this shall turn out for my deliverance through your prayers and the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, 1:20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
Christ Advanced Despite Adverse Circumstances (vv12-14) - Paul says that his difficult circumstances have turned out for the greater progress or advancement (prokope) of the gospel” (1:25, 1Tim. 4:15). It is possible that Paul could have though his circumstances hinder such progress, but he nowhere does. He speaks of contentment, endurance and directly teaches that “all things work together for good” and God working “all things after the counsel of His will” (Rom. 8’28 Eph. 1:11). He seems to believe that God is sovereign in our circumstances. In this case he looks for the good in his imprisonment in Rome and sees that new people (Caesar’s own guard) have come to faith and are encouraged in bolder sharing of the gospel. Paul was able to assess his circumstances with “gospel vision.” How do your circumstances look with gospel vision?
Christ Proclaimed Despite Bad Motives (vv15-18) - In Paul’s assessment of the situation, he is not blind to problems. There is no denial of the underbelly of sinful reality. There is no over-realized eschatology. Even the sharing of Christ this situation has produced draws out mixed motivations. In some cases good and out of love; but envy, strife, selfish ambition characterize others who proclaim Christ. They do so to cause distress (v15, 17). Imagine that your rival has been restricted and now you have a certain liberty in their absence. If you take such liberty, you may do so with the mixed motives of self-exaltation. To this, Paul’s response is remarkable and magnanimous. Even though some were seeking to “cause distress” to him, he said “whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice, yes, and I will rejoice” (v18). How do you respond when others cause you distress?
Christ Exalted Despite My Life or Death (vv19-20) - Paul wanted to be delivered from imprisonment but that desire was balanced between temporal/earthly-continued ministry deliverance vs final deliverance through death (stated fully in vv21-23). The goal of his deliverance is that Christ be exalted in him, whether in life or death. Just as he recognized the eternal dimension in Philippian believers’ growth (v6, 10) that Christ would “perfect them...in the day of Christ,” so he saw that his goal was to exalt Christ through temporal trials or death unto resurrection. Is your motivation that Christ be exalted, regardless of your circumstances, trials or enemies?