Philippians 1:12-18 (audio file)
Open your Bibles if you have them to the book of Philippians, chapter 1. This is week 2 of a series that we started last week on the book of Philippians. last week we learned about the background of the Philippian church and the circumstances surrounding the writing of this book. This book is a letter, written by the apostle Paul from jail, in Rome around 62 AD. Paul is on house arrest, chained to a Roman soldier day and night. Not knowing which day will be his last. We looked specifically last week at verse 6 and how God begins the work, God finishes the work, to display His glory. How the work which God began in Paul, and began in the Philippians, and began in you, He will complete in the day of Christ Jesus, and He will get the glory for doing it, not because he needs the glory, but because pointing to Him is the most important thing we can do for a lost and dying world.
It is going to be extremely important to remember what he has just said as we look at what he is going to say today. We are going to see Paul put some feet on the statement he made right before this, remember this is meant to flow as a letter, so we cannot forget what we just read as we study the next text. Here is a man who has just affirmed to us that God is in control of the work going on in your life. He has made it clear who the active change agent is in your life and the lives of those around him, and he has stated that he is confident in this truth, he is not wavering, or faltering in this, he is Confident in this truth. Now, I don’t know about you, but I find that my true confidence in something is only proven by putting that confidence to the test. It has to be proven in the throws of a real life situation. Your confidence is only theoretical, unless you actually see it work in real life, otherwise, you don’t have confidence, you have a theory. You tracking with that? If you affirm the truths about God as true here on Sunday mornings, and say you are trusting in Him, and then a crisis of faith hits and you’re running somewhere else for your solution, your confidence theory is a myth, and it has been busted. As we will se today, Paul’s confidence has been put to the test, and it has been confirmed. So lets see how he does that. Read with me the text from Philippians 1:12-18.
Real quickly, lets have a little Bible reading lesson. What is the first word of our text today? “But”. What is that? a conjunction. What does it mean? It can mean several things, instead of, on the contrary, yet, except, save. It can also be used as an adverb that means only, or just. You get a feel for the use of the word here as he is about to say something that may seem contrary to what he has been saying, but he is bringing their understanding of the truth he just proclaimed in line with the reality of his experience. He just was talking about a desire for them to be conformed to Christ “for the praise and Glory of God, and before they can get some phony conjured up picture of what that looks like in their heads, he tells them, “my prayer for you to be filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God will be answered, and here is how it has been answered in my life.” What has happened to me, has served to advance the Gospel. Ok, now Paul, I liked the part about being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, but how it has happened to you has not really been what I am looking for. Let me tell you what I mean. Remember, Paul is on house arrest in Rome, so we know where he is, but let me tell you how he got there.
His journey to Rome has not been an easy one, this is a man who has been literally hunted down and in some respects is experiencing the lesser of two evils. You see, if you look back at the book of Acts and see all that happened to get Paul to the point he is on house arrest, you would think he is in a bit of a spa now, and the guy he is chained to day and night, is as much his jailer as he is his protector.
Real quickly, i want to give you the timeline of how Paul got to Rome. If you want to read about it, read Acts 21-28. That tells the story.
Essentially, Paul was preaching in Jerusalem, and at one point the Lord tells Paul that he must go to Rome to preach the Gospel. But what got him there is an incredible story. So, there he is in Jerusalem preaching to the jews there, then there were some people who didn’t like Paul, so they got the whole city in a frenzy against him. The crowd was beating him up, and then the tribune saved him by arresting him. Then the tribune was about to have him flogged and he told them he was a citizen, and they stopped. Still in custody, the ruler wants to figure out what this guy has done that these people want to kill him. He got a chance to speak before his people which only resulted in a plot to kill him by some guys who swore not to eat or drink until they killed him. Then word got out of their plot, so the Roman ruler there sent him to Ceserea to protect him. He preached the Gospel to the ruler there named Felix, who had a soft spot for the jews, and wanted Paul to pay to get out. He kept him there for two years. Then Felix is replaced by a guy named Festus, who brings Paul before him, and then Paul appeals to Ceasar most likely because he knows if he goes free he is getting axed. Paul then gets brought before the king of the area named Aggrippa, who hears him and then sends him to Rome. Just when you think things are on the upswing, Paul’s boat hits a huge storm at sea, and is wrecked on the island of Malta. He survives the wreck, but as soon as they get to shore he is bitten by a viper. Are you tracking with all the crazy in this story. then he spends three months on Malta preaching and healing. Finally he makes it to Rome, where the book of acts has him at the end, on house arrest. Most likely when he wrote this letter.
So to look back he says, I am praying that God will be glorified in your lives, and by the way, he has been in mine, and it been through massive personal hardship and pain. So you know what I am asking myself about Paul as I read this? How the Heck do you do it Paul? What is it about you that you can face these extremely fierce personal trials and struggles and still say, “I will rejoice!”
I think if we dig into this passage we will find some pretty phenomenal things about God that will I hope help us as we face struggles in our own lives that will put our theories of confidence to the test. The truths highlighted in this passage are that God furthers the Gospel through Paul’s circumstances, not in spite of them. God emboldens His people through Paul’s witness. God proclaims his Gospel through Paul’s “enemies”.
God Furthers the Gospel through Paul’s circumstances, not in spite of them.
Paul got a free trip to Rome by being arrested and having a plot against his life.
Paul was able to preach the Gospel to those on the island of Malta for three months.
Paul was able to preach the Gospel to Festus, Felix, Agrippa, and anyone who may have been chained to him. He says in Verse 13 that the whole Palace guard (as well as others) knew that he was in chains for Christ.
When you face adverse or unexpected situations in your life, they are not obstacles to the spread of the gospel, they are vehicles for the spread of the Gospel….
God emboldens His people through Paul’s witness.
Look in verse 14……… God uses Paul’s chains to instill confidence in the Brothers there. Now think about it, how could seeing a major leader of the church locked up instill confidence in you? Well, I think the key is in the phrase in verse 13 that says that all know that his imprisonment is “in Christ” or as some translations put it, “for Christ” Now that is a telling statement isn’t it? Now think with me. When Paul wrote the book of Romans, did he say he had been there? No, Paul wrote that letter in approximately AD 57 to a church in Rome that he had never been to. Now here he is most likely around 62 AD in Rome. So now all those people that he had written to know that he has not been arrested for impropriety, or some scandal, he is in chains for Christ. This guy that wrote with such passion and fervor is backing up what he said. I don’t know about you, but that would give me a boldness to speak the name of Christ.
Just like Paul, when other believers see your suffering, and hardship for Christ, God will use that to strengthen their faith in Him. Now, I know that many of us will not be arrested for our faith most likely, but you know what, there are all kinds of ways that we will suffer for Christ. As we lay down our lives for others. As we sacrifice our own wants and need for the good of those around us. As we push through tough situations in life that would be really easy to give up on. All because we know that WHat God has for us, and what he has laid out in his word is far better than our own plans. When we see people like Jim and Kathleen, and so many others going to hostile places to preach the Gospel. When we see hurting people reaching out with their own weary hands to help another, God will use that witness to build our faith in Him.
God Proclaims the Gospel through Paul’s “enemies”.
look with me a minute at verse 15 and 16……. He says that there are people out there who wish to hurt him, and add affliction to his chains, our there preaching Christ. What does he say to that? Does he say, “I don’t care?” NO, he says, “I do care, and it is wonderful!” Paul wasn’t focussed on his own renown, or his own status, he wanted to see the Gospel of Jesus Christ preached. He had a passion to see the Good News about Jesus Proclaimed to all through his circumstances, through his witness, and even through his enemies.
What do you think about other churches in Powhatan? Or even of people who have left Emmaus and are beginning to meet as a church? what are your thoughts towards them? are you insulted? Are you personally offended? Do you look down on other churches, or try to find ways that Emmaus is better, or more Godly, or right? Now, I want to make it clear, I am not saying that they are our enemies, but I am saying that we can be tempted to perceive them as such. Well, I don’t pretend that thats not a sensitive issue, but as I read this passage, i wonder if that might not be the issue that God wants to use to test your confidence theory. Do you want to see the Good news proclaimed, PERIOD? Paul wants us to, God, I believe wants us to.
God wants to Further His Gospel, He will use our circumstances to do that, he will use our witness to strengthen others in that, and he will use all kinds of other people to do that around us.
So in closing I want you to do three things: 1. Embrace your circumstance……. 2. Share your testimony…… 3. Encourage all who share the good news about Jesus!