THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE GOSPEL CAN ACTUALLY BENEFIT FROM DIFFICULT PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES:
BY SHOWING UNBELIEVERS THE REALITY OF OUR RELATIONSHIP TO CHRIST
BY SHOWING BELIEVERS OUR EXAMPLE OF JOY AND FAITHFULNESS (WHICH GIVES THEM COURAGE TO PROCLAIM THE GOSPEL)
What is our primary goal in life? What is our passion? What do we live for? For Paul the answer was easy: “For me to live is Christ“
The advancement of the Gospel was foremost in his thinking. He was totally wrapped up in living out his divine commission to be the apostle to the Gentiles in proclaiming the good news of salvation in Christ. His personal circumstances or comforts in this life were not his primary concern.
We saw the importance of fellowship in the Gospel — but how can some people have any impact for Christ given their other responsibilities or difficult circumstances in life? What chance do you have to advance the gospel when you work a fulltime job? When you are busy at home raising three children? When there is poor health or poverty or other hardships in your life?
Paul certainly didn’t have what we would judge to be the most advantageous circumstances– no big salary, no fancy office, no radio and TV ministry, no publishing house distributing his letters, no flock of servants to wait on him hand and foot. Instead, he was under house arrest in Rome and it appears that the pressure of his situation has been turned up a few notches with the immediate events surrounding his trial. He was concerned that believers such as his faithful supporters back in Philippi might misinterpret his difficulties and become disillusioned and discouraged.
“I want you to know, brethren” (Note the importance of our personal testimony — our silence can be taken the wrong way)
– cf. times of persecution throughout church history — these have also been the times of most effective growth of the church — not just in numbers but in depth of knowing God and fruitfulness in serving Him;
– cf. the church today in China
I. (:12) STATEMENT OF HIS THESIS: THE ADVANCEMENT OF THE GOSPEL CAN ACTUALLY BENEFIT FROM DIFFICULT PERSONAL CIRCUMSTANCES
A. The Apostle Paul’s Personal Circumstances Looked Bleak
“the things relating to me” — trace his sufferings from
Acts 16 when God began a good work in their hearts to the present;
What difficult circumstances are you facing today?
cf. 2 Cor. 11:23-27; Acts 20:6 – 28:31
Paul did not focus on his personal difficulties and he did not want others to be burdened down in a wrong sense either; he knew how to focus on living for Christ and how to live above his circumstances
Transition: “have fallen out rather” — the result of his difficult circumstances is unexpected from the natural perspective
B. These Difficult Circumstances Have Promoted the Advancement of the Gospel
word originally denoted making headway in spite of blows, and so depicted progress; verb is used in the sense of to promote, to further in the sense of prosperity and progress
Gromacki: “It was a military term, used of engineers who would prepare a road for the advancing army by removing obstructions such as rocks and trees. Paul did not view difficulty with self-pity. He was not concerned how circumstances affected him; rather, he asked the question: How can this problem be used to proclaim the gospel in a distinctive way? Paul saw a beginning in what some called an end, and he walked through open doors which others concluded to be closed and locked.”
rooted here in a conviction of a Sovereign God who is working out His divine plan in history; able to transform seemingly bad circumstances into good results from the perspective of eternity
People are actively promoting all sorts of worthless causes:
“everybody seems to have a cause for which to speak;
loudly from the rooftops they proclaim the thing they seek;
often for a needless cause and often to deceive;
Should not we who know the Lord declare what we believe”
our materialistic culture is very interested in personal advancement (job promotions, self-help courses, etc.); but who has a heart for promoting God’s interests?
same word in 1:25 “progress in the faith”
Do we have the same goal that Paul had? Can we look back over the varied paths of our circumstances to see how God has been using us to advance the gospel?
II. (:13-18) TWOFOLD EXPLANATION — TWO POSITIVE RESULTS FROM HIS DIFFICULT CIRCUMSTANCES
What were these 2 Positive Results?
A. Showing Unbelievers the Reality of His Relationship to Christ
(not just by his words but by his life — his attitude, how he conducted himself, his concern for others as being more important than himself, his humility — cf. all of the positive Christian traits Paul speaks of in this letter — he was living them out)
“so that” — introduces results
1. His bonds were an instrument of freedom and opportunity and rejoicing rather than enslavement and limitation and bitterness
“bonds” — sums up all of his varied difficult circumstances
2. His bonds were plainly seen by all to be in fellowship with Christ and in His service rather than on account of any wrongdoing — his life was evident and clearly blameless;
His relationship to Christ was deep and real
1:1 Paul was first a bond-servant of Jesus Christ; nothing could happen to him that was not under the control of His Sovereign Master — he never had the sense of desparation that comes when you feel your life is out of control
3. The scope of his testimony was unlimited
a. the strategic palace guard (praetorian guards)
b. all other unbelievers as well throughout Rome and the empire
B. Showing Believers His Example of Joy and Faithfulness Which Gave Them Courage to Proclaim the Gospel
1. The gospel advances more effectively through the testimony of many than just through the testimony of one superstar
importance of the body functioning in healthy fashion
value of multiplying your ministry
2. There is a natural fear of witnessing that needs to be overcome in order for us to advance the gospel
3. The right response to difficult circumstances can mobilize the ministry of others by encouraging them to step out in faith
4. People might proclaim the gospel from either good or bad motivations
a. out of a sense of competition and personal ambition
envy speaking more of the internal emotions and strife of the
resulting outward conflict
b. out of a genuine love and sense of good will
Turner: “As horrible and ungodly as this kind of thinking is, it should not surprise us that, living in the seat of power of the most powerful government on the face of the earth, some brethren could, and did, get caught up in the pursuit of power, striving out of envy for preeminence among the brethren.”
MacArthur: “Paul said his detractors were thinking to cause him distress during his imprisonment (v. 17). They weren’t concerned with the church–with the purity of its doctrine or its growth. They just wanted to hurt Paul so they could be on top. ‘Thinking’ refers to planning and scheming. They came up with various ways to aggravate Paul’s already distressing situation. By attacking his integrity, credibility, faithfulness, and character, they knew they would hurt him–and that, sad to say, was their objective.”
5. We should rejoice in the proclamation of the gospe irregardless of the motives of the proclaimers or their good or bad intentions towards us personally
(Note: not condoning their bad motivation, but emphasizing his primary goal of the advance of the gospel. The Holy Spirit can use the truth in the lives of others even where the spirit of the messenger is faulty.)