LIBERATION

“Now I hasten to assure you brothers, that the things I have endured have actually served to advance, rather than hinder, the spreading of the Good News of Christ. My imprisonment on His behalf is well known by the imperial guards here. Besides this, many brothers have gained confidence in the Lord by my incarceration and are becoming more fearless as they spread the Word of God. Some are preaching because they are jealous of the way God has used me and they preach with mixed motives, supposing they are making my imprisonment harder to bear. But others are preaching from pure motives, knowing God has placed me here to defend our right to preach the Good News. It does not matter whether men preach from false motives or honest ones: as long as Christ is preached I will rejoice and will continue to rejoice”   (paraphrased)

Paul does not write to the Philippians to complain, but to tell how his imprisonment is serving to promote the Gospel. He seeks to change what might seem to be a disadvantage into an advantage. Paul optimistically evaluates his situation in terms of how it can be refocused to assist evangelistic efforts. Although he is bound, he knew the Word of God is not bound (II Timothy 2:9).

The Book of Acts agrees with the historical practice of chaining a notable prisoner to a Roman soldier (Acts 28:16). As the guard is relieved every six hours, four different soldiers observe Paul’s life every day for two years (Acts 28:30). Had Paul not lived a consistent Christian life, these men would have made light of Paul’s situation. Although in house arrest, Paul has visitors (Acts 28:30-31). Imagine the questions these guards might ask Paul after his guests depart. Seeing Paul’s perpetual courage and joy, those on guard duty are probably amazed and inspired. Though Paul does not choose to be in prison, he is determined to use his circumstances to bring glory to God. If he vents his frustration, what effect will this have on the soldiers he is trying to win to Christ? As a result of his godly fortitude, the Gospel is spreading to “all other places” as well (v. 13). His imprisonment promotes the growth of Christianity outward from the great metropolis of Rome to the uttermost parts of the world.

Infamous prisoners often attract attention. The reason for Paul’s imprisonment becomes widely known: he is guilty only of serving Jesus. Paul indicates the Gospel has begun to impact even the Roman Praetorian guards. We know from Philippians 4:22 there are converts to Christianity in Caesar’s household. When he writes about the effect of the Gospel “in the palace,” he is referring to the close connection between Caesar’s home and these elite royal guardians. We read of a Roman soldier who treats Paul kindly (Acts 27:3). In Luke 7:1-10, we read of Jesus healing a Roman centurion’s servant. A Roman soldier, on execution duty at Calvary, confesses Jesus as the Son of God (Mark 15:39).

At first glance, Paul’s incarceration might appear to be a hindrance to the spread of Christianity. The great apostle is imprisoned, chained, and out of circulation for two years. But Paul takes advantage of his current circumstances. He knows the value of reaching cities and realizes born-again Roman royal Praetorian guards will help spread the Gospel message to the Gentile world.

Paul’s incarceration for Jesus’ sake has the additional advantage of helping make timid disciples bold. His example does more than just inspire Christians; it gives them courage. Those who put their lives on the line for God often stir others to heroically defend the Gospel, prompting them to risk their own safety for Jesus’ sake. Although it seems unfair that serving Jesus can result in punishment, what can be more unjust than God’s own Son suffering for our sins? All the hardships Paul faces in his ministry—angry mobs, hostile rulers, shipwrecks, beatings and imprisonment—are an encouragement to millions throughout the past two millennia. No doubt Paul’s fortitude also inspires Christians in the first century.

Paul’s enemies envy his success and want to kick him while he is down (v. 15-17). Any way they can, these false teachers seek to undermine his optimism and authority. They try to torment him, hoping to increase his affliction by opposing his doctrine. The word “contention” (v. 16) comes from a word referring to “a hired servant,” targeting those who preach for profit. Perhaps they think that preaching the Gospel while Paul is incarcerated will make him miserable, but Paul claims just the opposite.

Although some teach the Gospel message with bad motives and bad theology in vain attempts to irritate and discourage him, Paul determines not to gratify their envious spirits. The choice is between a perverted version of the Gospel being preached or none at all. As long as Jesus is being promoted in any way, Paul is joyful. His enemies think jail will slow him down, but they do not comprehend his determination. Were he alive today, Paul would be happy that Jesus is being preached, even in the cold cathedrals of mainline denominations.

Those who reject the Word of God often inadvertently promote it. The bow of hostile intent only shoots the Gospel arrow more forcefully and accurately. Paul rejoices in the good God brings out of evil intent. The fires of persecution actually spread the Gospel flames. Jesus says, “if they drive you from one town to the next, preach the Gospel as you go” (Matthew 10:14). Paul states he is “set” for the defense of the Gospel (v.17). The word “set” is keimai, meaning “destined” or “appointed.” Paul is sure of his mission and pursues it.

People will study our lives as the Romans studied Paul, curious about the Jesus we profess to love. God knows how to promote His Gospel, even in frustrating situations. When we find ourselves in challenging predicaments, we must ask the Holy Spirit how it can be turned around for God’s glory.

 

LIBERATION - STUDY QUESTIONS


MULTIPLE CHOICE

1. According to verses 15-16, some false teachers preach about Christ with:
A. multitudes of people following them
B. great financial support
C. envy, strife and contention
D. the same attitude Paul has
E. none of the above

2. According to v. 17, what is Paul ready to do?
A. serve a life sentence
B. get out of prison as soon as possible
C. continue to try to stop the false teachers
D. defend the Gospel
E. none of the above

3. No matter how the Gospel is preached, what is Paul determined to do? (v.18)
A. rejoice
B. write more epistles
C. appeal to Caesar for his release from prison
D. be a martyr for Jesus
E. none of the above

LIBERATION - REFLECTION

DISCUSSION QUESTIONS FOR COUPLES

1. Discuss things that cause you to feel despondent and spiritually frustrated.


2. In what ways does whining, griping and complaining in front of your children have a negative impact?


3. When visitors come to your home, in what ways might your marital life impact them either in a positive or a negative way?


4. How do you react when you are falsely accused?


5. Describe a challenging situation in your marital life that was turned around and ultimately brought glory to God.


6. Paul expresses genuine affection for the Philippians. If you feel you have difficulty expressing affection for your spouse, talk about it right now.

7. List some ways in which you would like your mate to express genuine affection to you.


ESSAY QUESTIONS FOR INDIVIDUALS

1. List the things that cause you to feel despondent and spiritually frustrated.

 

2. In what ways does whining, griping and complaining in front of others have a negative impact?

 

3. When others come to visit you, in what ways does your life impact them either in a positive or a negative way?


4. How do you react when you are falsely accused?

 

5. Describe a challenging situation in your life that was turned around and ultimately brought glory to God.


6. Paul expresses genuine affection for the Philippians. Write a paragraph concerning how you can express affection for others.

 

 

 

7. List some ways in which you would like others to express genuine affection to you.

 


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