Philippians 1:12-20 Devotional Commentary

Thy Will be done: Devotional Commentary for January 9-15

Philippians 1:12-20 (NKJV)

This is the Word of God. May the Spirit of Truth give us wisdom and insight to receive what has been conveyed through His Word by His Inspiration.

1:12-14
12But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel,
13so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;
14and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

As we noted in last week's devotional reading, Paul commended the Philippians for their faith, love, commitment, unity, and generosity. He also exhorted them to be more confident, more loving, more knowledgeable, more excellent, more godly, more sincere, more holy, more self-controlled, and more filled with the fruit of the righteousness of Jesus Christ. One wonders however, why would he exhort them to increase and abound in everything after such a great commendation?

It turned out that Paul knew that the Philippians were quite disheartened by his imprisonment. He recognized that they were struggling with the two realities of Paul's conditions: his confinement and his apostleship as the servant of God the Almighty. So his exhortations seemed to have focused on responding to a deep-seated sentiment of disappointment.

Instead of attempting to reason with them and ward-off their worries, Paul proceeded to help them reflect upon his conditions from a different, more supreme perspective than their own limited human outlook. He directed their attention to God's Will and Purpose, and the requisite essentials for the furtherance of the Gospel according to God's plan. He enlightened them with a godly spiritual insight. He told them that his confinement was actually good for the advancement of the Gospel.

Whether it was during the trial proceedings or any discussion pertaining to the accusations alleged against him, his imprisonment for the cause of Jesus Christ was always publicly affirmed. Because of that, the Gospel was preached openly without fear or intimidation. Even Caesar's palace guards were made aware of the Good News of the Gospel. The circumstances of his detention became clear to them. So Paul encouraged the Philippians by assuring them that his confinement is serving the cause of the Gospel, and therefore, good and profitable. Paul wanted the Philippians to know and accept that, all deliberations pertaining to his detention will keep the Gospel of Jesus Christ front and center on the minds of his friends and foes.

1:15-18
15Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill:
16The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;
17but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.
18What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice.

Paul was absolutely realistic in assessing the assorted ways in which the Gospel was presented or discussed. He was not naive, unawares, or taken aback by it. He knew that some had impure and immoral motives, seeking to undermine him and intensify his troubles. But he was also keenly aware that others, those who truly understood God's Will and Purpose in Paul's life and in the proclamation of the Gospel, presented God's Good News of salvation with love, knowledge, and conviction.

Paul was nevertheless content that his imprisonment brought the Gospel to the forefront of every conversation about him. He did not concern himself with the evil intentions of his detractors. Nor was he distracted by the favorable sentiments of his friends and cohorts. He was wholly and completely consumed by the unfettered proclamation of the Gospel regardless of any intent; ill or well. He rejoiced in that his suffering publicly exalted Jesus Christ and advanced the cause of the Gospel.

1:19-20
19For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
20according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.

Paul's knowledge of the Truth and his confidence in Jesus Christ gave him courage, true hope, and godly expectation that his deliverance would come to pass in God's time through the work of the Holy Spirit in the prayers of his Philippian brethren. He had no doubt that he was always strengthened by the Holy Spirit as they persisted in praying for him.

He was neither discouraged by his confinement nor ashamed by his chains. He was all the more bold because he knew that whether he lived beyond prison or died in confinement, Jesus Christ is magnified through what was taking place in his life. God's Will was his command. God's Purpose was his reason. The Gospel was his vocation. His life was filled with joy because he lived to serve.

Notes/Applications

It is generally believed that Paul wrote his epistle to the Philippians in Rome while he was a prisoner. We learn from the book of Acts that Paul was taken to Rome as a prisoner because he appealed to Caesar to have his case tried in Rome. The issue of Paul's imprisonment was a very serious and disheartening matter to the Philippians.

Therefore, having learned that their finite sentiments were distorting their faith and confidence in Jesus Christ, Paul exhorted the Philippians to abound in godly excellence so that their perception would be cultivated into a new and a higher realm of godly perspective. He helped them view his confinement through the lens of God's Will, Plan, and Purpose. He showed them how his suffering and the false accusations leveled against him were actually instrumental in forcing discussions about Jesus Christ and the Gospel. Essentially, Paul told them that is good and cannot be bad.

Because of a profound change in perspective, Paul's suffering took on a different and more supreme meaning. He actually rejoiced in what God did through his suffering. The Gospel was preached in Caesar's palace, and, other believers were encouraged to spread the Gospel without fear. Paul showed the Philippians that everything that took place in his life, from his arrest in Jerusalem to his imprisonment in Rome and every incident in between, was planned and used by God to bring the Gospel to the Gentiles, and the courts of their kings and their high officials.

We are hereby introduced to the sovereignty of God, His immutable Will, His perfect Plan, and His transcending Purpose. Paul's exhortation to the Philippians concerning their disappointment with his imprisonment implies that, if we are relegated by God to suffering in order to accomplish what He had planned, then He will confer upon us His all-sufficient Grace to strengthen us and fill our hearts with His Joy and Peace. We would then be able to view our circumstances with a transformed perspective, recognizing the supremacy of God's work in our lives defining every step we take and shaping every experience we undergo. But this should never be confused with everyday struggles and challenges common to all of us.

Even though it is perfectly natural to view imprisonment with disdain, Paul sought to correct this perspective with God's transcending Truth. Humanly speaking, arrest and imprisonment are discouraging and humiliating experiences. But for Paul, his suffering represented the instrumental Will of God which cast a compelling framework of unavoidable conversation about Jesus Christ and the proclamation of the Gospel.

Paul fervently yearned to enlighten the Philippians and every believer, that nothing can take place in the life of God's children contrary to God's Will, including suffering and imprisonment. This means that any experience authored by God is a necessary aspect of what He is doing. Therefore, leaning on His everlasting and all-sufficient Grace, we rejoice in the good that He does in and through us for His glory and our blessing.

Therefore, like Paul, if our heart and attention are firmly fixed on Jesus Christ, we too would behold the magnificent glory of the Lord vibrantly setting our lives aglow with the light of the Gospel. If like Paul, we commit ourselves to God and the countless means by and through which He manifests His Will, we too would discount the significance of our own misadventures, opting to absorb the afflictions perpetrated upon us by the forces that are contrary to the Gospel, without slipping into denial or a false sense of security. Like Paul, we too could rejoice in the merit of Jesus Christ which made us worthy to be the instruments of divine disposition for the fulfillment of God's Will on earth as it is in heaven.

Here at Practical Christianity Foundation we believe that God has mercifully extended His Grace toward us and has given us His living and Holy Word to guide us in our journey in this world. We count it privilege to come alongside you and minister to you through prayer and the sharing of God's living and holy Word. Please contact us if you have any questions concerning your faith and journey as a Christian.

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