A Fresh Look
I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guardand to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the wordwithout fear.
Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. – Phil. 1:12-19
Throughout his life and work as an apostle of Jesus Christ, Paul’s daily existence was accompanied by two things: (1) risk, and (2) he was widely known.
Risk came in the form of expected persecution. A former Pharisee, converted to Christ, now engaged in preaching the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles – there was constant opposition, comprehended in this passage by that phrase, “what has happened to me.”
He was well-known among the Jews. And, because of his arrests, imprisonments and trials, the Romans knew about him.
So, how does one cope with daily risk as a well-known preacher and traveler? And put this question into the context and setting of Paul’s work among Jews (not always friendly) and Gentiles (having a range of skepticism to hostility).
His perspective was, this would all turn out for good – since God is in control. What happened to him would “advance the gospel.”
He cites an example. While suffering imprisonment (since it was well-known that he was imprisoned for Christ), “the whole imperial guard” and others would have opportunity to be exposed to the gospel. Paul’s situation (and the injustice of it) would become a part of the story, and thus would “advance the gospel.”
Along with this and partly as a result, “the brothers” who were spreading the gospel would be emboldened and encouraged “to speak the word without fear.”
Rather than become bitter, Paul regarded his hardships as instruments in the hands of God to “advance the gospel.” May Christians today mark that good example and consider the difficulties of the Lord’s work to be opportunities providence can find useful.
Further, even when some preachers were not properly motivated, if they were preaching the right message – Paul rejoiced. He did not rejoice that some were preaching Christ “from envy and rivalry.” Rather, he was pleased that people were hearing the good news of Jesus Christ.
“What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice,” (Phil. 1:18).