bible, prison, jail, ministry, haiti

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Read Philippians 1:12-18 (ESV, NIV, The Message)

Paul was nothing if not focused, his field of vision bounded above and below, across and between by a landscape of always and only the Gospel. When Paul tested and probed the value of a thing, he seemed always to do so through the filter of how widely, and how clearly, would Christ be proclaimed.

And so, it seems, that comes into view no better than in words He sent to encourage brothers and sisters in Philippi.

Loving Paul as they did, the Philippians would fret over his plight. And loving the Philippians as he did, Paul helped to divert their worry to rejoicing.

Captive Audience

12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly.

While he awaited trial in Rome, Paul found himself accompanied day and night by a member of the Praetorian guard. These elite soldiers, the same who would guard Caesar, numbered in the thousands. And a good number of them took their turn chained to the apostle in four-hour shifts.

One guy every four hours. Six guys a day. Seven days a week. For how ever long Paul remained under house arrest.

Paul wasn’t the type let such an opportunity slip by. Perhaps he was a captive, but so was his audience. And he played to it hour after hour, day after day.

And in a swathe of irony we see cut through the Word time and again, he reminds the good folks at Philippi that his imprisonment has made others even more bold in preaching Christ. They’ve not gone further underground for fear of the same.

They’re making more noise.

No matter what, he told them, the Gospel edges forward.

The Point of Preaching Christ

15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.

Paul gives voice to this nagging concern some of the brothers had that while folks were certainly preaching more, some were doing it for all the wrong reasons. The Gospel is pure, they worried. How can we allow it to be tainted by impure motives?

Again, Paul turns the lens a bit, bringing into sharp focus the point of preaching Christ – whether done for love or for pride, whether in honor or spite, whether to exalt Jesus or to magnify fools. The point of preaching Christ is that Christ is preached.

Even if the voice is shrill or squeaky.

No matter what, he told them, the Gospel edges forward.

Idiots and Opportunists

Paul will agree to anything – hardship and torture, imprisonment and injustice, idiots and opportunists – if only the Gospel advances.

And he had a keen eye to spot those opportunities.

How have you seen God use difficulty to His own advantage? We often resist good things done for the wrong reasons – how have you seen God’s purposes flourish through the efforts of those with questionable motives?

philippians 1:12-18a [the advance of the gospel]

by Lyla Lindquist time to read: 3 min