THE BOOK OF PHILIPPIANS
J. Deering, AncientPath.net
We are entering a portion of Paul’s writing that is of utmost importance in understanding the sovereignty of God and the work of the Holy Spirit in the area of the effectiveness of the Gospel.
The concept that Paul is bringing to light is not only a difficult one to grasp, but for many will be difficult to accept. Each and every one of us need to submit to the Father in prayer so that His will may be understood and appreciated in our lives as we minister in His Son’s name – teaching and preaching “the Gospel.”
Paul is preparing us for the ultimate adventure coming in Chapter Two – The humiliation of Christ. What we learn in the next nine verses will lay the groundwork for us to understand and appreciate what Jesus, the Son of God, did in order to become “the Lamb of God.”
But first we need to understand how the Gospel itself works.
Paul sets the stage for the truths that follow. There is a principle here that Paul wants the Philippians to see and understand. This principle is paramount in the understanding of how the Gospel works in the plan of God.
Paul’s struggles, beatings, lashings, public humiliation at the hands of Jews and pagan Romans, and his imprisonments – furthered the progress of the gospel.
He is boldly stating that what we normally would think as enormous setbacks – the leader of the movement being apprehended, accused, beaten, etc., - was actually an accelerant for the cause of the gospel.
It’s easy to take a philosophical view that, of course, persecution and martyrdom always makes for a stronger grass-roots movement. But that is not what Paul is talking about. For it is true that this is the observed effect of persecution. But this verse and the next two verses only set the stage for the unveiling of a specific truth about the working of the Gospel.
Paul brings attention to the fact that his imprisonment has brought forth the opportunity for not only himself to speak out to his guardians, but the situation has become public knowledge and daily public news. Most likely Paul is named as “that old Christian guy who is so vocal about Jesus Christ.” If there was a daily local newspaper – Paul would be on page one almost every day – he was a “hot item.”
It came to my mind when thinking about the "whole praetorium guard" that back in 1963 my brother was in the Marines and was Sergeant of the Guard for the Kennedy funeral. It was a very special honor at the time but I was only 17 and did not give much thought to what that meant. He was in constant touch with the White House, President Johnson, the Cabinet, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and the president's staff, as well as top military leaders of the Marines and visiting political heads of state. Wow, in and of itself such an honor.
But consider Paul - in contact with those soldiers who's responsibilities brought them into constant contact with Caesar, the Senate, and all the top dignitaries of Rome. Paul had "become known" by the Guard and you can be sure that they in-turn talked about him, and his God to those they met.
Paul would have had many visitors. He would have talked about and expounded upon the meaning of the Scriptures, and the guards would have had the opportunity not only to hear all of this, but afterwards to ask questions when Paul's visitors had left. They had the opportunity to witness Paul's personal testimony and see it put to the test every day. He became the "talk of the guard."
Don't get this sentence backwards and think that it is saying that most of the assembly at Philippi was made up of men and women who were brought to Christ through the agency of Paul's imprisonment. The verse is saying that of those who were in-Christ were, because of the confidence they gained through Paul's imprisonment were experiencing far more courage to speak (preach, teach, or just speak) the Word of God - and do so without their previous fears.
Greek scholar Harold Berry translates this verse
"And most of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear."
So it is that Christians (the assembly at Philippi) were especially affected by Paul's imprisonment.
Paul states that the martyr effect has indeed worked and of those who have trusted in Jesus, because of his imprisonment, have become more courageous in the fearless presentation of the gospel.
But we’re still not there yet, for certainly this is “just the way persecution works!”
Here now is the defining verse we don’t want to miss. Out of total amount of the persecution of Paul, and his imprisonment, have come two groupings of people who preach “the gospel.”
First there is the group who represent those who preach the gospel out of good will, out of love, who get their strength to preach from knowing that Paul’s sufferings are the very fuel that empowers them. They see that God is using his humble servant to promote the gospel of Jesus Christ and they wish to preach and encourage others because of the “value” they see in Paul’s ministry as he fulfills the will of God through suffering and imprisonment. In this way they honor Paul’s person and ministry.
At the very same time a second group has arisen to preach the gospel. This group represents those who preach the gospel out of strife.
In case you miss the meaning, they were saying, “Paul really messed up God’s plan for the gospel and now we have to straighten it all out.” “Look at Paul and his suffering and see how God does not work through him, he is dishonored, beaten, humiliated – and so Christ is humiliated through him too! We preach the gospel – but it is not of Paul that we preach it.
So there are two groups preaching Christ and His gospel, one out of love for Paul, and one out of envy and strife. The difference in the two groups is not their message, but their motives. So, concerning their motives...
We've talked about the 'ginowsko' kind of knowing, that of the experiential kind, here we have the other kind of knowledge, 'oida.' This Greek word infers a kind of knowledge that is fact based (2+2=4). I find it interesting that Paul uses this word here because I would expect that the Philippians would consider his apostleship was more a matter of experience than fact - but here he says quite the opposite. His appointment for the defense of the gospel is a fact to them.
In the original it says that "these (the last ones we spoke of) preach the word of God out of love (for Paul and for the gospel), as he is set aside for the defense of the gospel."
Paul treats the last group first - those who 'out of love' for Paul and for the gospel. How wonderful it must have been for Paul to know that there were those who loved him, as well as knowing that they also loved him because of the gospel he taught to them. For the bible teacher there is nothing more heartwarming than having students who teach and preach the Word of God as a result that they have studied under you.
It is of great interest to Paul that those in Philippi who followed after his teaching also understood that Paul, himself, had been set aside by God for the very purpose of defending the gospel (Jesus, His life, death, resurrection, and ascension - sitting now at the right hand of God the Father) before Caesar and the Roman government - as well as before all who would ever read his letters from then until now!
And what a defense - line on line, proposition after proposition, argument after argument, definitions, understandings, supporting documents - all in the defense of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
17 the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment.
Proclaim - kataggellousin, katagellousin, this Greek word has the undercurrent of a solemn quiet communication between two people - like at a funeral. It's interesting that in the translation above (NASB) it would seem like these detractors were bellowing out their envious preaching, but the word indicates otherwise. They were, according to this word, holding forth in quiet places, holding onto the collars of those who would listen, spewing forth their venomous anti-Paul version of the gospel.
1) electioneering or intriguing for office 1a) apparently, in the NT a courting distinction, a desire to put one's self forward, a partisan and fractious spirit which does not disdain low arts 1b) partisanship, fractiousness.
rather than pure motives
- 'thinking affliction' a combination of two words, 1- Thinking (from oida -
facts knowledge) and 2-thlip'-sis
1) a pressing, pressing together, pressure 2) metaph. oppression, affliction, tribulation, distress, straits.
1) to arouse, cause to rise 1a) to arouse from sleep, to awake 1b) to arouse from the sleep of death, to recall the dead to life 1c) to cause to rise from a seat or bed etc. 1d) to raise up, produce, cause to appear 1d1) to cause to appear, bring before the public 1d2) to raise up, stir up, against one 1d3) to raise up i.e. cause to be born 1d4) of buildings, to raise up, construct, erect.
in my imprisonment.
1) prisoner "my prisoner." Figuratively "the prisoner I am," or "the state of my imprisonment."
There are a lot of new definitions in this verse for us. Let's start by just putting our new words in place in order.
1 - Solemnly, one person to another
2 - Putting one's self forward
3 - Thinking affliction
4 - In order to arouse in me
5 - The state of my imprisonment.
So, here we have the statement of what Paul's detractors intentions were. "These I spoke of first were solemnly, one person at a time, putting themselves forward while concentrating on causing affliction to me by arousing (as if from sleep) my imprisonment."
These were not nice people. The were actively engaged in making Paul's life worse in order to promote themselves through the preaching and teaching of the gospel.
I hope it is not something you (or I) do in our everyday ministry - put down a faithful minister of God (in this case a suffering, imprisoned minister of God) in order to defame him and raise up the opinions in others concerning ourselves.
"Oh, pastor so-N-so, he doesn't preach the security of the believer, and his church is now a mess, but I know he's wrong and my ministry is overflowing with success."
There could be a million different scenarios but the message would be the same, "I'm right and they're wrong, and they suffer the more for it!" May it never be at another's expense that you promote yourself, and may you never do it by way spreading the gospel.
I knew a man who, at every opportunity, had something negative to say about my ministry - usually within earshot - while promoting himself at the same time. It was certainly common-place in my work to be maligned by co-workers who were plainly envious of my opportunities and fortunes, but it should never be so within the Body of Christ - STOP IT!
Single handedly these men in Paul's life were making his life harder while in prison. That was these men's intention, out of envy and a natural proclivity to lives of strife.
plhn oti panti tropw
in every way
(or) in truth,
Christ is announced - person to person, solemnly,
kai en toutw cairw;
and in this I rejoice;
alla kai carhsoumai;
and I will continue to rejoice;
It doesn’t matter! As long as the Gospel of Christ is preached!
The one group preached for all the wrong reasons, their hearts were full of envy and strife – 'No Matter,' Paul says!
It was important to Paul to tell the Philippians that it was of no matter if people preached Christ (the gospel) for the wrong reasons.
What mattered was that Christ was preached!
Think of the implications of this teaching.
And not only does Paul say it doesn’t matter, but he rejoices in the fact that the gospel is being preached – regardless (being preached either way). And he says it so strongly that he says that his rejoicing is in only in the fact that the gospel is preached in every way!
Paul calls it “in pretense or in truth.” What does that radio preacher have in mind when he speaks the gospel? Perhaps it is the sales of his most recent book, an envelope of “prayer cloths,” or just an envelope of money. Paul says that it is good to rejoice that the gospel is being preached – do I have to listen to that radio preacher, do I have to think that he’s got good motives, absolutely not – but it's my responsibility to rejoice that the gospel of Jesus Christ is being preached.
How about the church down the street where their doctrine is all wrong and they don’t care if anyone comes to Jesus or not. Are they reading from the scriptures, are they preaching the works of God?
Or, even that cult meeting down the other street – is the bible they read from and teach from largely free from doctrinal heresy (all are)? Don't praise God for their ignorance, but do praise God that the Word of God is being brought before the ears of their people.
Just what is Paul saying? He’s saying that it is God who is sovereign; it is His Holy Spirit that brings understanding, conviction, repentance, and salvation – not the church, the reader, or the preacher. God is using His word to do His work through such things. Does he ask you to place your approval upon them for the way in which they do it? – Of course not. He asks you to rejoice that people hear the gospel of Jesus Christ through preaching, reading the scriptures, listening to the radio, watching TV, etc., regardless of the intentions of the source.
We’ve talked recently a lot about versions and translations of the Bible. Think about what Paul says and how it applies here as well. It’s not the translator’s intentions that superintend the Word of God; it is His Holy Spirit working through His Word. He is sovereign. He brings forth salvation, not the writing, not the intentions of the human translator – but God Himself.
Try to see the bigger picture – it is God who is sovereign. He is in control, thank Him, Praise Him and rejoice in the work that He is doing through those agencies that we perhaps would not use. He is accomplishing His ends through His sovereignty, rejoice and be glad in that. Rejoice and be glad that His word is being heard.
"In everything give thanks (1 Thess 5:18)," "Rejoice in all things!" There are 7 passages in Philippians alone where Paul requires that we Rejoice (1:18; 2:17; 2:18; 2:28 [twice]; 3:1; 4:4; and 4:10).
Remember – 1
God does not call you to approve of such things.
God does not call you to use or do such things yourself.
Woe unto you if you preach Christ for the wrong reasons, intentions, or gain.
Remember – 2
God calls you to approve those things that are
right and true.
God calls you to build your life out of right and true building blocks.
Grace and peace to you if you preach Christ for the right reasons, intentions, and gain.
But, remember to rejoice that His work is being accomplished through His will, His sovereignty, His Son, His Spirit, no matter how man tries to mess it up!
Back now in Paul’s situation… “YES, and I will rejoice (even from prison), because I KNOW (oida) that this will turn out for my deliverance – because it is just a fact, "I will be delivered, either unto life and a continued ministry for Him, or unto death and a great reward with Him. - I KNOW it!" "Who will deliver me from this 'body of death'?" "I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord."
Paul's deliverance will be effected through the prayers of the Philippians - Oh My! Paul believed that the effective prayers of the saints accomplishes much!" - The effectual fervent prayer of a righteous man avails much (James 5:16 KJV).
Through the provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ - Ah, yes, for nothing can be accomplished by the will of man in the spiritual realm - it is only THROUGH the Holy Spirit of God that anything of any meaning can be accomplished.
That's how Paul KNEW that he would be delivered - it was the power of God, through the Holy Spirit, empowering the prayers of the saints at Philippi that would accomplish this - It was 'God's will', and 'God's will' will be done.
20 according to my earnest expectation and hope, that I will not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ will even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
whether by way of life or by way of death.
Years ago I had the privelige to sit under J. Stewart Briscoe, the South African Bible teacher and lecturer. While dealing with this passage he emphasized that hope, here, is that kind of hope that the well studied scholar who passes all his test means when he says, "I hope to pass."
"'God's will' will be done, by means of my earnest expectation and hope, that in my hope I will not be ashamed, but as always, in all boldness Christ will be magnified in my body whether by way of life or by way of death."
Paul was so assured (that he was directly in God’s will, and allowing His sovereignty to work through him righteously) that he was eagerly awaiting, eagerly expecting that Christ would be exalted through him, in his life, and/or in his death.
No other authority, except God the Father, is acceptable as the source and motivation in life; not our family, not our loved ones, not our doctors or educators. There is not other authority that should rule our lives.
The question to be asked is... "Do we have that same confidence that whether by our lives or our deaths, Christ will be exalted through us?"
When you or I are finally dead will we leave behind a legacy which will continue to exalt Him in our absence?
That's something to really think about.
New American Standard Bible (NASB)
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