The church at Philippi had heard of the apostle's troubles. He wanted them to have a true and right understanding of trials and afflictions. He desired that the weak among them might not be offended and that all among them might be encouraged to bear with patience and cheerfulness whatever afflictions might befall them for Christ's sake.
(Vs. 12,13.) "Now, I want you to understand and rest assured that my imprisonment has actually served to advance and give renewed strength to the spreading of the gospel." Persecution for Christ's sake has often meant the carrying of the gospel to other places (Acts 8:4; 11:19,20). Someone said, "The blood of martyrs is the seed of the church." Also, persecution (our behaviour under it and our attitude toward it) attracts attention and encourages others (Matt. 5:16).
Paul was not in prison for breaking the law, but for preaching the gospel of Christ (Acts 24:10-14). This was generally known throughout Caesar's court and in all other places. The gospel, as a result of Paul's confinement, had become an issue throughout the court (Acts 26:26). Our discomfort may be used of God to bring eternal comfort to others. It is said that ancient believers sold themselves into slavery to preach to the slaves. "Christ became poor that we through his poverty might be rich" (2 Tim. 2:9,10).
(Vs. 14.) Paul's sufferings not only resulted in the conversion of many outside the church, but were encouraging and strengthening to many within the church. These brethren were challenged and encouraged by Paul's patience and faithfulness under suffering. Many became bold to declare the gospel of Christ. Our attitude and our general conduct during trials have a strong influence one way or the other upon those who watch us.
(Vs. 15-17.) I believe we can safely say that, whoever these men were, they truly preached the gospel of God's redeeming grace in Christ. Otherwise, Paul would not have rejoiced in their ministry (Gal. 1: 8).
1. Some preached Christ out of envy. They envied Paul's gifts, power and success. It is the same as jealousy. Now that he was in jail, they hoped to gain the honour and applause of the church.
2. Some preached in strife and contention. The strife was not over the gospel of substitution, but over words, practices, government, prophecy and less understood doctrines.
3. Some preached out of a party spirit. They were not sincere, but hoped to make Paul's chains more bitter. Paul met with trouble, punishment and prison; but they were preaching with little difficulty and opposition. Perhaps they thought that Paul's troubles were of his own making and that if he did things their way, he wouldn't have so much trouble!
4. Some preached Christ out of love for Christ, for his church, for the lost and for Paul They knew that the apostle was in prison by the hand and providence of God, who does not act in the same way toward all his servants.
(Vs. 18-20.) What does it matter? Christ is preached in the glory of his person, in the fulness of his grace, in the excellency of his righteousness, in the efficacy of his sacrifice, in the power of his intercession. "Therefore, I rejoice; and I will continue to rejoice."
"I know that all shall finally work together for my good (Rom. 8:28), even to my deliverance from prison to preach to you again" (in the same way as Peter was delivered from prison through the prayers of the church).
"This is my expectation and my desire - to magnify and glorify Christ, whether in prison or out, in life or in death. I am not ashamed of the gospel. I am not ashamed of the chains which hold me. I am not ashamed to die in prison."
(Vs . 21, 22.) "For to me to live is Christ." He is the giver of life. He is the sum and substance of life. He is the hope of life eternal - to be with him and to be like him. "And to die is gain." I will gain release from pain and receive a perfect body, release from limited knowledge to a perfect mind, release from a sinful nature to a sinless perfection, release from all trials to perfect glory and joy, release from mortality to immortality!
"If it is the will of Christ for me to live longer in the flesh, I will continue to labour in the Lord's vineyard. I trust to have a fruitful labour. I can say nothing as to my own preference, for it is not mine to choose; the decision is the Lord's."
(Vs. 23,24.) "I must be honest, however. I am hard-pressed between these two thoughts: either to live and labour, or to die and be with Christ. To die and be with Christ would be better for me. But for me to remain here is better for you. It is best for me to go and be with Christ. It is best for you and the churches for me to remain and preach the gospel to you."
(Vs. 25,26.) Paul had no divine revelation on this matter as such, but as he considered all things and examined his own heart, he felt confidently that God would deliver him and send him forth to preach again.(Vs. 27-30.) The following verses are instructions.
1. "Conduct your churches, homes and personal lives in a way that is becoming to the gospel you profess. Live, walk and talk as believers should."
2. "Whether I visit you or not, let me hear from others that you are standing together in unity and spirit, that you are contending together for the true gospel of Christ."
3. "Do not be afraid of your enemies. The fact that men oppose you for the sake of the gospel is evidence of their condemnation and of your salvation."
4. "It is not only ordained of God that you believe on Christ, but also that you suffer for his glory and your good."
5. "We are all in the same battle, you and I."