Philippians 1:12-26, Paul’s Circumstances

Last week we looked at the founding of the Philippian congregation in Acts 16 and Paul’s introduction. This Tuesday, we will briefly look at Paul’s time in Rome in Acts 28:17-31 and complete our discussion of Philippians 1. This first chapter can be divided into three parts: the introduction (vv. 1-11), Paul’s description of his present circumstances (vv. 12-26), and a brief discussion of what the public life of a Christian looks like (vv.27-30).

Paul’s Narrative: (vv.12-26)

Paul begins his letter (or rather extends his introduction) by giving the Philippians an overview of his present condition of house arrest in Rome. Paul seeks (i) to tell them what difficulties he and his gospel message are facing, (ii) to allay their fears about his present condition, and (iii) to provide his audience with his example of how to behave in the face of adversities and adversaries. In short, Paul wants to show the Philippians and us how he continues to show grace under extreme pressure, and thereby provide them and us with a positive living demonstration to follow and a hope to hold onto. As you read through this section, see how Paul continually emphasizes Christ Jesus and the Gospel, and not himself. This too is part of the example Paul’s life and teaching provides to us. In these verses Paul tells us about three adversities that he faces, but how each of these adversities leads to rejoicing.

The Adversity of Imprisonment: (vv.12-14)

Paul’s first adversity is that he is imprisoned in Rome under the watchful eye of the Praetorian Guard. These are the elite soldiers of the Roman empire who serve as the personal household bodyguards of the Emporer himself. Although Paul is “in chains for Christ,” the Gospel itself is advancing in the very household of the Emperor. Not only is Paul continuing to preach, but his fearlessness is inspiring others in Rome to speak boldly. This adversity is the turning of evil into good and a cause of celebration.

The Adversity of Rivalry: (vv.14-18)

The second adversity that Paul faces is that some fellow Christians are taking advantage of Paul’s predicament. We can read about these rivalries in other letters. See, e.g. 1 Cor. 1:10-17. Paul calls out these rivals for preaching the Gospel out of envy, rivalry, partisanship, and false pretenses, unlike others who preach the Gospel out of goodwill and love. We can tell that Paul is quite exasperated with these rivals. However, once more, Paul rejoices in this adversity since Christ is nonetheless being proclaimed. Paul understands that he is only a branch of the Jesus Movement, and if that movement is being advanced for whatever motivation, then Paul is glad.

The Adversity of Death: (vv.19-26)

The final adversity that Paul faces is death. He is being held in Nero’s household, where he could be executed at any moment. Paul expects (mistakenly) that he will be delivered out of this present circumstance and visit the Philippians once more. vv. 19, 25. Paul’s only real concern is that, come what may, he does not do anything to bring shame or disgrace on Jesus and the Gospel, but rather has the strength and courage to bear his circumstances with honor. Paul wants the Philippians to know whether he lives to keep carrying out his mission or whether he dies, it does not mean that either he or they have lost because either way, Paul has life in Christ Jesus. Therefore, Paul rejoices once more.

As you prepare for this Tuesday, please read through the remainder of Philippians 1 slowly and ruminate over Paul’s teaching, allowing the Spirit to speak to you presently.

Dinner is at 6. The menu is butter chicken and chana saag. Discussion about 6:45. Please join us!

But Joseph said to them, “As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today. So do not fear; I will provide for you and your little ones.” Thus he reassured them and comforted them.” Gen. 50:20-21.

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