|Greek: Ginoskein (PAN) de humas boulomai, (1SPMI) adelphoi, hoti ta kat' eme mallon eis prokopen tou euaggeliou eleluthen, (3SRAI)
Amplified: Now I want you to know and continue to rest assured, brethren, that what [has happened] to me [this imprisonment] has actually only served to advance and give a renewed impetus to the [spreading of the] good news (the Gospel). (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;
NLT: And I want you to know, dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Wuest: But after mature consideration I desire you to gain this knowledge from (my) experience, that my circumstances have come to result rather in the pioneer advance of the gospel. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: And I wish you to know, brethren, that the things concerning me, rather to an advancement of the good news have come,
Want (boulomai) speaks of a desire that has purpose and intention back of it. It is “will” with determination. The desire came after mature consideration. The prayer is ended. Paul next rehearses his blessings, that is, the benefits that have resulted from his imprisonment. Jowett calls this section “The Fortune of Misfortune.”
Verses 12-26 all refer to what is happening to Paul and then in v27-30 we see what happens to the Philippians. Paul wants them to know the truth that he is learning in prison so that when they go through those difficult times, they will be victorious.
Know (ginosko) means to know by experience. The present tense indicates that Paul wants them to know and to keep on knowing. I don't want you to forget what I am getting ready to write. The Philippian saints, he desired, should learn something from his experience. Paul’s difficult circumstances, namely, his journey to Rome and imprisonment there Ac21-28). Paul did not complain about his circumstances or his chains but instead consecrated them to God and asked God to use them for the pioneer advance of the Gospel. And God answered his prayers. Nothing ever "just happens" to a saint. Things either come directly from God or they reach us from some other source by His permissive will. The things that were then dominating Paul’s life were those connected with his imprisonment.
Paul assures the Philippian saints that his circumstances have not only failed to curtail his missionary work, but they have advanced it, and not only that, they have brought about a pioneer advance in regions where otherwise it could not have gone. It is so in our lives. Our God-ordained or God-permitted circumstances are used of God to provide for a pioneer advance of the gospel in our Christian service.
that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel: hoi hoti ta kat' eme mallon eis prokopen tou euaggeliou eleluthen, (3SRAI): (Acts 21:28-36; 22:1-30; 28:1-31) (Ex 18:11; Esther 9:1; Ps 76:10; Acts 8:4; 11:19, 20, 21; Ro 8:28, 37; 2Ti 2:9)
Have turned out (2064) (erchomai) means to come or go, to fall out. In the present verse it means to happen, with the implication of the event being directed to someone or something. Perfect tense means it happened at a point in time in the past and the effects or results are still present.
Progress (advance of, spread of, promotion of)(4297) (proskope from proskopto = to cut forward [a way], advance from pró =before or forward + kópto = cut, strike, impel) refers to forward movement of something often of armies in spite of obstacles, dangers, and distractions.
BDAG - a movement forward to an improved state = progress, advancement, furtherance
Proskope was also a technical term in Stoic philosophy for “progress toward wisdom". Paul’s imprisonment proved to be no hindrance to spreading the message of salvation and in fact created new opportunities. The New Jerusalem Bible paraphrases it as "the circumstances of my present life are helping rather than hindering the advance of the gospel."
The opposite idea is expressed by the related word egkopto (en = in + kópto = cut) which in classic Greek was used as a military metaphor meaning to cut in on, throw obstacles in the way of or to cut up the road so that normal movement was impossible. Paul wrote to the Galatians "You were running well. Who hindered (egkopto) you from obeying the truth?" (Gal 5:7).
Proskope was used to describe an army of pioneer wood cutters preceding the regular army, cutting a road through an otherwise impenetrable forest, thus making possible the pioneer advance of the regulars into regions where they otherwise could not have marched. And so too it was with Paul's seemingly horrid afflictions - his sufferings removed obstacles allowing the gospel to be presented in arenas that would otherwise have been "impenetrable".
Proskope used only 3x in the NT and only elsewhere in Apocrypha - 2Ma 8:8, Sir 51:17
Persecution in one place has often been the means of advancing and spreading the Gospel in other places, a classic illustration being the dispersion of the church in Acts 8 where Luke writes that
The results of this "progress" have continued to reverberate throughout the world ever since. God declares in Isaiah
Obstacles that seem to be "roadblocks" are but stepping stones to opportunities in the providential outworking of our omnipotent, omniscient God.
Gospel (2098) (euaggelion [word study] from eú = good + aggéllo = proclaim, tell) means good news, glad tidings, Saxon = gōd-spell = lit. "good tale, message". Euaggelion originally referred to a reward for good news and later became the good news itself. The word euaggelion was in just as common use in the first century as our words good news today. “Have you any good news for me today?” would have been a common question. In this secular use euaggelion described good news of any kind and prior to the writing of the New Testament, had no definite religious connotation in the ancient world until it was taken over by the "Cult of Caesar" which was the state religion and in which the emperor was worshipped as a god (see more discussion of this use below). The writers of the New Testament adapted the term as God's message of salvation for lost sinners.
The writers of the New Testament adapted the term as God's message of salvation for lost sinners. Euaggelion is found in several combination phrases, each describing the gospel like a multifaceted jewel in various terms from a different viewpoint (from the NASB, 1977):
The gospel is succinctly and accurately stated by Paul in 1Corinthians 15:1-5…
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When Trouble Strikes (Our Daily Bread) Dave Dravecky had pitched with remarkable success for the San Diego Padres and the San Francisco Giants baseball teams. But his pitching arm developed an unusual soreness. Medical tests identified the problem--cancer. Surgery and months of rehabilitation followed. Then, after pitching for a time in the minor leagues, Dave made a widely applauded comeback to the majors. But in Montreal, as he was delivering a pitch, his arm snapped. The cancer had not gone away. To save his life, doctors removed his arm and much of his shoulder. A committed Christian, Dave didn't wallow in self-pity. He said, "There is no struggle about feeling sorry for myself. The question is not, 'Why me, God?' The question is, 'What is Your plan for me?' " Then he said, "I see this as God giving me the opportunity to share the gospel with a lot of people."
He Giveth More Grace
Trouble and the grace to bear it
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"The Power of Chains" "To begin with, these chains gave Paul contact with the lost. He was chained to a Roman soldier twenty-four hours a day! The shifts changed every six hours, which meant Paul could witness to at least four men each day! Imagine yourself as one of those soldiers, chained to a man who prayed “without ceasing,” who was constantly interviewing people about their spiritual condition, and who was repeatedly writing letters to Christians and churches throughout the Empire! It was not long before some of these soldiers put their faith in Christ. Paul was able to get the Gospel into the elite Praetorian Guard, something he could not have done had he been a free man. But the chains gave Paul contact with another group of people: the officials in Caesar’s court. He was in Rome as an official prisoner, and his case was an important one. The Roman government was going to determine the official status of this new “Christian” sect. Was it merely another sect of the Jews? Or was it something new and possibly dangerous? Imagine how pleased Paul must have been knowing that the court officials were forced to study the doctrines of the Christian faith!
The secret is this: when you have the single mind, you look on your circumstances as God-given opportunities for the furtherance of the Gospel; and you rejoice at what God is going to do instead of complaining about what God did not do.
Paul’s chains not only gave contact with the lost, but they also gave courage to the saved. Many of the believers in Rome took fresh courage when they saw Paul’s faith and determination (Phil. 1:14). They were “much more bold to speak the word without fear.” That word speak does not mean “preach.” Rather, it means “everyday conversation.” No doubt many of the Romans were discussing Paul’s case, because such legal matters were of primary concern to this nation of lawmakers. And the Christians in Rome who were sympathetic to Paul took advantage of this conversation to say a good word for Jesus Christ. Discouragement has a way of spreading, but so does encouragement! Because of Paul’s joyful attitude, the believers in Rome took fresh courage and witnessed boldly for Christ. " (Warren Wiersbe)
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It's Contagious: A close friend of mine was confronted by a sign-carrying street preacher at Michigan State University. My friend, who was a student at the school and had been a Christian for only 2 years, had mixed feelings about the situation. He had encountered street preachers before. They had shouted the message of salvation in a style and spirit that seemed to do more harm than good to the testimony of Christ.
But this man was different from the rest. My friend gradually became confident that this brother in Christ was speaking the truth in love. Soon he found himself offering to hold the sign for the tiring evangelist. This meant that my friend became the target of insults from fellow students. Another student asked him why he was carrying the sign. She expressed the same misgivings he had experienced earlier. He explained that the message and the spirit of this brother seemed right. A short time later, the woman asked my friend if she could hold the sign.
The street preacher's conviction was contagious. Does our willingness to identify with the Savior encourage others to do the same? Our commitment needs to be strong enough to be contagious. --M R De Haan II (Our Daily Bread, Copyright RBC Ministries, Grand Rapids, MI. Reprinted by permission. All rights reserved)
Consider Praying the following poem…
Enthusiasm for Christ is contagious.
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The Fallacy: Once we resolve to obey God completely, it's easy to assume that life will go more smoothly. When it does, we think this proves that we're in God's will. If we run into obstacles, however, we're apt to conclude that both we and what we're doing are out of God's will. Rather than question our measuring stick, we question our dedication, and sometimes even God. A mature Christian once said, "It's a fallacy to believe that if we obey God, everything will go well. Being dedicated to God means going with Him even when things go wrong. In fact," he said assuredly, "the gospel advances on disaster and suffering."
The difficulties in our lives,
Smooth seas don't make skillful sailors.
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Finding Gain In Loss: Evil men, not God, threw the apostle Paul into prison, hoping to put an end to his ministry. But their plan backfired, and the gospel spread (Phil. 1:12-13). Paul didn't know why God allowed his imprisonment, but he saw how God used it for good. When All-Star baseball player Dave Dravecky lost his pitching arm to cancer, he struggled to find the reason for his loss by adding up the positive gains in his life. He eventually realized that he had been confusing the results of his loss with trying to understand God's unknowable purposes.
O Lord, I would not ask You why
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A young pitcher who entered the major leagues had such a blazing fastball that he didn't think he needed to work on his control, his changeup, or his curve. Consequently, he failed to make the grade and was sent back to the minor leagues. Though disappointed, he worked on these pitches, and in time became a superstar.
Most successes follow many failures.
Amplified: So much is this a fact that throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest [here] my imprisonment has become generally known to be in Christ [that I am a prisoner in His service and for Him]. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places;
NLT: For everyone here, including all the soldiers in the palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Wuest: So that it has become plainly recognized that my bonds are because of Christ, throughout the whole Praetorian Guard and to all the rest. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: so that my bonds have become manifest in Christ in the whole praetorium, and to the other places -- all,
SO THAT MY IMPRISONMENT IN THE CAUSE OF CHRIST HAS BECOME WELL KNOWN THROUGHOUT THE WHOLE PRAETORIAN GUARD: hoste tous desmous mou phanerous en Christo genesthai (AMN) en hole to praitorio: (Acts 20:23, 24; 21:11, 12, 13; 26:29; 31; 28:17, 20; Eph 3:1; 4:1; 6:20; Col 4:3-18) (1Pe 4:12, 13, 14, 15, 16) (Phil 4:22, 1Th 1:8, 9)
So that (hoste) explains how the seemingly negative circumstances of confinement proved actually to be a vehicle for furthering the spread of the gospel. Thus Paul puts a new spin on the meaning of "Prison Ministry". See discussion of importance of pausing to ponder terms of purpose or result .
Imprisonment (1199) (desmós from deo = to bind) literally refers to bonds or the means of restraint such as by tying or fastening like a fetter (chain or shackle for the feet). The same God Who had in the past used unpredictable means and unlikely people, like Moses’ rod, Gideon’s pitchers, and David’s sling, now used Paul’s chains in a mighty Spirit filled ministry. Little did the Romans realize that the chains they affixed to his wrists would release Paul instead of bind him! (2Ti 2:9-note)
When Christ is your Life a prison cell can become a mighty pulpit. Paul's imprisonment became plainly recognized and clearly associated with Christ. It was understood to be for Christ’s sake. His bonds were not hidden as though he were an ordinary prisoner. His very captivity proclaimed Christ. Paul had been living in his own rented quarters near these barracks, guarded by soldiers twenty-four hours a day. He lived for two years with a Roman soldier chained to his wrist. As the different soldiers would take their turn guarding Paul, they would hear the conversations he had with his visitors, conversations full of the gospel and of the Savior of sinners. They would hear the apostle pray, and would listen as he dictated the epistles he wrote. The noble prisoner would talk to them about their souls, talking in the international Greek so common in those days. Thus, the gospel went through the barracks of the Roman soldiers, a place where it would not otherwise have readily gone, if Paul had not been in a Roman prison.
Well known (5318) (phanerós) literally is that which has shone forth (cf Lk 8:17), that which is apparent, manifest, plain & includes the ideas of being known & of being public or open. People around Paul recognized the light of Christ shining forth in spite of his adverse circumstance and that this was no usual "criminal", but had become a prisoner because of preaching about a man named Jesus Christ and a message referred to as the gospel (cf. Ep 6:20-note). (see Torrey's Topic "Holy Boldness") One can imagine the scene: Someone surely raised the question of why this man was in prison and the word spread around that it was because of his relationship to Christ. The next question would be, “Who is Christ?” And the gospel story would be told. And souls were undoubtedly born into the Kingdom of God. We all need the attitude of looking at our obstacles as opportunities not adversities. Compare to the exhortation Paul wrote to young Timothy to encourage him to stand fast
On January 9, 1985 Pastor Hristo Kulichev, a Congregational pastor in Bulgaria was arrested and put in prison. His crime was that he preached in his church even though the state had appointed another man the pastor whom the congregation did not elect. His trial was a mockery of justice. And he was sentenced to eight months imprisonment. During his time in prison he made Christ known every way he could. When he got out he wrote,
His imprisonment became known as connected with Christ. It was understood to be for Christ's sake. His bonds were not hidden as though he were an ordinary prisoner. His very captivity proclaimed Christ.
Even professional guards could not resist speaking of this remarkable prisoner and the reason for his imprisonment. See Wiersbe's note above (Power of Chains) W. Drury writes in "The Prison Ministry of St Paul" that
Praetorian guard (see in depth article on Praetorian guard) is described by Marvin Vincent…
Everyone else in the city of Rome who met and heard him (cf. Acts 28:23, 24, 30, 31).
Vincent notes Paul's
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VICTORIOUS OVER LIMITATIONS (Our Daily Walk - F B Meyer):
Amplified: And [also] most of the brethren have derived fresh confidence in the Lord because of my chains and are much more bold to speak and publish fearlessly the Word of God [acting with more freedom and indifference to the consequences]. (Amplified Bible - Lockman)
KJV: And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
NLT: And because of my imprisonment, many of the Christians here have gained confidence and become more bold in telling others about Christ. (NLT - Tyndale House)
Wuest: And the great majority of the brethren having come to a state of settled confidence in the Lord by reason of the fact that they have been persuaded by my bonds, are more abundantly bold, fearlessly breaking their silence and speaking the Word. (Eerdmans)
Young's Literal: and the greater part of the brethren in the Lord, having confidence by my bonds, are more abundantly bold -- fearlessly to speak the word.
AND THAT MOST OF THE BRETHREN TRUSTING IN THE LORD BECAUSE OF MY IMPRISONMENT: kai tous pleionas ton adelphon en kurio pepoithotas (RAPMPA) tois desmois mou: (Phil 4:1; Col 4:7)
Trusting (3982)(peitho) means to be persuaded to believe. It speaks of being fully persuaded and thus having confidence in something or in this case in some One, the Lord. He is the ultimate trustworthy Source! And the use of the perfect tense speaks of this trust as lasting or enduring, not vacillating, not on and off. God give us all a trust in You like that! Amen
In addition to the gospel making a "pioneer advance" throughout the Praetorian Guard, Paul speaks of the increase of preaching in the city of Rome itself through his believing brethren who were “infected with the contagion of Paul’s heroism” (Expositor's)
Paul writing from prison reminded Timothy that "God has not given us a spirit of timidity, but of power and love and discipline. 8 Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord (especially His Gospel), or of me His prisoner; but join with me in suffering for the gospel according to the power of God, 9 Who has saved us, and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was granted us in Christ Jesus from all eternity, 10 but now has been revealed by the appearing of our Savior Christ Jesus, who abolished death, and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel, 11 for which I was appointed a preacher and an apostle and a teacher. 12 For this reason (because of the proclamation and teaching of the Gospel) I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know Whom (Truth is important but ultimately it is a Person, Christ Jesus, the Living Word) I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. (See notes 2 Timothy 1:7; 1:8; 1:9; 1:10; 1:11; 1:12)
HAVE FAR MORE COURAGE TO SPEAK THE WORD OF GOD WITHOUT FEAR: perissoteros tolman (PAN) aphobos ton logon lalein. (PAN): (Acts 4:23-31; 2Cor 1:3, 4, 5, 6, 7; Eph 3:13; 6:19, 20; Col 4:4; 1Th 2:2) (LK 1:74; 12:5, 6, 7) (see Torrey's Topic "Holy Boldness")
Boldness (5111) (tolmao from tólma = courage) means to have courage, boldness or confidence to do something.
Tolmao is used 15x in the NT - Matt 22:46; Mark 12:34; 15:43; Luke 20:40; John 21:12; Acts 5:13; 7:32; Rom 5:7; 15:18; 1 Cor 6:1; 2 Cor 10:2, 12; 11:21; Phil 1:14; Jude 1:9 and is translated in the NAS - am… bold(1), bold(2), courageous(1), dare(4), dared(1), gathered up courage(1), have courage(1), have… courage(1), presume(1), venture(2), ventured(1).
Paul’s example of bearing witness to the gospel despite being in prison demonstrated to others that God was faithful to watch over His persecuted children and that their imprisonment would not halt the progress of the gospel. The result was that others were encouraged to be bold in their witness.
In his last letter Paul could testify personally that despite suffering hardship for the gospel…
It is interesting to see how persecution often has the effect of transforming otherwise reticent believers into bold courageous witnesses for the sake of the Gospel of Christ.
Vincent comments on why one might have been fearful to speak the Word of God in Rome:
Speak the word of God without fear -
See the related topic
PAUL’S writings are full of autobiography, that is partly owing to temperament, partly to the profound interpenetration of his whole nature with his religion. His theology was but the generalization of his experience. He has felt and verified all that he has to say. But the personal experiences of this sunny letter to his favourite church have a character all their own. In that atmosphere of untroubled love and sympathy a shyer heart than Paul’s would have opened: his does so in tenderness, gladness, and trust. We have here the unveiling of his inmost self in response to what he knew would be an eager desire for news of his welfare. This whole section appears to me to he a wonderful revelation of his prison thoughts, an example of what we may call the ennobling power of a passionate enthusiasm for Christ. Remember that he is a prisoner, shut out from his life’s work, waiting to be tried before Nero, whose reign had probably, by this time, passed from its delusive morning of dewy promise to its lurid noon. The present and the future were dark for him, and yet in spite of them all comes forth this burst of undaunted courage and noble gladness. We simply follow the course of the words as they lie, and we find in them.
I. An Absorbing Purpose Which Bends All Circumstances To Its Service And Values Them Only As Instruments.
The things which happened unto me; that is Paul’s minimizing euphemism for the grim realities of imprisonment, or perhaps for some recent ominous turns in his circumstances. To him they are not worth dwelling on further, nor is their personal incidence worth taking into account; the only thing which is important is to say how these things have affected his life’s work. It is enough for him, and he believes that it will be enough even for his loving friends at Philippi to know that, instead of their being as they might have feared, and as he sometimes when he was faithless expected, hindrances to his work, they have turned out rather to ‘the furtherance of the gospel.’ Whether he has been comfortable or not is a matter of very small importance, the main thing is that Christ’s work has been helped, and then he goes on to tell two ways in which his imprisonment had conduced to this end.
‘My bonds became manifest in Christ.’ It has been clearly shown why I was a prisoner; all the Praetorian guard had learned what Paul was there for. We know from Acts that he was ‘suffered to abide by himself with the soldier that kept him.’ He has no word to say of the torture of compulsory association, night and day, with the rude legionaries, or of the horrors of such a presence in his sweetest, sacredest moments of communion with his Lord. These are all swallowed up in the thought as they were in the fact, that each new guard as he came to sit there beside Paul was a new hearer, and that by this time he must have told the story of Christ and His love to nearly the whole corps. That is a grand and wonderful picture of passionate earnestness and absorbed concentration in one pursuit. Something of the same sort is in all pursuits, the condition of success and the sure result of real interest. We have all to be specialists if we would succeed in any calling. The river that spreads wide flows slow, and if it is to have a scour in its current it must be kept between high banks. We have to bring ourselves to a point and to see that the point is red-hot if we mean to bore with it. If our limitations are simply enforced by circumstances, they may be maiming, but if they come of clear insight and free choice of worthy ends, they are noble. The artist, the scholar, the craftsman, all need to take for their motto ‘This one thing I do.’ I suppose that a man would not be able to make a good button unless he confined himself to button-making. We see round us abundant examples of men who, for material aims and almost instinctively, use all circumstances for one end and appraise them according to their relations to that, and they are quoted as successful, and held up to young souls as patterns to be imitated. Yes! But what about the man who does the same in regard to Christ and His work? Is he thought of as an example to be imitated or as a warning to be avoided? Is not the very same concentration when applied to Christian work and living thought to be fanatical, which is welcomed with universal applause when it is directed to lower pursuits? The contrast of our eager absorption in worldly things and of the ease with which any fluttering butterfly can draw us away from the path which leads us to God, ought to bring a blush to all cheeks and penitence to all hearts. There was no more obligation on Paul to look at the circumstances of his life thus than there is on every Christian to do so. We do not desire that all should be apostles, but the Apostle’s temper and way of looking at ‘the things which happened unto’ him should be our way of looking at the things which happen unto us. We shall estimate them rightly, and as God estimates them, only when we estimate them according to their power to serve our souls and to further Christ’s kingdom.
II. The Magnetism Or Contagion Of Enthusiasm.
The second way by which Paul’s circumstances furthered the gospel was ‘that most of the brethren, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God.’ His constancy and courage stirred them up. Moved by good-will and love, they were heartened to preach because they saw in him one ‘appointed by God for the defence of the gospel.’ A soul all on flame has power to kindle others. There is an old story of a Scottish martyr whose constancy at the stake touched so many hearts that ‘a merry gentleman’ said to Cardinal Beaten, ‘If ye burn any more you should burn them in low cellars, for the reek (smoke) of Mr. Patrick Hamilton has infected as many as it blew upon.’
It is not only in the case of martyrs that enthusiasm is contagious. However highly we may estimate the impersonal forces that operate for ‘the furtherance of the gospel’ we cannot but see that in all ages, from the time of Paul down to to-day, the main agents for the spread of the gospel have been individual souls all aflame with the love of God in Christ Jesus and filled with the life of His Spirit. The history of the Church has largely consisted in the biographies of its saints, and every great revival of religion has been the flame kindled round a flaming heart. Paul was impelled by his own love; the brethren in Rome were in a lower state as only reflecting his, and it ought to be the prerogative of every Christian to be a centre and source of kindling influence rather than a mere recipient of it. It is a question which may well be asked by each of us about ourselves—would anybody find quickening impulses to divine life and Christian service coming from us, or do we simply serve to keep others’ coldness in countenance? It was said of old of Jesus Christ, ‘He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and in fire,’ and that promise remains effective to-day, however little one looking on the characters of the mass of so-called Christians would believe it. They seem rather to have been plunged into ice-cold water than into fire, and their coldness is as contagious as Paul’s radiant enthusiasm was. Let us try, for our parts, to radiate out the warmth of the love of God, that it may kindle in others the flame which it has lighted in ourselves, and not be like icebergs floating southwards and bringing down the temperature of even the very temperate seas in which we find ourselves.
III. The Wide Tolerance Of Such Enthusiasm.
It is stigmatised as ‘narrow,’ which to-day is the sin of sins, but it is broad with the true breadth. Such enthusiasm lifts a man high enough to see over many hedges and to be tolerant even of intolerance, and of the indifference which tolerates everything but earnestness. Paul here deals with a class amongst the Roman Christians who were ‘preaching of envy and strife,’ with the malicious calculation that so they would annoy him and ‘add affliction’ to his bonds. It is generally supposed that these were Judaising Christians against whom Paul fulminates in all his letters, but I confess that, notwithstanding the arguments of authoritative commentators, I cannot believe that they are the same set of men preaching the same doctrines which in other places he treats as destructive of the whole gospel. The change of tone is so great as to require the supposition of a change of subjects, and the Judaisers with whom the Apostle waged a never-ending warfare, never did evangelistic work amongst the heathen as these men seem to have done, bug confined themselves to trying to pervert converts already made. It was not their message but their spirit that was faulty. With whatever purpose of annoyance they were animated, they did ‘preach Christ,’ and Paul superbly brushes aside all that was antagonistic to him personally, in his triumphant recognition that the one thing needful was spoken, even from unworthy motives and with a malicious purpose. The situation here revealed, strange though it appears with our ignorance of the facts, is but too tike much of what meets us still. Do we not know denominational rivalries which infuse a bitter taint of envy and strife into much evangelistic earnestness, and is the spectacle of a man preaching Christ with a taint of sidelong personal motives quite unknown to this day? We may press the question still more closely home and ask ourselves if we are entirely free from the influence of such a spirit. No man who knows himself and has learned how subtly lower motives blend themselves with the highest will be in haste to answer these questions with an unconditional ‘No,’ and no man who looks on the sad spectacle of competing Christian communities and knows anything of the methods of competition that are in force, will venture to deny that there are still those who preach Christ of envy and strife.
It comes, then, to be a testing question for each of us, have we learned from Paul this lesson of tolerance, which is not the result of cold indifference, but the outcome of fiery enthusiasm and of a clear recognition of the one thing needful? Granted that there is preaching from unworthy motives and modes of work which offend our tastes and prejudices, and that there are types of evangelistic earnestness which have errors mixed up with them, are we inclined to say ‘Nevertheless Christ is proclaimed, and therein I rejoice, Yea, and will rejoice’? Much chaff may be blended with the seeds sown; the chaff will lie inert and the seed will grow. Such tolerance is the very opposite of the carelessness which comes from languid indifference. The one does not mind what a man preaches because it has no belief in any of the things preached, and to it one thing is as good as another, and none are of any real consequence. The other proceeds from a passionate belief that the one thing which sinful men need to hear is the great message that Christ has lived and died for them, and therefore, it puts all else on one side and cares nothing for jangling notes that may come in, if only above them the music of His name sounds out clear and full.
IV. The Calm Fronting Of Life And Death As Equally Magnifying Christ.
The Apostle is sure that all the experiences of his prison will turn to his ultimate salvation, because he is sure that his dear friends in Philippi will pray for him, and that through their prayers he will receive a ‘supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,’ which shall be enough to secure his steadfastness, His expectation is not that he will escape from prison or from martyrdom, both of which stand only too clearly before him, but that whatever may be waiting for him in the future, ‘all boldness’ will be granted him, so that whether he lives he will live to the Lord, or whether he dies, he will die to the Lord. He had so completely accepted it as his life’s purpose to magnify Jesus, that the extremest possible changes of condition came to be insignificant to him. He had what we may have, the true anaesthetic which will give us a ‘solemn scorn of ills’ and make even the last and greatest change from life to death of little account. If we magnify Christ in our lives with the same passionate earnestness and concentrated absorption as Paul had, our lives like some train on well-laid rails will enter upon the bridge across the valley with scarce a jolt. With whatever differences—and the differences are to us tremendous—the same purpose will be pursued in life and in death, and they who, living, live to the praise of Christ, dying will magnify Him as their last act in the body which they leave. What was it that made possible such a passion of enthusiasm for a man whom Paul had never seen in the flesh? What changed the gloomy fuliginous fanaticism of the Pharisee, at whose feet were laid the clothes of the men who stoned Stephen, into this radiant light, all aflame with a divine splendour? The only answer is in Paul’s own words, ‘He loved me and gave Himself for me.’ That answer is as true for each of us as it was for him. Does it produce in us anything like the effects which it produced in him?