Stephen Caswell © 2003
However Mysterious the Leadings of Providence
William Carey had been working for years to fulfill his burning desire to go as a missionary to India. Having overcome one obstacle after another, he finally found himself aboard the Oxford, bound for Asia. But before the ship could overcome contrary winds and leave the shorelines of England, he was suddenly deposited back on land by the ship’s captain who had received an anonymous letter against Carey. There the would-be missionary stood, his luggage piled up beside him, his hopes dashed. But William Carey was a plodder, and he took setbacks in stride, trusting God’s overruling plan. To his friend Andrew Fuller, he wrote: All I can say in this affair is that, however mysterious the leadings of Providence are, I have no doubt but they are superintended by an infinitely wise God. And it proved to be so.
Last week we saw the fellowship of the Gospel that Paul and the Philippians shared. In today's passage Paul informs them of the furtherance of the Gospel. Paul shares with them the three tools God has used to advance the kingdom. 1. His Chains 2. His Critics 3. His Crisis
Firstly we see Paul's Chains
Philippians 1:12-14 But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel,
Many believers ask God why, when difficulties come their way. Perhaps the Philippians wondered why God allowed the apostle Paul to be imprisoned in Rome. They supported him through prayer and gifts. They were worried their ministry might have been in vain. So Paul puts their minds at ease. He tells them, God is in control. Verse 12 says that the things that happened to him have turned out for the furtherance of the Gospel. These things cover the period starting with his arrest in chapter 21 till his journey to Rome and imprisonment there in chapter 28.
The word translated furtherance prokoph means progress, profit, advancement, to strike forward. Originally the word was used of a pioneer cutting his way through brushwood. It was a Greek military term referring to the army engineers who went before the troops to open up the way into new territory. Like the crack troops sent in today to spearhead the attack through the enemy lines. Paul was God's pioneer opening up new territory; Reaching to the heart of the Empire. In Romans 1:8-15 Paul shares his desire to visit Rome and preach Christ. He wanted to go as a Preacher but instead God sent him as a Prisoner. How could his chains be used to open new doors? Because Paul knew God was in control. This wasn’t an obstacle but an opportunity.
Doubt sees the obstacles. Faith sees the way! Doubt sees the darkest night, Faith sees the day!
Doubt dreads to take a step, Faith soars on high! Doubt questions who believes? Faith says, I!
a. Chains Provide New Opportunities
Philippians 1:13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ;
God gave Paul the opportunity to share Christ with Caesar's elite guard. Each day 4 soldiers were appointed to guard Paul. They were probably chained to him. As a result Paul witnessed to the whole guard. Imagine those poor guards chained to Paul for 6 hours listening to him talk about Jesus Christ. They couldn't get away; He had a captive audience. Who was really bound in this situation? As a result, the whole palace guard knew that Paul's chains were in Christ. Church history records that many of these soldiers believed in Christ. Satan intended to silence Paul in prison. However God worked through his chains to extend the Kingdom of God. Paul’s imprisonment was a strategic advance in the kingdom of God because it was clearing the way for the gospel to penetrate the ranks of the Roman military.
He also had contact with Caesar's household and led a number of them to faith in Christ. In Chapter 4 these believers convey a greeting to the Philippian Church. The Jews in Rome came to Paul who shared the Gospel with them. Paul stood trial in the Roman court for the Christian faith. The Government of Rome itself was studying the Christian doctrines, whilst people everywhere heard about Christianity. Paul's chains allowed him to take the Gospel to the center of the Roman Empire. Normally he wouldn’t have had access to these people. Paul was leading an advance into new territory. Acts 28:30-31 says: Then Paul dwelt two whole years in his own rented house, and received all who came to him, preaching the kingdom of God and teaching the things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ with all confidence, no one forbidding him. Don’t forget that Paul wrote 5 or 6 of his epistles from prison. The Word of God is not bound!
Warren Wiersbe In Hospital
While recovering in hospital from a serious car accident Dr. Warren Wiersbe received a letter from a total stranger. He seemed to know just what to say to brighten up Warren's day. He received several letters from this man during his stay and each one was better than the one before. When Dr. Wiersbe was able to get around he personally met the man. He was amazed to discover that he was blind, a diabetic, handicapped because of a leg amputation and that he lived with and cared for his elderly mother! If a man ever wore chains, this man did!
Yet he used them to pioneer the Gospel! He was able to share Christ in high school assemblies, before service clubs, at the "Y", and before professional people in meetings that would have been closed to an ordained minister. This man had the single mind; he lived for Christ and the Gospel. Consequently, he shared the joy of furthering the Gospel. Our chains may not be as dramatic or difficult, but there is no reason why God cannot use them in the same way.
b. Church Evangelizes With New Boldness
Philippians 1:14 and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.
Others are always watching how we live. Because of Paul's bold witness in the Roman Court, the brethren in Rome shared their faith confidently without fear. The word speak lalew refers to personal witness; One to one evangelism amongst the Romans. It is amazing how far contagious Christianity spreads, when we are faithful with the opportunities that God gives us.
A Christian work mate at Inghams said he was encouraged by my witness at work. The early Church prayed for boldness to witness when they were being persecuted and God wonderfully answered their prayers. The gospel is not defense, but attack, and it is up to the world to decide its position! The gospel is glad tidings; and we must not allow the gladness it gives to be taken from us! SALT. Say anything, Ask questions, Listen carefully, Turn the subject to Christ. Seek a need in their life that will enable you to share Christ with them. At work people often asked me what I did on the weekend. I told them that I went to Church. Nine out of ten times that opened up an opportunity to witness. They would comment on how they used to go to church or how one of their relatives was religious. Pray that God will give you opportunities each day to witness.
The Witnessing Plumber
Every Christian should think of himself as having a divine call for making Christian witnessing a full-time career. L. C. Hester is a plumber. He packs a New Testament with his tools. He is known as the witnessing plumber. A minister said of him: That witnessing plumber has won hundreds to Christ since he became a Christian. Many will listen to a workingman who will not listen to a preacher, you know.
Because of Paul's Chains Christ was made known in Rome. How do you handle trials and difficulties? Do you see them as obstacles or opportunities? If we have the single mind that puts Christ first we can use our chains for God's glory. Fanny J. Crosby was blind from 6 weeks of age. Yet she determined to serve God and look how the Lord has used her music and is still using it today. What would have happened if she had blamed God and given up? Will you use your chains, your handicaps to advance the Gospel into new territory?
Secondly we see Paul's Critics
Phil 1:15 Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from good will:
While Paul was sharing his faith in prison many were preaching Christ in Rome. Some had pure motives wanting to please God; Others had selfish motives pleasing themselves.
a. Afflicting Paul
Philippians 1:16 The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains;
Verse 15 tells us that some were preaching Christ out of envy and strife. They were jealous of Paul and wanted to add to his burdens. Paul was defending the Gospel and was very concerned for the Churches of God. These men were selfish only wanting to big note themselves. The words selfish ambition or contention ejriqea mean to canvass for office. Like in politics where different parties seek your support. Paul's aim was to lead people to follow Christ. But these men wanted to gain a personal following. Their motives weren't honest or pure.
Perhaps these contentious people were Judaisers opposing Paul's ministry to the Gentiles. Regardless of who they were, Christianity should not to be divided by people seeking their own glory. Christianity involves people working together for the furtherance of the Gospel for the glory of God. Beware of people who are more interested in getting your support than proclaiming the Gospel and encouraging people to follow Christ. Today some TV ministries are more interested in their own glory than God’s. They simply want a following that will pay for their extravagant ministries. They are not making new advances for the kingdom. They are simply fleecing the flock for their own gains.
b. Assisting Paul
Phil 1:17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel.
Some were preaching Christ from pure motives. They loved the Lord and were concerned for people. They wanted to reach the lost and bring them to Christ. They knew Paul was defending the faith in court and they wanted to assist him. The word defense ajpologia means to give a verbal defense, answer, to clear yourself. 1 Peter 3:15 says: But sanctify the Lord God in your hearts, and always be ready to give a defense to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear; Are you ready to give an account of your hope in Christ? What is your motive? Love is the only acceptable motive.
2 Cor 5:14-15, 20 For the love of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if One died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live should live no longer for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again. Now then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were pleading through us: we implore you on Christ’s behalf, be reconciled to God.
c. Attitude Of Paul
Philippians 1:18-19 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. For I know that this will turn out for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
What was Paul's attitude to all of this? He rejoiced that Christ was preached. How could he? Because the Gospel was going out. He didn't rejoice in the motives of these contentious ones, but because the Gospel was going out. The Gospel is the power of God unto salvation for everyone who believes. Romans 1:16 Paul wasn't jealous of those seeking a following at his expense. He had the single mind. His only concern was that people hear the Gospel.
It is not a competition to see who can have the biggest Church or most well known ministry. It's advancing the kingdom of God and leading people to salvation in Christ. God deserves the glory not us! There are denominations and ministries that do things differently than we do. Let us not resent them but ask the Lord to lead them and bless their evangelistic outreach. They may be able to reach people that we can’t. The important thing is for the Gospel of Christ to get out. Let us measure their ministry by two things; the Gospel they preach and their personal conduct.
Charles Spurgeon said, I bless God that there are so many denominations. If there were not men who differed a little in their creeds, we should never get so much Gospel as we do.… God has sent different men to defend different kinds of truths. Paul expected to be released as a result of his trial. This release would come through the abundant supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ and their prayers. Paul knew that the Philippians and others were praying for him and his trial. He confidently expected God to act on his behalf. Beloved, Oh how we need to pray for the supply of God’s Spirit for those in ministry. It’s so important!!
Do you share the Gospel for God’s glory or your own? Does love motivate you to reach the lost? Do you pray for God’s servants? Paul rejoiced that the Gospel was preached. Lets’ do the same!
Thirdly we see Paul's Crisis
Philippians 1:20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death.
Paul's expectation, his earnest desire was to glorify Christ no matter what. He didn't want to bring shame upon the name of Christ. Paul was pressed between two alternatives and required to make a choice. However the overriding principle that helped him choose, was Jesus first. Paul wanted to magnify Christ in life or death. Magnify megalunw means to make great, increase, extol, enlarge, show great. John the Baptist said, He must increase but I must decrease. General William Booth, founder of the Salvation Army, was asked the secret of his amazing Christian life. Booth answered, I told the Lord that he could have all that there is of William Booth.
a. As A Minister Or A Martyr
If Paul lived he determined to serve God as a minister of the Gospel. Nothing could deter him from this. God had given him a commission to preach to the Gentiles and he would be faithful no matter what. Charles Spurgeon said, Our great object of glorifying God is to be mainly achieved by the winning of souls. In verse 22 Paul realizes that in life he can bear fruit. Paul’s life belonged to Jesus Christ. But what if the trial went against him? What if he was killed for his faith? Then in death he would be a faithful too as a martyr of Jesus Christ. In life or death Paul belonged to Him. He would testify for Christ in life or death.
None But Christ
On July 1st, 1555, John Bradford was burned to death. He was chaplain to King Edward Sixth of England, and was one of the most popular preachers of his day. But he was a martyr to his faith. As he was being driven out to Newgate to be burned, permission was given him to speak, and from the wagon in which he rode to his death the entire way out from West London to Newgate he shouted: Christ, Christ, none but Christ!
b. In Prison Or In Paradise
Philippians 1:21-23 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. But if I live on in the flesh, this will mean fruit from my labor; yet what I shall choose I cannot tell. For I am hard pressed between the two, having a desire to depart and be with Christ, which is far better.
As Paul thought of dying for His Lord he realized where this would lead. Paul became excited at the prospect of going to be with the Lord. To be with Christ in paradise is far better than to be on earth. What a prospect. For Paul, death was simply a doorway into glory. Paul uses three Greek words that mean better, or greater in v 23. In relation to Paul’s profession as a tentmaker, the term depart means to strike, or take down, the tent to be ready to travel elsewhere. Paul saw death not as the end of life but as a time of moving from one home to another. The Father’s house is far better than our earthly tent. Seeing the best is yet to come for believers we can live boldly for Christ now. For death is but a doorway to our heavenly home. This was an easy choice for Paul to make for himself, but a hard choice since Christ had first place.
Serving Christ In Life Or Death
John G. Paton, a nineteenth-century missionary to the South Seas, met opposition to leaving his home in Scotland and going to preach to the cannibalistic peoples of the New Hebrides Islands. A well-meaning church member moaned to him, The cannibals, the cannibals! You will be eaten by the cannibals! Without hesitation, Paton replied, I confess to you that if I can live and die serving my Lord Jesus Christ, it makes no difference to me whether I am eaten by cannibals or by worms; for in that Great Day of Resurrection, my body will rise as fair as yours in the likeness of our risen Redeemer!
c. Paul's Joy Or The Philippians Joy
Philippians 1:25-26 And being confident of this, I know that I shall remain and continue with you all for your progress and joy of faith, that your rejoicing for me may be more abundant in Jesus Christ by my coming to you again.
Paul chose to stay and serve the Lord. He put Jesus first, others second and himself last. Paul was willing to put aside his joy of going to heaven so that he might bring joy to others. Verse 25 tells us that he chose to stay and continue with them for their progress and joy of faith. The word progress prokoph in verse 25 is the same one translated furtherance in verse 12. Paul wanted to help the Philippians make some new pioneer advances of their own. He wanted to bring them joy and encourage their faith through further ministry. He wanted them to rejoice abundantly through his release and future ministry with them.
William Booth’s Telegram To Conference
William Booth was too sick to attend an International Salvation Army conference on service. So instead he sent a telegram to be read at the conference. The large gathering were expecting a stirring challenge to service or evangelism. Instead it contained only one word, Others.
The apostles had three 3 desires, and they are all centered in Christ. One was to be found in Christ; Two was to magnify Christ; the Third was to be with Christ. We need the same desires.
How could Paul always think of the needs of others? How was he able to put aside his greatest desire of going to be with Christ? Because Jesus Christ was his life. For Paul to live was Christ. His earnest desire was to magnify Christ in life or death. What do you live for? Is it possessions? You can't take those with you when you die. Is it fame? People soon forget you when your dead. Or is it Christ? Only Jesus can give us joy and purpose in life.
In today's passage we saw the furtherance of the Gospel. Paul shared with the Philippians the three tools God used to advance His kingdom. 1. His Chains 2. His Critics 3. His Crisis
1. Paul's Chains
Through Paul’s Chains the Gospel was Advanced. What many people would see as an obstacle Paul saw as an opportunity to reach new people for Christ. Paul's bold testimony encouraged others to do the same. Will you use your circumstances to further the Gospel?
2. Paul's Critics
Through Paul's Critics the Gospel was Preached. Some had the wrong motives but Paul didn't mind because the Gospel was going out. Let’s pray for God’s servants! What is your motive for service, pride, glory or love for God? God gets the glory when people preach Christ out of love.
3. Paul's Crisis
Through Paul's Crisis Christ was Magnified. Paul determined to serve Christ in life or death. In either prison or in paradise Paul would serve Jesus. Paul put the Philippians joy before his own and chose to serve them. Who do you live for? Is it Christ and others or something temporal? Let’s spread the Gospel out of love for Christ. Let’s glorify God in our lives and our death.
1 Timothy 1:17: Now to the King eternal, immortal, invisible, to God who alone is wise, be honor and glory forever and ever. Amen.