Stephen Caswell © 2006
All afternoon a little boy tried to put together his birthday gift from his father, a Jigsaw puzzle. Some of the pieces were bright, some dark; some seemed to go together, others just didn’t fit. Finally, frustrated and exhausted and with nothing to show for his efforts, the boy gathered the pieces, put them in the box, and gave it to his dad. I can’t do it, he explained. You try it. To his amazement, his father assembled the entire puzzle in a few minutes. You see, he said, I knew what the picture was like all the time. I saw the picture in the puzzle, but you saw only the pieces.
We often see pieces of our life as having no purpose or meaning. This is because we don’t see the big picture. Paul tells us in Romans 8:28 that God causes all things to work together for good. Those things are the pieces. He then tells us how they work together for the good, according to God’s purpose. That’s the picture. Are you frustrated over the circumstances in your life? Don’t take them out of God’s hand and try to work it out yourself. Trust God’s perfect plan.
Last Sunday Richard preached about the fellowship of the Gospel that Paul and the Philippians shared. Tonight Paul informs them of the furtherance of the Gospel. He shares with them 3 tools God used to advance His Kingdom. 1. His Chains 2. His Critics 3. His Crisis
Firstly we see Paul's Chains
Philippians 1:12: 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. Paul had faithfully preached the Word. So why did all of this happen to Him? Why was he currently in Rome under house arrest? 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. Paul’s life was threatened by the Jews, he was imprisoned for 2 years at Caesarea and shipwrecked on Malta whilst traveling to Rome.
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. From his arrest and imprisonments in Jerusalem, trip to Caesarea then voyage to Rome he kept preaching Christ. He testified to Jews and Romans both personally and through his various trials and hearings. 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. Paul wrote that all things work together for good for them that love God. Paul lived this verse every day.
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;
This wasn’t an obstacle but an opportunity. 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 cleared the way for the gospel to penetrate 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!
My Personal Experience at Fisher & Paykel
For anyone who doesn’t know me I love to share the Gospel. In fact I was serving the Lord as a pastor at Tent Hill Baptist Church until the middle of last year. But sometimes when you faithfully preach the truth religious people will oppose you. It happened to Paul in Jerusalem and it happened to me at Tent Hill. Some folk didn’t like the message so they shot the messenger and I was pushed out. Instead of preaching the Gospel in Church I am currently making fridges at Fisher and Paykel. It’s not really what I want to do or where I want to be.
But God has put me there to serve Him in a rough & tough working environment. Their language is colorful, but they need Christ. God has opened up many opportunities for me to share my faith at work. Most of the workers in my section know I am a Christian. I have had many opportunities to share Christ with the workers. Sometimes things get mixed up. I have already been asked in I am a Jehovah’s Witness and a priest. God has put me there to witness for Him. Has the Lord put you somewhere He wants you to witness? Are you furthering the Gospel at work or school?
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 few years ago I shared my faith at Inghams. I spoke to one or two or a few at a time. The word soon spread that I was a Christian. A Christian work mate 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. People often ask me what I do on the weekend. I tell them that I go to Church. 9 out of 10 times it opens up an opportunity to witness. Becky Pippet wrote a little book called Out of the Salt Shaker. Too often Christians are stuck in the salt shaker where we make no impact for Christ.
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. Do people know that you are a Christian? Are you sharing your faith at work or school, or to your neighbors? Are you advancing the Gospel of Christ 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. They would say are you on our side or Paul’s side? Do you support us or the pastor? Like in politics where different parties seek your support. Paul's aim was to lead people to follow Christ. But these selfish men wanted to gain a personal following. Their motives weren't honest or pure.
Christianity shouldn’t 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. These people criticized Paul’s ministry. Brothers never attack God’s servants.
Christian Opposition To Ministry
If you take a stand for Christ and the Gospel expect to be criticized and attacked. Christians and non Christians will often attack you. If you don’t like the message shoot the messenger. Paul said this in 2 Timothy 3:12: Yes, and all who desire to live godly in Christ Jesus will suffer persecution. Some of My greatest opposition in ministry came from Christians who didn’t like hearing God’s Word. Tragically, the truth offends some believers. Brothers if God convicts your heart through the message being preached; be thankful, don’t shoot the messenger.
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. This word is translated defense in 1 Peter 3:15: 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. Paul refused to be drawn into a mud slinging match. He didn't rejoice in the motives of these contentious ones, but because the Gospel was going out. Paul maintained His integrity and focused his energy on preaching the Gospel. To be drawn into a character debate is to lose focus. Paul defended the Gospel of Christ not Himself. When I was attacked by a few unhappy people for preaching God’s Word I didn’t retaliate, I determined to preach the Word, in season and out of season. I just kept sharing the Word whenever I had the opportunity to. To old & young, saved and lost I shared the Gospel of Christ.
The Gospel is the thing that’s important and that’s what Paul stuck to. It is not a competition to see who can have the biggest Church. It's advancing the kingdom of God and leading people to salvation in Christ. God deserves the glory not us! The important thing is for the Gospel of Christ to get out. 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. Paul believed God would have him released once he had finished his ministry in Rome. Personally, I believe that God will open up a door of ministry for me when I have completed my witness at Fisher & Paykel. 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? I trust that you never criticize God’s servants because they preach the truth. Paul focused on the Gospel. He rejoiced when it was preached. Lets’ do this!
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. I often pray that God would help me to witness that I might not be ashamed of Christ. I claim Paul’s words as a prayer.
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.
Origin Of Word Martyr
The word martyr, μάρτυρος, originally meant simply witness, but as the early witnesses sealed with their own blood their testimony to the faith, the first meaning was readily merged into the second. At Lyons, A.D. 177, those who had been scourged, branded, and exposed to wild beasts, humbly disowned the name martyrs, preferring to confine that exalted title to Christ and said of themselves: We are but lowly confessors. In life or death Paul would witness for Jesus Christ.
c. Paul's Joy Or The Philippians Joy
Phil 1:24-26: Nevertheless to remain in the flesh is more needful for you. 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 Yourself last. That spells JOY. 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 these same 3 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 tonight’s passage we have seen the furtherance of the Gospel. Paul shared 3 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 position in life 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 not criticize them! What is your motive for service, pride, glory or the love of God? Will you share the truth in 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 put the Philippians joy before his own and chose to serve them. What do you live for? Something temporal, like money, possessions, position or fame? Or Christ.
Ephesians 3:20-21: Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever. Amen.