Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. Philippians 1:12:14
Word of Paul’s imprisonment in Rome must have traveled throughout the Christian world. Paul’s unfair treatment by the religious leaders of Jerusalem who accused him of desecrating the temple. He was sent to Caesarea when it was learned of a plot to kill him. He went before Felix, then Fetus, and finally, King Agrippa. Because there was no evidence to convict him of the crime of which the religious leaders charged him. Subsequently, he was transferred to Rome to stand trial before Caesar. On his way to Rome, he suffered shipwreck and almost died.
The things that happened to Paul only strengthened his resolve to proclaim the name of Jesus. Thus, in verse 12, he shares with the Philippians that what had happened to him actually served to advance the gospel. When he was arrested in Jerusalem (Acts 21), he was able to proclaim the gospel to the angry mob. He certainly made a big impression on the Commander of the Roman legion in Jerusalem. While in Caeserea, he proclaimed the gospel to Felix, the Governor of Caesarea, then To Fetus, and then to King Agrippa.
As Paul stood in a trial before all these different officials, he did not waiver in his faith; and used the trials as a way to proclaim the name of Jesus. Even during his voyage to Rome, he impressed the centurion named Julius, who belonged to the Imperial Regiment (Acts 27:1). When the ship crashed in Malta, he healed the father of the chief official in the island. Other sick people were cured by Paul of that island as well (Acts 28:8-9). Upon arriving in Rome, Paul preached the gospel under guard.
Indeed, everything that happened to Paul actually served to advance the gospel. Paul became renowned among the palace guard as a man who was in chains for Christ. In verse 14, Paul shares with the Philippians that his suffering and imprisonment has emboldened many brothers and sisters to proclaim the gospel. Indeed, many believers in Ephesus, Colossae, and Philippi became all the more determined to preach the gospel, notwithstanding the persecution they were sure to endure. Many Christians in Rome also became inspired to proclaim the gospel without fear because of Paul’s chains for Christ.
No one likes to suffer. Human beings are naturally wired to avoid pain and suffering. Yet there is such a thing as redemptive suffering. That is, suffering associated with living a Christ-centered life or with proclaiming the gospel of Jesus Christ. An example of redemptive suffering is the persecution and death of many brothers and sisters in non-Christian countries. Indeed, many brothers and sisters throughout the world are in chains for Christ. They are enduring hardships because they refuse to renounce their faith in Jesus.
Paul wanted the Philippians to know that he did not lament his hardships and saw a purpose for his chains. Many Christians fail to see the purpose of their hardships because they focus too much on their suffering. Whereas suffering is not pleasant, and we are not to invite distress upon ourselves, we yet have to be willing to endure it for the sake of the gospel.
“Paul’s imprisonment gave the Christians around him – who were not imprisoned – greater confidence and boldness. They saw that Paul had joy in the midst of such a trial. They saw that God would take care of Paul in such circumstances. They saw that God could still use Paul even when he was imprisoned” (David Guzik).
When we go through trials as Christians, we have to be mindful to persevere and be steadfast in living for Christ despite our circumstances. Our enduring faith can give confidence and boldness to other believers. It is also vital for us to demonstrate a joy in hardships so we can encourage others to persevere. People need to know and see that when we are hard-pressed on every side, we are not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed” (2 Corinthians 4:8-9).
Blessed Lord, please give us the courage to suffer with joy for the sake of the gospel of Jesus Christ.