Tuesday, February 15, 2011
Over the past week or so, we looked at a prayer Paul prayed for the Philippians. In this section, he is having to explain a little bit of a problem to the Philippians. The Philippians are deeply concerned because Paul is in chains. They’re concerned about the suffering that he is enduring; they are concerned about what the sentence is going to be against him by the Roman officials; they are afraid of the punishment or even the death that may well await him. They are concerned about the fact that the best evangelist in the world is in prison and not out there preaching Christ on the street. And, after all, the Philippians are partners with him in the gospel. They’re very concerned that the gospel be preached, and they’re concerned about the fact that the best evangelist in the world has been sidelined. And they’re concerned to figure out what God is doing in this: ‘Lord, what are You doing? You know of all the people that need to be imprisoned, Paul is not one of them! He’s the best of Your apostles in reaching the Gentiles. This part of the world,’ the Philippians would quickly point out, ‘has been evangelized in large measure because of the Apostle Paul. He’s the last guy that you would want in jail,’ they’re saying.
Now all these questions are running through the Philippians’ minds, so the Apostle Paul is writing to the Philippians to calmly explain to them the proper understanding of the events. And I want you to see three parts in this passage.
First of all, if you’ll take a look at verses 12-14, you’ll notice that Paul is explaining how his circumstances are actually furthering the cause of the gospel, rather than hindering the gospel. So he’s concerned to explain to the Philippians that their fears are unfounded; that his imprisonment isn’t going to result in the hindering of the gospel, but in fact, by God’s glorious sovereign providence, the gospel is going to spread all the more, despite his circumstances—and even because of his circumstances.
Secondly, if you look at verses 15-18, you’ll see him make an aside. He knows that the Philippians are wondering what their attitude ought to be to the people that are continuing to spread the gospel while Paul is chained up. After all, the Philippians are big supporters of Paul. They’ve been sending him money. In fact, in chapter four we’ll find out that Paul’s almost embarrassed by the fact that these relatively poor Philippians are sending him such generous gifts so that he can devote himself fully to the gospel. He’s their missionary. He’s their church planter. He’s their evangelist. They’re sending money to him. What should they think about these other people that are out there preaching the gospel while he’s chained up?
Well, he tells you in this section what you ought to think.
And then, thirdly, if you look at verses 19-20, he tells you what the burning hope is that he has that keeps him from being discouraged in his present situation.
We will examine each of these three things closely over the next few days and into next week: The first one, his circumstances; the second one, what to think about other preachers who are preaching while he is in prison; and then, third, what his hope is. In the first one, we’re going to be seeing Paul pointing them to the promise of God in his circumstances. In the second issue or question he raises (those others who are preaching the gospel), he’s going to point the Philippians and you and me to the propagation of the gospel - the spreading of the gospel - and ask us to consider that. The third issue is his purpose in life. He’s going to point us to the purpose not only of an apostle, not only of a disciple, but of all of us who are disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ. So, he’s going to point us to providence, he’s going to point us to the promotion of the gospel, and he’s going to point us to our purpose in life as he wrestles through this very practical question with the Philippians.
In answering the Philippians’ questions—they’re concerned about his imprisonment and its ramification on the spread of the gospel, they’re concerned to know how they ought to respond to the others who are not in prison who are preaching the gospel while Paul is imprisoned, they’re wondering where Paul’s heart is, how his spirits are—in answer to that question, Paul writes this section. In the course of it, he teaches us something about the providence of God, he teaches us something about our concern for the promotion of the gospel, and he teaches us something about our purpose in life. We’ll look at those three things, and draw three more conclusions by way of application of this passage over the next several days.
Posted by Ligon Duncan at 3:28 PM