The epistle to the Philippians was written while Paul was incarcerated at Rome. The letter was written in response to a gift from the church and in response to information which Paul received from Epaphrodites, a leader in the church at Philippi who delivered the gift.
The Apostle’s response is not that of one who was thrown unjustly into prison. The furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ was Paul’s number one priority and Paul’s response reflects his desire that the gospel be proclaimed. Paul stated in verses 12 and 13 that the spread of the gospel actually intensified during his prison stay. We can look upon this happening as a fulfillment of God’s promise in Romans 8:28 which states, “All things work together for good to them who love God, to them who are called according to his purpose.” Paul was the human author of those words, but their source was God the Holy Spirit. Paul found good even in his imprisonment.
The reason for Paul’s imprisonment was his refusal to compromise his stand for Christ. His guards and others in the palace realized that he was not the perpetrator of any real crime.
His imprisonment caused others to become more bold for Christ. How can this be? Paul could have avoided prison by ceasing to preach Jesus Christ. The cause of Christ, however, was larger than prison. It was larger than life itself. Paul would not compromise. His unyielding stand served as an inspiration to others. Many Christians took on bold stands for Christ because they saw Paul so stand.
Not all who preached Christ, however, were moved by the love of the Lord as was Paul. Some were moved by envy and strife. How can one be moved by envy and strife to preach Jesus Christ? There are individuals in most churches who covet the admiration of others. There were some in Philippi who sought the respect which Paul received. These individuals proclaimed Christ above all else as Paul did, but did so in a quest to promote themselves. While these individuals were moved by self love, not the love of Christ as was Paul, their actions furthered the cross of Christ. Paul rejoiced because the end result was the spread of the gospel.
Acceptance of the gospel and its effect upon believers is not tarnished by the motivations of those who proclaim it. When one is born again, one becomes a recipient — a vessel in which the Holy Spirit dwells. One is saved by receiving God’s grace. It is good that men witness of Christ but believing God and accepting His gift cannot be passed from one man to another. It is the work of the Holy Spirit.
Paul sought one thing more than all else —the magnification of Jesus Christ. Christ can be magnified even by the preaching of insincere individuals because the prayers of Christians are answered with the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Paul cared not by what means that Christ was magnified, be it by his freedom and bold declaration of Christ or be it by his martyrdom.
If Paul were to be freed, he would live for Christ and Christ alone. Living Christ was life to Paul. Paul counted death as gain because it meant that he would go to be with Christ.
If he could have had his personal desire, it would be to go to be with the Lord. His personal desire was, however, second to what Christ would have him do. Paul recognized that it was needful for him to be among Christian converts such that they might be furthered in their walk for Christ and experience the joy of faith.
Paul was confident that he would again visit the church at Philippi and witness their rejoicing. He urged the church to focus their conversation upon the gospel of Christ. The conversation of the church may involve words, but conversation in the sense that Paul uses goes beyond words. It entails actions which reveal a strong dedication to reaching out to the lost with the gospel of Jesus Christ. The news that Paul wants to hear is that the church is singularly dedicated in one mind and one spirit to this purpose.
The Holy Spirit of God has chosen to preserve the words of this epistle as gospel so that we who follow Christ today might be encouraged and inspired to put the gospel of Jesus Christ before all else as did first century Christians. The Lord would have us realize that all things work for good when we put Him before all else. Proof of that realization is manifested when we love one another as He loves us. Let us live in Christ as Paul so lived.