The Progress of the Gospel – (Phil. 1: 12-26)

Publié le 18 avril 2021 dans Traductions

Sermon by Pastor Samuel Niblack

We are studying Paul’s letter to the Philippians; it is the most positive, the happiest, the most encouraging of Paul’s letters. Which is amazing, because it is the one that was written under the most disturbing, uncertain, painful circumstances for him.

We are also living in uncertain, worrying times – how can we be encouraged, encouraging, happy people? This text will show us.

Let’s read Philippians 1: 12-26
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 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.
15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. 18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true,
Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice, 19 for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance. 20 I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed,
but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain. 22 If I am to go on living in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me. Yet what shall I choose? I do not know! 23 I am torn between the two: I desire to depart and be with Christ, which is better by far; 24 but it is more necessary for you that I remain in the body. 25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain, and I will continue with all of you for your progress and joy in the faith, 26 so that through my being with you again your boasting in Christ Jesus will abound on account of me.

You see in Paul this desire to encourage, to reassure, this optimism. All this while he is in prison awaiting his trial, the outcome of which he does not yet know. How can Paul be so encouraged and encouraging? Does he live on another planet? The answer is almost yes. Later on, in this epistle, he will rebuke some people for « thinking only of the things of the earth » (3:19). But that’s not his case. His thoughts had this orientation, this celestial fixation.
Sometimes Christians have been criticized for having their heads in the clouds, for thinking that they are in heaven, but Paul’s life shows us that those who are most attached to heavenly things make the best citizens of the earth, do the most good around them.

Look at what interests him above all: the progress of the Gospel (v11), the defense of the Gospel (v16), the proclamation of the Word (v14), Christ preached (v15), Christ announced (v17, v18), glorified Christ (v20, v26). It all sums up Paul’s ambition: the progress of the Gospel, the glory of Jesus. If the advancement of the gospel is your priority in life, you win every time. Paul sees himself as a winner in 3 things that happen to him.

I. Imprisonment
Philippians 1:12 ‘Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel’. What happens to him is to be a prisoner of Rome, to be at a standstill in his missionary journeys, his church plantings. Under house arrest, but
probably attached to a Roman guard at all times. He’s in chains (v13, v14, v17).

But to encourage the Philippians, he says, « It is all good »: it helps the progress of the gospel! For two reasons :

Reason 1, v13: in the praetorium and everywhere else, everyone knows that it is for Christ that Paul is in chains. The court was the detachment of the emperor’s soldiers in Rome, the imperial guard, some of them kept watch over Paul, possibly chained to him. This is a better occasion than a journey with someone in a blablacar to chat! Paul also knew that he could see and have discussions with people, brothers in the church, Jews who had questions. This is the funny thing: the Roman Empire, in order to hinder the Gospel, will place the best evangelist in Cesar’s house in the heart of the Roman Empire. This is a godsend!

2nd reason: other brothers have more confidence, v14. It may seem paradoxical, Paul is in prison for proclaiming Christ, normally it could be scary and discouraging, but it’s the opposite.

Many authorities have learned without knowing it that sometimes the best way to encourage something is to forbid it. If his priority were his personal comfort or his physical health, he would be the loser, he would be upset, discouraged, but his priority, his passion, is the progress of the Gospel, he is very encouraged.

This principle helps us to live in these difficult times. Some things seem to stand still. We can be encouraged by the creativity and innovation of churches to live out the Gospel together. We can be encouraged by the courage of some churches that continue to preach the Gospel in the face
of authorities who forget the Lordship of Christ. (Algeria and other places …)

Let us recall the basic reason that Paul was in prison. If he announced a new religion, another god in the pantheon, a new philosophy, if it was just a few arguments and jealousies among the Jewish authorities, the Romans would have dismissed his case. But the gospel affirms that Jesus is Lord and that Caesar is not. It is this truth that we have yet to affirm without fear. And this is also our challenge in France. Laws are being voted these days that the CNEF (National Council of Evangelicals of France) calls worrying, with an “assumed modality of discouraging the life of worship in France.”
But we believe that the state has every interest in not taking itself for God. In his book Plea for True Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, this is what Edward Nelson writes, “The Gospel is summed up in four words: Jesus Christ is Lord … (confirmed by the resurrection). This absolute Lord puts all other authority into perspective. The Republic, as well as our passions or our families, are important to every citizen. However, according to the Bible, they occupy only a « second place », subordinate to Jesus Christ. The Kingdom of God comes before the Republic. If the disciple of Jesus respects and honors the Republic, it is to serve Jesus.  » This is a good reminder!

II. The immaturity of some
According to v15, some people preached Christ to annoy Paul: They preach Christ “out of envy and out of rivarly,” “with a spirit of contention,” “with intentions that are not pure and with the intention of arousing me some affliction in my bonds ”.

Who are these people? Paul stays sober on the details, which is to his credit, so it’s not clear who these people were. Some were perhaps proud in being able to say, I am a preacher, I am a pastor in Rome, I am up to date… and here comes an even more famous preacher. who wants to be famous, and who wants attention.

We get a glimpse here of the immaturity, the meanness of which our human hearts are sometimes capable, even among Christians, among missionaries, even among pastors. I knew the case of a mission: when one team organized a conference in one city, the other purposely organized another on the same date in the same city to compete with them.

You yourselves may have been hurt or disappointed by the immaturity of Christians. It is not to our credit, but you know well that there are many projects, missions, churches that have been born, not so much of a healthy vision of growth, or a passion for souls, but disputes, rivalries, strong personalities who want the show and attention. You can become bitter or resentful. Or you can be like Paul. Paul sees himself as a winner. He rejoices. His priority, his passion, is the progress of the Gospel, not his reputation. Not to be right. Not personal recognition. Their plan turns against them – instead of causing him some affliction, they make him rejoice.

Note, however, that Paul could strongly oppose people who preached another gospel. In chapter 3, he would have very harsh words for false Christians, whereas here in chapter 1, these people preach Christ, so it is another attitude and approach, always with the progress of the Gospel in mind.

III. The threat of death
The third subject of potential discouragement is the threat of death. Paul is awaiting trial, which could very well end with a death sentence. But then again, since the progress of the gospel is his priority, Paul sees himself as a winner regardless of the outcome.

See how he thinks, v19 ‘for I know that through your prayers and God’s provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ what has happened to me will turn out for my deliverance’. What is the salvation / deliverance he anticipates? It is not necessarily getting out of prison, but glorifying Christ either by his life or by his death. If he stays alive, he continues to preach the gospel, he could return to Philippi and encourage the Philippians for their advancement in the faith, they could glorify and thank Jesus. If he dies, he glorifies Christ, v20: ‘Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death’. How? Paul shows the value of Jesus when he says: death is gain for me …. Being with Christ is the best thing by far. This attitude is a beautiful testimony of the Gospel …

And even here, Paul puts aside his preferences, and sees the advancement of the gospel among the Philippians as more useful, more needed now.
So you see how Paul is so encouraged. He knows he is a citizen of heaven and not of Rome.

He knows that God has a thousand different and varied ways of advancing the Gospel, by opening doors or by closing doors, by mature Christians or by petty Christians, by life or by death. The apostle Paul, isn’t that the kind of person you would like to be around? What if you too could be like that for those around you?