“12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually advanced the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to everyone else, that my imprisonment is because I am in Christ. 14 Most of the brothers have gained confidence in the Lord from my imprisonment and dare even more to speak the word fearlessly. 15 To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of good will. 16 These preach out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, thinking that they will cause me trouble in my imprisonment. 18 What does it matter? Only that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed, and in this I rejoice. Yes, and I will continue to rejoice . . .”Philippians 1:12-18 (CSB)
What is the gospel? It is the good news of salvation: Christ died, was buried, and rose again for the forgiveness of our sins (1 Cor. 15:3-4).
Why is the gospel important? Because it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes (Rom. 1:16-17).
- The Advance of the Gospel (Phil. 1:12-14)
Paul was in prison, but what others saw as a misfortune, he saw as an opportunity to promote the gospel. Adverse circumstances may be blessings in disguise in that God allows them in order to spread the gospel. In this case, the finest soldiers of the Roman Army were exposed to the gospel by being chained to Paul. God is able to produce good out of evil (Rom. 8:28).
Another benefit that Paul saw in his situation was how his example was emboldening others to share the gospel. The lesson here is: Our courage in sharing the gospel in spite of persecution serves to encourage others to be courageous also.
If the gospel is all-important to us, it changes the way we see our circumstances: Instead of considering them as unfortunate events, we consider them as blessings or opportunities. Just like this pandemic. True, it is a tragedy. Nevertheless, because of it, more people not only have more time for the gospel, they also have greater willingness to engage with it.
- Abuse of the Gospel. (Phil. 1:15-17)
Unfortunately, there’s a wrong way to preach the gospel: One can do so out of a spirit of envy and rivalry. Some preachers were taking advantage of Paul’s imprisonment to increase their own importance and influence.
There should be no competition when it comes to the gospel. This is not about who’s the best preacher or whose church is the biggest. It’s about Jesus Christ and him alone (1 Cor. 3:5-9; 1 Cor. 2:1-5). “He must increase, I must decrease” (John 3:30).
The right motive in sharing the gospel is love and compassion (2 Cor. 5:14; Mark 6:34). We share the gospel because, as Steve Green put it in his song, people need the Lord.
- Application of the Gospel (Phil. 1:18)
We should apply the gospel to our lives. One way to do so is to make it the basis of our joy. Our joy is not dependent on circumstances. Our joy depends on what we consider important. For Paul, what is important is that Christ is preached; what happened to him didn’t really matter as long as Christ is proclaimed. That’s what gave him joy (Phil. 1:21; 3:7-8).
- Do we share the gospel?
- Do we find our joy in circumstances or in the gospel?
- How do we make use of the opportunities in our circumstances to advance the gospel?
Lord, help us to find our joy in you and in your gospel. Amen.