Philippians 1:12-19 - The Marks 0f A Mature Witness

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One of the surest measures of a Christian’s spiritual maturity is what it takes to rob him of his joy.  Paul’s maturity is evident in the present text as he makes it clear that difficult, unpleasant, painful, even life-threatening circumstances did not rob him of joy but rather caused it to increase.

Although it is a gift from God to every believer and administered by the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:22), joy is not always constant and full (cf. 1 John 1:4).  The only certain cause for loss of joy in a believer’s life is sin, which corrupts his fellowship with the Lord, who is the source of joy. 

Solomon writes "For to a person who is good in His sight He has given wisdom and knowledge and joy, while to the sinner He has given the task of gathering and collecting so that he may give to one who is good in God’s sight. This too is vanity and striving after wind." (Ecclesiastes 2:26, NASB95)

The Psalmist says to God that "You have put gladness in my heart, More than when their grain and new wine abound." (Psalm 4:7, NASB95)

God’s Word brings joy.  Jeremiah said "Your words were found and I ate them, And Your words became for me a joy and the delight of my heart.”  (Jeremiah 15:16, NASB95)

The Psalmist declares "You will make known to me the path of life; In Your presence is fullness of joy; In Your right hand there are pleasures forever." (Psalm 16:11, NASB95)

Such sinful attitudes as dissatisfaction, bitterness, sullenness, doubt, fear, and negativism cause joy to be forfeited.  Consequently, the only way to restore lost joy is to repent and return to proper worship of and obedience to God.

God’s Word makes it clear that trouble in this life is certain to come: 

It says in Job 5:7 "Yet man is born to trouble, As the sparks fly upward."  (Job 5:7, NKJV)

In Chapter 14 he says "Man who is born of woman Is of few days and full of trouble."  (Job 14:1, NKJV)

Speaking of man, Solomon says "For all his days are sorrowful, and his work burdensome; even in the night his heart takes no rest.  This also is vanity.”  (Ecclesiastes 2:23, NKJV)

Believers are not exempt from the common problems and difficulties all people face.

They also face persecution for their faith from the hostile world system.  “Remember the word that I said to you,” Jesus said, “A slave is not greater than his master.’  If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you” (John 15:20).  A short while later He added: “In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

To scattered Jewish Christians in the early church who were suffering great persecution, James wrote, “Consider it all joy, my brethren, when you encounter various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces endurance.  And let endurance have its perfect result, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing” (James 1:2–4).  But God can use even the most difficult trials for our good and for His glory.

No New Testament writer understood that truth better than Paul did.  He resisted anything that threatened to come between him and his intimate fellowship with and trust in the Lord.  Paul said 2 Timothy 4:16-17 At my first defense no one stood with me, but all forsook me . . .but the Lord stood with me and strengthened me, so that the message might be preached fully through me, and that all the Gentiles might hear.  And I was delivered out of the mouth of the lion.  The maturity of a person can be seen by how well he or she handles the things that happen to him.

A.                 The Maturity of a Person.

1.                  I (we) must learn to live above our circumstances – How can we do that?

Isaiah 40:28 Have you not known?  Have you not heard?  The everlasting God, the LORD, The Creator of the ends of the earth, Neither faints nor is weary.  His understanding is unsearchable.

Isaiah 40:31--But those who wait on the LORD Shall renew their strength; they shall mount   up with wings like eagles, they shall run and not be weary, they shall walk and not faint

a)                   An eagle, when it want’s to rise up in the air to a higher altitude, do you see it flapping its wings getting tired?  NO.  The eagle spreads its wings and catches the wind under them, which causes the eagle to rise high in the air.

b)                  Remember the song, “You are the wind beneath my wings”?  The Lord is the “wind beneath our wings, and when we wait and rely upon His strength we will rise up above our circumstances.

Paul prayed in Ephesians 1:19 that we would know “what is the exceeding greatness of His power toward us who believe, according to the working of His mighty power” And “that He would grant you, according to the riches of His glory, to be strengthened with might through His Spirit in the inner man, Ephesians 3:16.

David said to his son Solomon, “Be strong and of good courage, and do it; do not fear nor be dismayed, for the LORD God--my God--will be with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you, until you have finished all the work for the service of the house of the LORD 1 Chronicles 28:20.

Finally, my brethren, “be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might” . . . because “you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you” . . .”strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy”

This is the subject in which we will be studied today: the marks of a mature witness. 

He shares the gospel regardless of circumstances (v.12-14)

He holds no personal jealousy nor desire for credit or prestige (v.15-18)

He possesses the assurance of a happy ending: deliverance (v.19)

II.                  He Shares The Gospel Regardless of Circumstances (Phil.1:12-14).

A.                 Paul Faced Dark Circumstances: He Was A Prisoner In Rome.

1.                   Paul was waiting to appear before the Supreme Court in Rome.

2.                   He was imprisoned for two years.

3.                   He had done nothing that should cause his arrest and imprisonment.

4.                   The Philippians has sent Epaphroditus to Paul because they had heard that Paul was in need.  Since Epaphroditus’ departure, they had probable heard nothing of Paul.  They may well have supposed that his ministry was at a standstill and that he was understandably depressed.  But the news Epaphroditus brought was different. 

Read 1:12-26 with the eagerness the Philippians might have felt for new from Paul.  Think about how remarkable Paul’s attitudes are.


1.                  But I want you to know brethren . . . I don’t want you to be ignorant (v.12a).

a)                  Paul is calling attention to an important point.

(1)                 Now I want you to know translates a common Greek expression often found in ancient letters.  Similar expressions—such as “I want you to get this” or “I want you to understand this”—are used today to call attention to an important point, especially one that might easily be missed, misunderstood, or hard to accept.
(2)                 In the present verse he wanted his beloved brethren to understand that he meant exactly what he said.  Despite his circumstances, Paul was not bitter or discouraged but had great reason to rejoice.
(3)                 The church at Philippi were probably asking the question, “What is going to happen to Paul? 
(4)                 But Paul’s primary question was not, “what is going to happen to me,” but, “how is the gospel-cause affected by whatever happens to me?” This should be our attitude.  
(a)                 Paul first writes about, “the gospel,” “the message of God,” “Christ being preached” (v.12-18), and then about his own hope of release (v.19-26).
(b)                Also about “Christ being magnified” (v.20), this is the single mind
(c)                 Paul did not find his joy in his circumstances but in winning others to Christ.
(d)                J.O.Y. – Jesus, others, you.  







2.                  ‘…The things which happened to me…’  (v.12b).

a)                  Paul’s circumstance did not hinder his ministry.

(1)                 Just as God used a sling in David’s hand, a pitcher in Gideon’s hand, and a rod in the hand of Moses, He used chains on Paul’s hands. That’s not surprising, for chains are what open the door to speak to people who would not otherwise give us the time of day.
(2)                 Here are some of these things which had happened to Paul (2 Corinthians 11:23-28).  All of these circumstance and things that Paul went through did not hinder him from doing what God had called him to do. 
(3)                 In fact it had done the very opposite:

When Paul cried out to God to take away the thorn in his flesh, the Lord said "My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.”  Paul goes on to say Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.  Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong."  (2 Corinthians 12:9-10).

(4)                 I’m convinced that the troubles, challenges, and problems we face are custom-designed to do one thing: to allow us to draw others to Jesus Christ and to encourage them in Jesus Christ.
(5)                 God will not tempt you above what you are able (1 Corinthians 10:13). God doesn’t play favorites—and if He has put you in a certain imprisonment, it’s because He has prepared you for it and given you everything you’ll need to go through it.

3.                  ‘…have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel…’  (v.12c).

a)                  “Furtherance” or “progress” of the gospel, “pioneer advance”

(1)                 Greek military term referring to the army engineers who are sent ahead of the troops in order to remove obstructions and clear the roads for the rest of the army.  The gospel had obstructions that needed to be removed.
(a)                 mistrust and hostility (1:15-18)
(b)                fear and cowardice (1:27-30)
(2)                 Paul’s experiences and reactions, had served to remove these obstacles.  Progress describes not merely moving ahead but doing so against obstacles
(3)                 Satan sets up road blocks to hinder the furtherance of the gospel (1Thess.2:18; 1Cor.16:9; 1Thess.2:2; 1Pet.3:7).
(4)                 Road blocks are stepping stones to rise above our circumstances:

Paul had been bound, but the Word of God could not be bound, he said to Timothy, “Remember that Jesus Christ, of the seed of David, was raised from the dead according to my gospel, for which I suffer trouble as an evildoer, even to the point of chains; but the word of God is not chained.  Therefore I endure all things for the sake of the elect, that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus with eternal glory (2Tim.2:8-10).

Isaiah 40:8 says that, The grass withers, the flower fades, But the word of our God stands forever.

(5)                 Paul discovered his circumstances opened up new areas for ministry (Acts 16:16-34). 

It was the progress of the gospel for which Paul lived so passionately.  To the Ephesian elders he declared, “I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, so that I may finish my course and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).

Paul could say to his persecutors what Joseph said to his brothers after they sold him into slavery: “It was not you who sent me here, but God; and He has made me a father to Pharaoh and lord of all his household and ruler over all the land of Egypt.…  As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good” (Gen. 45:8; 50:20).

b)                  Paul was under obligation.

(1)                 Paul’s obligation was so strong that he considered his life incomplete unless his ministry was completed.

Paul said that "I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish…  "For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek."  (Romans 1:14, 16, NASB95)

Listen to what he says to those in Corinth: "For if I preach the gospel, I have nothing to boast of, for I am under compulsion; for woe is me if I do not preach the gospel.”  (1 Corinthians 9:16, NASB95)

Later in Philippians he makes an amazing statement (Phil.1:21-26)

At the end of his life he writes to Timothy "For I am already being poured out as a drink offering, and the time of my departure has come. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the course, I have kept the faith; in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing." (2 Timothy 4:6-8, NASB95)

B.                Paul Used His Dark Circumstances to Spread the Gospel (1:13-14).

1.                  ‘…That is had become evident…that my chains are in Christ (v.13).

a)                  Evident to the “whole palace guard”.

(1)                 Paul’s “chains” were somewhat longer than a modern handcuff, about eighteen inches long. One end was attached to the prisoner’s wrist, the other to the guard’s. The chain was not removed from the prisoner as long as he was in custody, making both escape and privacy impossible.
(2)                 Although the apostle was allowed to live in private quarters (Acts 28:30), he was chained in that manner to a series of soldiers for a period of two years. Over those years, it is possible that several dozen different soldiers were assigned to guard Paul, each one becoming his captive audience. If they were not already aware of it, those soldiers soon came to realize that this amazing man was not imprisoned for committing a crime but for preaching the gospel. His faithfulness in the cause of Christ soon became well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else.

b)                  Paul’s chains gave contact with the lost.

(1)                 Paul did not see himself as a prisoner of Rome, but an “ambassador for Christ” (Eph.6:20).   
(2)                 Paul was chained to a guard 24 hours a day, changing guards every 6 hours (4 guards per day)
(3)                 The gospel went from guard to guard, to the families of the guards, to Caesar’s household (Phil. 4:22).
(4)                 What do you suppose Paul talked about

c)                  Paul’s chains gave courage to the saved.

(1)                 1:28 – at first they were frightened; 1:14 – then they became “much more bold to speak the word without fear”.  The implication is that, before his imprisonment, believers were afraid, or at least reluctant, to openly share their faith.
(2)                 Paul’s example gave his brethren … far more courage to speak the word of God without fear. As they saw how God protected him and blessed his ministry, despite persecution and imprisonment, their courage was renewed and their boldness and zeal intensified. His strength became their strength, as his example touched them. Through the Holy Spirit, the impact of that one faithful life revolutionized and energized the entire church.


d)                  Paul chains gave us the prison Epistles.

(1)                 Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon

III.                He Holds No Personal Jealousy.

A.                 No Desire for Credit or Prestige (1:15-18).

1.                  ‘…Some preach Christ from envy and strife…’  (v.15a-16).

a)                  Their motives were wrong. 

(1)                 One of the most disappointing experiences for a servant of God is that of being falsely accused by fellow believers, especially coworkers in the church.  To be slandered by an unbeliever is expected; to be slandered by another believer is unexpected.
(2)                 Paul’s critics were not heretics like the Judaizers, nor were they preaching “a different gospel,” as were some in Corinth and Galatia (2Cor.11:4; Gal. 1:6-9).  They preached and taught the true gospel of Jesus Christ.
(3)                 Paul is saying that he is not naïve about the motives of a few pastors and evangelist.  Their problem was not in their theology, but in their motives.

b)                  Envy and strife.

(1)                 Envy – is the desire to deprive others of what is rightfully theirs, to wish that they did not have it or had it to a lesser degree.  It is a feeling of resentment and jealousy toward others because of their possessions or good qualities. 
(a)                 It was “because of envy” that the Jewish multitude (Matt. 27:18) and the chief priests (Mark 15:10) handed Jesus over to Pilate for crucifixion.
(b)                It was “because of envy” that Joseph’s brothers wanted to kill him (Gen.37:4, 5, 8, 11, 18, 20).
(c)                 It was “because of envy” that Saul wanted David dead (1Sam.18:6-9). 

We need to never be the cause of envy.  Paul said “If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.  Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another."  (Galatians 5:25-26)

(2)                 Strife – refers to contention, especially with a spirit of enmity.  Strife is frequently associated with envy and jealousy, as well as with other sinful passions, such as greed and malice.  Envy leads to competition, hostility, and conflict.
(3)                 How many of us have ever been jealous or envious…
(a)                 Of the position of someone else?  Of the attention, support, and loyalty that someone else receives?  Of the results that another worker is having?
(4)                 We must always remember this:
(a)                 We are all ministers and workers called by Christ to preach and teach His gospel.  
(b)                Each one us has a call, and no matter what the call is, the road is always difficult.  Therefore, we must support each other.  
(c)                 The Lord does not require big ministries and big names and big followers from us all.  What he requires is faithfulness—only faithfulness in the ministry to which he has called us (Jn.21:21-22; 1Cor. 4:1-2; 2Cor. 4:5; 1 Pet. 5:2; Is. 56:10-11; Jer. 3:15)  

2.                  Some out of selfish ambition… to cause me distress…’  (v.17).

a)                  Selfish ambition (v.17).

(1)                 According to (v.15) it was out of envy and strife, & (v.17) was selfish ambition.  They were not preaching Christ for His glory and honor but for their glory and honor, out of selfish ambition. 
(2)                 Selfish ambition – did not originally have a bad connotation but merely referred to working for hire.  Eventually, however, it acquired the meaning of looking out solely for one’s own interests, regardless of the consequences to others.  It was used of career professionals who ruthlessly tried to climb to the top of their fields in any way they could, and of politicians who sought office at any expense.
(3)                 What does Paul say about selfish ambition & looking out for others in (Phil.2:3-4)?

3.                  ‘What then?  Whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached, in this I rejoice…’  (v.18).

a)                  Paul saw the larger picture.

(1)                 Although the critics’ motive was not primarily to exalt Christ or to win souls but to exalt themselves at Paul’s expense, he was not bitter.  Although He did not honor those men who preached the truth out of pretense, he knew that, the sovereign God nevertheless honored their message when Christ [was] proclaimed.  That reality greatly pleased Paul.
(2)                 God’s Word is always powerful, no matter what the motives of the one who proclaims it.   

The last thing the prophet Jonah wanted to happen was for Nineveh to repent at his preaching; but the message he gave from God produced repentance in spite of his ill intentions (cf. Jonah 4:1–9).

Even a preacher or teacher who is envious, jealous, and selfish can be used by God when his message is true to the Word. God always honors His Word, and His Word always bears fruit.  “My word … which goes forth from My mouth … will not return to Me empty, without accomplishing what I desire, and without succeeding in the matter for which I sent it” (Isa. 55:11).

I.                 He Possesses The Assurance Of A Happy Ending:

Deliverance, v.19

A.  There Was The Prayer Of Those Who Supported Him.

1.      Are you praying for others?

B.  The Supply Of The Holy Spirit Would Deliver Him.

1.      Paul knew that the Holy Spirit would supply whatever he needed to get through his circumstances.

2.      The Holy Spirit was given to all believers to:

  1. Be our compassion (John 14:16)
  2. Council us (John 14:26)
  3. Give us courage for witnessing no matter what the circumstances (John 15:26-27)
  4. Put conviction in our lives and ministry (John 16:7-8)
  5. Share the deep things of God with us (1 Cor. 2:9-10)
  6. Pray and intercede for us and to help us pray (Rom. 8:26)
  7. Bear His fruit in us (Gal. 5:22-23)
  8. Fill us and to ups a song and joy in our hearts despite circumstances (Eph. 5:18-19)
  9. Give us assurance that we are the children of God (Rom. 8:16-17)

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