The Indomitable Gospel - 1:12-14

Introduction

Well, once again I am eager to look into the word of God with you because I know the power of the word of God. I invite you to turn with me again to the book of Philippians, to Philippians chapter 1. And today I want us to look at verses 12 through 14, Philippians 1, verses 12 through 14. The title of this message is The Indomitable Gospel. In case you are wondering what the word “indomitable” means, it means, “impossible to subdue.” And that is what the gospel of Jesus Christ is. It is unconquerable, and it is indomitable. I want to begin by reading these three verses that in our English translation is one sentence. 

    12    Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,
    13    so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else,
    14    and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.

As Paul writes these words, he is in prison in Rome writing to the church at Philippi. And for quite some time the apostle Paul has possessed the desire to go to Rome, and to preach the gospel of Jesus Christ. In fact, throughout his missionary journeys, Paul targeted the major cities of Asia Minor and Europe. But his eye was always upon Rome. It was to Rome that Paul wanted to go to ultimately preach the gospel. On Paul’s first missionary journey, he traveled from Antioch. Antioch was the third largest city in the ancient world, behind only Rome and Alexandria. Paul based out of the third largest city in the Roman Empire. And as he started his first missionary journey, he went to the southern cities of Galatia. And there he went to Pergamum and to Antioch Pisidian, and some other cities. And he returned back to Antioch. 

On his second missionary journey, Paul traveled again across Asia Minor. And he went to Derbe, and then to Iconium, which was a cultural melting pot, and then again to Antioch in Pisidia to Troas. He then crossed over for the first time into Europe. And he went to Philippi, and then to Berea, which was a very important city, and then to Athens, which was the cultural center of all of the Greek culture. It was the previous home of Socrates, and Plato, and Aristotle. It was known for its renowned philosophers. And it was the mindset of Athens that was shaping the Roman Empire. And then from Athens Paul went to Corinth, which was a seaport. It was a very wealthy commercial center. It had an outdoor theater that seated over 20,000 people. Athletic games were held just outside of Corinth, second only to the Olympic Games. It was a major hub in the ancient world. And from there Paul went back to Asia Minor. He went to Ephesus, which was a commercial center, a political center, a religious center. And then on his third missionary journey, Paul traveled much the same route as he had been on his second trip. Paul’s goal was to reach the major population centers of the ancient world in order to spread the gospel as quickly and strategically as he possibly could.

And throughout these missionary journeys there was one burning desire that was aflame in the heart of Paul, and that is he wanted to go to the most important city in the known world. He wanted to go to the major city of the Roman Empire. Paul desired to go to Rome; Rome, with a population of over one million people in Paul's day; Rome, which boasted in its magnificent buildings: The Emperor's Palace, the Roman Colosseum, the Forum, the Circus Maximus. Here in Rome was the very hub of power of the entire Roman Empire. To reach Rome with the gospel was to take significant steps to reach the Roman Empire. To reach Rome was to put Paul’s finger upon the live nerve of the Empire. To reach Rome was to send out a ripple effect that would sweep across the known world. To reach Rome was to strike a blow for the gospel of widest and most far-reaching proportions. To reach Rome was to affect the head that would move the whole body. To the church at Rome Paul wrote in Romans chapter 1:

    11  in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed     in coming to you.

Verse 13:

    13 I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often I have planned to come to you     (and have been prevented so far).

 Verse 15:

    15 So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

And in verse 16:

    16 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

What Paul wanted to do was to go into the major city of the globe, and to go into the marketplace, and to stand before the great minds of his day and to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ, because it is the power of God unto salvation. That is what lit up the apostle Paul.

And in due time, God fulfilled this desire that had gripped the heart of Paul to travel to Rome in order to proclaim the unsearchable riches of the risen, ascended Christ. But Paul did not go to Rome as he thought he would go to Rome. He did not go to Rome as an open-air evangelist. Paul went to Rome as a prisoner in chains. Paul had been arrested in Jerusalem and was sent to Rome in order to stand trial before Caesar and potentially to have his life removed. Upon his arrival in Rome, he was imprisoned for two long years from A.D. 60 to 61. And rather than be free to preach in the public places in Rome, Paul was confined to a house where he lived in house arrest as he awaited trial and awaited the verdict from Caesar. Nevertheless, Paul preached his greatest sermons with the greatest effect in Rome. These sermons made their way into the very palace of Caesar in Rome as Caesar’s own guards and Caesar’s household was converted by the sermons that Paul preached in that little house. And Paul preached every sermon in Rome in chains, imprisoned.

As we find ourselves now in Philippians 1, 12 through 14, Paul now turns from the prayer that he has offered for the Philippians, now to his own situation in his imprisonment. He is writing to let the church at Philippi know that though he is confined in house arrest, he is nevertheless triumphant in Christ, and rejoicing in the Lord. It has been 10 long years since Paul first came to Philippi, where he planted the church. And it has been at least four years since he has seen them there. And they have heard reports of the difficulties that have now happened to their beloved Paul: how he is been arrested, how he has been sent to Rome, how he has suffered shipwreck along the way, and how he is now confined and imprisoned. They are worried for Paul. They are deeply concerned for Paul. Was Paul still in chains, they wondered? Has he come to trial? Has there been a verdict yet? Is Paul even still alive? And so, Paul writes to give the Philippians this update concerning his condition. Paul writes that many of the reports that they have heard are in fact true. He is still in chains. His future is still uncertain. And yet, something else is also true, and he wants them to know this: that all these difficulties that have greatly concerned them have worked out for the furtherance of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Here in verses 12 through 14 is one sentence in which Paul gives a glowing report from prison.

You and I need to know the same, that even in our hours of greatest difficulties, the gospel nevertheless goes forward. The messenger of the gospel may be confined, but the message cannot be confined. In fact, the gospel often flourishes under the most difficult circumstances. The gospel advances the most, not during times of prosperity, but during times of adversity. The stronger the winds of opposition to the gospel, the higher it soars. The messenger of the gospel may be arrested, but the message still advances. He may be stopped, but the gospel surges. He may be persecuted, but the gospel progresses. The gospel we preach is indomitable. It is invincible. It is indefatigable as it marches forward. You and I need an IV hookup of this kind of gospel optimism that was surging through the veins of the apostle Paul. As he is staring even his own death square in the eyes, as he has suffered, from a human perspective, defeat, after defeat, after defeat, Paul could not be any more positive or optimistic because he knows that all of this that is against him is only causing the gospel to be catapulted even yet further. And so it is in our lives and in our ministries. And as we see with human eyes, sometimes we just want to whine and complain and moan and groan that what has not happened, has not happened, but instead we need to be like Paul and understand that even obstacles are the greatest opportunities for the gospel to move forward.

As we look at these three verses today, I have a very simple outline. It will be so easy to follow me today. If you cannot follow me today, you are lost before the sermon began.


I. Paul’s Confidence (Phil. 1:12)

Number one: Paul’s Confidence. That is verse 12. Paul’s confidence. Despite the difficult circumstances Paul was undergoing, he remained confident, confident in the spread of the gospel of Jesus Christ. His circumstances could not have been any more difficult, but his confidence could not have been any greater. The outlook was awful, the up-look was great. Notice how he begins in verse 12, “Now I want you to know, brethren.” That is a way for Paul to introduce a new section in his letter. And as he says, “I want you to know, brethren,” what he is saying is, “I really need you to get this. I really need you to understand what I am about to tell you.” And he calls them brethren. He continues to speak to them with tender affection. He identifies them as brothers and sisters in the Lord.

And this is what he says, “that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel.” When he says, “my circumstances,” he is talking about his imprisonment. He talks about his imprisonment in verse 13, and in verse 14, and in verse 17 in rapid-fire succession. There is no denial on Paul’s part here about his imprisonment. And as he looks at his imprisonment, these circumstances are dire. They are dreadful. They are desperate. And yet, from the eternal perspective, he says, “[These] circumstances have turned out for the greater progress.” Not just “a little progress,” but “for the greater progress of the gospel.” From Paul’s perspective the most important thing in his life is the advancement of the gospel. It is not his own personal safety. It is not his own personal comfort. It is not his own personal creature comforts. What is most important in Paul’s life is for the gospel to progress and to move forward. This word “progress” means “to advance,” “to move out,” “to move forward.” It was used of a pioneer going into uncharted territory and to mark out a path so that others may follow and come in behind. And Paul, as he sees himself confined, he is saying that this confinement is a launching pad for the gospel to move forward.

This is much the same that Paul will say during his second Roman imprisonment. If you turn to 2 Timothy chapter 2, 2 Timothy chapter 2, we fast forward six years to Paul’s second and final Roman imprisonment. There were two Roman imprisonments. And 2 Timothy is written shortly before his martyrdom. He will be released from the first Roman imprisonment from which he writes the book of Philippians. But as we come to the second Roman imprisonment in 2 Timothy 2, verse 8, Paul writes to his young son in the faith, Timothy. He says, “Remember Jesus Christ.” That is a good word for us here today.  “Do not you ever forget Jesus Christ. Do not ever take your eye off of Christ. Be always looking to Christ. Always set your mind on things above where Christ is seated at the right hand of God. You will stumble and fall in a heartbeat if you take your eyes off of Christ.” So, he says:

    8 Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my     gospel.
    
And as soon as he says, “my gospel,” Paul now does one of his famous apostolic excursions, and he wants to talk about the gospel. So, he says in verse 9, and this is what I really want is to see,  “for which,” and the “which” refers back to the gospel:

    9 for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is     not imprisoned.

Did you get that? Paul says, “I am in prison, but the word of God is not in prison. I am in chains, but you cannot chain the gospel and hold it back.” The gospel is indomitable. And the more the messenger or the servant of the gospel is persecuted, the further the gospel will go. It rises on the wings of opposition. “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.”

Now, look at the next verse. Why is it that the gospel cannot be stopped? Good question. Look at verse 10. “For this reason I endure all things.” No matter what you throw at me, I am going to endure it. I will persevere. I will be steadfast. This world can load up its hottest fastball and throw it at me, but I am going to endure all things.

He goes on to say, “for the sake of those who are chosen.” That is the doctrine of election. That is the doctrine of predestination: that God has chosen before the foundation of the world His elect. And all of His elect will be gloriously and triumphantly saved. Christ will die for them. And the Holy Spirit will convict them, and call them, and regenerate them. And Paul endures all things because he knows the elect are out there. They have not yet been saved. Many of them have not yet heard the gospel. They, at this moment, are under the wrath of God. But Paul says, “I am going to keep on preaching, and I am going to continue to endure and persevere as long as God gives me breath here upon the earth because the sovereign, eternal, purposes of God cannot be thwarted.”

As I preach the gospel, there are those out there who have been sovereignly elected by God. And when the gospel comes to them, at the appointed time they will be birthed into the kingdom by sovereign regeneration. And there are not enough devils or demons in hell, or out of hell, to prevent the progress of the gospel of Jesus Christ. And so Paul is indomitable because his message is indomitable.

So, look at verse 10 again. There it is. Look at it. “For this reason that I endure all things.” And included in these “all things” are every form of suffering, and hardship, and shipwreck, and being whipped and beaten and left in the deep, and exposed at night, every difficulty unmentionable. Paul says, “I endure all things for the sake of those who are chosen, so that they also may obtain the salvation which is in Christ Jesus and with it eternal [life].” It is very clear they are not yet saved, but Paul knows they will be saved. “So I will keep on preaching. And I will keep on pressing on and enduring. I can be imprisoned, but you cannot stop what God is doing in the world. And His cause will continue to advance through the preaching of the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
    
Come back to Philippians 1. So this is why Paul is so confident. He knows as he preaches the gospel, whether he is in prison, out of prison, whatever the circumstances as he preaches the gospel, there are those who have been appointed unto eternal life, and they shall believe them. Now, as you look at verse 12, “Now I want you know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel,” he does not share this because he wants personal sympathy from the Philippians. He does not have a martyr spirit, and if he would just whine a little bit, people would gather around him, put their arms around him, and console him. He does not do it to manipulate other Christians to come in now around him and give him their attention. No, Paul does it for the very opposite. He does not do it for himself. He shares what he says in verse 12 for the Philippians’ sake, so that they will be encouraged, so that they will be confident, so that as they live in Philippi and as they are facing opposition for the gospel, so that they will put it out there, and stand up and speak up, and testify for the Lord Jesus Christ. That is why Paul shares this personal experience with them, so that they will step out by faith and emulate him.

Look at verse 27, if you will, just for a moment. Chapter 1, verse 27. We have already looked at this passage, but let me just replant it in our thinking this morning. In Philippians 1, verse 27, Paul writes, “[Now] only conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel.” In the middle of the verse he says, “so that I will hear of you that you are standing firm.” Now, if you have to stand firm, that means that something is trying to push you away. Something is trying to push you back. Something is trying to bowl you over. And Paul is saying, “You need to stand firm.” And it is an indication of the opposition they are already facing for the gospel. They are catching flack for their faith. He goes on to say, “with one mind striving together,” agonizomai. You need to be agonizing together as you stand firm for the gospel of Christ.

Now look at verse 28, “in no way alarmed by your opponents.” Oh, they have opponents! They have those who are opposing them. They have those who are trying to defeat them. “In no way alarmed by your opponents—which is a sign of destruction for them, but salvation for you.” Now, look at verse 29, “For to you,” you Philippians, you believers in Philippi, “For to you it has been granted.” That means “sovereignly, divinely bestowed.” “For Christ’s sake, not only to believe in Him, but also to suffer for [Him.]” If you have been chosen to believe, you have been chosen to be buffeted. If you have been chosen for salvation, you have been chosen for persecution. It is a package deal in verse 29. You cannot have one without the other. And so he wants them to know that it is God who has royally elected you to suffer for the gospel. “Follow my example, Philippians. I am in prison in Rome ready to stand trial. My neck will be on the line. The power of life and death is in Caesar’s hand. I am chained to a Roman soldier 24 hours a day. I am confined in this one little room. Be like me. Speak up and preach the gospel of Christ wherever God has you.” 
    In verse 30, while we are here, he goes on to say:

    30 experiencing the same conflict which you saw in me, and now hear to be in me.

“You Philippians are in the game with me. And you need to stay in the game with me. And you need to suffer the same conflict with me. You cannot have a pretty boy faith. You cannot just sit this out. If you are a true believer in Jesus Christ, you have got to fly your flag at full high mast and let the world know that you belong to Jesus Christ.” And there will be some pushback. And there will be some opposition. And Paul says, “Let it come. It is for the progress of the gospel.” The stronger the winds of opposition blow against the gospel, the higher it soars.

This is Paul’s gospel confidence. This must be our confidence as well, that we truly believe that every difficulty, and every setback, and every opposition cannot thwart the advancement of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and that God will use it to further the cause of His kingdom in the proclamation of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

II. Paul’s Confinement (Phil. 1:13)

Now, I want you to note second, not only Paul's confidence, this will be very easy to follow, Paul’s Confinement. In verse 13, he gives more information about his confinement. In verse 13, he begins, “So that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ,” “my imprisonment in the cause of Christ.” This word “imprisonment,” which I have told you is found in verse 13, verse 14, and verse 17, this is a context in which there is a concentrated focus on Paul’s imprisonment. This word for imprisonment comes from a root word that means, “bonds that are made with chains.” In fact, the old King James Version actually translates it as “chains.” And that is acceptable. This imprisonment was a restriction and confinement in chains. Two cross-references underscore this. In Ephesians 6, and verse 20, Paul identifies himself as an ambassador in chains, referring to this same first Roman imprisonment. Ephesians was written at the same time as Philippians. And he is an ambassador in chains, an ambassador of the King of Kings upon the earth in chains. And then at the very end of the book of Acts, in Acts 28, verse 20, when Paul finally reaches Rome, Dr. Luke writes, “wearing this chain for the sake of the hope of Israel.”

For two solid years Paul was in chains. And the chains that were on him were like an extended handcuff that was about 18 inches long. It was always attached to his wrist. It was never taken off. And the praetorian guard would be rotated through this house, that the end of the book of Acts indicates is a rented quarters. And on the other end of this chain, the Roman soldiers would attach themselves to the chain. And after their post, they would unchain themselves, and the next soldier would be chained in. It was only 18 inches long, such that Paul was always only 18 inches away from a Roman soldier for two solid years. It is a remarkable imprisonment of the apostle Paul. And there were at least, it has been calculated, several dozen of these soldiers who were rotating through his rented quarters who were connected to Paul in the closest proximity imaginable.

And what is amazing is what we read here in verse 13, that Paul did not see himself as a prisoner of Rome, but as a prisoner of Christ. That is a world of difference. Notice what he says, “so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ.” If you have a New American Standard as I do, you will note “the cause of” is in italics. That means is not in the original text. It has been supplied by the translator to try to smooth out the reading of the sentence. Most times it is helpful. But in this case, I do not think it is as helpful because it should just say, “so that my imprisonment in Christ.” What he is saying is, “I am imprisoned by the divine appointment of Christ. And I am imprisoned as an ambassador of Christ. But I am here by the sovereign will of Christ. That is the way he speaks in the book of Ephesians, which he writes at the same time during the same Roman imprisonment. In Ephesians 3, verse 1, Paul refers to himself as “the prisoner of Christ Jesus.” That is tremendous. Paul will not give credit to Rome. Paul gives credit to the Lord Jesus Christ. Rome is simply a secondary instrument, a secondary instrumentality in the higher agency of the sovereign providence of God. Paul understands that he is a prisoner of Jesus Christ; that he is here in these chains by the sovereign, directive will of God. 

He goes on to say Ephesians 4, verse 1, he identifies himself as “the prisoner of the Lord.” And by the way, the book of Philemon is the fourth book that was written during this same Roman imprisonment: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon. In three verses, Philemon 1, 9 and 23, Paul refers to himself exactly the same way. And the reason he does is he has a Christian worldview. He has not a secular worldview. He sees through the lens of the sovereign purposes of God. And his confinement is in Christ. He is here because Christ has led him here. And Christ has purposes and Christ has reasons for him to be here. So Paul is not going to bellyache in Rome. He is not going to have an emotional meltdown. He is not going to whine and complain and collapse. He is going to be triumphant because he sees his imprisonment in Christ.

He goes on to say in verse 13 that “this imprisonment in Christ has become well known.” You bet it is well-known! He is the talk of the town. This news has spread far and wide. Even the Philippians, 600 miles away, have heard about this. “Has become well known,” but specifically he says, “throughout the whole praetorian guard.” Now, we need to stop for a moment and talk about the praetorian guard. They were like the Navy SEALs, the FBI agents, and the Secret Service agents all rolled into one, and then a little bit more. They were the most elite group of Roman soldiers in the Empire. They were the personal bodyguards for Caesar, and they based out of Caesar’s Palace. They served in his palace. They were 9000 handpicked, elite Roman soldiers. They were the best of the best. And sometimes they exerted control over Caesar himself. And they were a part of deposing emperors and also promoting those to serve as emperors. They were the powers behind the throne. And they guided the directions of Nero’s reign.

This is who is assigned to Paul. It speaks volumes of the threat that they perceived in Paul, that they would assign to him, not mere Roman soldiers, but the very elite of the elite, the praetorian guard, who served in Caesar’s own palace, his own household. They are rotating through Paul’s house, guarding him 24 hours a day, seven days a week, over the course of two years. And they are given highest honor, privileges for their service, double the pay, and they can only serve for 12 years because their service is so concentrated and demands so much of them. And after they retire, they are given enormous benefits for the rest of their lives. This is quite remarkable. It says that because the Paul’s imprisonment in Christ, “it has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard.”

The reason “it has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard,” is they are a captive audience to Paul. As Paul sees it, they are chained to him, and they cannot get away. And he loves the fact that they are rotating, and he has a new congregation. He has a new audience every shift. And Paul is proclaiming Christ to them. One great New Testament commentator has suggested the following:
    
    Imagine a guard coming on duty to watch Paul. He has no idea who Paul is, so he asks     the most common question, “Why are you in chains?” Paul’s answer is crystal-clear: “I     am in chains because I belong to Jesus Christ. I serve Christ. Jesus Christ, in humility and     obedience to God’s will died for our sins on a Roman cross, under Roman power. Jesus     Christ is now the risen, exalted Lord above all powers. Christ called me to proclaim the     good news about Him among the nations. Christ is the savior of all who trust Him. One     day, everyone will recognize and worship Christ as Lord of all. 

This commentator goes on to write, “Undoubtedly something like this would have been Paul’s answer. All of the elements of this answer are prominently featured in this epistle of Philippians.” So the fact is Paul has witnessed to these elite imperial guards, and has won many of them to Christ.

And I want you to turn to the very end of the book of Philippians. And I want you to see this startling, remarkable, seemingly insignificant, verse; but it is a monumental verse, in Philippians 4, and verse 22. Have your pen out. Mark it. Underline it. Put an arrow out in the margin.  Paul writes from Rome to the believers in Philippi, “All the saints greet you.” Now, the saints are all true believers. All believers are saints, and all saints are believers. The word means “set apart one,” “set apart from the world unto the Lord Jesus Christ.” Now note the rest of the verse: “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household.” You cannot keep the gospel out of Caesar’s household. If Paul had been preaching out on the street corner and in the marketplaces, the gospel would have gone many places, but it would not have advanced like this. Paul has a pipeline into Caesar’s household. Paul has a direct shot into Caesar’s household. These elite bodyguards that are chained to him when they are released, they go straight back into Caesar’s household. And they go to Caesar, and they are spreading the gospel within Caesar’s household. They are having a revival meeting in Caesar’s household. The power of the gospel is exploding like dynamite in Caesar’s household. And the more they try to oppose Paul, the more they are catapulting the gospel forward into Caesar’s household.

But more than that, come back the chapter 1, verse 13, not only into Caesar’s household, and that is where the praetorian guard are, and “praetorian” is an adjective describing the guard; Praetorium is the place of his palace. “And to everyone else.” Now, ponder that for just a moment. Everyone else is distinguished from those who are in Caesar’s household and distinguished from the praetorian guard. This refers to the citizens of Rome, those who are outside this official hierarchy within Caesar’s household. What this is saying is the gospel is going beyond the praetorian guard to the average civilian on the streets in Rome. The word on the street about Paul is spreading like wildfire. And if you talk about Paul, you are talking about the gospel. You are talking about the very reason why Paul is here in Rome. You cannot talk about Paul without talking about the gospel because Paul is always preaching the gospel. And so, this is spreading to everyone else. And the more they try to put the flame out, it is like they are trying to put out the flame with gas. It is just exploding even more. Everyone in Rome was seemingly talking about Paul and the very gospel of Jesus Christ.

In fact, turn the very end of the book of Acts. Acts chapter 28 is the last chapter of the book of Acts, and the last two verses. Just check out the last two verses of the book of Acts, which is Luke’s record of the expansion of the church in the first century. And it starts in Jerusalem, then it goes to Judea and Samaria. And the book of Acts ends with Paul being taken to Rome as a prisoner. And this is the backdrop for these circumstances as Paul writes the book of Philippians. Note the last two verses, verse 30 and 31. “And he,” referring to Paul, “stayed two full years.” That is why we know that he was there in 60 and 61. “In his own rented quarters.” And by the way, the reason that the Philippians have sent their pastor to Rome is to take money to give to Paul to pay the rent for his own confinement in this house. So, that is how we know he was in rented quarters and not in a prison cell. That will be the second Roman imprisonment, when he will be in a hole in the ground. “And was welcoming all who came to him.” Because he is in a house for two years chained to a Roman soldier, people have access to Paul. They can come into the house where Paul is as he is awaiting trial.

And so verse 31 tells us what Paul is doing in this house. And several New Testament commentators speculate that the house is always packed with people. So look at verse 31:

    31 preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all     openness, unhindered.

Listen. Paul could not have dreamed this up, or planned this any better. They are coming to him. He is not even having to go out to where they are. God is bringing the highways and the byways into his little rented quarter. And he is forcing the praetorian guard to hear every sermon. Look at verse 31, “Preaching the kingdom of God...teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ.” They are getting more than an earful. And they are being won to Christ by the power the gospel. And those who are the elect of God, even from among the praetorian guard, are coming into the kingdom of God.        

As it was with Paul, so it is with us. What is your little quarter? It could it be your job. It could be for others here today your house with little children. You may be thinking, “Oh, I wish I could serve the Lord. I wish I could be on church staff. I wish I could be hooked up with a ministry and be out and about.” Maybe you are just tied to your desk. Maybe you are a salesman and tied to your car, and you are out and about and calling on people. Maybe you are a schoolteacher, and you are tied to your classroom. Maybe you are a high school student, and you are tied to the class schedule you are on. Praise God! Paul was tied to his rented quarters, and he filled it up with telling people about Jesus Christ. And I think the more we take advantage of the opportunities that the Lord gives us to testify for Christ, He will move more and more into our rented quarters to hear more and more about the Lord Jesus Christ.


III. Paul’s Challenge (Phil. 1:14)

Well, there is one last heading that I want you to note. In verse 14, Paul’s Challenge. Come back to Philippians 1. You have got to be in Philippians 1, verse 14, as this one long sentence continues to unfold, Paul’s Challenge. By Paul’s example he is challenging those who are already believers in Rome to be more bold and be more courageous in living for Christ and in telling others about Him. Look at verse 14. “And that most of the brethren.” Let us just stop right there. The “brethren” is obviously referring to believers. Here they are the believers in Rome. Now, note, “most of the brethren.” That means, “more than a few.” That means, “more than many.” That means, “the majority of the brethren.” That means, “more than 51%.” That means, “a large number of believers.” “That most of the brethren...have far more courage.” 

Now, that indicates they already had courage, and some degree or measure of courage, but now they have far more courage, not just more courage, but far more courage, exceedingly, abundantly, more courage, to do what? To live a better life? Well, that is a part of it, but Paul goes beyond that. Notice what he says, “to speak the word of God without fear.” They have more courage not just simply to live it, but to speak it, to bear witness of it, to testify of it, “to speak the word of God.” And “the word of God” refers to the gospel. It refers to the name of Christ. It refers to the way of salvation. It refers to the grace of redemption. It refers to the necessity of repentance and faith in Jesus Christ. Because of Paul’s boldness, he has edified almost all the believers in Rome.
    
That is quite a shadow to cast. But one man on fire for God can endue thousands with new courage. It has happened here with Paul. It happened with John Knox in Scotland. It happened with Martin Luther in Germany. It happened with Charles Spurgeon in London. It happened with George Whitefield in the colonies. One man on fire for God has capacity to put steel into the backbone of most of the believers in an area. It speaks of the enormity of the influence that is cast when one speaks the word of God with courage. 

Notice he says, “without fear.” No longer were they hesitant to mention the name of Christ. No longer were they reluctant to witness. They are now without fear of rejection. They are now without fear of repercussions. They are now without fear of consequences. They see Paul, and they see Paul, what he is willing to suffer for the gospel. And it has an enormous effect upon them. And it pulls them up to play at Paul’s level, and to openly testify to the gospel of Jesus Christ.

And at the end of verse14 it tells us how they were doing it: “trusting in the Lord.” They were not trusting in Paul. And they were not trusting in themselves. And they were not trusting in one another. And they were not trusting in a program. And they were not trusting in the church. And they were not trusting in anything like that. Their trust was not horizontally; it was exclusively vertical. They were trusting in the Lord. Trusting in the Lord; why? What was causing them to trust in the Lord and to be without fear and to speak the word of God?

He says at the end of verse 14, please let your eye see this, “because of my imprisonment.” No imprisonment, the church in Rome remains flat. No imprisonment, Caesar’s household remains a hellhole. No imprisonment, no one on the streets of Rome is talking about the gospel. But because of Paul’s imprisonment, the elite of the elite, the praetorian guard, are being won to faith in Jesus Christ. Because of Paul’s imprisonment, the word is spread throughout Caesar’s own household, and the saints in Caesar’s household are greeting the saints in Philippi. And because of Paul’s imprisonment, the word on the street is Jesus Christ, and people are talking about the Lord. And because of Paul’s imprisonment, the church in Rome has new boldness and new courage, perhaps as they’ve never had before, to speak the word of God without fear. This was God’s sovereign purpose.

If we had been standing there that day and observing Paul’s life, we might have said something silly like this, “Paul, you missed God’s will for your life. What are you doing there in prison?” The providence of God does not run by human intuition, or by human wisdom; it runs by the sovereign purposes of God. The more the world tries to resist the gospel, the more they fan the flames of its leaping fire to spread far and wide.
    

Conclusion

Alexander MacLaren was a noted Scottish Baptist preacher in the 19th century. He said this, “A soul all on flame has power to kindle others.” In other words, one man, one woman, on fire for God, and possessed by that fire, spreads like wildfire to others. For most, we need to be near others who are on fire in order to catch fire ourselves so that we can spread that fire to the world.

The year was 1555, and Bloody Mary sat on the throne of England and issued the order to burn two English Reformers, Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley, for their faithful witness for Christ. I stood at the very place there at Oxford in the middle of an intersection where there is a tiny, little plaque that marks the place where they were martyred. As they were strapped to the same stake, back to back, and as the flames began to burn their bodies, Latimer famously shouted to Ridley, “Be of good comfort, Master Ridley. Play the man. We shall this day light such a candle by God’s grace in England as I trust shall never be put out.” And from that martyrs’ fire the cause of the Reformation in England spread like wildfire until it overtook much of the nation. The example of these two martyrs has mightily encouraged generations to this day of Christians to proclaim the gospel without fear. 

So, even so, let us catch fire. Let us catch fire from those like Paul who are the boldest in the gospel for Christ. Whose boldness for the Lord is igniting your courage? Is it someone in the Bible? Is it Daniel? Is it Paul? Is it the Lord Jesus Christ Himself? Is it someone in church history, one of the great martyrs of the faith who in this generation is igniting your fire to be a witness for the Lord? And I want to ask you, “Who are you igniting? Who are you lighting up to witness for the Lord Jesus Christ?” We all need to be ignited, and we all need to be igniting others. So let us be on fire for God. And let the prison come, if need be, because Paul did his greatest preaching, and won his greatest converts, from his little rented quarter in Rome.

Dr. Steven J. Lawson

Dr. Steven J. Lawson is President and founder of OnePassion Ministries, a ministry designed to equip biblical expositors to bring about a new reformation in the church. Dr. Lawson hosts The Institute for Expository Preaching in cities around the world. Dr. Lawson is also a Teaching Fellow for Ligonier Ministries, where he serves on its board. Moreover, he is Professor of Preaching and oversees the Doctor of Ministry program at The Master’s Seminary, where he also serves on its board. Dr. Lawson is also Professor in Residence for Truth Remains, a work designed to promote and proclaim God’s written Word. Further, Dr. Lawson serves as the Executive Editor for Expositor Magazine published by OnePassion Ministries.