This friendly letter sent by Paul to Christians whom he referred to as his joy and crown, is an epistle to believers of all times and in all places. This is so because it meets us just where we are, and ministers effectively to specific needs. This is not a verse-by-verse study of the epistle, but an observation of the cordial relationship which existed between a faithful shepherd and his responsive flock. It is not a technical presentation, but a commentary on a series of events, developments, and experiences with which many believers can readily identify.
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Bonds, Boldness, and Blessings
"Because of my chains, most of the brothers in the Lord have been encouraged to speak the word of God more courageously and fearlessly." Philippians 1:14
Bonds, boldness, and blessings! Who but the infinitely wise and mighty Creator and Sustainer of the universe could bring them together in a harmonious and redemptive relationship? The religious leaders of the Jews had witnessed the gradual and steady decline of their popularity with the masses. Consequently, their influence upon them in general and upon their thinking in particular also waned. The message of the gospel that was first proclaimed in Jerusalem by the Apostle Peter, was later taken to the province of Samaria by Philip the Evangelist, and then by other evangelists to Damascus and Antioch in Syria. Some years after his conversion and his call to the ministry by Jesus Christ, Saul of Tarsus was commissioned by the Holy Spirit and sent by the Antioch church on a missionary tour. That was the beginning of a new wave of evangelistic activity which took the gospel to cities in Asia Minor, Macedonia, and Greece.
The response of the Jewish leaders was prompt and violent. Threats were made on Paul’s life, and on some occasions he was subjected to physical punishment. Eventually, he was taken to Rome and there he was imprisoned. His enemies must have celebrated that ‘victory.’ But was it really a victory? God whose ways are past finding out (Rom. 11:33), and who causes the wrath of men to praise him (Ps. 76:10), demonstrated His power in such a way that Paul’s bonds occasioned the boldness of many believers, and their boldness made them means of blessing to many.
Bonds for Christ
Paul’s freedom to proclaim the gospel message wherever he wished was suspended. This servant of Jesus Christ whose feet were fastened in stocks for one night in Philippi, was now in chains in Rome. Due to his appeal to Caesar, he was awaiting his hearing before an assigned court official. During the period preceding the hearing, he was permitted to receive visitors, and his interaction with friends and fellow believers made his physical circumstances bearable. By that time, he had learned to be content in whatever state he was; but news of his confinement and of another disturbing development had reached the church in Philippi. When Paul learned that his brethren were troubled by that information, he wrote and address their concerns. His aim was to present the entire picture, with the hope that the believers would view, understand, and appreciate it as a whole, rather than focus on a few of its details. He wanted the Philippians to see his confinement in the light of its impact on the lives of the believers in Rome, and as a means by which blessings were showered upon the church of Jesus Christ. He wrote, “Now I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
Paul did not deny the fact of his confinement. He was in prison, and made mention of his chains. He did not, however, want the brethren to focus upon his imprisonment, to the extent that they were unable to observe and appreciate its positive effects. The substance of his communication was: “Consider me in confinement, and also note the boldness of the brethren here that has resulted from my incarceration. Their boldness is working positively for the spread of the gospel.” By means of that widening wave of evangelistic activity, numbers of persons from various segments of the community heard the gospel, and some of them responded positively. The message that was first heard in Europe by some god-fearing women in Philippi, and then by Greek philosophers in Athens, was also heard by the pagan masses in the city of Corinth. Now it is heard and received by members of the elite praetorian guard in Rome. He wanted his friends to know that his confinement had no adverse effects on the spread of the gospel. It did affect its steady progress.
Paul’s bonds were real. They were as socially humiliating as they were physically confining. In spite of that, however, he was delighted to refer to them as my chains in Christ. He was suffering for the sake of Christ, and as a result of his positive witness during that ordeal, citizens, as well as slaves of Rome, were reached and won to Christ.
Table of ContentsForeword
Chapter 1: The Church in Philippi
Chapter 2:Greetings, Brethren
Chapter 3:Gratitude and Certitude
Chapter 4:My Prayer for You
Chapter 5:Bonds, Boldness, and Blessings
Chapter 6:What Shall I Choose?
Chapter 7:Worthy of the Gospel
Chapter 8:Make My Joy Complete
Chapter 9:He Humbled Himself
Chapter 10:Shine Like Stars
Chapter 11:Some of the Saints
Chapter 12:Shadow or Substance?
Chapter 13:Confidence in the Flesh
Chapter 14:That I May Know Him
Chapter 15:Pressing on to the Goal
Chapter 16:Pleasure and Pain
Chapter 17:Citizens of Heaven
Chapter 18:Steps to God’s Peace
Chapter 19:Meditate and Emulate
Chapter 20:A Personal Note
Chapter 21:Greeting and Blessing <%END %>