Friday, 9 December 2016
But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, Philippians 1:12
A conjunction is introduced here which can be translated as “but,” “and,” “now,” or even “moreover.” Paul is tying this verse in with what he said in verse 7. There he noted his chains and also his “defense and confirmation of the gospel.” It was a note that he was bound and imprisoned because of his proclamation. It would seem that this would hinder his efforts. However, the exact opposite was true.
He says, “But I want you to know, brethren…” He will impart news to them which will bolster their own faith and show that the divine hand of God is with them in their efforts. The word, “brethren” is given to show that they are one united force. Regardless of their circumstances, their efforts were directed towards the same good end. From this note of unity, he then tells them “that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel.”
As noted, his bonds have brought about exactly the outcome that one would expect. Instead of the transmission of the gospel being hampered, it was being furthered. This is seen in Paul’s selection of terminology. The word translated as “furtherance” here is prokopé. It is an unusual word which is used only by Paul. He uses it here, again in verse 1:25, and then in 1 Timothy 4:15. It comes from two words – pró, meaning “in front of,” and kóptō, which indicates “cut” or “chop down.” The sense is one of people who are designated to go before an army, cutting down trees in order to continue their march unabated. It can also pertain to pioneers who clear away trees as they move forward in order to settle the land.
Paul’s chains had actually gone forth in this manner, chopping down any resistance to the gospel. What this shows is that those who saw him and heard his words were convinced that the chains were on a man who was otherwise freer than those who had no chains. His physical person may have been bound, but there was a freedom in him that all around him desired to possess. This is the same type of thought that was expressed by Paul when he stood before King Agrippa in Acts 26 –
Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!”
25 But he said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. 26 For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention, since this thing was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
29 And Paul said, “I would to God that not only you, but also all who hear me today, might become both almost and altogether such as I am, except for these chains.”
30 When he had said these things, the king stood up, as well as the governor and Bernice and those who sat with them; 31 and when they had gone aside, they talked among themselves, saying, “This man is doing nothing deserving of death or chains.”
32 Then Agrippa said to Festus, “This man might have been set free if he had not appealed to Caesar.” Acts 26:24-32
Life application: If the Son makes you free, you shall be free indeed. No earthly bonds can hinder the spirit of a person who has been freed by Christ Jesus. The chains a believer may bear on his physical body can be used to present a freedom that no one around him could actually imagine.
Lord God, no matter what our station in life, if we have Christ, we have a freedom which cannot hold back our spirits. Help us to use our circumstances, whatever they are, to share with others the hope that we possess. Surely the message of Jesus is one that goes before us, clearing out the obstacles which would otherwise stand in the way. And so, Lord, give us the boldness to simply speak it out. The message will have its intended effect if we will simply open our mouths and speak. Give us this heart and desire. To Your glory we pray. Amen.