Read: Philippians 1:9-18
Key Verse: “…it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
Dig Deeper: First, let me just say, God is awesome! His word is alive, and He will give you revelation, and He will speak to you if you search for Him! I’ve read and pondered on this passage a few times, and nothing really jumped out at me. I was drawn to verse 14 repeatedly, so I started there. I’ve always wondered about it, since the human response to someone being imprisoned for ministering would be fear, but Paul says the believers became “confident” by his chains and because of them, grew “much more bold to speak the word without fear.”
I researched, pondered and prayed, but didn’t really receive revelation. I kept going because (1) Sometimes revelation comes last minute…in His timing, and (2) God gave me a mind (and a love of the written word), so I worked at coming up with several ideas about how Paul’s persecution could inspire other believers to speak the word fearlessly. And I did come up with a few ideas, but they will wait for another time.
As I sat down to write, I read through the verses one last time, God gave me a whole new take on it, one that I can sum up in a word…perspective.
Paul says that what happened to him is leading to the furtherance of the Gospel. Why? Because others are learning that his chains are in Christ. Yeah, I know, you just read that in the verse, but it’s big.
God tells us to “set [our] mind on things above, not on things on the earth.” (Col 3:2)
When you think of Paul being in prison, bound by chains, that’s an earthly thing. And you think of how he got there, you might just want to avoid it.
But, Paul was rejoicing because the people were seeing that his chains were in Christ. The new testament repeatedly talks about our life in terms of slavery. Once we are saved, we are no longer slaves to sin and this world, but “slaves” to Christ. Paul (God) tells in Romans 8:31, “if God is for us, who can be against us?” Paul had reached the point in his relationship with Christ where this world had no hold on him. Even imprisonment didn’t touch him because he was thinking on things above—god and His glory, Heaven, and furthering God’s kingdom.
Paul also tells us in Romans 8:18 “the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” He knew that in light of spending an eternity in Heaven with Jesus Christ, his time in jail was NOTHING. Even the worst trial we face is nothing compared to Heaven.
So, why does a situation—Paul being in prison, being persecuted—that should inspire fear, inspire confidence instead?
The believers and the guards were all learning the same thing, Paul’s chains were in Christ. And God’s glory overshadowed everything else. Paul’s imprisonment testified to the people, and led them to set their mind on things above, knowing that with God, we can get through anything.
Furthermore, this passage is a testament to another verse in Romans 8:28: “All things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” Paul could see how his imprisonment, meant for evil, was working for good because it was furthering the gospel. Other believers could see this as well and it gave them confidence.