“To Live Is Christ” (Philippians 1:12-21)
by: Marven T. Baldo
Now I desire to have you know, brothers, that the things which happened to me have turned out rather to the progress of the Good News so that it became evident to the whole praetorian guard and to all the rest that my bonds are in Christ and that most of the brothers in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear. Some indeed preach Christ even out of envy and strife and some also out of good will. The former insincerely preach Christ from selfish ambition, thinking that they add affliction to my chains; but the latter, out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the Good News. What does it matter? Only that in every way whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed. I rejoice in this, yes, and will rejoice. For I know that this will turn out to my salvation through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ according to my earnest expectation and hope that I will in no way be disappointed but, with all boldness as always, now also Christ will be magnified in my body whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (Philippians 1:12-21).
God can make something beautiful and powerful out of things that people would normally discard and disregard. That is why adversities are never a hindrance for God to work His will in the lives of people. Paul’s imprisonment did not stop the good news about Jesus from going far and wide.
So that it became evident to the whole praetorian guard and to all the rest that my bonds are in Christ (13).
In Rome, while in prison, Paul was still able to teach people. Being in the company of Roman soldiers and citizens, he was able to witness to them about Jesus, so that they came to a conclusion that Paul’s faith in Jesus, a Man who died a couple of decades ago whom he claims to have risen from the dead and appeared to him and to others and is now in heaven beside God the Father, is valid and legitimate. They may not have necessarily put their faith in Jesus, but they grew to respect Paul’s beliefs.
…and that most of the brothers in the Lord, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God without fear (14)
People who would otherwise remain mediocre and lethargic while in abundance become creative and innovative when faced with challenges. The more a good work is opposed, the more its importance is seen and the more encouraged good workers become to carry on instead of giving in.
Paul’s imprisonment may have seemed to paralyze him and ruin his momentum, but it really didn’t. Paul’s work is God’s work after all, and God can use even the helplessness and uselessness of His vessel so that He can have the chance to display His hand as He works out the circumstances in the lives of people. That is why Paul’s situation cannot but increase and strengthen his faith.
For I know that this will turn out to my salvation through your supplication and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ according to my earnest expectation and hope that I will in no way be disappointed but, with all boldness as always, now also Christ will be magnified in my body whether by life or by death. For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (19-21).
Paul is a prisoner, but he still has freedom to teach the people who come to him in his rented house to listen to him. He does this as he awaits the audience of Nero. Though he is somewhat happy and contented with this setup, he is still worried. His life, after all, still hangs in the balance. If, when the time comes, Nero finds himself in a good mood to listen to reason and acquits Paul, then Paul will be free and will be able continue his ministry. If not and the emperor is seized with fits of madness, then Paul might as well say goodbye to this cruel world. Though the latter outcome is somehow fine with him because he will be already with Jesus because to be absent in the body is to be present with the Lord, he would very much like to be reunited with his brothers in the faith.
Adversities, including life-threatening situations, are God’s way of testing, purifying, and molding us. It can do either of the two things: It can either serve as a catalyst to true believers for them to straighten and strengthen their faith in God or it can prove to be a stumbling block to those who only profess, enough for them to compromise and apostatize in order to save their hides.
God allows us to go through fiery trials and tribulations to transform us from being ordinary to extraordinary.
My soul wait in silence for God alone, for my expectation is from Him (Psalm 62:5).
Adversities and affliction will make these words so true, so alive, and so relatable. We get to utter these words from the bottom of our heart with pure and raw emotion along with the psalmist. Indeed, our expectations are in God. Whatever He does in our life, He is our hope. We may ask things from Him, but only His will will be done. Something like what Paul is going through will make us realize that we won’t be able to live a day without God and that we cannot rely on our or other people’s strength.
True enough, with God as his hope, Paul won his appeal to Caesar. He walked free and was able to travel to far more places than his previous journeys and to write more epistles, namely, I and II Timothies, Titus, and, possibly, Hebrews. Great is God’s faithfulness.