Tuesday, August 25, 2009

8/26- Philippians 1:12-17- Chains Advance the Gospel

(Ben overlooking first century jail in Philippi last November)
Devotional using scripture, quote from John Calvin and thoughts for the day each day- on the 500th anniversary of Calvin's birth.

Philippians 1:12-17 (TNIV)
12 Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel. 13 As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ. 14 And because of my chains, most of the brothers and sisters have become confident in the Lord and dare all the more to proclaim the gospel without fear. 15 It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. 16 The latter do so out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains.
Calvin abridged: 12- “Now I want you to know” We all know from our own experience, how much we do not like the abasement of the cross. We are okay with the preaching of Christ crucified to us; but when the reality of the cross becomes real to us, we either avoid him or are abhorred at him and also those who preach him. It could be that the Philippians were in some degree discouraged by the persecution of their Apostle. But the Apostle answers this charge when he says that the gospel had been promoted by means of his bonds- to the encouragement of the Philippians. 13- He intimates that his bonds had become an illstration to promote the honor of Christ. By the praetorium (palace guard) I understand the halls and palace of Nero. 14- “most of the brothers and sisters”- By this we are taught that the tortures of the saints, endured by them on behalf of the gospel, are a ground of confidence for us. It would be a dreadful spectacle, and would dishearten us, if we didn’t see anything but the cruelty and rage of persecutors. But if we also see the hand of the Lord, which makes his people unconquerable under the infirmity of the cross, we ought to venture farther than we are accustomed, having now a pledge of our victory helping us overcome our fears. 15- even those who wished the Apostle evil were on another account stirred up to publish the gospel. 16- He repeats that there are two classes of people that are stirred up by his bonds to preach Christ—the one influenced by contention, the other by pious zeal. The former do not preach Christ purely, yet Paul (though having no pleasure in seeing the gospel corrupted) rejoices in the preaching even though it was not simple or sincere. Paul is not saying anything that I (Calvin) have not experienced. For there are those today who preach the gospel with no other purpose than that they might gratify the rage of the wicked by persecuting pious pastors. 17- We must give a helping hand, as far as possible, to the servants of Christ who are in difficulty. Christ has conferred upon us the great honor [of defense of the gospel] what excuse shall we have , if we are traitors to his cause or betray it by silence? What can we then expect but that he shall in return to desert our cause- who is our sole Advocate or Patron with the Father? (I John 2:1).
Thoughts: Ironically, sometimes our own demise is a lifting up of the cause of Christ. Once again our crosses bring our resurrection. Paul’s imprisonment furthered the gospel in his situation. Paul was in prison (probably in Rome) when he wrote this. The Philippians really honored Paul who sang in prison with Silas- and the earthquake came that led the jailer to Christ. In Philippi the ancient church built a huge church (now in ruins) on top of the first century jail that had imprisoned Paul. Just as Paul’s imprisonment in Philippi led to the furtherance of the gospel, so his imprisonment in Rome had penetrated to even the emperor’s guard! So those imprisoned by some malady (sickness, debt, joblessness) may still be able to further the gospel.

Prayer: Lord, help us not to love comfort more than furthering your gospel. Today we pray for those who are persecuted and put our hope that even in the worst circumstances there still may be hope.

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