Sermon: God’s Mission Field (Philippians 1:12-18)

God’s Mission Field

Philip. 1:12-18 (ESV)

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,  [13] so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.  [14] And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

[15] Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.  [16] The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  [17] The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.  [18] What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Yes, and I will rejoice,

The February, 1956 edition of Life Magazine ran the story of five young missionaries who had died at the hands of the Aucus Tribe of Eastern Ecuador.  The same people who they were trying to contact with the Gospel.  Jim Elliot and the others gave up their lives for the Gospel.  Jim Elliot was an evangelical Christian missionary to Ecuador who, along with four others, was killed while attempting to evangelize the Waodani people through efforts known as Operation Auca.

At the time, no one understood what good could possibly come from this seemingly waste of human life.  Why did they die?  What good came out of their death?

Truth Taught- God’s ways are not man’s ways and His evangelistic strategy my not make sense to us.

Only years later would God’s meaning of this event surface.  As Jim wrote in his journal Oct 8, 1949- He is no fool to give what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot loose.

God had planned before the foundation of the earth that these five men would gain the Martyr’s Crown.  In God’s loving decree their lives would be taken and as, Jim’s wife, Elizabeth Elliot would later remark, Tens of thousands have been converted because of the five deaths along the river in Ecuador. God took them home and prepared a way for thousands to come into the kingdom.  Elizabeth Elliot’s life would be forever changed.  I’m sure that this was not what she had in mind when they set out for Ecuador.

The things that happened to Paul were, I’m sure, very different than what he had planned as well.  He was the great missionary to the Gentiles, the world traveler, the Apostle and church planter who had started numerous churches and now he is sitting in a Roman prison chained to a guard.   I don’t think Paul had entered this into the equation of his life.

God is like that.  He doesn’t operate on our time schedule and doesn’t usually accomplish things according to our plans.  He does things we would never expect.  I’m sure many of you can testify to these sorts of things.  Has your life turned out the way you expected or planned?  If we answer NO to this question we must trust that our plan was not the best plan and that God’s plan is best all the time.

One thing about the Apostle Paul was that he was focused on eternal matters.  Very quickly God’s plan began to unfold.  Rather than being a church planter now, Paul would be training the next generation of church planters.  Rather than going himself, it would be God’s plan, at least for now, to have Paul train and equip the planters that would go instead of him.  Who were these new church planters?  Where did they come from?

What the Apostle learned first hand:

God’s ways are not man’s ways and His evangelistic strategy my not make sense to us.

1. Paul’s Suffering Brought About the Advance of the Gospel (1:12-13)

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel,  [13] so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

The first thing Paul was thankful for was that his imprisonment has really worked to advance the Gospel.  While Paul suffered, the gospel advanced.  This is nothing new; the Gospel has always advanced through human suffering.  Down through the centuries it’s greatest push forward came as Christian gave everything, including their lives for its advance.  An ancient church father after witnessing the Gospel moving forward through suffering said, The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Gospel.

In today’s program driven churches we see class after class and book after book being written on how to share your faith, how to evangelize, how to get someone to accept Christ, what to say to them, how to get them to accept you and your message.

I’ve never heard one that said this: Go out into places that have never heard the Good News and preach night and day. Speak with everyone about Christ and the Good news, when they through you in prison preach to everyone in there as well.

God’s ways are not man’s ways and His evangelistic strategy my not make sense to us.

We must take a moment to get biblically oriented.  Our humanistic me-centered fallen sinful reasoning stands in between us and biblical truth.  Can God cause suffering to come upon His beloved for the advancement of His Kingdom?  Is God preeminent or are we preeminent?  Are we the most important or is God.  Do we bring God glory or does He exist to bring us glory?  These are the types of questions we must answer very early in our Christian life if we are to be passionate about the Gospel and the Kingdom.

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me.  What exactly happened to Paul…

2 Cor. 11:22-29 (ESV)

Are they Hebrews? So am I. Are they Israelites? So am I. Are they offspring of Abraham? So am I.  [23] Are they servants of Christ? I am a better one—I am talking like a madman—with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless beatings, and often near death.  [24] Five times I received at the hands of the Jews the forty lashes less one.  [25] Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I was stoned. Three times I was shipwrecked; a night and a day I was adrift at sea;  [26] on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from robbers, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers;  [27] in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, in hunger and thirst, often without food, in cold and exposure.  [28] And, apart from other things, there is the daily pressure on me of my anxiety for all the churches.  [29] Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to fall, and I am not indignant?

His frame of mind was that he would boast in his weakness and in God’s strength.  Paul often didn’t know exactly what God was up to but he boasted in the power and sovereignty of God anyway.

Here in our text today it seems that Paul is getting an idea that all the suffering he has endured has furthered the advance of the Gospel and especially now he seems peaceful because God is working to do what God called him to be the Apostle to the Gentiles.

Here is a specific example of how Paul’s suffering is working to further the Gospel’s advance…

[13] so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

Paul new all along that God was sovereign over His creation but now he sees it first hand.  God brought suffering to Paul not to punish Paul but to advance His Kingdom.

Who would ever have guessed that the imperial guards would discover that Paul was in prison because of the Gospel?  Who could have guessed that in God’s plan Gentile soldiers would be converted?  This is a big step in the advancement of the Gospel into foreign lands.

God’s ways are not man’s ways and His evangelistic strategy my not make sense to us.

Some older translations refer to the imperial or praetorium as if they were a building. This is seen now as a mistake in translation.  Now after discovery of other ancient manuscripts, it is proven that this is referring to those imperial guards.  The Gospel went out to the imperial guards that came in contact with Paul the prisoner they were assigned to guard.

Here’s the picture…

An imperial guard was chained to Paul.  I wonder what Paul talked about?  For Paul, he had a very captive audience.  God had a new disciple.  Many were converted.  Who better to get the Gospel to the imperial soldiers who would then, in turn, be dispatched all over the Roman Empire and share the Good News with those they met.  It seems that God knew what He was doing after all.

That’s why churches were popping up in the ancient world that Paul didn’t even know about.

The Lord knew all along what would happen.  At Paul’s conversion, the Lord makes His decree known Ananias.

Acts 9:10-16 (ESV)

Now there was a disciple at Damascus named Ananias. The Lord said to him in a vision, “Ananias.” And he said, “Here I am, Lord.”  [11] And the Lord said to him, “Rise and go to the street called Straight, and at the house of Judas look for a man of Tarsus named Saul, for behold, he is praying,  [12] and he has seen in a vision a man named Ananias come in and lay his hands on him so that he might regain his sight.”  [13] But Ananias answered, “Lord, I have heard from many about this man, how much evil he has done to your saints at Jerusalem.  [14] And here he has authority from the chief priests to bind all who call on your name.”  [15] But the Lord said to him, “Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine to carry my name before the Gentiles and kings and the children of Israel.  [16] For I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Paul did suffer and Christ’s name was exalted among the Gentiles and Kings and the Children of Israel.

Paul’s Suffering Brought About the Advance of the Gospel

2. Paul’s Suffering Brought About Boldness in Others (1:14-18)

[14] And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

[15] Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.  [16] The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.  [17] The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.  [18] What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Yes, and I will rejoice,

What was it that thrilled Paul’s heart?  He was encouraged as he discovered that the Gospel was being preached more boldly because of his imprisonment

God’s ways are not man’s ways and His evangelistic strategy my not make sense to us.

He cared more about the good news being proclaimed than any foolish motive such as who gets the credit.  Nine times in this letter Paul mentions the word Gospel.  His life’s purpose was making Jesus known.

In verse 14 he thanks God that because of his imprisonment another thing was happening.  The church was bolder and more confident in its proclamation of the Gospel.  As the church saw Paul’s faith and dependence on the Lord and as they saw the Lord working in the situation to further the Kingdom, they were bolder in their own proclamation.

So, not only was the Gospel message penetrating the imperial guard but those on the outside were now sharing their faith with boldness.

God’s ways are not man’s ways and His evangelistic strategy my not make sense to us.

Courage in evangelism is contagious.  When we see those around us sharing the good news we are more apt to step out and share as well.  What’s stopping you?

It’s really remarkable that the Apostle didn’t focus too much on the motives of those preaching and sharing.  He saw that some were doing it out of love while others were doing it out of selfish motives.  Some wanted conversions for God’s glory and others wanted conversions for their glory.  Paul’s attitude is…whatever as long as Christ is proclaimed.  It’s not to say that wrong motivation would not be judged but for now, Paul was content that the name of Christ was magnified.

As we think through this text we must bring in to bear on our lives here and now.  What do we learn that impacts us today?  Paul’s situation was less than desirable and yet he knew God had a plan that was unfolding in his midst.  The same is true for us.  We may be in a less than desirable situation however, if God is in it, it will be the best for us.

Paul’s chains were not what he wanted.  I’m sure that he would rather be out and free.  I’m sure that he would rather be on the mission field and planting churches.  He didn’t wait for his circumstances to turn in his favor before he could do what God called him to do.  You may believe you’re chained to a job or school or to some other thing you believe is keeping you from evangelism.  Your thoughts may be…as soon as I retire, then I’ll concentrate on the Lord’s work.  Perhaps, you’re home with your children all day and you think that you can’t evangelize because you’re chained to the house.  Ask yourself, what would Paul do?  He would share Christ and disciple anyone that was with him.  If you’re at your job all day share Christ with your coworkers.  If you’re home all day, share Christ with you children, If you’re at school all day, share Christ with other students.  What are you waiting on?  Be faithful in the setting in which God has placed you…even if you’re in a Roman prison you can share the Good News of Christ and in the end discover that that was your mission field all along.

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