Philippians 1:12
But I would you should understand, brothers, that the things which happened to me have fallen out rather to the furtherance of the gospel;
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(12) The things which happened unto meviz., since he parted from them (see Acts 20:6)—his arrest at Jerusalem, and the long captivity of years, first at Cæsarea, then at Rome. Nothing could have appeared to be a more fatal blow to the progress of the gospel; but St. Paul assures them that “rather” (i.e., on the contrary) all these things tended to its furtherance. He had intended to see Rome (Acts 19:21; Romans 15:23-24), since his work in Greece and Asia was now over. He did visit it, although in chains; and his acquaintance with the Roman soldiers at Cæsarea probably prepared for him an opening at Rome, which he could not otherwise have found, even into Cæsar’s household.



Php 1:12-20 {R.V.}

Paul’s writings are full of autobiography, that is partly owing to temperament, partly to the profound interpenetration of his whole nature with his religion. His theology was but the generalisation of his experience. He has felt and verified all that he has to say. But the personal experiences of this sunny letter to his favourite church have a character all their own. In that atmosphere of untroubled love and sympathy a shyer heart than Paul’s would have opened: his does so in tenderness, gladness, and trust. We have here the unveiling of his inmost self in response to what he knew would be an eager desire for news of his welfare. This whole section appears to me to be a wonderful revelation of his prison thoughts, an example of what we may call the ennobling power of a passionate enthusiasm for Christ. Remember that he is a prisoner, shut out from his life’s work, waiting to be tried before Nero, whose reign had probably, by this time, passed from its delusive morning of dewy promise to its lurid noon. The present and the future were dark for him, and yet in spite of them all comes forth this burst of undaunted courage and noble gladness. We simply follow the course of the words as they lie, and we find in them,

I. An absorbing purpose which bends all circumstances to its service and values them only as instruments.

The things which happened unto me; that is Paul’s minimising euphemism for the grim realities of imprisonment, or perhaps for some recent ominous turns in his circumstances. To him they are not worth dwelling on further, nor is their personal incidence worth taking into account; the only thing which is important is to say how these things have affected his life’s work. It is enough for him, and he believes that it will be enough even for his loving friends at Philippi to know that, instead of their being as they might have feared, and as he sometimes when he was faithless expected, hindrances to his work, they have turned out rather to ‘the furtherance of the gospel.’ Whether he has been comfortable or not is a matter of very small importance, the main thing is that Christ’s work has been helped, and then he goes on to tell two ways in which his imprisonment had conduced to this end.

‘My bonds became manifest in Christ.’ It has been clearly shown why I was a prisoner; all the Prætorian guard had learned what Paul was there for. We know from Acts that he was ‘suffered to abide by himself with the soldier that kept him.’ He has no word to say of the torture of compulsory association, night and day, with the rude legionaries, or of the horrors of such a presence in his sweetest, sacredest moments of communion with his Lord. These are all swallowed up in the thought as they were in the fact, that each new guard as he came to sit there beside Paul was a new hearer, and that by this time he must have told the story of Christ and His love to nearly the whole corps. That is a grand and wonderful picture of passionate earnestness and absorbed concentration in one pursuit. Something of the same sort is in all pursuits, the condition of success and the sure result of real interest. We have all to be specialists if we would succeed in any calling. The river that spreads wide flows slow, and if it is to have a scour in its current it must be kept between high banks. We have to bring ourselves to a point and to see that the point is red-hot if we mean to bore with it. If our limitations are simply enforced by circumstances, they may be maiming, but if they come of clear insight and free choice of worthy ends, they are noble. The artist, the scholar, the craftsman, all need to take for their motto ‘This one thing I do.’ I suppose that a man would not be able to make a good button unless he confined himself to button-making. We see round us abundant examples of men who, for material aims and almost instinctively, use all circumstances for one end and appraise them according to their relations to that, and they are quoted as successful, and held up to young souls as patterns to be imitated. Yes! But what about the man who does the same in regard to Christ and His work? Is he thought of as an example to be imitated or as a warning to be avoided? Is not the very same concentration when applied to Christian work and living thought to be fanatical, which is welcomed with universal applause when it is directed to lower pursuits? The contrast of our eager absorption in worldly things and of the ease with which any fluttering butterfly can draw us away from the path which leads us to God, ought to bring a blush to all cheeks and penitence to all hearts. There was no more obligation on Paul to look at the circumstances of his life thus than there is on every Christian to do so. We do not desire that all should be apostles, but the Apostle’s temper and way of looking at ‘the things which happened unto’ him should be our way of looking at the things which happen unto us. We shall estimate them rightly, and as God estimates them, only when we estimate them according to their power to serve our souls and to further Christ’s kingdom.

II. The magnetism or contagion of enthusiasm.

The second way by which Paul’s circumstances furthered the gospel was ‘that most of the brethren, being confident through my bonds, are more abundantly bold to speak the word of God.’ His constancy and courage stirred them up. Moved by good-will and love, they were heartened to preach because they saw in him one ‘appointed by God for the defence of the gospel.’ A soul all on flame has power to kindle others. There is an old story of a Scottish martyr whose constancy at the stake touched so many hearts that ‘a merry gentleman’ said to Cardinal Beaton, ‘If ye burn any more you should burn them in low cellars, for the reek {smoke} of Mr. Patrick Hamilton has infected as many as it blew upon.’

It is not only in the case of martyrs that enthusiasm is contagious. However highly we may estimate the impersonal forces that operate for ‘the furtherance of the gospel’ we cannot but see that in all ages, from the time of Paul down to to-day, the main agents for the spread of the gospel have been individual souls all aflame with the love of God in Christ Jesus and filled with the life of His Spirit. The history of the Church has largely consisted in the biographies of its saints, and every great revival of religion has been the flame kindled round a flaming heart. Paul was impelled by his own love; the brethren in Rome were in a lower state as only reflecting his, and it ought to be the prerogative of every Christian to be a centre and source of kindling influence rather than a mere recipient of it. It is a question which may well be asked by each of us about ourselves--would anybody find quickening impulses to divine life and Christian service coming from us, or do we simply serve to keep others’ coldness in countenance? It was said of old of Jesus Christ, ‘He shall baptize you in the Holy Ghost and in fire,’ and that promise remains effective to-day, however little one looking on the characters of the mass of so-called Christians would believe it. They seem rather to have been plunged into ice-cold water than into fire, and their coldness is as contagious as Paul’s radiant enthusiasm was. Let us try, for our parts, to radiate out the warmth of the love of God, that it may kindle in others the flame which it has lighted in ourselves, and not be like icebergs floating southwards and bringing down the temperature of even the very temperate seas in which we find ourselves.

III. The wide tolerance of such enthusiasm.

It is stigmatized as ‘narrow,’ which to-day is the sin of sins, but it is broad with the true breadth. Such enthusiasm lifts a man high enough to see over many hedges and to be tolerant even of intolerance, and of the indifference which tolerates everything but earnestness. Paul here deals with a class amongst the Roman Christians who were ‘preaching of envy and strife,’ with the malicious calculation that so they would annoy him and ‘add affliction’ to his bonds. It is generally supposed that these were Judaising Christians against whom Paul fulminates in all his letters, but I confess that, notwithstanding the arguments of authoritative commentators, I cannot believe that they are the same set of men preaching the same doctrines which in other places he treats as destructive of the whole gospel. The change of tone is so great as to require the supposition of a change of subjects, and the Judaisers with whom the Apostle waged a never ending warfare, never did evangelistic work amongst the heathen as these men seem to have done, but confined themselves to trying to pervert converts already made. It was not their message but their spirit that was faulty. With whatever purpose of annoyance they were animated, they did ‘preach Christ,’ and Paul superbly brushes aside all that was antagonistic to him personally, in his triumphant recognition that the one thing needful was spoken, even from unworthy motives and with a malicious purpose. The situation here revealed, strange though it appears with our ignorance of the facts, is but too like much of what meets us still. Do we not know denominational rivalries which infuse a bitter taint of envy and strife into much evangelistic earnestness, and is the spectacle of a man preaching Christ with a taint of sidelong personal motives quite unknown to this day? We may press the question still more closely home and ask ourselves if we are entirely free from the influence of such a spirit. No man who knows himself and has learned how subtly lower motives blend themselves with the highest will be in haste to answer these questions with an unconditional ‘No,’ and no man who looks on the sad spectacle of competing Christian communities and knows anything of the methods of competition that are in force, will venture to deny that there are still those who preach Christ of envy and strife.

It comes, then, to be a testing question for each of us, have we learned from Paul this lesson of tolerance, which is not the result of cold indifference, but the outcome of fiery enthusiasm and of a clear recognition of the one thing needful? Granted that there is preaching from unworthy motives and modes of work which offend our tastes and prejudices, and that there are types of evangelistic earnestness which have errors mixed up with them, are we inclined to say ‘Nevertheless Christ is proclaimed, and therein I rejoice, Yea, and will rejoice’? Much chaff may be blended with the seeds sown; the chaff will lie inert and the seed will grow. Such tolerance is the very opposite of the carelessness which comes from languid indifference. The one does not mind what a man preaches because it has no belief in any of the things preached, and to it one thing is as good as another, and none are of any real consequence. The other proceeds from a passionate belief that the one thing which sinful men need to hear is the great message that Christ has lived and died for them, and therefore, it puts all else on one side and cares nothing for jangling notes that may come in, if only above them the music of His name sounds out clear and full.

IV. The calm fronting of life and death as equally magnifying Christ.

The Apostle is sure that all the experiences of his prison will turn to his ultimate salvation, because he is sure that his dear friends in Philippi will pray for him, and that through their prayers he will receive a ‘supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,’ which shall be enough to secure his steadfastness. His expectation is not that he will escape from prison or from martyrdom, both of which stand only too clearly before him, but that whatever may be waiting for him in the future, ‘all boldness’ will be granted him, so that whether he lives he will live to the Lord, or whether he dies, he will die to the Lord. He had so completely accepted it as his life’s purpose to magnify Jesus, that the extremest possible changes of condition came to be insignificant to him. He had what we may have, the true anæsthetic which will give us a ‘solemn scorn of ills’ and make even the last and greatest change from life to death of little account. If we magnify Christ in our lives with the same passionate earnestness and concentrated absorption as Paul had, our lives like some train on well-laid rails will enter upon the bridge across the valley with scarce a jolt. With whatever differences--and the differences are to us tremendous--the same purpose will be pursued in life and in death, and they who, living, live to the praise of Christ, dying will magnify Him as their last act in the body which they leave. What was it that made possible such a passion of enthusiasm for a man whom Paul had never seen in the flesh? What changed the gloomy fuliginous fanaticism of the Pharisee, at whose feet were laid the clothes of the men who stoned Stephen, into this radiant light, all aflame with a divine splendour? The only answer is in Paul’s own words, ‘He loved me and gave Himself for me.’ That answer is as true for each of us as it was for him. Does it produce in us anything like the effects which it produced in him? Php 1:12-14. But I would ye should understand, &c. — As if he had said, Be not discouraged at my sufferings, but observe and consider this for your encouragement; that the things which happened unto me — Greek, τα

κατεμε, the things relating unto me: the apostle means his being sent a prisoner to Rome, and his being kept in bonds there, together with all the sufferings which had befallen him during his confinement; have fallen out rather unto the furtherance — Than, as you feared, the hinderance; of the gospel; so that my bonds in Christ — Endured for his sake and the gospel’s; are manifest — Are much taken notice of, in all the palace — Of the Roman emperor. The word πραιτωριον, here rendered palace, was, properly speaking, the place in Rome where the pretor determined causes. Or, according to the more common signification of the word, it was a place without the city, where the pretorian cohorts, or regiments of guards, were lodged. But in the provinces, the governor’s palace was called the pretorium, (Mark 15:16,) both because the governors administered justice in their own palaces, and because they had their guards stationed there. See Acts 23:35. “Wherefore, though the apostle was himself at Rome when he wrote this, and though the matters of which he wrote were done at Rome, he uses the word pretorium in the provincial sense, to denote the emperor’s palace, because he wrote to persons in the provinces. The knowledge of the true cause of the apostle’s confinement may have been spread through the palace by some Jewish slaves in the emperor’s family, who, happening to hear Paul in his own hired house, were converted by him. At this time, Rome was full of Jewish slaves; and that some such belonged to the palace, or had access to it, we learn from Josephus, De vita sua, who tells us he was introduced to the Empress Poppæa by means of a Jewish comedian. Such of the slaves in the palace as had embraced the gospel, whether heathen or Jews, would not fail to show the officers of the court whom they served, the true nature of the Christian faith, and the real cause of the apostle’s imprisonment; that it was for no crime, but only for preaching a new scheme of doctrine. And, as it was now fashionable among the Romans to indulge a passion for philosophy, and many of them had a strong curiosity to be informed of every new doctrine which was broached, and of every strange occurrence which had happened in the provinces, it is not unreasonable to suppose that the brethren in the palace would explain the Christian religion to the emperor’s domestics, and relate to them the resurrection of its author from the dead; and that some of them who were of high rank, strongly impressed with their relation, embraced the gospel.” And in all other places — In and about the city. “The Christians at Rome were numerous before the apostle’s arrival, but their number was greatly increased by his preaching, and by the preaching of his assistants. It is no wonder then, that in all places of the city,” and its environs, “the real cause of the apostle’s imprisonment, and the true nature of the gospel, were so well known.” — Macknight. And many of the brethren, who were before afraid, waxing confident by my bonds — Or, trusting in the Lord through my bonds, as εν Κυριω πεποιθοτας τοις δεσμοις μου may be properly rendered; are much more bold to speak the word — Than they were before, in consequence of having observed my constancy in testifying the gospel, and my safety notwithstanding; without fear — Of any sufferings to which they might before have thought themselves exposed for so doing.1:12-20 The apostle was a prisoner at Rome; and to take off the offence of the cross, he shows the wisdom and goodness of God in his sufferings. These things made him known, where he would never have otherwise been known; and led some to inquire after the gospel. He suffered from false friends, as well as from enemies. How wretched the temper of those who preached Christ out of envy and contention, and to add affliction to the bonds that oppressed this best of men! The apostle was easy in the midst of all. Since our troubles may tend to the good of many, we ought to rejoice. Whatever turns to our salvation, is by the Spirit of Christ; and prayer is the appointed means of seeking for it. Our earnest expectation and hope should not be to be honoured of men, or to escape the cross, but to be upheld amidst temptation, contempt, and affliction. Let us leave it to Christ, which way he will make us serviceable to his glory, whether by labour or suffering, by diligence or patience, by living to his honour in working for him, or dying to his honour in suffering for him.But I would ye should understand - Paul here turns to himself, and goes into a somewhat extended account of his own feelings in his trials, and of the effects of his imprisonment at Rome he wished them to understand what his circumstances were, and what had been the effect of his imprisonment, probably, for such reasons as these:

(1) They were tenderly attached to him, and would feel an interest in all that pertained to him.

(2) it was possible that they might hear unfounded rumors about the manner of his treatment, and he wished that they should understand the exact truth.

(3) he had real intelligence to communicate to them that would be joyful to them, about the effect of his imprisonment, and his treatment there; and he wished them to rejoice with him.

That the things which happened unto me - The accusations against him, and his imprisonment at Rome. He had been falsely accused, and had been constrained to appeal to Caesar, and had been taken to Rome as a prisoner; Acts 25-28. This arrest and imprisonment would seem to have been against his success as a preacher; but he now says that the contrary had been the fact.

Have fallen out - Have resulted in. Literally, "have come." Tyndale. "My business is happened."

The furtherance - The increase, the promotion of the gospel. Instead of being a hindrance, they have been rather an advantage.

12. understand—Greek, "know." The Philippians probably had feared that his imprisonment would hinder the spread of the Gospel; he therefore removes this fear.

the things which happened unto me—Greek, "the things concerning me."

rather—so far is my imprisonment from hindering the Gospel. Faith takes in a favorable light even what seems adverse [Bengel] (Php 1:19, 28; Php 2:17).

But I would ye should understand, brethren: to obviate the insinuations which false teachers and others might make use of from Paul’s sufferings, to obstruct the cordial entertainment of those glad tidings he had brought, and to discourage those who did obey the truth, he doth by this friendly compellation (which he often useth) kindly entreat them to consider well,

that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel; that his imprisonment, and what other troubles from without did befall him in his apostolical office, whereby the overruling providence of God so ordered, that they did (contrary to the intention of his persecutors) rather advantage than hinder the progress of the gospel, increase than decrease the church, since he had opportunity two years, in his own hired house, of teaching with freedom the things of Christ, Acts 28:30,31; whereupon he would not have the Philippians discouraged, but rather comforted, as the Corinthians, 2 Corinthians 1:5-7: for:

1. His iron chain in the cause of Christ was more an honour to him, even in the emperor’s court, Philippians 4:22, or guard chamber, Acts 28:16, or judgment hall, Matthew 27:27 Mark 15:16 John 18:28,33; than those glittering golden ones which others were ambitious to wear, Acts 5:41 Jam 2:2; it being apparent there, and elsewhere, to courtiers, citizens, Jews, and foreigners, that he did not suffer as an evil-doer, 1 Peter 2:19,20 3:14; only for the Lord’s sake, Ephesians 3:1 4:1; whose power in his confinement did work in and by him, who approved himself faithful, which, when inquiry was made concerning his suffering, gave occasion to communicate some notions of Christ, and glad tidings of salvation by him. But I would ye should understand, brethren,.... The church at Philippi having heard of the apostle's troubles, he was very desirous that they should have a true and right understanding of them, and especially of the use they had been of, and were like to be of more and more; and that partly that such as were weak among them might not be offended and staggered, and partly that all might be comforted; as also that they might be animated and encouraged hereby to endure, with patience and cheerfulness, whatsoever afflictions might befall them for the sake of Christ: his sufferings are more obscurely expressed in the next clause, and more clearly in Philippians 1:13,

that the things which happened unto me; by which he intends, not anything done by him, or his labour in the ministry, which had been greatly succeeded for the spread of the Gospel; as the Syriac version suggests, rendering the phrase, , "that my work makes more abundant progress in the Gospel": but his sufferings on account of the Gospel, which though said to happen, were not things of chance but of appointment; for as all the sufferings of Christ the head, were by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge of God, so are those of all the members of his mystical body, and of his ministers who are appointed to these things, and they for them; of which Christ has given previous notice, so that they do not come unexpected, but are looked for by them; nor are they over distressed with them, being supported with the presence, Spirit, grace, and favour of God; hence they can rejoice in them, in hope of the glory of God; and as the afflictions of Gospel ministers, the quality and quantity of them, are fixed and settled by divine appointment, and which accordingly come upon them, so the use of them is also determined, and which have their sure and certain effect as the apostle's had; for the very things by which men designed to have hindered the spread of the Gospel, he says,

have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the Gospel. The Gospel, though it is good news and glad tidings of peace, pardon, righteousness, and salvation by Christ; yet is very disagreeable to carnal men, they are enemies to it; and do all they can to stop its progress, to shut the open door of it, and hinder its course by speaking reproachfully of it, and writing against it, and especially by persecuting its professors, and particularly its ministers; which oftentimes proves rather a furtherance than an hinderance of it; for hereby the Gospel, like gold and silver tried in the fire, shines out the more brightly, with more lustre and glory, and has the greater influence on the minds of men; persecution in one place has often been the means of carrying and spreading the Gospel in many others; see Acts 8:1; and has been God's ordinance for the conversion of multitudes of souls, where it has been the fiercest and hottest; insomuch that it became a common saying in primitive times, that the blood of the martyrs was the seed of the church; and hereby also the Gospel has been confirmed, and they that have embraced it have been the more established in it. The apostle's sufferings and bonds were for the confirmation and defence of the Gospel.

{4} But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;

(4) He prevents the offence that might come by his persecution, by which different ones took occasion to disgrace his apostleship. And to these he answers, that God has blessed his imprisonment in such a way, that he has by that means become more famous, and the dignity of the Gospel by this occasion is greatly enlarged, although not all men are happy with it, yet it has enlarged indeed.

Php 1:12. See, on Php 1:12-26, Huther in the Mecklenb. Zeitschr. 1864, p. 558 ff.

Paul now proceeds by the δέ of continuation to depict his own position down to Php 1:26. See the summary of contents.

The element of transition in the train of thought is that of the notification which Paul now desires to bring before them; γινώσκειν is therefore placed first: but ye are to know. It is otherwise in 2 Timothy 3:1, also 1 Corinthians 11:3, Colossians 2:1.

τὰ κατʼ ἐμέ] my circumstances, my position, as in Ephesians 6:21; Colossians 4:7; Tob 10:9; 2Ma 3:40, et al.; Xen. Cyr. vii. 1. 16; Ael. V. H. ii. 20.

μᾶλλον] not to the hindrance, but much the contrary. See Winer, p. 228 [E. T. 304]. He points in this to the apprehension assumed to exist, and certainly confirmed to him by Epaphroditus as existing, on the part of his readers, which, before going further, he wishes to relieve. There is no trace even here of a letter received from them with the contribution (Hofmann; comp. Wiesinger); comp. on Php 1:1. Hoelemann: “magis, quam antea contigerat;” but this meaning must have been intimated by a νῦν or ἤδη.

προκοπήν] progress, i.e. success. Comp. Php 1:25; 1 Timothy 4:15. As to the later Greek character of this word, see Lobeck, ad Phryn. p. 85. In consequence of the apostle’s fate, the gospel had excited more attention, and the courage of its preachers had increased; see Php 1:13 f. As to whether a change had taken place in his condition, which the readers regarded as a change for the worse, as Hofmann requires us to assume, we have no specific hint whatePhilippians Philippians 1 :The situation of the apostle generally, and in itself, abundantly justified their concern, especially since it had already lasted so long.

ἐλήλυθεν] evenit, i.e. has redounded. Comp. Acts 19:27; Wis 15:5; Herod. i. 120; Soph. Aj. 1117 (1138); Plat. Gorg. p. 487 B. So the matter stands; note the perfect.Php 1:12-14. HIS PRESENT SITUATION.12–20. Account of St Paul’s present Circumstances and Experience

12. But] Better, now, as R.V.

I would, &c.] More lit. and simply, I wish you to know; I desire to inform you.

the things which happened unto me] More lit. and simply, my circumstances, with no special reference to the past. Wyclif renders, with the Vulgate Latin, “the thingis that ben aboute me”; so the (Romanist) Rhemish version 1582; “the things about me”; Tyndale, “my business.” He means his imprisonment, which had proved and was proving a direct and indirect occasion for Gospel-work.

rather] than otherwise, as had seemed so likely à priori.

furtherance] Better, as R.V., progress. The Greek gives the idea of an advance made by the Gospel.Php 1:12. Γινώσκειν, to know) The churches may have been prepossessed with contrary rumours [which the apostle wishes to counteract].—μᾶλλον, rather) So far from my bonds having been injurious.—εἰς, into) Faith takes in a favourable light all that is adverse, Php 1:19; Php 1:28, ch. Php 2:27.—ἐλήλυθεν, [have fallen out] came) easily.Verse 12. - But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel. After thanksgiving and prayer, St. Paul turns to his own imprisonment at Rome. That imprisonment, he says, has resulted in the furtherance of the gospel, rather than, as might have been expected, in its hindrance. Rather (μᾶλλον)

For the furtherance of the Gospel rather than, as might have been expected, for its hindrance.

Furtherance (προκοπὴν)

Only here, Philippians 1:25, and 1 Timothy 4:15. The metaphor is uncertain, but is supposed to be that of pioneers cutting (κόπτω) a way before (πρό) an army, and so furthering its march. The opposite is expressed by ἐγκόπτω to cut into; hence to throw obstacles in the way, hinder. Galatians 5:7. See on 1 Peter 3:7.

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