But I would you should understand, brothers…
Paul, having stated the substance of his intercession for the Philippian saints, proceeds to show how his apparently unfortunate imprisonment was being providentially overruled for what they had so much at heart, the furtherance of the gospel. It is most instructive to notice how his great heart transmutes adversity into gold, and sees encouragement where others would glean only despair.
I. AS A NOTABLE PRISONER, PAUL WAS DRAWING THE ATTENTION OF MANY TO THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST FOR WHICH HE SUFFERED. (Vers. 12, 13.) Persecution only draws attention to the objects of it. The Praetorian Guards at the palace and many other individuals had their attention turned to the cause for which Paul suffered, through his presence as the prisoner in Rome. In no way could the world better advertise the Christian cause. In fact, persecution emphasizes any cause. It drives it of necessity into prominence. On the other hand, the gospel shows its Divine wisdom by its tolerance. For while the gospel has an intolerant side in brooking no possible rival, it has its tolerant side in refusing to use force and in charitably claiming those not against it as for it. Now, in this abstinence from all persecution, there is in the Christian policy the subtlest wisdom. It is a refusal to make rival systems famous. It is a judicious allowance of them to die a natural death, instead of resuscitating them by emphatic opposition.
II. PAUL'S IMPRISONMENT LED TO INCREASED PREACHING OF CHRIST. (Vers. 14-18.) This happened in two directions: those who sympathized with Paul were led to show a bolder front and fearlessly to preach Christ; those who envied him and tried to checkmate him hailed his imprisonment as their opportunity, and preached Christ in hope of vexing him. It seems at first a strange notion of the gospel being faithfully preached from such a motive. But we must remember that men may be orthodox as a matter of policy and for party purposes, when they have no heart in the substance of their orthodoxy at all. The Judaizers, therefore, who troubled Paul so much seem to have taken an orthodox "fit" when he got imprisoned, thinking thereby to get the more hold over his converts. But Paul rejoices at the preaching of Christ, even though some of the preaching is from party motives. He knows how important a knowledge of that dear Name is, and how the great Spirit can acknowledge an enemy as an instrument just as well as a friend. Let the knowledge of Christ be propagated by all means. Even when his enemies undertake the work, let us rejoice in it, for souls are better to hear truth even from the lips of the poorest partisans than not to hear it at all.
III. PAUL'S SANCTIFICATION THROUGH THE PROCESS WAS ASSURED. (Ver. 19.) Paul's salvation, like ours, is a continuous process, manifesting its reality in increasing sanctification. Now, his imprisonment and its blessed results were being sanctified to him through the intercessions of his friends at Philippi and through the unfailing supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. The blessed Spirit can make seeming adversities to be glorious sanctifications for his people. Paul was made by imprisonment more spiritual, more earnest, more faithful to his Master. The prison was the path upwards to heaven.
IV. HIS CONFIDENT AND CHRIST-GLORIFYING BEARING UNTO THE END. (Ver. 20.) Paul did not yet know the issue of his trial. But whether he went to the block or regained liberty, Christ would be magnified by the courageous bearing of his servant. So that he saw the glory of the Master shining clear as a star above and through his bondage. What became of Paul was nothing to him; but what the world would think of Christ was all in all. When the Lord was magnified, all was indeed well Paul's poor "body" had now no other business in the world than to be an instrument for the magnifying of the Master. Let it be crushed or regain liberty, it would in patience or by persevering work promote the glory of him who had bought it and the spirit it enshrined with his blood. The nobility and magnanimity of the apostle in this passage are worthy of all imitation and praise. Such a spirit deserves to succeed in the subjugation of the world for Christ. - R.M.E.
Parallel VersesKJV: But I would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel;