Through the Bible with Les Feldick
LESSON 2 * PART 4 * BOOK 39
Philippians 1:1-27 – Part 2
Now coming back where we left off in the last lesson and that would be chapter 1 and verse 17. Now for those of you who missed the first half hour or two, you want to remember that Paul is writing from a Roman prison just outside the praetorian guard in Rome right next door to the palace of Nero. Also remember that Nero was probably the most wicked world leader that ever lived. He made Hitler look like a Sunday school teacher. I was reading in some secular material just the other day that the horrible immoral practices that Nero would force his people in servitude was such that the ordinary civilize person wouldn’t put on paper.
Now I don’t know what it would have been, but you can use your own imagination. Well I tell you some of the things that the did to his own family to show how he had no respect for anyone. First off he had his wife Octavia killed so that he could marry Poppaea, a proselyte of Judaism, who of course encouraged all the activity against the apostle Paul because you know how the Jewish people felt about Paul’s apostleship. Not only did he have his wife Octavia killed in order to marry Poppaea, but he also murdered his step-son, and murdered his own mother Agrippina, and that was only a part of the personality of Nero.
So you want to remember for Paul to make inroads into a government headed up by a man like that, no wonder he was thrilled. No wonder he could say, “I’m ready to be offered, if it’s time for me to go, I’m ready, and if not, then I’ll carry on.” Paul was experiencing the salvation of these Romans all the way into the very elite part of the Roman government. Now continuing on in chapter 1.
“But the other of love,…” Remember in our last lesson his closing remarks were, “Some people were actually promoting his Gospel in order to hopefully bring even more harm to him, but it doesn’t matter as long as people heard the Gospel of the Grace of God.” Let’s look at verse 16 again.
“The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, (just for the purpose of making it harder on the apostle’s condition in prison) supposing to add affliction to my bonds: 17. But the other of love,…” There were actually people now under all those horrible circumstances of Nero’s persecution which is going to grow intensely worse.
“But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel.”
What do you think he’s talking about? When Paul would get his time in court. I think the apostle Paul just cherished those moments he had before King Agrippa and Festus in the Book of Acts, and that’s why he appealed to Rome, which was proud of their judicial system. They weren’t as complete a democracy as we are today, but remember they were a republic. Their laws were fair, and like us, they did not declare anyone guilty until he was proven guilty, or as we put it, “innocent until proven guilty.”
So Paul, I think, was almost relishing another opportunity to come into a judge and jury situation where he could use the power of the Holy Spirit to just unload on these Roman magistrates. So he says, “I am ready for the defense of the Gospel.” You want to remember that’s the only reason that this man is in prison. Paul hadn’t broken any law, or had been trying to overthrow Rome. Paul hadn’t been using any bad remarks about Nero or even the gods and goddess of mythology, but rather all Paul had been doing was preaching the Gospel that saves you, Christ crucified, and risen again. But when the Gospel would transform the lives of the makers of idols such as up there in Ephesus with the Silversmiths, it got him in trouble.
“What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretense, (from these who were doing it simply trying to get Paul into deeper trouble) or in truth, Christ is preached, and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”
Nothing thrilled the heart of that apostle more than to hear of someone saved, especially in Caesar’s household. I hope you all realize that Caesar was a title in Rome, like we would use the word king or president. Nero was the Caesar of this hour. Now verse 19.
“For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”
Now we’ve got to stop again for a moment. Does Paul think that all this activity is going to bring about his own salvation? Why heavens no! You know that Paul knew that many years before. Paul had his salvation, it was secure by his faith, but what he’s talking about is the out working of it all. Let’s read it again.
“For I know that this shall turn to my salvation (freedom) through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ.”
Now I’m going to read between the lines, and I may be as wrong as wrong can be, but I think Paul was confident that with the prayers of the saints, and with his own ability to meet the magistrates and judge and jury of Rome, that he would gain his freedom. And that’s what he was saying in this verse. “Your prayers are going to bring about my salvation.” Not his spiritual salvation, but his actually being set free from prison. Now some people think he was set free. You read some of your writers and it’s almost 50/50 as some think that at this particular time when he took his defense of the Gospel that he actually gained his freedom, and these people call it, “the two imprisonments” Then after being free for a year or two, and some feel it was at that time he went to Spain, but I don’t agree with this thinking. I think he only had one imprisonment, but whatever, if he did indeed gain his freedom then certainly this verse is apropo, that it was the result of the prayers of the saints.
Now don’t ever sell the prayers of the saints short. Iris and I don’t. My there’s nothing that we revel in more than your prayers. We just got back from one of our travels of 5000 miles, and to know that we’ve got people praying for us everyday all over the country, so we know that prayer works. It’s the same way with this television ministry, my we would have never dreamed we’d ever go beyond Tulsa, Oklahoma. I figured after 6 months it would be a dead duck, and we’d be out of here. Well here we are 9 years later and it’s still growing, people are being saved, and learning how to witness to others, and all because of the prayers of the saints. Now verse 20.
“According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always , so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”
In other words, he speaking of his constant day in and day out testimony among these Romans. That reminds me of another verse and I imagine many of you also thought of this verse as we were reading verse 20. Go back to Romans 1:16 for a moment. I try to go slow to give everybody a chance to see the Scriptures for themselves, but every now and then I get a letter that says, “I go too fast.” So I guess I’ll have to slow it down a little bit more and give you a chance to find these references. Here Paul is writing several years before he wrote Philippians.
“For I am not ashamed (do you see that?) of the gospel of Christ: for it (the Gospel) is the power of God unto salvation (for how many?) to every one that believeth;…”
Do you see that? There’s no condition of being baptized in water or anything else to becoming a believer of the Body of Christ. See, if God had put a price on salvation then people would have just flocked to it, because man always wants to do something himself. But He didn’t, it’s free! So Paul was not ashamed of that Gospel that he preached so freely. Now come back to Philippians, which I said was written several years later than Romans, and he has the same mind set. He’s still not ashamed of the Gospel or ashamed of being in prison. He’s been in prison more times than any of us would like to think of. And it was all for the sake of the Gospel, Remember Paul never did anything that was worthy of arrest and imprisonment.
“…in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”
I don’t put a lot of stock on secular news, but I have read that when Paul was a little ways from where they were going to behead him that he actually ran the last few steps to lay his head on the block. That’s a little far fetched, but it wouldn’t surprise me if it happened like that. How anxious he was to give his life for the sake of the Gospel., and always remember that Grace is sufficient. If something like that ever comes our way, and I hope it doesn’t, then God’s Grace will overwhelm us also like it did Paul. Now verse 21 says it all doesn’t it? Oh, when Paul realized that there was nothing more he could do to promote the Gospel, when he was convinced that his time was finished, that God had done everything with him that he wanted to do, what is he? He is so ready to go.
“For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Now as you know, we’ve got it so good, that’s our problem. We’ve got it so good until maybe we’re on the death bed with a horrible painful cancer or something, and I’m sure that would change our mind. But most of us in our average existence have it so good that we’re not really anxious to die. I’m not anxious either! I don’t want to see death, in fact I hate death. Now I’m anxious for the Rapture, in fact I wish it would take place today, because you see that’s going to be a real easy way out of it all. That’s going to be tremendous, don’t have to lay in a hospital bed, or a nursing home, or anything like that would be great. It’s just suddenly going to be a whole new body, and everything for eternity, yeah I’m looking forward to that. But death? No, I don’t like death, but this man was so ready to die because it is to gain Christ. Let’s look at the flip side in verse 22.
“But if I live in the flesh, this is the fruit of my labour: yet what I shall choose I wot (know) not. (why?) 23. For I am in a strait betwixt two, having a desire to depart, and to be with Christ; which is far better. (of course it would be better than a Roman prison) 24. Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”
Now I don’t know how many times you or other people out there think about it, but have you ever tried to think about the circumstances that these new believers found themselves in such as up at Philippi and Ephesus and so forth? Here they are just recently out of idolatrist paganism, with all of its excesses. Those of you who have been over there have seen the evidence of the gross immorality everywhere you look such as in Pompeii, and Corinth, and so forth. How these people came out of that by simple faith in Paul’s Gospel, and then were immediately were confronted with persecution, and the threat of torture, how did they maintain their faith, and grow in it?
Because until Paul begin his letters, which was probably around 58 AD or about 5 or 6 years before he writes his prison epistles, they had no written New Testament to go by. They couldn’t read the New Testament and take comfort from it like we can. You also want to remember that the average Gentile certainly didn’t have the Old Testament, as that was pretty much confined to the synagogues and the rabbi’s. Those Gentile believers just didn’t have a lot going for them except the power of the Holy Spirit to keep them. So this is why he writes in verse 24 that if was more needful for the believer if he stayed alive.
“Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.”
Hopefully Paul would be released and once again make the circle of visiting all the Churches that he had established. What’s the verse I’m going to? I think it’s II Corinthians? Come back with me, and I’ll find it in chapter 11, and we’ll just drop in at verse 22. Remember when I taught the Corinthian letters I was always emphasizing that Paul had to defend his apostleship, especially to the Corinthians. Because remember they were putting him down, and saying, “Well we’d rather follow Peter,” others said “No we’re going to follow Christ, after all He proved who He was.” Then along comes Apollos who was highly educated, and so he won a few. Some said “No, we’re going to stay with Paul.” So he always had to defend his apostleship, that he was not an impostor, that he was invariably the true apostle of the Gentiles.
II Corinthians 11:22-23a
“Are they Hebrews? so am I. (that was in reference to the twelve back there in Jerusalem whom some said were the only ones with authority.) Are they Israelites? so am I. are they the seed of Abraham? so am I. 23. Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) (Paul’s humbling himself) I am more: (the ministers of Christ then they were, and here’s the reasons)in labours more abundant,…”
Remember Scripturally we have no account of the twelve ever leaving in ministry the area of Jerusalem. I had a letter from a gentlemen, that I’m quite sure was from the Catholic persuasion, because I have a lot of those folks as my listeners. But he said that he couldn’t agree with me on my statement that Peter had never visited any Gentile city, and I didn’t say that. I said that Peter had no ministry among the Gentiles. Now I know Peter visited Antioch in Galatians chapter 2, and I’m sure he visited Rome, and he probably visited other places,but, he had, according to this Book, no ministry except to the Jew! So consequently even though those twelve men were all martyred, they didn’t suffer the years of privation that this man did. Look what Paul says.
II Corinthians 11:23
“Are they ministers of Christ? (I speak as a fool) I am more; in labours more abundant, in stripes (the 40 lashes) above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft.”
What he means by that is near death. Remember at Philippi, he was sick nigh unto death, in Ephesus he seemingly escaped with his life as he said, “I escaped the beast in Ephesus.” I don’t think it meant that he was in the coliseum and had to fight off the lions, but the beast of the pagan world. Then of course stoned to death for a little while at Lystra as he was caught up into the third heaven for we don’t know how long as we see in the next chapter, verse 2 and 3.
II Corinthians 11:23b-28
“…in death oft. 24. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. 25. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and day I have been in the deep. (Mediterranean Sea) 26. In journeying often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren; 27. In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness. (and then here it comes, the biggest burden of all) 28. Beside those things that are without, that which cometh upon me daily, the care of all the churches.”
He had a constant concern for all the Churches he had started. They may have been small compared to our Churches today, but they were precious in Paul’s sight, and he knew the pressure that they were all under. So he was constantly aware of and concerned about those little groups of believers that he had established. So all the other sufferings horrible as it was, did not press him down as much as the care or concern for these little cells of believers that he had established. Now come back with me to Philippians.
“Nevertheless to abide in the flesh is more needful for you.” To encourage them, the keeping them from falling back into their pagan practices. To keep them ready for persecution or death, if and when it should come. Now verse 25.
“And having this confidence, (that God was in it all. That everything that fell out to his daily happening were in the providence of God) I know that I shall abide and continue with you all for your furtherance and joy of faith;”
In spite of all the hardships this guy had so much on which his memory could constantly feed. He could remember the time when he was a Jewish religious zealot, what did he do to the Jewish believers? Tortured them, threw them in prison. Saw to it that they were put to death. He couldn’t arrest them fast enough to satisfy that ravenous appetite of religious fervor, so that was constantly on his mind. How he persecuted those early believers. Then to meet the Lord on the road to Damascus, what an experience that must have been? To find out that the God of glory was the same one that he thought he was stamping out? Jesus of Nazareth was the Jehovah that he worshipped? Listen that was something that would knock anyone’s socks off, wasn’t it?
And Paul never forgot it, and then he moves on and all the converts coming out of paganism, and how he could see their lives just cleaned up, and brought out of gross immorality, and became living examples of faith. Even those Roman soldiers, I’m sure that as the praetorian guards would come in and they could almost sense that higher level of morality that was an aura around the apostle Paul. And they knew that here was something not so much the man, but rather the God whom he served. So I’m sure that all of these things just flooded the man’s memory and it would all give rise to a ferverance of his joy. So over and over Paul would say, “Rejoice, rejoice, rejoice.” Now verse 26.
“That your rejoicing may be more abundant in Jesus Christ for me by my coming to you again.”
So what’s Paul looking forward to? Getting out of prison. He was pretty confident that he was going to beat the wrap, and that’s why he was so ready for his defense. He honestly hoped that day would come, and like I said before, some feel he did get out of prison, and some feel he did not. Now verse 27.
“Only let your conversation (in some places the word conversation means citizenship, like it does in chapter 3, but here it means manner of living, your life style) be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;”
That’s all that counted. He didn’t worry about how much food they had to eat. He didn’t worry about how many Cadillacs they had in their garage. All Paul was concerned about, is their faith that which would prepare them for eternity. But today we’re living in such a materialistic age that we are just sort of programmed to equate everything with the material. Oh yeah I’ll be spiritual if it’ll give me material blessings. Listen that’s not in here. I got a letter the other day where this person got a kick out of the time I made the statement, “I’ll never tell you to send me 50 bucks so you’ll get a thousand.” Listen that’s not in this Bible, that is not the work of Scripture, but rather it’s our faith in the Gospel.