Friday, March 23, 2007

Paul's Situation--Philippians 1:12

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me…”

Around 57 AD Paul wrote his letter to the church at Rome. In it Paul says this, “I long to see you…I want you to know, brothers, that I have often intended to come to you…” We learn further from Acts 19:21 and 23:11 that Paul’s longing was to preach the gospel in Rome. Perhaps he knew the impact this would have upon the world. If the gospel can spread to Rome then it can spread throughout the world. Paul had longed to go to Rome as a freedman and preach the gospel.

But something happened shortly after Paul wrote his letter to the Romans. He was imprisoned in Caesarea. It certainly would have appeared that this evangelist’s days were over (and perhaps he would never be able to preach the gospel in Rome). But God in his great wisdom actually used this circumstance to further His kingdom and fulfill Paul’s passion; this imprisonment would lead Paul to Rome. Gerald Hawthorne in his commentary to the Philippians says it well:

“When Paul was arrested in Jerusalem (Acts 21) and shut away in prison in Caesarea (Acts 23, 24), one could easily imagine that this was the end of his ministry, especially as his imprisonment dragged on month after month (Acts 24:27). But in the providence of God the place of his imprisonment, the Praetorium of Herod (Acts 23:35), and the length of his imprisonment, both served to thrust the gospel up into higher levels of Roman society than it had ever reached before.”[1]

We are going to learn in the coming days that this seemingly crummy circumstance has really served to advance the gospel. What I really love about this story is that Paul is dying to get to Rome—and in the wisdom of God he sends Paul to Rome as a prisoner. As we are going to learn in the coming days Paul was able to minister to people and places that had he not been a prisoner he probably would have never won an audience.

Before applying this I also want to mention another possibility of Paul’s circumstances. As one commentator noted, “Verse 12 does not seem to be a reference to his imprisonment, about which previous communication with the Philippians had informed them, but to more recent developments. Perhaps Paul had been moved from his hired house (Acts 28:30) to the Praetorian camp or to some place more accessible to the trial scene.”[2]

So, it is quite possible that it is not only Paul’s imprisonment that is causing concern. Paul certainly would have understood what James meant when he said, “you do not know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little time and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, ‘If the Lord wills, we will live and do this or that”. For Paul each day was up in the air. He had to live each day by faith.

Think upon this today:
  • What “crummy” situations in my life could be used for God’s glory?
  • Would your attitude be the same as Paul’s if things did not work out quite like you planned?
  • Do you live each day by faith or do you plan out your entire life?
[1] Hawthrone, Gerald. Word Biblical Commentary. Taken from
[2] Kent, Homer. Expositor’s Bible Commentary. Taken from

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