Lately, I have been meditating on Philippians 1:12, which says; “I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel.”
That sounds like wonderful news! Something happened to the apostle Paul that resulted in the gospel being heard throughout Ancient Rome. Furthermore, what happened to Paul set the stage for a world-wide gospel advance. Who, as people knowing Christ, wouldn’t want that?
I dream of a day in this country when it would be impossible to live here without having to decide what to do with Jesus and His gospel.
I have a dream for Canada that relates to this very thing. I dream of a day in this country when it would be impossible to live here without having to decide what to do with Jesus and His gospel. As it is now, many Canadians live and die in this country without having to wrestle with the claims of Christ. I pray for something to happen that would serve to advance the gospel in Canada. And that brings me back to Philippians 1:12, and what happened to the apostle Paul.
Philippians is a book of partnership. Paul and the Philippian church had joined together to look for ways to bring the gospel to the heart of the Roman Empire. But something happened along the way that disrupted their plans. Paul was arrested in Jerusalem, due to the hatred which some Jewish leaders had against him and the gospel of Jesus. For the next 2 years, Paul was imprisoned in the Roman fortress of Caesarea, located along the shores of the Mediterranean Sea in Israel. Paul was not afforded a proper trial. The charges against him were bogus. He was held in prison as a result of political expediency.
In desperation, Paul was forced to appeal to Rome. He was then put on board a ship and brought to a prison in Rome. He appeared before Caesar’s tribunal where his fate was to be decided. Paul knew he would either be exonerated and released or found guilty and get beheaded. His fate was uncertain.
The book of Philippians was written in the midst of this difficult and uncertain time.
The Philippian church, understandably, wanted to know the status of their partnership. Was their dream dead? Paul wrote to them, explaining that it was not. He had been chained, day and night, to a member of the Roman Praetorium, the elite Roman guard charged with the safety and the security of the Empire. Paul had been sharing the gospel with this man, and in consequence, Caesar’s household was hearing about the gospel, and talking about it. Furthermore, the Roman Church, once intimidated by the Imperial might of Rome, had witnessed Paul’s courage. In consequence, the Christians in Rome were emboldened by Paul’s example.
Paul wrote the book of Philippians to let the church in Philippi know, that were it not for persecution, were it not for his arrest, and were it not for the disruption of their plans, this advance of the gospel would never have occurred.
And so, I have been meditating on Philippians 1:12. This text challenges my assumptions as to how the gospel might make greater inroads into Canada. It also challenges my love affair with personal comfort and safety. What if Canadian Christians would be willing, like Paul, to count all worldly advantage as rubbish? What if we were to pray, “Father, cause your gospel to increase, regardless of what it might cost”? What could happen?
Dr. John Neufeld
Bible teacher, Back to the Bible Canada