Having expressed his prayer for his brothers and sisters in Christ, Paul goes on to
assure them that his present imprisonment has good results by the providence and power of God.
1:12–14 Benefits from imprisonment
The apostle sees his own fate and the proclamation of the gospel as bound tightly together.
His imprisonment was no mere accident of history; it was part of the divine plan to promote the spreading of the gospel.
He dispels any suggestion that he was no true disciple just because he was prevented from preaching by his time in prison,
or that his imprisonment actually hindered the progress of the faith. He gives two reasons why his imprisonment served
to advance the cause of Christ. First of all it was seen by those who were guarding him and by the pagans that he was
not in prison because he had broken the laws of the empire or offended the political and civil authorities. He was imprisoned
because he preached the gospel of Jesus Christ. Secondly, most ordinary Christians were made bolder and more confident
in speaking the word of God even though they recognized that they opened themselves to the same fate as Paul. His absence
contributed to their spiritual development. The praetorian guard was the official bodyguard of the emperor, but as it
numbered as many as 9,000 members Paul must have met only a proportion of them.
1:15–18 Christ is proclaimed
These verses are not easy to interpret for they appear to stand in tension with verse 14 where Paul had spoken approvingly
of Christians’ being strengthened by his own witness in prison. Here his imprisonment appears to have caused a
division among the Christians. Those who were jealous of his position and authority, or who had a different strategy
of mission from his own, apparently increased their evangelistic work in the hope of stirring him to envy, and to show that
they were more successful. Others out of love for the apostle and recognition of the true purpose of his imprisonment
were also enthusiastic in their evangelism. Since Paul’s primary purpose was to proclaim the gospel, and since
this was being done despite his own imprisonment and despite mixed motives, he rejoiced.
The actual identity of those who preached from envy and rivalry is difficult to establish.
They were not false teachers. Paul attacks not their teaching but their purpose as far as he is involved. They
are probably a group of evangelists who regard Paul as an obstacle to preaching the gospel because he is seen to be in prison.
It is not that they have anything against Paul personally, but that their idea of effective missionary tactics has no
place for obvious defeat. They depend on triumph over the opposition and unhindered success, and so are embarrassed
by the apostle’s imprisonment.
Questions for discussion
1. Is persecution of Christians, whatever form it takes, always because of their commitment to Christ? Are other
2. Do Christians only tend to see the definite providence of God in their lives when obvious practical and spiritual
effects are to be seen
3. How important is the motivation of Christians in the proclamation of the gospel? Does God bless imperfect motivation?
4. What is the way in which the gospel should be proclaimed to western people? Is there one way or a variety of ways
depending on the social and cultural background of the hearers?