Philippians 1:12 – 18
12 I want you to know, beloved,* that what has happened to me has actually helped to spread the gospel, 13so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard* and to everyone else that my imprisonment is for Christ; 14and most of the brothers and sisters,* having been made confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, dare to speak the word* with greater boldness and without fear.
15 Some proclaim Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from goodwill. 16These proclaim Christ out of love, knowing that I have been put here for the defense of the gospel; 17the others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but intending to increase my suffering in my imprisonment. 18What does it matter? Just this, that Christ is proclaimed in every way, whether out of false motives or true; and in that I rejoice.
Paul addresses the Philippians fondly, as family, and tells them that what has happened to him – his arrest and imprisonment, has helped to spread the gospel. All of the soldiers stationed there have grown to know that his imprisonment is for Christ! While we might think that the use of the term “Imperial Guard” most certainly would refer to Rome, this is actually one line that feeds the debate about where Paul is imprisoned. The word used in the Greek is “praetorium”, which refers to the station of Roman soldiers in the service of the emperor, which could be anywhere, and existed all around the world at the time. But Paul’s point is that all those guarding him, and those around him, have learned that his imprisonment is for Christ. They have come to know this because of Paul’s witness, supported by a spirit and behavior consistent with that witness. Perhaps some of those guards and others around him have actually become believers themselves!
Not only has Paul himself testified to Christ, but his witness has encouraged other Christians in the area to speak up; now they are speaking the word of God fearlessly. It was not that the Romans no longer posed a threat to the Christians around the area, but that they realized that Christ was with them and their confidence and courage was increased. This is a very different response to what happened when Jesus was arrested and all the disciples fled. Fred Craddock (Interpretation Bible Commentary: Philippians) makes an interesting statement in this discussion, “Only by the Holy Spirit can the church experience the miraculous shift of attitude from assuming that wherever the Lord is there is not suffering to believing that wherever there is suffering there the Lord is.”
The gospel is also spread in a surprising way – some who thought of Paul as a rival or competition, now feel emboldened to speak, seeing in his confinement a chance to get ahead. Of course, others increase their labors to help compensate for Paul’s imprisonment, out of love and good will. But Paul rejoices that regardless of their motives, the gospel is being spread.
Why did Paul not protest those who preached out of a false purpose, of rivalry or one-up-manship? These were not the “Judaizers” who preached what Paul called a “false gospel”; these were people preaching the gospel Paul preached. It is their motives that Paul questions – and how can we ever really know another person’s motives? Whatever their motives, Paul rejoices in their results. He is not jealous or envious that his rivals are now achieving success! And from Paul’s attitude here, we can all learn a lesson! What really matters is not who is bringing the message; it is the message itself that is important – the message of Jesus Christ.