Below are some preliminary questions to assist in the study of this passage. For a comprehensive study of the passage, download the Study Guide (PDF download).
1. What event does Paul mention in verses 12-14 (printed below?) What has been the unexpected outcome of this event?
Now I want you to know, brothers, that the things that have happened to me have actually resulted in the advancement of the gospel. (13) It has become evident to the whole Praetorian guard and to everyone else that I am a prisoner for Christ. (14) Furthermore, due to my imprisonment, many of the brothers have become much more confident in the Lord, taking it upon themselves to speak the word without fear. (Philippians 1:12-14)
Paul relates how his imprisonment, intended to silence the gospel, has actually resulted in a greater propagation of the gospel. By virtue of Paul’s testimony in prison the gospel is reaching a new audience, the Praetorian Guard (a contingent of elite Roman soldiers). Furthermore, by virtue of Paul’s faithful witness even as a prisoner, more Christians are taking courage to speak out for Christ, so now Paul’s witness is multiplied by that of the Roman Christians.
2. What other adverse circumstance does Paul report in verse 15-18 (printed below?) What positive result does Paul mention?
Some are preaching Christ out of envy and for the sake of strife, but others are preaching with good will. (16) The latter are doing so out of love, knowing that I am standing on trial for the defense of the gospel. (17) But the former are proclaiming Christ out of selfish ambition, not with a pure motive; they are seeking to stir up trouble for me in my imprisonment. (18) What about all this? My only concern is that in every way, whether from false motives or in sincerity, Christ is being preached—and in this I rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18)
In verses 15-18 Paul relates that even though there are those who are preaching the gospel from ulterior motives (hoping to incite Roman opposition against Paul by publicly proclaiming that Paul is preaching that Jesus, not Caesar, is the true Lord over all), they are nevertheless preaching the gospel. Thus, inadvertently they are helping to advance the cause of Christ despite their true intentions.
3. What is Paul’s confident hope and expectation? See Philippians 1:20 (printed below)
This is in keeping with my heart-felt expectation and hope that in no circumstance will I be put to shame; on the contrary, I have all confidence that as always, so now also, Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death (Philippians 1:20)
In verse 20 the apostle Paul speaks of his confident hope and expectation: “in no circumstance will I be put to shame.” The Greek term translated “put to shame,” can also be rendered “disappointed.” The main idea conveyed by this word is that of being confounded, defeated, reduced to a state of humiliation and ruin. But, Paul is confident that in the ultimate sense, such shall never happen to him. The apostle goes on to explain the positive aspect of his confident expectation: “Christ will be exalted in my body.” Note that his hope is not that he personally shall be honored, but rather that Christ shall be honored, indeed, exalted in his life.
4. What is Paul’s personal testimony? How does he define his Christian life? See Philippians 1:21 (printed below)
…for me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. (Philippians 1:21)
Christ is the supreme object of the apostle Paul’s desire. Christ is also the supreme object of the apostle Paul’s devotion. Because Christ is the supreme object of the apostle Paul’s life, he can declare, “for me to die is gain,” (because as a Christian, it will bring him into a deeper, purer, more direct and undistracted communion with Christ).
5. What dilemma does Paul presently face? What decision will he make? See Philippians 1:22-25 (printed below)
But if I continue to live in the body, this will mean fruitful labor for me, so I do not know what I shall choose. (23) I am torn between the two. I have the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better; (24) but for your sake it is more necessary for me to remain in the body. (25) Being confident of this, I know that I will remain and continue to remain with you all for your progress and joy in the faith (Philippians 1:22-25)
Consider the apostle Paul’s present circumstances: he is in prison at Rome awaiting the day of his trial and he will soon stand before Caesar and the decision shall be made as to whether he will be released or executed. Now consider the apostle’s desire: “I have the desire to depart and be with Christ; for that is very far better.” Next consider the apostle Paul’s dilemma: execution means departure out of this world into the immediate presence of Christ, which is very far better than life in this world; but release from prison means continued fruitful labor for Christ (vs.22) and a ministry to the church that is needed (vs.24). Being confident that a continued ministry will be necessary and beneficial to the church, the apostle is sure that Christ’s will for him is to accept his release from prison and carry on his ministry, and Paul is willing to accept Christ’s will for his life.