His readers could very understandably have concluded that Paul's imprisonment had brought the building of the church of Jesus Christ to a standstill, or at least slowed its progress significantly. However the apostle announced that this had not happened. Rather his imprisonment was resulting in the advancement of God's program. In relation to the progress of the gospel, Paul's imprisonment was really a good thing, a positive situation.
"The same God who used Moses' rod, Gideon's pitchers, and David's sling, used Paul's chains."29
1:13 The point of this verse is that because of Paul's imprisonment in Rome many people had heard the gospel who would not otherwise have heard it. The phrase, "my imprisonment in the cause ofChrist,"30(NASB) or, "I am in chains for Christ,"(NIV) in the Greek text stresses an important fact. Paul's relationship to Christ, not just his service for Christ, was what had become known. People had become aware of Paul's personal relationship with the Savior because he had shared his testimony with them.
Two groups had received the apostle's witness, the praetorian guard and many other people. The praetorian guard probably refers to the soldiers who were members of the regiment assigned to guard many of the high-ranking officials in the Roman government.31These soldiers were also responsible to guard prisoners who had appealed to Caesar such as Paul. It was an honor to be one of these guards. They would have been with Paul in his hired house where he was under house arrest 24 hours a day (cf. Acts 28:30-31). Paul had the opportunity to witness to many of these high-ranking soldiers, and he viewed this as a great blessing.
The "everyone else"group included unsaved members of the Jewish community (Acts 28:17-29), some Gentiles (e.g., Phile. 10), and Paul's fellow Christians. Paul evidently was communicating with many people even though he was a prisoner.
1:14 A second reason Paul felt encouraged even though he was in prison was this. His example of aggressive witness had inspired the Roman Christians to be more outspoken in sharing the gospel. Rather than taking a lower profile because their leader was in chains, most of the local believers felt inspired by Paul's courage. They were standing up boldly for Christ and trusting Him as they had not done before.
1:15 Of these local Roman Christians who were now witnessing and preaching more boldly there were two types distinguished by their motivation.32Some were hoping to advance their own reputations by their activities. They were envious of Paul's prominence and were striving with their fellow believers for selfish reasons.33Others had a sincere desire to reach the lost and to meet the needs that Paul's confinement had created.
1:16 Love for God and Paul motivated the members of this second group. Moreover they believed the apostle's present confinement was a situation that God had ordained for the defense of the gospel. They evidently accepted this by faith even though they may not have understood how Paul's imprisonment fit into God's plan for the building of His church.
1:17 Paul's arrival in Rome may have caused some of the self-seeking opportunists in the Roman church some distress. Attention would have shifted from them to him. Nevertheless with him in confinement they had an opportunity to regain the spotlight by becoming more active and outspoken. Evidently some of them thought that their prominence would distress Paul as his prominence distressed them. However, Paul was much less selfish than they were.
1:18 The idiom ti gar, translated, "What then?"in the NASB, means, "What does it matter?"(NIV). While motivation is important, it is even more important that the gospel gets proclaimed. Paul believed that it was better for people with impure motives to preach Christ than that they not preach Him at all.
"The power of the gospel, therefore, does not depend on the character of the preacher."34
Paul's judgment here, by the way, is an example of seeking the best rather than just the good (cf. vv. 9-10). He rejoiced and would continue to rejoice that his imprisonment had resulted in the more extensive proclamation of the good news of salvation.
". . . when you have the single mind, you look upon your circumstances as God-given opportunities for the furtherance of the Gospel, and you rejoice at what God is going to doinstead of complaining about what God did not do."35
Verses 12-18 present Paul as a positive model for all believers. Rather than valuing his own comfort, reputation, and freedom above all else, he put the advancement of God's plan first. He discerned what was best (v. 10). He could maintain a truly joyful attitude even in unpleasant circumstances because he derived his joy from seeing God glorified rather than from seeing himself exalted. His behavior in prison had been pure and blameless (cf. v. 10).