The Advance of the Gospel (Philippians 1:12–26)

paul-in-chainsPaul wanted to go to Rome as a preacher, but instead he went as a prisoner! He could have written a long letter about that experience alone. Instead, he sums it all up as “the things which happened to me” (1:12). The record of these things is given in Acts 21:17–28:31 and it begins with Paul’s illegal arrest in the temple in Jerusalem.

To many, all of this would have looked like failure, but not to this man with a “single mind,” concerned with sharing Christ and the Gospel. Paul did not find his joy in ideal circumstances; he found his joy in winning others to Christ. And if his circumstances promoted the furtherance or advance of the Gospel, that was all that mattered! Instead of finding himself confined as a prisoner, Paul discovered his circumstances really opened up new areas of ministry.

God still wants His children to take the Gospel into new areas. He wants us to be pioneers and sometimes He arranges circumstances so that we can be nothing else but pioneers. In fact, that is how the Gospel originally came to Philippi! Paul had tried to enter other territory, but God had repeatedly shut the door (Acts 16:6–10). Paul wanted to take the message eastward into Asia, but God directed him to take it westward into Europe. What a difference it would have made in the history of mankind if Paul had been permitted to follow his plan instead of God’s!

God sometimes uses strange tools to help us pioneer the Gospel. In Paul’s case, there were three tools that helped him take the Gospel to the elite guards, Caesar’s special troops.

Paul’s Chains (1:12–14)

The same God who used Moses’ rod, Gideon’s pitchers, and David’s sling used Paul’s chains. Little did the Romans realize that the chains they affixed to his wrists would release Paul instead of bind him! Even as he wrote during a later imprisonment, “I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal, but God’s Word is not chained” (2 Tim. 2:9). He did not complain about his chains; instead he consecrated them to God and asked God to use them for the pioneer advance of the Gospel. And God answered his prayers.

To begin with, these chains gave Paul contact with the lost. He was chained to a Roman soldier twenty-four hours a day! The shifts changed every six hours, which meant Paul could witness to at least four men each day! Imagine yourself as one of those soldiers, chained to a man who prayed “without ceasing,” who was constantly interviewing people about their spiritual condition, and who was repeatedly writing letters to Christians and churches throughout the empire! It was not long before some of these soldiers put their faith in Christ. Paul was able to get the Gospel to the elite guards, something he could not have done had he been a free man.

But the chains gave Paul contact with another group of people as well: the officials in Caesar’s court. He was in Rome as an official prisoner and his case was an important one. The Roman government was going to determine the official status of this new “Christian” sect. Was it merely another sect of the Jews? Or was it something new and possibly dangerous? Imagine how pleased Paul must have been knowing that the court officials were forced to study the doctrines of the Christian faith!

Sometimes God has to put “chains” on His people to get them to accomplish a “pioneer advance” that could never happen any other way. Young mothers may feel chained to the home as they care for their children, but God can use those “chains” to reach people with the message of salvation. Susannah Wesley was the mother of nineteen children, before the days of labor-saving devices and disposable diapers! Out of that large family came John and Charles Wesley, whose combined ministries shook the British Isles. At six weeks of age, Fanny Crosby was blinded, but even as a youngster, she determined not to be confined by the chains of darkness. In time, she became a mighty force for God through her hymns and Gospel songs.

The secret is this: when you have the single mind, you look on your circumstances as God-given opportunities for the furtherance of the Gospel; and you rejoice at what God is going to do instead of complaining about what God did not do.

Paul’s chains not only gave contact with the lost, but they also gave courage to the saved. Many of the believers in Rome took fresh courage when they saw Paul’s faith and determination (1:14). They were “much more bold to speak the word without fear.” That word speak does not mean “preach.” Rather, it means “everyday conversation.” No doubt many of the Romans were discussing Paul’s case because such legal matters were of primary concern to this nation of lawmakers. And the Christians in Rome who were sympathetic to Paul took advantage of this conversation to say a good word for Jesus Christ. Discouragement has a way of spreading, but so does encouragement! Because of Paul’s joyful attitude the believers in Rome took fresh courage and witnessed boldly for Christ.

While recovering in the hospital from a serious auto accident, Bob received a letter from a total stranger who seemed to know just what to say to make his day brighter. In fact, he received several letters from him and each one was better than the one before. When he was able to get around, Bob met him personally. He was amazed to discover that he was blind, a diabetic, handicapped because of a leg amputation, and that he lived with and cared for his elderly mother! If a man ever wore chains, this man did! But if a man ever was free to pioneer the Gospel, this man was! He was able to share Christ in high school assemblies, before service clubs, at the “Y,” and before professional people in meetings that would have been closed to an ordained minister. He had the single mind; he lived for Christ and the Gospel. Consequently, he shared the joy of furthering the Gospel.

Our chains may not be as dramatic or difficult, but there is no reason why God cannot use them in the same way.

In Part 2, we will look at two more tools Paul used to take the Gospel to the elite guards.


  1. A joyful response to the chains God places us in is a powerful testimony of Christ living in us. It gives us immediate connection points with those God places in our midst.

  2. God brings good out of all our circumstances Pastor Joe but He dose not afflict us with evil to bring good out of them and I have shared why before and with the confirmation of Scripture, which we will understand if we have Spiritual eyes to see and have been healed of what causes us to remain in darkness, when we have been healed or delivered we will have no doubt that He is Love and does not deliberately afflict us or cause us to suffer.

    I will be Posting about this soon as God has shown me why I did not realize this as His Truth for many years. To be set free of those things that cause our spiritual blindness, they have to be exposed to the Light and not remain buried in our futile attempts to protect ourselves from the pain they caused when they happened to us and if buried they cause us to respond to situations and believe untruths not just about others but also about God that if not corrected will lead to further suffering and eventually for some to falling away.

    Just thought I would also share that the word Speak means Preach in the early Greek but than it does depend in what context it is used in, which is perhaps what you were meaning Pastor Joe. As a Christian woman, I’m not to Speak meaning Preach in Authority in a congregation of men and woman in a Church of God as confirmed in Scripture and this is not just in reference to the early Church but to all of His Churches up to the present time but we are asked to share His Truth as Spiritually there is no difference between men and woman but our God given roles are different and neither one is inferior or Superior.

    I have not heard from you Pastor Joe, so you are either not receiving my e-mails and I have tried another e-mail address of yours or you don’t want me to help you as we talked about, not meaning listening and responding to your Audios, I do enjoy doing this very much, anyway I see no point in continuing to e-mail you until I hear from you and know which way you want me to respond to your need or if you still want me too, as I shared with you I’m more than willing to and have Ron’s approval too.

    Christian Love -Anne

      1. To be honest Pastor Joe, I was more concerned you were not receiving my e-mails as others had told me they didn’t, I was also having problems downloading your e-mails so I took note of what you said and changed my Passwords, it was for your benefit that promoted my concern in the first place as you no doubt realise, so take your time if there is no urgency.

        I listened to your Audio as advised I would and your focus on Christ’s clothing was good, we do need to cloth ourselves in His righteousness but we can’t wear two garments we need to put our Carnal flesh to death first by The Holy Spirit, good and evil cannot co-exist, (Romans8) as we choose to walk in the Fruit of The Spirit, He empowers us so we can. The rest of your message also had some very good Highlights, thank you for sharing them with me each week.

        Your Statement Pastor Joe about “Preach and Speak ” was what promoted my response in my comment, the same with the chains, some blame God for their hardship and suffering without understanding as you said and I agreed in my comment, that He works all things for good in our lives even the evil that afflicts us but He does not use evil to afflict us for His good works, all good things come from God not evil, but sadly some do not understand how He disciplines and chastises us and this is why they propagate that He afflicts and hurts us deliberately.

        Lamentations 3: 33 For God doth not afflict willingly nor grieve the children of men.

        Christian Love from us both – Anne.

  3. I think I’m missing something here. I’m not understanding the relevance between the comment by Anne and your post. As for your post. Simply put, well said.

    I had a pastor that stated something that most people don’t even notice:

    Many people say that they wonder where God wants them. The answer is pretty simple. Wherever you’re at is where he wants you otherwise, you wouldn’t be there. Truly, we try to find all sorts of ways to do our own thing but, if you are following His word and attempting to live His way, you’ll be ‘placed’ where He wants you to do what He wants you to do.

  4. I read a story about Paul and his journeys. I fell in love with him immediately. He was a light in the dark and dangerous world during those times. He was able to move through crowds with ease (and yes, he was stoned and mocked) But he did not walk alone. The Holy Spirit walked with him and helped him to preach the Gospel with the help of his friends who gave him shelter. I look at my own life, and I see no other way, I could have made it through alive, without God walking with me and talking to me. God has made our brains, and He knows how they work of course. We only have to listen and move through life with assurance that He is there. The One who made us and who wants us to love Him. Love means, giving, following, and living according to His will, not mine. The brain speaks to us and the Holy Spirit guides us to our destination. Read the words and find the meaning of the journey we are called to take, as Paul was called to preach to the Gentiles the words of Christ and His glory as savior of those who believe in Him, love and obey Him.

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