The Advance of the Gospel: Part 2 (Philippians 1:12–26)

Phil 1.21God 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. In Part 1, we looked at the first tool: Paul’s chains. Now, we will consider the next two tools.

Paul’s Critics (1:15–19)

It is hard to believe that anyone would oppose Paul, but there were believers in Rome doing just that. The churches there were divided. Some preached Christ sincerely, wanting to see people saved. Others preached Christ insincerely, wanting to make the situation more difficult for Paul. The latter group was using the Gospel to further their own selfish purposes. Perhaps they belonged to the “legalistic” wing of the church that opposed Paul’s ministry to the Gentiles and his emphasis on the grace of God, as opposed to obedience to the Jewish Law. Envy and strife go together, just as love and unity go together.

Paul’s aim was to glorify Christ and get people to follow Him; his critics’ aim was to promote themselves and win a following of their own. Instead of asking, “Have you trusted Christ?” they asked, “Whose side are you on—ours or Paul’s?” Unfortunately, this kind of “religious politics” is still seen today. And the people who practice it need to realize they are only hurting themselves.

When you have the single mind, you look on your critics as another opportunity for the furtherance of the Gospel. Like a faithful soldier, Paul was “put here [appointed] for the defense of the Gospel” (1:16). He was able to rejoice, not in the selfishness of his critics, but in the fact that Christ was being preached! There was no envy in Paul’s heart. It mattered not that some were for him and some were against him. All that mattered was the preaching of the Gospel of Jesus Christ!

It is a matter of historic record that the two great English evangelists, John Wesley and George Whitefield, disagreed on doctrinal matters. Both of them were very successful, preaching to thousands of people and seeing multitudes come to Christ. It is reported that somebody asked Wesley if he expected to see Whitefield in heaven and the evangelist replied, “No, I do not.”

“Then you do not think Whitefield is a converted man?”

“Of course he is a converted man!” Wesley said. “But I do not expect to see him in heaven—because he will be so close to the throne of God and I so far away that I will not be able to see him!” Though he differed with his brother in some matters, Wesley did not have any envy in his heart, nor did he seek to oppose Whitefield’s ministry.

Criticism is usually very hard to take, particularly when we are in difficult circumstances, as Paul was. How was the apostle able to rejoice even in the face of such diverse criticism? He possessed the single mind! Philippians 1:19 indicates that Paul expected his case to turn out victoriously (“to my deliverance”) because of the prayers of his friends and the supply of the Holy Spirit of God. Paul was not depending on his own dwindling resources; he was depending on the generous resources of God, ministered by the Holy Spirit.

Paul shared in the pioneer advance of the Gospel in Rome through his chains and his critics; but he had a third tool that he used.

Paul’s Crisis (1:20–26)

As we have seen because of Paul’s chains, Christ was known (1:13) and because of Paul’s critics, Christ was preached (1:18). But now, we see because of Paul’s crisis, Christ was magnified! (1:20). While it was possible Paul would be found a traitor to Rome and then executed, his preliminary trial had apparently gone in his favor. Although the final verdict was yet to come, Paul’s body was not his own and his only desire (because he had the “single mind”) was to magnify Christ in his body.

Does Christ need to be magnified? After all, how can a mere human being ever magnify the Son of God? Well, the stars are much bigger than the telescope, and yet the telescope magnifies them and brings them closer. The believer’s body is to be a telescope that brings Jesus Christ close to people. To the average person, Christ is a misty figure in history who lived centuries ago. But as the unsaved watch the believer go through a crisis, they can see Jesus magnified and brought so much closer. To the Christian with the single mind, Christ is with us here and now.

The telescope brings distant things closer and the microscope makes tiny things look big. To the unbeliever, Jesus is not very big. Other people and other things are far more important. But as the unbeliever watches the Christian go through a crisis experience, he ought to be able to see how big Jesus really is. The believer’s body is a “lens” that makes a “little Christ” look very big and a “distant Christ” come very close.

Paul was not afraid of life or death! Either way, he wanted to magnify Christ in his body. No wonder he had joy!

Paul confesses he is facing a difficult decision. To remain alive was necessary for the believers’ benefit in Philippi, but to depart and be with Christ was far better. Paul decided that Christ would have him remain, not only for the “advance of the Gospel” (1:12), but also for the “progress and joy in their faith” (1:25). He wanted them to make some “pioneer advance” into new areas of spiritual growth. (Paul also admonished Timothy, the young pastor, to be sure to pioneer new spiritual territory in his own life and ministry, 1 Tim. 4:15).

What a man Paul is! He is willing to postpone going to heaven in order to help Christians grow and he is willing to go to hell in order to win the lost to Christ! (Rom. 9:1–3)

Of course, death had no terrors for Paul. It simply meant “departing.” This word was used by the soldiers; it meant “to take down your tent and move on.” What a picture of Christian death! The “tent” we live in is taken down at death and the spirit goes home to be with Christ in heaven (2 Cor. 5:1–8).

Departure was also a political term; it described the setting free of a prisoner. God’s people are in bondage because of the limitations of the body and the temptations of the flesh, but death will free them. Or they will be freed at the return of Christ (Rom. 8:18–23) if that should come first.

Finally, departure was a word used by the farmers; it meant “to unyoke the oxen.” Paul had taken Christ’s yoke, which is an easy yoke to bear (Matt. 11:28–30), but how many burdens he carried in his ministry! (If you need your memory refreshed, read 2 Cor. 11:22–12:10.) To depart to be with Christ would mean laying aside the burdens, his earthly work completed.

No matter how you look at it, nothing can steal a man’s joy if he possesses the single mind! “For me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (1:21). What makes you come alive? The thing that excites us and “turns us on” is the thing that really is “life” to us. In Paul’s case, Christ was his life. Christ excited him and made his life worth living.

Philippians 1:21 becomes a valuable test of our lives: “For me, to live is__________ and to die is_________.” Fill in the blanks yourself.

  • For me, to live is money and to die is to leave it all behind.
  • For me, to live is fame and to die is to be forgotten.
  • For me, to live is power and to die is to lose it all.

No, we must echo Paul’s convictions if we are going to have joy in spite of circumstances and if we are going to share in the advance of the Gospel: “For me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain!”


  1. Thank you for bringing out a very important Truth Pastor Joe, Paul suffered greatly but as you said God kept him strong because his focus remained fixed on Jesus and yes like he did, we must also put to death our Carnal flesh so we can Live Victoriously as we serve the King of kings and Lord of lords.

    Have you heard of Major Ian Thomas, Pastor Joe, his message was one that really impacted me later in my walk with The Lord, his main focus was on a very important Truth which is an undeniable Scriptural reality as shown below, I would love to hear what your understanding of them is too Pastor Joe if not now, some time in the near future.

    Colossians 1:27-29 To whom God would make known what is the riches of the glory of this mystery among the Gentiles; which is Christ in you, the hope of glory Whom we preach, warning every man, and teaching every man in all wisdom; that we may present every man perfect in Christ Jesus Whereunto I also labour, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily(KJV)

    Galatians 2: 20 I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who Loved me, and gave Himself for me.(KJV)

    Ephesians 3:16-18 That he would grant you, according to the riches of his glory, to be strengthened with might by his Spirit in the inner man; That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith; that ye, being rooted and grounded in Love, May be able to comprehend with all Saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height;(KJV)

    Galatians 3:26-28 For ye are all the Children of God by faith in Christ Jesus. For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.(KJV)

    2 Corinthians 13:4-6 For though He was crucified through weakness, yet He liveth by the power of God. For we also are weak in Him, but we shall live with Him, by the power of God toward you. Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves. Know ye not your own selves, how that Jesus Christ is in you, except ye be reprobates? But I trust that ye shall know that we are not reprobates.(KJV)

    2 Corinthians 5:16-18 Wherefore henceforth know we no man after the flesh: yea, though we have known Christ after the flesh, yet now henceforth know we Him no more. Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new. And all things are of God, who hath reconciled us to Himself by Jesus Christ, and hath given to us the ministry of reconciliation(KJV)

    1 Corinthians 1:29-31That no flesh should glory in His presence. But of Him are ye in Christ Jesus, who of God is made unto us wisdom, and righteousness, and sanctification, and redemption:That, according as it is written, he that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.(KJV)

    Christian Love in our Unity in Christ Jesus – Anne.

    1. Thanks Anne. Second to Christ, I think Paul is my hero in the faith. From the little I know about Major Ian Thomas, he reminds me of myself. We both were saved as pre-teens and dedicated our lives to the Lord’s service when we were 15, but neither of us fully understood the indwelling power of the Holy Spirit until several years later. I will do some research about him to learn more.

      Those are good verses. Are you asking me to interpret them?

      God bless!

      1. It’s good Pastor Joe that you have heard of Major Ian Thomas, a lot haven’t but he made a big impact with his teaching in Australia, although it was not always accepted even though it is confirmed in Scripture.

        Do as you feel lead in reference to interpreting the Scriptures in my comment that he often shared, I have no doubt about them as I’m sure you don’t, with you being a believer in God’s Truth.

        Please remember Pastor Joe to send your Audio this week, I appreciate your focus.

        Christian Love in our Unity in Christ Jesus – Anne

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