The Spread of the Gospel in Rome
And I want you to know, my dear brothers and sisters, that everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News. For everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains because of Christ. And because of my imprisonment, most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear. It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me.
But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice.Phil 1:12-18
We will now focus on:
- I want you to know
- everything has happened to help the spread of the Gospel
- everyone here
- including the palace guard [praitōrion]
- in chains because of Christ
- because of my imprisonment
- results among the believers
- reaction among others who preach
- a careful examination of verse 18
To which one reader (Ross) has added a couple more questions:
- they have learned all about Jesus but did they accept him as Messiah? (Verse 13)
- If people are not sincere in telling about Christ what makes Paul so glad for they are more likely to scoff at the claims of Jesus as Messiah? (Verse 18)
I want you to know
What exactly is it that Paul wanted the Philippians to know? Exactly what he wrote. That “everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Good News.” Remember the Philippians had been his faithful supporters in the spread of the Gospel. They had prayed and given so that Paul could spread the Gospel of Christ everywhere he went. It is only natural therefore that Paul wanted to update his supporters on what was happening, like any normal missionary. The Philippians witnessed what Paul had done among them while he was with them. They were expecting similar things from his on-going work. There is one very interesting feature of this I have to comment on – in the next section.
Everything has happened to help the spread of the Gospel
When Paul wrote “everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Gospel, how true that was. The interesting feature I hinted at above: Paul was in prison in Rome. What connections does that bring up in your mind? Paul was writing his letter in this case to the Philippians. They know only too well how things worked out for Paul in Philippi. Why would similar things not be happening in the same way there in Rome. What am I talking about? Paul’s prison experience in Philippi of course. The saints in Philippi remembered what happened when Paul was jailed in their city. It would be no surprise that Paul’s imprisonment would “work out for the good of the Gospel” in Rome. The Philippian believers would recall instantly all that happened after Paul was imprisoned in Philippi. You can recall it too because I suggested you read the account of Paul’s escapades in Philippi before we started analysing this letter. Escapades is the perfect word for Paul’s adventures in Philippi. You can bet the details of Paul’s escape from the jail in Philippi came vividly to mind as the Philippians read Paul’s letter from Rome. Yes indeed, everything that happened to Paul in Rome helped to spread the Gospel, like it had in Philippi. As they talked about and prayed about Paul’s news you can bet they were drawing out the similarities and their remembrances of when Paul had been with them.
The word [mellon] in this section could be translated “rather” or it could be given the strength of “really”. What has happened to me, you might have expected to hinder the Gospel. But rather the events have helped spread the Gospel. i.e. the things that have happened here have REALLY helped to spread the Gospel.
For everyone here
Take note of how far Paul’s reference to “everyone here” knowing that he was in chains because of Christ extended. My question to you is: how far do you think the circle of “everyone here” extends? I will let you ponder that one as I lead you deeper into Paul’s letter. This question is for you to work out dear reader with some help below.
Let me help you catch the sense of the way that Paul has constructed this part of his letter.
I want you to know that
everything that has happened to me here has helped to spread the Gospel
For everyone here,
including the Praitōrion
knows that I am in chains because of Christ.
Including the palace guard [Praitōrion]
The introductory preposition in this section contains the sense of throughout or as far as the Praitōrion. I.e. the spread or influence extended as far as the Praitōrion. Now we need to investigate the term Praitōrion, which refers to the Roman Praetorium. According to Arndt Gingrich & Bauer and others, the term referred to a place or a group of people. The two words “palace guard” have been used here to translate the one Greek word which refers to the Roman term “Praetorium”. This term has multiple meanings. Originally it meant the Praetor’s tent in the camp with its surroundings. Later the word came to mean the offical residence of the Governor. In Caesarea, the palace of Herod was the Praetorium.
The Praetorium is a term which has multiple meanings or referents:
- The soldiers of the guard of the Roman authority, all Imperial Regiments.
- All personnel who live in the Palace or the surroundings who serve the Imperial regime.
- The judicial authorities [praefecti praetorio] or the court representatives including all judicial officials of the court and representatives of the Emperor and all their assessors and staff.
- The residence of the Emperor, Caesar, in Rome and all who served him at the Palace.
In the text this term Praetōrion is attached to the Greek words [hoi loipoi] which can refer to “the others” – those who were associated with all these activities and the personnel who carry them out. In its fullest extent it means all the other people. i.e. the inhabitants of Rome. In fact we have an English term derived from these Greek words – the hoi polloi – meaning the commoners, all those others. It’s funny, this term derived from Greek meant commoners but numerous times in my lifetime I have heard it used to the high and mighty, the other half, the rich entitled ones, the hoi polloi. It’s curious how a borrowed term from another language can change over time to have the completely opposite meaning.
- If the term is being used to refer to a place then it would mean all the places representing the authority of the Roman Empire throughout the whole Empire.
At this point, I am going to leave you with the decision making power to choose how far you think these terms extend and therefore just how far Paul was telling the Philippians the influence of the Gospel had spread.
Don’t worry about me. I bought new shoes and everything is fine now.Imelda Marcos
One half of the world does not know how the other half lives. That is true because it doesn’t care.Anon
The other half cared little for the struggles and fate of those underneath, so long as they were able to hold them there.Jacob Riis
We have to free half of the human race, the women, so that they can help free the other half.Emmeline Pankhurst
According to Greek mythology, humans were created with four arms, four legs and a head with two faces. Fearing their power Zeus split them in two, condemning them to spend their lives in search of their other halves.Plato
Those who do not have will always serve those who do.Jacob Tomsky