Fairview Baptist Church
This Sunday School Study Guide is provided
free of cost for personal study and as an aid for Sunday School teachers.
It contains copyright material and may not be reproduced in any form for
sale, without permission from the copyright holders.
Bailey Sadler Class
SUNDAY SCHOOL LESSON STUDY GUIDE – Winter
Study Theme: Thrive:
Living in Real Joy
What This Lesson Is About:
second study is focused on how to live our lives with real joy by sharing Jesus and
seeing someone come to believe in Him as their personal Savior.
Praying with Joy
Sharing with Joy
Following with Joy
Growing with Joy
Giving with Joy
can share Christ with joy no matter what.
In Spite of Hardships, Share Christ With Joy
(Phil. 1:12-14 )
Spite of Critics, Share Christ With Joy
(Phil. 1:15-19 )
Life or Death, Share Christ With Joy (Phil.
This letter was written to the Christians in
Philippi while Paul was a prisoner in Rome. He was under house arrest,
constantly chained to a Roman guard. Although his movements were
restricted, Paul considered his adversity to be a method for advancement
of the gospel into unique territory. News of Paul’s case before Caesar
and the reasons behind it were the talk of Rome, bringing him great joy.
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
greatest joy anybody can experience is through a relationship with Christ.
The presence of hardship and critics does not alter our relationship with
Christ. No matter what, the follower of Christ belongs to Him for
eternity. Consequently, hardships and critics should not alter our joy in
Christ. In fact, joy in the midst of problems is a great testimony to
Christ, the One who gives us His unsurpassable joy.
SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide;
LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville,
Spite of Hardships, Share Christ With Joy
(Phil. 1:12-14 )
12 Now I want you to know, brothers, that what
has happened to me has actually resulted in the advance of the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard, and to
everyone else, that my imprisonment is in the cause of Christ. 14
Most of the brothers in the Lord have gained confidence from my
imprisonment and dare even more to speak the message fearlessly.
Spite of Critics, Share Christ With Joy
(Phil. 1:15-19 )
15 To be sure, some preach Christ out of envy and strife, but others out
of good will. 16 These do so out of love, knowing that I am
appointed for the defense of the gospel; 17 the others proclaim
Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely, seeking to cause me anxiety in my
imprisonment. 18 What does it matter? Just that in every way,
whether out of false motives or true, Christ is proclaimed. And in this I
rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice 19 because I know this will
lead to my deliverance through your prayers and help from the Spirit of
to verse 15, what were the primary reasons some evangelists preached the Gospel?
does verses 16-17 add to help us understand what motivated preachers because of
on verse 18, what was Paul’s response to what motivated those who preached the
you think it makes any difference what motivates a preacher if Christ is
led to Paul’s joyful attitude toward the preaching of the Gospel (v. 18)?
Paul’s joy did not come from his critics, what does verse 19 imply as the
source of his joy?
you think Paul defense would not be his innocence but his defense would be about
the Gospel? Why, or why not?
you think Acts 9:15-16 adds support to Paul’s defense for his stand on the
you think there is danger hidden in the motives of those who preach the Gospel?
If so, what might be some?
does a person guard him/herself against those dangers?
should believers respond to those who criticize the Gospel today?
do you think the message of passage implies for believers today?
impact do you think a message that does not preach Jesus Christ has on people
What message does this passage have for you about
What are the basic
elements of the gospel message?
What motivates you to share the Gospel in your walk
Lessons in Phil. 1:15-19:
everyone who proclaims Christ does so with the right motives.
do proclaim Christ with the right motives.
way, Christ is still proclaimed, and we should rejoice in that.
prayers by God’s people for His servants are effective.
Life or Death, Share Christ With Joy (Phil.
20 My eager expectation and hope is that I will
not be ashamed about anything, but that now as always, with all boldness,
Christ will be highly honored in my body, whether by life or by death. 21
For me, living is Christ and dying is gain.
to verse 20, what were Paul’s expectations and hope regarding the Gospel
would you describe what it means to be ashamed?
does that apply to sharing the Gospel?
do you think being ashamed ranks when it comes to being reluctant to share the
What emotions do you typically experience when you
have the opportunity to share the gospel?
would you describe Paul’s attitude toward sharing the Gospel?
do you think it means to highly honored Christ in one’s body (v. 20)?
do you think that looks like in the life of a believer?
would you describe how Paul lived in the tension between temporary and eternal
is a believer to honor Christ in this life?
In his/her death?
do you think it means to have an eager expectation that Christ will be honored
through your life and service?
How can we help one another be bold in sharing the
How can we daily live in
such a way that shows Christ is our greatest treasure?
If we should live so as to
not be ashamed before Christ on judgment day, what are some things we can do to
Lessons in Phil. 1:20-21:
believers should have an eager expectation that Christ will be honored
through their life and service.
hope is a certainty, not wishful thinking.
believers, we should live so as to not be ashamed before Christ on
Christians, to live is great; dying is even better!
Has this study presented a
challenge for you? Is such a
thing as sharing the Gospel with a sense of joy in the midst of suffering
and difficulty actually possible for people like you and me?
After all, Paul was a cut above most of us, wasn’t he?
But if he was , it was only in the sense of his being willing to
submit himself to the bonds of Christ.
However, that was not a privilege given exclusively to him.
We too can share Christ with joy no matter what if we give
ourselves completely over to Him. Has
there been a time in your life when the Lord has used a difficult
circumstance as an opportunity to advance the Gospel in your life or the
life of another person who observed you?
What actions do you need to take to joyfully magnify Christ in your
life? How joyfully do you
exhibited Christ in your life? Does
your joy in Christ show when you are being criticized for your faith in
Him? What threatens to steal
your joy when it comes to sharing your faith with others?
So just how joyful are you when it comes to your Christian walk?
On a scale of 1 (very little Joy) to 10 (running over with joy),
how would you rate the joy in your daily walk with Jesus Christ?
Do you need to improve your rating?
Ask God’s indwelling Holy Spirit to help you improve.
Has A New Beginning for Your Life!
If you do not know the Lord, Jesus Christ, as your personal Savior, you
can! Just follow what is known
as the “Roman Road to Heaven" (Rom. 3:23; 5:8; 6:23; 10:9; 10:13)
Becoming a Christian is as simple as believing the Scripture of the
“Roman Road” and receiving the wonderful gift of forgiveness and
unending life Jesus Christ wants to give you.
If you need help to overcome your unbelief, simply ask Jesus.
He can and will help! Be
sure to seek out a Bible-believing church that will nurture your newfound
faith. It’s vital to your
spiritual health (See John 15:1-5). And
God bless you!
are the implications of these truths for your life?
THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!
the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.
Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the
Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources
of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.
Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by
Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville,
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
Focal Passage from three different translations of
God’s Word: Philippians 1:12-21
King James Version: Philippians
Philippians 1:12-21 (KJV)
12 But I
would ye should understand, brethren, that the things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the
furtherance of the gospel; 13 So that my bonds in Christ are manifest
in all the palace, and in all other places;
14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my
bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some
indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; and some also of good will: 16
The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add
affliction to my bonds: 17 But the other of love, knowing that I am
set for the defence of the gospel. 18 What then? notwithstanding,
every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein
do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice. 19 For I know that this shall turn
to my salvation through your prayer, and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus
Christ, 20 According to my earnest expectation and my
hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that
with all boldness, as always, so
now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death. 21 For to me to live is
Christ, and to die is gain.
New King James Version:
Philippians 1:12-21 (NKJV)
12 But I want you to know,
brethren, that the things which
happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the
gospel, 13 so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard,
and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; 14 and most of the
brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold
to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ even
from envy and strife, and some also from good will: 16 The former
preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction
to my chains; 17 but the latter out of love, knowing that I am
appointed for the defense of the gospel. 18 What then? Only that
in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I
rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. 19 For I know that this will turn out
for my deliverance through your prayer and the supply of the Spirit of Jesus
Christ, 20 according to my earnest expectation and hope that in
nothing I shall be ashamed, but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ
will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to
me, to live is Christ, and to
die is gain.
New Living Translation:
Philippians 1:12-21 (NLT)
12 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. 13 For
everyone here, including the whole palace guard, knows that I am in chains
because of Christ. 14 And because of my imprisonment, most of the
believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without
fear. 15 It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and
rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. 16 They
preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the
Good News. 17 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. 18 But that doesn’t matter.
Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being
preached either way, so I rejoice. And I will continue to rejoice. 19 For
I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this
will lead to my deliverance. 20 For I fully expect and hope that I
will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have
been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honor to Christ, whether I
live or die. 21 For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying
is even better.
Commentary for the focal passage comes from four sources: “The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament,” “Believer's Bible Commentary,” “The Complete Biblical Library Commentary,” and “The Moody Bible Commentary,” and is provided for your study.)
Lesson Outline — “Sharing With
Joy” — Philippians 1:12-21
In Spite of
Hardships, Share Christ With Joy (Phil.
In Spite of Critics, Share Christ With Joy
(Phil. 1:15-19 )
In Life or Death, Share Christ With Joy
(Phil. 1:20-21 )
Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament: Philippians
The Situation of Paul in
Circumstances Had Advanced the Gospel in Rome
want you to know” is a variation of a common statement in Paul’s letters. It
invariably introduces an important assertion and may imply that misunderstanding
has arisen over the matter or that inquiry has been made regarding it. In this
instance, the significance of Paul’s immediate circumstances was the important
matter. On the assumption that the Epistle was written from a Roman imprisonment
(see Introduction), Paul is saying that his recent circumstances had not been
detrimental but advantageous to the gospel. Verse 12 does not seem to be a
reference to his imprisonment, about which previous communication with the
Philippians had informed them, but to more recent developments. Perhaps Paul had
been moved from his hired house (Acts 28:30) to the Praetorian camp or to some
place more accessible to the trial scene. This could easily have been
interpreted as bad news, but it had “really served to advance the gospel” in
ways to be mentioned subsequently. Paul does not imply that his case has been
settled, nor that an) official action favoring Christianity had been taken.
Nevertheless, his immediate circumstances were to be viewed as a plus for the
gospel, not a disaster. The term “to advance” (prokopen) originally
denoted making headway in spite of blows and so depicted progress amid
difficulties (Gustav Stahlin, Prokope TDNT, 6:704).
were at least two ways in which the gospel had been advanced through Paul’s
circumstances. The first was that it had been made clear throughout the whole
palace guard that Paul’s imprisonment was “for Christ.” During the first
century, prisoners who were sent to Rome from the provinces in cases of appeal
were entrusted to the care of the praefectus praetorio (F.J. Foakes
Jackson and Kirsopp Lake, The Beginnings of Christianity [Grand
Rapids: Baker Book House, reprint 1966], 5:321, 322). As the guards were
assigned in succession to Paul, it soon became clear to them that he was no
ordinary captive. The words “for Christ” (en Christo) are connected
with “clear” (phanerous) in the Greek text. Thus Paul was not merely
describing his imprisonment as being in the service of Christ (“my chains for
Christ”), but was claiming that his relationship to Christ had been made clear
to his guards.
The term praitorio
(“palace guard”) admits of several meanings. In addition to this passage, it
is used in the Gospels for Pilate’s headquarters in Jerusalem, probably to be
identified until the Antonia fortress (Matt 27:27; Mark 15:16; John
18:28 [twice], 33; 19:9). In Acts 23:35 it is used of the Roman
governor’s headquarters at Caesarea. In Lightfoot’s extended note (in loc.)
four possibilities are suggested: (1) The emperor’s palace in Rome. It may be
objected, however, that this term, suggestive of a military despotism, would not
likely have been used by Roman citizens for their emperor’s residence.
Furthermore, no contemporary instance of such use can be cited. (2) The barracks
of the praetorian guard attached to the imperial palace. (3) The praetorian camp
outside the city wall. These suggestions regard praitorion as a
place, but this conflicts with the phrase in 1:13, kai tois loipois
pasin literally “and to all the rest,” which clearly points to persons.
(4) The praetorian guards themselves. This remains the most likely meaning,
agreeable to both current usage and to context.
bold testimony to the gospel of Christ had also been borne “to everyone
else” who came to his quarters, including members of the Jewish community
(Acts 28:17ff.), at least one Gentile (Philem 10), and many Christian
co-workers. Paul was able to get the gospel out from inside prison walls.
Instead of falling into self-pity, he took every opportunity to make the gospel
1:14. The second way the gospel
had been advanced was that Paul’s circumstances had emboldened other
Christians in Rome. One might suppose that his imprisonment would have dampened
any evangelizing efforts and have caused the believers in Rome to “go
underground,” but exactly the opposite was true. They drew courage from
Paul’s example and laid their fears aside. A literal rendering of the clause
in the latter part of v. 14 is “to a much greater degree they are daring
to speak the word of God without fear.” That it was “daring” indicates no
lessening of the danger but a new infusion of courage. The present tense shows
it was no momentary enthusiasm that quickly passed but that it was still the
situation as Paul wrote his letter. Surely the apostle’s own attitude to his
chains must have been largely responsible for these results. If he had become
depressed by developments, the effect on others would have been far different.
It was Paul’s use of the change in his circumstances as a fresh opportunity to
spread the Word of God that encouraged the Christians in Rome to do likewise.
all of the “preachers” in Rome, however, were responding with the highest of
motives. Some were proclaiming the message of Christ “out of envy and
rivalry.” In the light of 1:16, 17, it is clear that their wrong
spirit was directed against Paul. Who were these disappointing preachers? Some
commentators, like Hendriksen (in loc.), insist that Paul has changed the
subject and is no longer speaking of those in 1:14. It has been urged that
opponents of Paul (1:15) would not have been reticent to speak out as those of 1:14
had been (Mounce, in loc.). Nevertheless, the most natural way to understand
these words is by relating them to 1:14, and to interpret Paul as saying
that the newly courageous preachers were of two types. It is not difficult to
imagine that even those jealous of Paul could well have been intimidated at
first by Paul’s imprisonment and have kept quiet to protect themselves.
These opposing preachers
have been identified as the Judaizers of 3:1-16 (Lightfoot, pp. 88, 89;
Walvoord, Philippians; pp. 38, 39). But it is difficult to imagine
that Paul would commend such people for speaking “the word of God” (1:14)
and then denounce them as “dogs,” doers of “evil,” and “mutilators of
the flesh” (3:2). In Paul’s view, Judaizers preached another gospel (Gal
1:6-9). It is more likely that he was referring to a part of the group mentioned
in 1:14. They were doctrinally orthodox, but at the same time mean and
selfish, using the occasion of Paul’s confinement to promote themselves.
Because they were envious of Paul, they stirred up discord within the Christian
community and hoped to gain a larger following for themselves.
Others, to their credit,
were moved by feelings of good will for Paul. Their renewed vigor in proclaiming
Christ was a true joining with Paul in the great enterprise of the gospel.
nobler preachers recognized the apostle’s sincerity and unselfishness. They
realized that his present circumstances were part of a larger divine program and
that he had never deviated from it. He had been “put here” (keimai),
not by his own miscalculations, nor by chance, but by the operation of God’s
sovereignty. God had brought him to this place and time “for the defense of
the gospel.” By ways that could never have been foreseen by man alone, God had
accomplished within the short space of thirty years the spreading of the gospel
of Jesus Christ from its humble beginnings in obscure Judea to its defense
before Caesar at the center of the Empire. No doubt it was with some sense of
awe that Paul evaluated his situation with the comment, “I am put here.”
Recognition of the nature of Paul’s imprisonment caused many stalwart
Christians to respond out of love for him and for the cause he represented. They
stepped into the breach and took their stand with him, eager to insure that the
gospel did not fail to be proclaimed while Paul was in prison.
former group of preachers (1:15a) were guilty of insincerity, particularly
toward Paul. That they “preach Christ” and that Paul found no fault with the
content of their message shows that their problem was not primarily doctrinal
but personal. They were not unbelievers or perverters of Christian truth. They
were self-seeking opportunists, promoting themselves at Paul’s expense.
Perhaps they had enjoyed some prominence in the church before he arrived, but
had been eclipsed since he came to the city. By taking advantage of Paul’s
imprisonment, they may have hoped to recover their former popularity. They may
have supposed that he would bitterly resent their success (Just as they did his)
and his imprisonment would become all the more galling to him. If so, they
failed to reckon with the greatness of the man.
conclusion, “But what does it matter? ... ,” reveals his sense of values.
The importance of the gospel and its proclamation so outweighed any personal
considerations that he would not cloud the issue by insisting on settling
personal grievances. He was convinced that “Christ is preached” even by
these preachers whose motives were suspect. They must have been faithful to the
basic message of Christ. They could not have been Judaizers, at least not in the
usual sense of that designation. With Paul, to preach “Christ” meant to
proclaim the good news of salvation provided freely by God’s grace through the
redemptive work of Christ and received by men through faith without “works of
righteousness” of any kind. It is inconceivable that any Judaizing message
with its insistence on performance of Jewish rites would be characterized by
Paul as preaching “Christ.”
As long as the antagonism
was only personal, Paul could rejoice that the greater purpose of disseminating
the gospel was being served. Even when some of the preaching was actually a
pretext (prophasei), utilized to camouflage attacks on Paul, the apostle
took the magnanimous view that affronts to himself could be ignored, provided
that the truth of the gospel of Christ was proclaimed. He rejoiced in this and
intended to maintain this wholesome magnanimity, which rose above all personal
Although prophasei has the
sense of pretext, pretense, or “false motives” (NIV), it does not
necessarily imply that the antagonistic preachers did not believe what they were
preaching, but that their preaching was a pretext to cover other, less-worthy
Circumstances Would Turn Out for Salvation
moves to the second encouraging aspect of his present situation in Rome, which
was the prospect it held for his “deliverance” (soterian). Is this a
reference to deliverance from his present imprisonment? It is true that Paul
expressed confidence of release in 1:25 and 2:24, but the immediate
context puts the “deliverance” as somewhat apart from either life or death
(1:21), and the inner struggle described in 1:22-24 makes it questionable
whether he would have stated the anticipated result of his Roman trial with this
sort of certainty. The other possibility is to treat “deliverance” in the
sense of spiritual salvation. Paul viewed salvation as having several
aspects—past (Eph 2:8), present (Philippians 2:12), and future (Rom 13:11).
Here the present and future aspects may be fused into one as the apostle looks
to the unfolding of his Christian life and his ultimate hope of standing
unashamed both before human judges and before his Lord (cf. v. 20).
Paul viewed his deliverance
as being accomplished by two means. The first was the effective prayers of the
Philippians on his behalf. The second was the support furnished by the Holy
Spirit, who is here called “the Spirit of Jesus Christ.” These two means
were not necessarily unrelated, inasmuch as Paul may have regarded the
Philippians’ prayers as being answered by the Spirit’s increased activity on
If we interpret “deliverance” in the broadest sense,
we understand Paul to say that regardless of the outcome of his immediate
physical circumstances, he has every reason to expect spiritual victory to be
his. In the Greek text “eagerly expect” and “hope” are nouns, not verbs,
and are grammatically joined so as to indicate that they are aspects of a single
concept. The noun apokaradokia is made up of kara
(“head”) and dechomai (“to take,” or perhaps originally,
“to stretch”). The term denotes “stretching the head forward” (Gerhard
Delling, Apokaradokia, TDNT, 1:393). The prefix apo may
suggest looking away with concentration, ignoring other interests (Kennedy, in
loc.). Only in Christian literature is the term found, and not earlier than
Paul. The only other NT use is in Romans 8:19. The term is linked with elpis
(“hope”) by the use of one article and kai (“and”), thus
implying an inner connection. Delling states that elpis denotes
“well-founded hope” and apokaradokia means “unreserved
waiting” (TDNT, 3:393).
this time of waiting for the settlement of his case, Paul had a well-founded
hope that he would “in no way be ashamed.” This is a broad statement
referring first to his appearance before the authorities for the final
disposition of his case. There may also be overtones of his ultimate appearance
before Christ, because he speaks of the possibility of death and of the
advantage of being with Christ. He has the confident hope that he will continue
to maintain the sort of courage characteristic of his ministry in the past.
The expression en
pase parresia (“sufficient courage,” NIV) conveys the thought of
openness, courage, boldness, or confidence, whether toward God or people.
Prominent are instances in which this quality is viewed in relation to speech.
In 1:20 Paul may be thinking in terms of his coming testimony before his
imperial judges. It would not be as easy to give a courageous witness in those
circumstances, apart from the help of the Holy Spirit.
Paul wants Christ “to be
exalted,” regardless of whether “life” (physical) or “death” would be
the verdict on his “body.” The passive voice of the verb “to be exalted”
(mnegalunthesetai) should be noted. Paul did not say, “I will exalt
Christ,” but “Christ will be exalted in my body.” The apostle was not
relying on his own courage, but on the action of the Holy Spirit who would
produce this result in response to the prayers of Paul and the Philippians
1:21. “For to me” is placed
in the emphatic position, stressing the fact that Paul’s own faith was
unshaken, regardless of the circumstances. No adverse decision from the court
nor the alarm of his friends could alter his firm belief about his present or
his future. “To live is Christ.” The very essence of Paul’s present life
was Christ and all that this entailed. From the theological fact that Paul was
identified with Christ in a vital spiritual union (Gal 2:20) issued far-reaching
practical implications. Christ had become for him the motive of his actions, the
goal of his life and ministry, the source of his strength. “To die” after
such a life could only mean “gain.” Not only would Paul’s state after
death bring gain, inasmuch as he would be with Christ (1:23), but the act itself
of dying at the hands of Rome was no tragedy in Paul’s eyes. Such a death
would bear added witness to the gospel; it would confirm that Paul’s faith was
steadfast to the end and it would serve as the gateway to Christ’s presence.
SOURCE: The Expositor’s
Bible Commentary New Testament; Frank E. Gaebelein; General
Editor; Zondervan Publishing House; A Division of Harper Collins Publishers
Bible Commentary: Philippians 1:12-21
Paul's Imprisonment, Prospects, and Plea for
prayer is ended. Paul next rehearses his blessings, that is, the benefits that
have resulted from his imprisonment. Jowett calls this section "The Fortune
The apostle would have the brethren
know that the things which happened to him, that is, his trial and
imprisonment, have resulted in the furtherance of the gospel rather than
its hindrance, as might have been expected. This is another wonderful
illustration of how God overrules the wicked plans of demons and men and brings
triumph out of seeming tragedy and beauty from ashes. "Man has his
wickedness, but God has His way."
of all, Paul's chains have become evident as being in Christ.
By this he means that it has become widely known that he was imprisoned as a
result of his testimony for Christ and not as a criminal or evildoer.
The real reason for his chains
became well-known throughout the palace guard and in all other places. Palace
guard may mean either: (1) The whole praetorian guard, that is, the
Roman soldiers who guarded the palace where the emperor dwelt, or (2) The
whole praetorium itself. The praetorium was the palace and here would
include all of its occupants. In
any event, Paul is saying that his imprisonment has served as a testimony to the
representatives of the Roman imperial power where he was.
T. W. Drury writes:
very chain which Roman discipline riveted on the prisoner's arm secured to his
side a hearer who would tell the story of patient suffering for Christ, among
those who, the next day, might be in attendance on Nero himself.
second favorable outcome of his imprisonment was that other Christians were
thereby encouraged to be more fearless in testifying for the Lord Jesus.
Persecution often has the effect of transforming quiet and bashful believers
into courageous witnesses.
motive in some hearts was jealousy and rivalry. They preached Christ out
of envy and contentiousness.
Others had sincere and pure
motives; they preached Christ from good will, in an honest effort to help
jealous preachers thought that by doing this they might make Paul's imprisonment
more bitter. Their message was good, but their temper was bad. It is sad to
think that Christian service can be carried on in the energy of the flesh,
motivated by greed, strife, pride, and envy. This teaches the necessity for
watching our motives when we serve the Lord. We must not do it for self-display,
for the advancement of a religious sect, or for the defeat of other Christians.
Here is a good example of
the necessity for our love to be exercised in knowledge and discernment.
were preaching the gospel out of pure and sincere love, knowing that
Paul was determined to defend the gospel. There was nothing selfish,
sectarian, or cruel in their service. They knew very well that Paul had been
committed to prison because of his bold stand for the gospel. So they
determined to carry on the work while he was thus confined.
refuses to be downcast by the wrong motives of some. Christ is being preached
by both groups, and that is for him a great cause for rejoicing.
It is remarkable that under
such difficult circumstances, Paul does not feel sorry for himself or seek the
sympathy of others. Rather he is filled with the joy of the Lord and encourages
his readers to rejoice also.
1:19. The outlook is encouraging.
The apostle knows that the whole course of events will lead to his deliverance.
Deliverance (KJV, "salvation") here does not mean the salvation of
Paul's soul, but rather his liberation from prison. The means which God will use
in effecting his release will be the prayer of the Philippians and the
ministry or help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Marvel here at the
importance which Paul puts on the prayers of a feeble band of believers. He sees
them as sufficiently powerful to thwart the purposes and the mighty power of
Rome. It is true; Christians can influence the destiny of nations and change the
course of history through prayer.
The supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ means the power of the
Holy Spirit stretched forth in his behalf—the strength which the Spirit
would supply to him. In general, it refers to "the boundless resources
which the Spirit supplies to enable believers to stand fast, regardless of what
the circumstances may be."
1:20. As he
thought of the prayers of the Christians and the assistance of the Holy Spirit,
he expressed his eager desire and hope that he might never be ashamed,
but rather that he might always have a fearless and outspoken witness for
And no matter what the
outcome of judicial processes might be—whether he was to be freed or put to death—his
ambition was that Christ should be magnified in his body.
To magnify does not mean to make Christ greater. He is already great, and
nothing we can do will make Him greater. But to magnify means to cause Christ to
be esteemed or praised by others. Guy King shows how Christ can be magnified
by our bodies in life:
... magnified by lips that
bear happy testimony to Him; magnified by hands employed in His happy service;
magnified by feet only too happy to go on His errands; magnified by knees
happily bent in prayer for His kingdom; magnified by shoulders happy to bear one
Christ can also be
magnified in our bodies by death—bodies worn out in His service;
bodies pierced by savage spears; bodies torn by stones or burned at the stake.
in a nutshell, is Paul's philosophy of life. He did not live for money, fame, or
pleasure. The object of his life was to love, worship, and serve the Lord Jesus.
He wanted his life to be like the life of Christ. He wanted the Savior to
live out His life through him.
And to die is gain. To die is to be with Christ and
to be like Him forever. It is to serve Him with unsinning heart and with feet
that will never stray. We do not ordinarily think of death as one of our gains.
Sad to say, the outlook today seems to be that "to live is earthly gain,
and to die would be the end of gain." But, says Jowett: "To the
Apostle Paul, death was not a darksome passageway, where all our treasures rot
away in a swift corruption; it was a place of gracious transition, 'a covered
way that leadeth into light.'"
Bible Commentary; by William MacDonald; Copyright © 1995, 1992, 1990,
1989 by William McDonald. Database © 2014 WORDsearch.
The Complete Biblical Library Commentary: Philippians 1:12-21
verses 12-21 the apostle described his ambition more clearly than in any other
place in his writings. Further, the passage expresses what the ambition of every
Christian should be. It is summarized best in verse 20 with the statement,
"Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by
The apostle initially
introduced the subject in verse 12 by indicating two factors which did not serve
as the basis for his purpose in life. First, he said his ambition was not based
upon circumstances. Literally, he was "not under the circumstances."
He controlled them, not vice versa.
then proceeded to give examples which proved that his being in prison had not
curtailed his work for the Lord, but rather, had advanced the cause of Christ.
First, his circumstances had enabled him to witness to the palace guard (praitōriō).
The term for "palace" could refer to at least four different things:
(1) those forming the praetorian guard, (2) the emperor's palace, (3) the
barracks of the praetorian guard, or (4) the judicial authorities. The context
seems to support the first option. Emperor Tiberius concentrated 10,000 soldiers
in Rome with the express purpose of guarding him and his court. They were
handpicked soldiers with special qualifications and special privileges. To reach
men of this caliber for Christ was a remarkable achievement for the gospel.
serving as "chaplain" to this group, Paul also encouraged the
Christians in Rome. "Many of the brethren" in Rome had been encouraged
"to speak the word" because of Paul's circumstances. Perhaps the joy
and contentment he manifested while in prison had a strong impact upon them.
This example and the one expressed in verse 13 clearly show that Paul was not
"under the circumstances." Too many times Christians allow opposing
forces to discourage them from doing what God has called them to do.
Circumstances sometimes can be changed, but sometimes they cannot be. If God
does not see fit to change them, He must have some purpose for them.
knew opposition from false preachers even in prison. He had experienced it from
the beginning of his ministry for Christ (Acts 9), and it continued until his
earthly life was complete. Paul recognized that some people preached Christ out
of pure motives and some others preached Christ out of impure motives. The
latter group consisted of people who envied Paul's authority, position, and
ministry. Perhaps while he was able to move freely in his proclamation of the
gospel, they hesitated to move against him. However, when Paul was placed in
prison, these jealous individuals probably felt unhindered in their activities.
They preached Christ, but their real objective was to gain adherents for
verse begins the apostle's own commentary on the statement he made in the
previous verse. The motive behind a person's actions may not always be known to
other people, but God knows what it is. People who preach Christ "out of
good will" do so out of love (agapē). However, another group
preached Christ out of "contention." These individuals apparently
thought they could enhance their own positions by degrading the apostle.
"affliction" (thlipsis) means "trouble involving direct
suffering" (Louw and Nida, Lexicon, 1:243). One pictures the painful
rubbing of iron chains on Paul's hands and legs.
Notice the marks of
hypocrisy manifested by these individuals:
(1) envy, which makes a
person want what belongs to someone else; (2) strife, or an attitude of
competitiveness; (3) contention, which causes a person to resort to all kinds of
intrigue in order to elevate self; (4) insincerity, or the opposite of doing
something out of good will; and (5) pretense, which leads a person to cloak
However, the worthy group manifested the following marks of honesty: good will,
love, and truth. They did this because they knew Paul was defending the gospel
in a scriptural manner.
summarize, Paul responded, "What does it matter?" He, of course, did
not condone preaching from false motives, but he knew the hearers could be saved
when Christ is preached regardless. False ministerial motives cannot cancel the
truth of the gospel as the power of God unto salvation.
Paul's ambition was not based upon his circumstances, nor upon the opinions of
other people. He made it clear that his ambition to magnify Christ in his body
was possible only because of his relationship to Christ. The chief priority in
any believer's life is to keep Christ first in his life (Matthew 6:33).
The apostle was confident
that he could count on two kinds of aid: human and divine. "Your
prayer" shows how much Paul desired and depended upon the prayers of God's
people. "The supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ" indicates the
divine aid that always comes to the person whose total trust rests in God.
"Supply" or "help" comes from the term epichorēgia
which means "help which undergirds and strengthens the object." This
results from a proper relationship with Christ, where everything else will fall
It is difficult to know
exactly what Paul meant by the word "salvation" or
"deliverance" (NIV) in this verse, but it certainly seems to indicate
he expected to be released soon from prison. It could, of course, refer to
"deliverance" from this earthly life, when he would have the privilege
of being with Christ. His Master meant everything to him.
stated his purpose in life with the term apokaradokian, which usually is
translated "eager expectation," "earnest expectation,"
"deepest desire," "undivided and intense expectation." It
consists of three Greek words combined into one, indicating the craning of a
person's neck in order to catch a glimpse of what is ahead. The word was used in
classical Greek of a watchman in the bow of a ship peering into the darkness,
eagerly looking for a beacon of light.
Clearly the apostle's
ambition was to glorify Christ in his body. He knew that whatever happened, God
would not let him fall into a situation of hopelessness or abandon him in any
way. Because Paul was one with the Lord he knew that nothing, even death, could
break that union. In fact, death would only make the union more complete. If a
person's life consists primarily in the acquisition of things, then death would
mean a cessation of the chief reason for being. Such a person would have to
leave behind everything of importance to him.
Paul clearly describes his concept of life. The personal pronoun "me"
occupies the emphatic position in the original language, expressing more than
just an opinion about life, but indicating Paul's actual situation. He knew he
was ready for life or for death. Death would only give him more of Christ.
The word for
"gain" (kerdos) was used in Paul's time to mean "interest,
gains, profits." Death would be like cashing in the principal and the
interest. Paul sounded like a bird in a cage; death would be liberation from
that captivity, or the limitations of the flesh. Eternal life begins when one
believes on Christ; however, he does not possess it in the sense of being able
to do with it as he wills. Still, he maintains it as long as he is in vital
relationship to Jesus. Jesus attempted to impress upon Martha that Lazarus
really had not died in an eternal sense because the person who believes upon Him
as Lord will never die.
The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Galatians-Philemon.
Copyright © 1998 by World Library Press Inc. Database © 2010 WORDsearch
Moody Bible Commentary: Philippians 1:12-21
Joy That the Gospel Was Proclaimed (1:12-18a)
Contrary to expectation, Paul's chains actually worked for the greater
progress of the gospel. Paul saw this progress in two things: First, the
whole praetorian guard (the emperor's bodyguard stationed in Rome) and everyone
else learned that his imprisonment was in the cause of Christ.
These two groups could have included hundreds, perhaps thousands, of
unbelievers. Second, many other Christians were stirred up to proclaim the
gospel. In Paul's view, the mere proclamation of the gospel must mean that it
not all proclaimed the gospel with proper motives. Some were preaching
Christ even from envy and strife (v. 15), hoping they could cause
Paul distress in his imprisonment. It is not clear exactly how
they intended to cause Paul distress. Perhaps they hoped to create in Paul a
sense of frustration and discontent in his restricted circumstances: They were free to minister and thus considered
themselves superior to Paul, while he was restricted and therefore they deemed
him inferior to them. But for Paul it only mattered that Christ was proclaimed.
When he heard of the proclamation, he found great joy.
2. Joy That Christ Would Be Exalted (1:18b-26)
Paul's reflections turned
more general or philosophical. Even though as a prisoner he could face
execution, all that mattered was that Christ... be exalted by life or by
the temporal joy of seeing Christ proclaimed in Rome (1:15-18a) Paul moved on to
assert his fixed position of joy that rested in assurance of final deliverance.
Probably Paul did not have in mind release from chains but, as with Job in the
passage to which Paul alluded (Jb 13:16), he looked forward to deliverance
before the only court that mattered: God's. This vindication would happen
whether he lived or died and fit well with his eager expectation and hope: that Christ
will..., as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.
1:21-21. Paul summarized and then
applied to himself the teaching about his hope in spite of his circumstances. He
examined life and death in light of Christ and made the great theological
statement: For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain (v. 21).
SOURCE: The Moody Bible
Commentary; by Michael Rydelnik and Michael Vanlaningham; © 2014 by The Moody Bible
Institute of Chicago. Database © 2015 WORDsearch.
guard (v. 13)—Literally “praetorium”; could refer to Roman
soldiers or their barracks. These would have been the soldiers assigned to guard
Paul in his imprisonment.
Imperial guard (v.
13)—The word Paul used for
Imperial guard had several references. It
was used to refer to the emperor’s palace in Rome.
The same term was used for Pilate’s headquarters in Jerusalem (Matt.
27:27; Mark 15:16; John 18:28,33; 19:9). It
also was used to refer to the barracks where the imperial guard bunked.
In Rome the imperial guard consisted of 9,000 soldiers, or nine cohorts
of 1,000 soldiers each. The word
also was used to refer to the soldiers themselves.
This is the most likely interpretation of the term because Paul’s goal
was not to get the gospel to a location but to people.
SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian
Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza,
SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General
Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville,
By Dale G.
Robinson is director, Adult Leadership, California Southern Baptist Convention.
rejoiced that the gospel had spread “throughout the whole praetorium.” Some
versions translate this word as a building: “place” (KJV), “governor’s
palace,” (NASB, alternative reading), or ‘head quarters” (NEB).
Others translate it as either a general governmental organization:
“palace guard” (NIV and NKJV) or a specific institution of the Roman
imperium: “praetorian guard” (NASB, text), “imperial guard” (HCSB1).
Every translation, however, emphasizes the fact that the gospel reached
the people in those places or organizations.
The Message paraphrase talks
about the gospel going to “all the soldiers here, and everyone else too.”2
While praetorium can refer to any governor’s palace and staff of guards
and functionaries, its primary reference was to the elite imperial force known
as the praetorian guard. By
extension, the word can also refer to the larger network of bureaucracy working
in the Roman government during the first two centuries of the Christian era.
The fact that the early church fathers believed Paul wrote Philippians
from Rome around AD 60-62 strongly supports this belief.3
Augustus established the praetorian
guard in 31 BC soon after he became emperor.
Personal bodyguards for Roman nobility were not new.
Roman generals often maintained them.
The assassination of his uncle Julius Caesar convinced Augustus he too
needed such a group. So he created
an elite force loyal only to himself, trusted swords standing ready at a word to
quell local rebellions and protect the imperial person and household.
The force was attached to the royal palace, or praetorium, and was called
the praetorian guard.
The force consisted of 10 cohorts of
1,000 men, each with a horse. These
10,000 soldiers were stationed in and around Rome, some in regular barracks and
others in billets throughout the city. In
the early days they kept a low profile, often wearing civilian clothes.
In AD 21-23, the Emperor Tiberias set us a permanent barracks for them
outside the northeastern part of the city.4
To guarantee their loyalty, Augustus
limited membership to Roman citizens and made it worth their while.
They all received the rank of centurion, a special uniform or insignia,
and pay double that of a regular soldier. While
regular soldiers had a 20-year enlistment, theirs was only 16.
When they retired, they retained their rank, were considered reserves,
and received a retirement bonus equaling about $1000.
Praetorian veterans often moved on to other influential governmental or
military positions. Being a
praetorian guard member became an honor and source of pride, position, and
eventually power in Rome.5
Soon after organizing the unit,
Augustus created an office to command the praetorian guard and called it the
praetorian prefect. To be in the
prefect, one had to hold the equestrian rank in Roman society and be trusted by
the emperor. Most prefects were
drawn from the praetorian guard, though on occasion a non-praetorian was given
the authority. Vespasian appointed
his son, Titus, as prefect. Augustus
appointed two commanders to share authority, but sometimes there was only one
prefect, and on one occasion three.
The position of prefects rapidly
grew to one of great power. Because
he had to emperor’s trust, he commanded the emperor’s personal troops and
occasionally other units stationed in Italy.
The prefect always seemed to have the emperor’s ear and was often
counted as the highest imperial advisor. Along
with the emperor, and 20 assessors of the law, the prefect served on the highest
Roman court, judging cases of treason, crimes against Roman rulers, and other
matters dealing with citizens. As an
officer of this court, he was also responsible for imperial prisoners.
Over time the praetorian prefect
became the second in command in the empire, ruling in the emperor’s stead when
necessary. He generally played a
major role in government and occasionally served as regent if the emperor was
still a minor. The praetorian
prefect either served well, conspired to rule, or themselves became emperors.6
An early instance of praetorian
meddling came when Emperor Tiberias withdrew to live on the island of Capri in
AD 26. The Prefect Sejanus became
the de facto ruler of Rome and Italy. Not
satisfied merely to rule, he attempted to manipulate the emperor, playing on
Tiberius’s mistrust of his own relatives.
Since he was a skilled politician, Sejanus also managed to influence the
Senate. His ambition led him to plot
a coup d’etat in AD 31, He failed
and was arrested and executed.7
The praetorians wielded great power.
They assassinated the mad Caligula in AD 41 and insured the 16-year-old
Nero a smooth rise to power. Their
prefect, Burrus, was coregent while Nero was a minor (AD 54-62), often
manipulating the young prince. While
Nero attained full maturity, and after Burrus’s death, he changed roles,
manipulating the guard through the weak Prefect Tigellinus.
Praetorian power brokering was never
more evident than in AD 68-69, the infamous “Year of Four Emperors.”
After Nero’s suicide in AD 68 several successful generals contended for
the throne, each supported by his army. In
the ensuing civil war, the praetorian guard decided the victors.
First, they enthroned then after only two months murdered Galba.
Since he reneged on his promised “donation”—translated
“bribe”—they deemed him unworthy to rule.
They replaced him with Otho who lasted the first four months of AD 69
until he committed suicide after being defeated by the armies of rival general
Vitellius. Vitellius then ruled for
only eight months but died in battle with the armies on Vespasian and Titus in
December, AD 69. The victorious
Vespasian strengthened the praetorians and to assure their loyalty made his son
Titus the prefect.8
For about 250 years the praetorian
guard was the power behind the Roman monarchy.
Emperors courted its favor with bribes and “donations.”
After the death of the Emperor
Pertinax (AD 193), the guard actually auctioned the empire to the highest
bidder. The guard’s corrupt hold
on the empire remained until AD 312 when Constantine became strong enough to
As was his right as a Roman citizen,
Paul had appealed his case to the emperor, the highest court in the empire.
Doing so placed Paul deep within the custody of the emperor’s military
system, the praetorian guard. He
placed himself at the mercy of the praetorian prefect as much as that of the
Though a prisoner, Paul was not held
incommunicado. Day after day his
guards, chained to him as they were, saw and heard the great evangelist at work.
Likely, they reported Paul’s actions to their superiors and friends.
Possibly some were converted and took their new faith back to their
barracks and homes. That the message
of the gospel eventually permeated Caesar’s household is fairly certain (Phil.
4:22), from the lowest of the elite guards, to the centurions and tributes, to
the prefect, and even ultimately to the emperor himself.
Scripture quotations marked HCSB are
taken from the Holman Christian Standard
Bible (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2000).
Peterson, The Message, The New Testament in Contemporary language (Colorado
Springs: NavPress, 1993).
Polhill, Paul and His Letters (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1999),
Rowell, Rome in the Augustan Age (Norman: University of Oklahoma Press,
1962), 110-111; Smith, “Praetoriani,” A
Dictionary of Greek and Roman Antiquities (London: John Murray, 1875),
952-953 from www.ky.edu; Platner, “Castra Praetoria,” A Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome (London: Oxford Univ.
Press, 1929), 106-108 from http://www.roman-britian.org.
Smith, “Castro Pretorio F37” from
http://www.italycyberguide.com; “The Praetorian Name” from http://praetoriankennels.com.
“Cohorts Praetoriae: the Praetorian Cohorts,” from http://www.roman-britian.org.
“Praetorian prefect” an article
found at http://www.livius.org; Rutherfurd, “Praetorian Guard,” The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, http://www.searchgodsword.org;
Rowell, Rome in the Augustan Age, 110-113.
Book and Sinnigen, A History of Rome to AD 565, 5th ed. (New York: The
Macmillian Co., 195) 301.
Book and Sinnigen, 305-315.
Ibid;, 451; Smith, “Praetoriani”
What Was The
Boyd is the Strengthening Team Leader for the Kansas Nebraska Convention of
Southern Baptists, Topeka, Kansas.
IF ASKED ABOUT THE PRAETORIAN GUARD, would conjure up images from various movies
that pictured the Praetorians alongside a Roman emperor and often in gaudy
uniforms. The foundations of this
special military unit, however, go back much earlier than the emperors.
The term “Praetor” could refer to a
number of different roles in Roman life. Generally,
it referred to someone in command of either civilian or military functions.
A Roman general was a “Praetor.”
Similarly, the command tent of a Roman army was the “Praetorium.”1
first record of a general assembling a special bodyguard for personal security
came early in the second century BC, when Publius Scipio (a Roman general ,
later called Africanum after he defeated Hannibal) established the Cohors
Praetorian. These men were the
bravest and most loyal soldiers in his army.
Rather than having to perform all of the normal camp duties, they focused
on protecting the general. Some
scholars believe this practice probably went back even further in the Roman
generals such as Sulla, Pompey, Julius Caesar, and Marc Antony has similar
bodyguards to watch over them on the battlefield.
In fact, Julius Caesar went so far as to use the entire Tenth Legion as
his protectors. They has been one of
his most trusted legions in his Gallic campaigns.2
more popular conception of the Praetorian Guard originated with Emperor
Augustus. He recognized that as an
emperor and not merely a general in the field, he needed a more complex
organization to provide for his safety. He
organized 9 cohorts of between 500-1,000 men.
As with earlier Praetorians, these men exhibited intense bravery and
loyalty. In this case the men also
had to have all been from Italy.
Praetorians were rewarded for their service by double pay
compared to the ordinary legionaries. They
also were enlisted for a 16-year term while service in the ordinary legions was
for 20 years of active service and 5 years in the reserve.
At the end of their service, praetorians also received money or land, or
both. Augustus kept only three
cohorts around Rome; the others were housed in various parts of Italy.
Originally two officers commanded the guard; they were called praefecti
praetorio (Praetorian Prerects).3
Tiberius (r. AD 14-37) later built at the outskirts of Rome a fortress, the Castra
Praetoria, for the Praetorian Guard; it housed all of the cohorts.
He also increased their number to 12 cohorts.
This trend would continue through the years, with the various emperors
adding or reducing the number of cohorts in the guard.
addition, Sejanus, one the prefects, greatly influenced Tiberius.
Tiberius trusted Sejanus and made him the sole prefect of the guard from
AD 13-31. Both decisions proved to
be bad mistakes. Bringing all the
cohorts together gave them a greater sense of importance and power.
Prefect Sejanus eventually plotted against Tiberius.
When someone exposed Sejanus’s plot, Tiberius had his general executed.
This was the first of many instances
in which the Praetorian Guard became the source of plots against the emperor
they were protecting.4
The Praetorians had many duties.
They were the emperor’s personal bodyguards.
They were stationed as guards in the emperor’s palace.
They had police duties when dealing with those accused of sedition.
They dealt with riots and other large-scale forms of crime.
In emergencies, they aided the Vigiles (Rome’s firefighters) in
battling large fires. They were the
only armed force allowed in the city of Rome.
They acted as spies for the emperor.
They also accompanied emperors on military campaigns.
In those instances, they acted as soldiers on the battlefield, and they
performed admirably in some of these battles.
Finally, they guarded prisoners who were being held for trial before the
happened to Paul. Writing to the
believers at Philippi he reported, “my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has
become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else”
(Phil. 1:13, NASB).
Because of the Praetorians’ close
proximity to the emperors, they would becomes involved in the empire’s
politics and exert significant influence. This
was perhaps inevitable. As mentioned
above, Sejanus used his power as prefect to plot against Emperor Tiberius.
This was the first such abuse of power—but certainly not the last.
successor was Caligula. In AD 41,
the guard murdered Caligula because of both his increasing signs of insanity and
his denigration of Roman customs. Having
murdered Caligula, they then forced his uncle Claudius into power by military
threat to the senate.
The guard had some involvement with the demise of both Nero and Domitian.
time emperors, when taking office, began to bribe the guard, thus engendering
their loyalty. Even that, though,
did not guarantee their allegiance. In
AD 193 the guard auctioned off the emperor’s position after they murdered the
short-lived Emperor Pertinax. “The
praetorians announced from the walls of their fortress that the throne was open
for bids.”6 The winner
of the auction was Didius Julianus who lasted only a little over two months in
Severus, the next emperor, was recognized by the senate and had the support of
the Roman legions. He disbanded the
Praetorian Guard, banished them from Rome, and reorganized the guard with loyal
soldiers from his own legions. From
this point on, the guard recruited its members from soldiers of active legions
and it once again became an elite force. In
spite of these reforms, eventually the Praetorians returned to patters of murder
end of the Praetorian Guard came in October, AD 312.
They had fought with the losing side in the conflict between Constantine
and Maxentius for control of the empire at the Battle of the Milvian Bridge.
After Constantine’s victory, he disbanded the Praetorian Guard forever.8
“Praetor” in Encyclopaedia Britannica [EB], 8th ed., vol. 18
(Edinburgh, Scotland: Adam & Charles Black, 1859), 448; “The Roman Empire:
Praetorian Guard,” UNRV History [online; accessed 3 May 2016].
Available from the Internet:www.unrv.com/military/praetorian-guard.php.
“The Praetorian Guard: The Foundation
of the Guard,” RomanArmy.com [online; accessed 3 May 2016].
Available from the Internet:
www.angelfire.com/or2/jrscline/; 8 Things You May Not Know About the
Praetorian Guard,” History.com [online; accessed 3 May 2016]. Available from
the Internet: www.history.com/news/history-lists/8-things-you-may-not-know-about-the-praetorian-guard.
Molinari, “Praetorian Guard” in Eerdmans
Dictionary of the Bible, ed. in
chief Freedman (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000). 1076.
Keppie, “Praetorian Guard” in The
Anchor Bible Dictionary [ABD], ed in chief Freedman, (New York: Doubleday,
“Praetorian Guard,” Roman Empire
& Colosseum; www.tribunesandtriumphs.org/roman-army/praetorian-guard.htm.
Cowan, “The Praetorian Guard: Easy
Soldiering in Rome” in Ancient Warfare
2, vol.1 (Aug/Sept. 2007), 35.
Keppie, “Praetorian Guard” in ABD,
Keppie, “Praetorian Guard” in ABD,
Joy and Rejoicing
By John Polhill
Polhill is professor of New Testament and Greek, Southern Baptist Theological
Seminary, Louisville, Kentucky.
N “ODE ON A GRECIAN URN,” John Keats wrote:
“A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” Paul
would not have agreed. For him there
was only one eternal joy—the joy the believer experiences in Christ.
Paul often spoke of his joy in Christ, especially in Philippians.
The common Greek words for joy (chara)
and rejoicing (chairein) so pervade
that epistle that it often has been called “the epistle of joy.”
Though the words were common, Paul had a special kind of joy in mind.
Joy is a basic human emotion, and in Greek literature chara
is used for experiences where we use the word “joy”—at births, at
weddings, and at the installation of new leaders.1
was the usual word for greetings, used to say both “hello” and
“good-bye.” Where we might greet
someone with “good day,” Greeks wished one “joy.”
Greek philosophers often discussed the emotions.
Typical were the Stoics, who grouped emotions under four basic
types—fear, desire, grief, and pleasure. The
Stoics considered joy a subdivision of pleasure.
Though they generally considered the emotions negatively, as being
contrary to sound reason, they granted that joy could be healthy.2
The Bible affirms this judgment and generally connects joy with God.
There are a few instances in the Old Testament where joy is used with a
purely secular meaning. The
“preacher” of Ecclesiastes, for example, warned against the vain joys of old
age and the joys of youth which make one liable to the final judgment (11:8-9).
Most references to joy, however, are in a religious context.
Joy is connected with God’s delivering His people from their enemies (1
Sam. 18:6; Ps. 31:7) or assuring them victory in battle (Ps. 21).
Particularly was joy expressed in the context of worship.
God is described as rejoicing in His people (Deut. 30:9; Ps.147:11), and
the people responded to His presence by making a joyful noise.
Singing songs of praise and making a joyful noise are synonymous (Pss.
33:1; 95:1-2). Joy was a mandatory
component of sacrifice (Deut. 12:12), and the annual feasts were described as
“days of rejoicing” (Num. 10:10; 2 Chron. 30:26; Deut. 16:11,14).
Joy, likewise, is an expression of personal devotion.
The righteous person finds joy in God’s law (Pss. 1:2; 119:14) or in
His Word (Jer. 15:16), and joy is the reward for trusting God (Ps. 32:11; Prov.
In the postexilic prophets this joy in God’s presence was more and
more put into the future, into a hope for a coming messianic kingdom when God
would restore the land to Israel, cause the desert to bloom, and establish a new
Jerusalem (Isa. 12:3,6; 25:9; 51:3; 61:10; 65:18-19).
God would dwell in the midst of His people, and there would be
“everlasting joy” (Isa. 51:11; 61:7; Zech. 2:10; Zeph. 3:14-17).
What the prophets had hoped for became a reality in the coming of Jesus
the Messiah. The New Testament is
filled with the joy of that event. There
is joy at His birth (Luke 1:14,47; 2:10), joy at His wonderful works (Luke
13:17), joy in His presence (Luke 19:6), joy at His resurrection (Matt.28:8;
Luke 24:41), and joy in His return to the Father (Luke24:52). Joy was a keynote
of Jesus’ teaching ministry. He
pictured God’s kingdom as being like the joy of finding hidden treasure (Matt.
13:44). God’s salvation is like
the joy of the shepherd finding his lost sheep (Luke 15:5-7), of the woman
finding her lost coin (Luke 15:9-10), or of the father recovering his lost son
(Luke 15:32). All of the people in
these parables called on their friends and family to rejoice with them.
The joy of salvation is like that. Joy
is fullest when it is shared.
In the upper room Jesus promised His disciples prefect joy, complete
joy (John 15:11; 16:24; 17:13). He
was speaking of the joy that would come to them through His death and
resurrection—the joy of salvation. This
joy pervades the New Testament—the joy of having one’s name written in
heaven (Luke 10:20), the joy of sharing in the marriage feast of the Lamb (Rev.
19:7), and the joy of hearing the Master say, “Well done, good and faithful
servant” (Matt. 25:21). The Book
of Acts continues the picture. Samaritans
rejoiced at their salvation (8:8), the newly baptized eunuch exulted as he
returned home (8:39), and the Gentiles at Antioch rejoiced at Paul’s message
of salvation in Christ (13:48).
There is another special sort of joy which the early Christians
experienced: joy in suffering. Jesus
pronounced a beatitude on those who suffer for righteousness and called them to
rejoice in the prospect of their heavenly reward (Matt. 5:11-12).
The apostles rejoiced when they received a severe beating for testifying
to Christ (Acts 5:41), and the church of the Hebrews joyfully accepted the
plundering of their property because of their Christian witness (Heb. 10:34).
Peter exhorted his Christian readers to rejoice in the persecutions they
were to face (1 Pet. 4:12-14). James
urged his readers to count it joy when they faced life’s trials and testings
Paul especially emphasized this paradox of joy in suffering.
He say the afflictions he experienced as sharing in the sufferings of
Christ (Col. 1:24). Paul’s
sufferings were a reminder of God’s grace, of His power at work in Paul’s
weakness (2 Cor. 12:9). The word
grace (charis) is a derivative
of the word joy (chara).
Grace is the occasion of joy, the gift that evokes a joyful response.
This is why Paul could maintain his joy even in suffering.
He could rejoice in the assurance of God’s saving grace.
Paul saw joy as the hallmark of salvation.
Joy is the gift of God’s Spirit to the believer (1 Thess. 1:6) and a
fruit of the Spirit (Gal.5:22). Joy
is the response to the certain hope of sharing in God’s kingdom.
Joy, hope, peace, and the Holy Spirit are all linked together in Paul’s
Epistle to the Romans (Rom. 5:1-2; 12:12; 14:17;15:13).
They are all aspects of the assurance of salvation in Christ.
For Paul joy always had a communal aspect.
Joy is a shared
experience (1 Cor. 12:26). Paul
often expressed joy in his churches’ progress in the faith (1 Thess. 3:9; Rom.
16:19; Col. 2:5).
Second Corinthians particularly shows just how much Paul’s
relationship with his churches was tied up with his own personal sense of joy.
In the first four chapters of the epistle, Paul recounted a period of strained
relationship with the church when some were rejecting his leadership.
These chapters are filled with the language of grief and pain.
Chapter 7, however, recounts how the church had become reconciled to him,
and it is filled with the note of joy (vv. 4,7,9,13,16).
Paul considered his churches to be the proof of his ministry.
They were his best commendation (2 Cor. 3:2-3).
In the judgment day they would be Paul’s “crown” and his “joy”
(1 Thess.2:19; Phil. 4:1). His joy
in a real sense was bound to theirs.
Philippians intentionally is filled with words of joy.
From all indications Paul had the warmest relationship with Philippi of
all the congregations he established. Philippi
seems to have given the most material support to Paul’s missions efforts
elsewhere. Paul usually offered
prayer for the congregation at the beginning of his epistles.
In Philippians the prayer was made with
Throughout the epistle Paul urged the Philippians to rejoice (2:18; 3:1;
4:4). This is really quite striking
when one considers the context in which Paul wrote the epistle.
He was in prison, awaiting trial, uncertain whether he faced acquittal or
a death sentence (1:19-26). His
witness was being hampered by Christians who were opposing him and preaching
from selfish motives (1:15-18). The
Philippians had sent one of their own to assist Paul, and that person has
suffered a life-threatening illness (2:25-30).
Paul had reason to believe that false teaching might come to Philippi and
lead some of them astray (3:1-19). The Philippians themselves were having
problems with disunity (2:1-12; 4:2-3). These
would hardly seem occasions for joy.
That would have been the case had Paul been thinking of purely natural
human joy. He wasn’t.
He had in mind that special joy of salvation, the joy which the Spirit
gives, the joy which is “in the Lord” (3:1; 4:4,10).
Paul had in mind the shared joy of the Christian fellowship—his joy at
the Philippians’ gift to support his ministry (4:10), his joy in sharing with
them the news of Epaphroditus’ recovery from illness.
Just knowing how this would lift their spirits turned Paul’s own grief
to joy (2:28-29). But the joy of
Christian fellowship must be shared joy,
and sharing is not complete when there is disunity.
Only the genuine unity of the Philippian congregation could make Paul’s
joy complete (2:2).
This “joy in the Lord” carried Paul through his own personal
crises. When opponents preached the
gospel from false motives, Paul could rejoice that the gospel was still being
preached (1:18). As Paul faced the
possibility that his own life might be poured out on the altar of Christian
service, he could still rejoice (2:17-18). Whether
living or dying, whatever happened would be in Christ—to die and be with
Christ or to live and serve Him—either prospect brought Paul joy (1:25).
This joy of salvation, this assurance of Christ’s presence carried him
through all his trials. Paul longed
that the Philippians share the same joy and not be discouraged by his sufferings
or by their own. There is joy in the
bad times and in the good times when one experiences the joy in Christ.
In Christ there is a joy that never fails, “a joy forever” (4:4).
These examples are from Greek private letters
and are given in James Hope Moulton and George Milligan, The Vocabulary of the New Testament
(Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 682-683.
Hans Conzelmann, Theological Dictionary of the New Testament,
ed. by Gerhard Friedrich and Geoffrey W. Bromiley, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids:
Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1974), 361.
Paul Before Caesar
By Robert J.
is an editorial and curriculum specialist, retired, LifeWay Christian Resources,
PHARAOH, Daniel before Nebuchadnezzar, Paul before
Caesar—these are examples of men of God who appeared before pagan rulers.
The first two are described in the Bible, but the third is not.
The bible does offer evidence, however, that Paul did appear before
Caesar. The three lines of evidence
are: Paul exercised his right as a Roman citizen and appealed his case to
Caesar, he was waiting for his hearing, and he was active in ministry after his
Paul’s Appeal to
Paul wrote to the church at Rome, he told them of his mission to carry to
Jerusalem an offering from the Gentile churches.
He also told them that after the visit to Jerusalem, he hoped to visit
Rome en route to Spain. Because Paul
knew how dangerous his trip to Jerusalem would be, he asked the Roman Christians
to pray for him (Rom. 15:23-33). While
he was in Jerusalem, a mob tried to kill him.
Roman soldiers rescued him, but their commander ordered that Paul be
beaten. Paul asked him if it was
legal to beat a Roman citizen who had not been convicted (Acts 21:27—22:25).
When the Roman commander further challenged him, Paul affirmed that he
was a citizen by birth.
became citizens by one of three ways. Some,
like Paul, had a father who was a citizen. Some,
like the commander, purchased citizenship. Others—either
as individuals or as a group—had citizenship bestowed by decree, usually for
meritorious service to the empire.1
then went through a series of trials, first in Jerusalem and later in Caesarea.
His enemies accused him not only of crimes under their law but also of
crimes against Rome (24:5-8; 25:8). Jesus
had been crucified because of the false charge that He was guilty of sedition
(Luke 23:2). Paul’s accusers tried
to show that he too was a seditionist. The
apostle insisted, “Neither against the Jewish law, nor against the temple, nor
against Caesar have I sinned at all” (Acts 25:8, HCSB®2).
Paul successfully persuaded a number of important officials that he was
no seditionist. Among these
officials were Felix, the governor (23:29), procurator Festus (25:1-12), and
Herod Agrippa II (26:30-32).
had been a prisoner for over two years (24:27).
At least twice his enemies laid plans to kill him.
When the new procurator Festus arrived, he asked Paul if he was willing
to go back to Jerusalem for another trial. Paul
felt that his only option was to appeal his case to Caesar.
He told Festus: “I am standing at Caesar’s tribunal, where I ought to
be tried. I have done no wrong to
the Jews, as even you can see very well. If
then I am doing wrong, or have done anything deserving of death, I do not refuse
to die, but if there is nothing to what these men accuse me of, no one can give
me up to them. I appeal to
Caesar!” (25:10-11, HCSB). Festus
said, “You have appealed to Caesar; to Caesar you will go!” (v. 12, HCSB).
Book of Acts, a historically accurate primary source, offers insight into this
right of appeal process. Paul made
use of an established practice that allowed a citizen to appeal a magistrate’s
verdict. When the Roman Republic
became the Roman Empire, the appeal would go to the emperor.
In cases like Paul’s, the local official could not ignore a citizen’s
appeal. Thus Festus had no choice
other than to send Paul to Rome.3
Paul’s arrest he waited over two years before his appeal before Caesar
(24:27). After arriving in Rome,
Paul spent at least that long awaiting his trial (28:30).
Why such a long delay? One
reason may have been a lack of evidence supporting Paul’s guilt of a crime
against Rome. Another factor may
have been a crowded court docked. A
third factor could have been the erratic nature of the man who was Caesar at the
time, the emperor Nero. J.B.
Lightfoot wrote that a probable factor “was the indolence or the caprice of
the emperor himself, who frequently postponed the hearing of causes indefinitely
without any assignable reason, and certainly would not put himself out to do
justice to a despised provincial, laboring under a perplexing charge connected
with some ‘foreign superstition.’”4
we think of Nero, we remember his worst actions after he began persecuting
Christians. Until that time the
Roman government had maintained a benign attitude toward Christianity.
The Book of Acts gives many examples of this.
The persecutions before AD 64 were mostly religious.
Rome burned in 64. Nero
blamed Christians and launched a
bloody persecution. We sometimes
forget that Nero’s reign from AC 54-68 had three phases.
The early years were some of the best Rome ever had.
Young Nero left the government in the hands of his teacher and advisor
Seneca. Then came a transition phase
when Nero took an increasingly active role and revealed his evil ways.
Paul’s hearing probably came during this transition phase.
The hearing certainly was before the third phase of Nero’s rule, the
time of intense persecution.5
wrote the four Prison Letters during the two years of waiting with Philippians
coming toward the end of the two years. Paul
reassured the Philippian believers that God had used his imprisonment to spread
the good news through Paul to the practorian guard and through others motivated
for good or ill by Paul’s circumstances (Phil. 1:12-18).
Paul then wrote of his expectations concerning the outcome of his hearing
(vv. 19-26). Although Paul
acknowledged his willingness to die, he was also ready to continue to serve.
He left the issue in God’s hands. Richard
R. Melick, Jr. wrote: “Paul’s words express his optimism.
Without a doubt, he expected to continue his ministry after the trial.”6
know that eventually the trial was held. On
the stormy sea voyage to Rome, God told Paul through an angel, “Don’t be
afraid, Paul. You must stand before
Caesar” (Acts 27:24, HCSB). We do
not know what happened during the trial, but likely it was similar to the
earlier trials in which Paul blended his defense with his testimony.
After the Trial
Pastoral Letters are the strongest evidence that Paul was released after the
first trial. Paul continued his
ministry in ways not found in Acts or the other Letters of Paul.
The third-century Christian historian Eusebius wrote: “word has it [logos
exei] that Paul was released after his first imprisonment and went forth on
a ministry of preaching and that subsequently he returned to Rome, where he
suffered martyrdom under Nero.”7
tone in 2 Timothy 4 is different from Philippians 1.
In his last letter he expected to die soon.
His mention of a “first defense” (2 Tim. 4:16) may have referred to
the first imprisonment, but more likely it refers to a preliminary stage of his
final trial. We do not know if Paul
appeared before Nero after the persecution began.
During those dark days condemnation resulted just from being a Christian.
Tradition says that Paul was beheaded, since as a citizen he was given a
quicker death than most of those whom Nero tortured to death.
Polhill, “Acts” in The New American Commentary, vol. 26 (Nashville: Broadman Press,
All Scripture quotations marked HCSB are
taken from the Holman Christian Standard
Bible (Nashville, Holman Bible Publisher, 2000).
Polhill, “Acts”, 491.
Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, 12th edition
(Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1953), 4.
Most of the information on Nero is from
Durant, “Caesar and Christ” in
The Story of Civilization, vol. III
(New York: Simon and Schuster, 1944), 274-284.
Melick, Jr., “Philippians, Colossians,
Philemon” in The New American
Commentary, vol. 32 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991), 88.
Polhill, “Acts,” 548.
SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay
Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234;
Vol. 42, No. 3; Spring 2016.
What is the Answer To & Where in The
Bible is This Week’s Trivia Question Found: What
king of Israel sinned by appointing priests that had not been chosen by God? Answer
Last Week’s Question: What priest had a son named Ichabod, a name meaning “the glory has
departed”? Answer: Phinehas; 1 Samuel 4:21.