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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



Study Theme:  Thrive: Living in Real Joy

What This Lesson Is About:

Week of:

Lesson Title:

The 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.


Jan. 22

Praying with Joy


Jan. 29

Sharing with Joy


Feb. 05

Following with Joy


Feb. 12

Growing with Joy


Feb. 19

Practicing Joy


Feb. 26

Giving with Joy






I can share Christ with joy no matter what.


Philippians 1:12-21





In Spite of Hardships, Share Christ With Joy  (Phil. 1:12-14 )

In Spite of Critics, Share Christ With Joy  (Phil. 1:15-19 )

In Life or Death, Share Christ With Joy  (Phil. 1:20-21 )


  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.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.


The 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, TN.


In 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.








1.   Have you ever liked something so much that it was hard to share it or give it up?

2.   Have you ever liked something so much that you couldn’t wait to share it with someone?

3.   What was the basic difference between the two situations?

4.   What do both situations tell you about the two things and about yourself?

5.   What were the circumstances under which Paul wrote to the Philippians?

6.   How had what happened to Paul that actually resulted in the advance of the Gospel (v. 12)?

7.   How would you describe Paul’s focus what he was in prison (v. 13)?

8.   Who or what were the Imperial Guard (v. 13)?  (See Digging Deeper & article “The Praetorian Guard”)

9.   Based on verse 13, what impresses you the most about the apostle Paul?

10.   What does verse 14 tell you about Paul’s influence while he was in prison? 

11.   What about Paul’s imprisonment do you think caused believers to boldly share the Gospel (v. 14)? 

12.   Based on these three verses how did Paul’s imprisonment help to advanced the Gospel?

13.   Do you think sometimes hardships keep us from sharing the Gospel?  If so, why?

14.   How can these same hardships offer us opportunities to share the Gospel?

15.   When have you been encouraged by the faith and perseverance of others?

16.   When have you seen God use difficult circumstances to advance the gospel?



Lasting Lessons in Phil. 1:12-14:

1.  When believers stand firm for Christ, it encourages others to stand for their faith.

2.  When we speak the message of Christ, we should speak it fearlessly.



In 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 Jesus Christ.

1.   According to verse 15, what were the primary reasons some evangelists preached the Gospel?

2.   What does verses 16-17 add to help us understand what motivated preachers because of Paul’s imprisonment?

3.   Based on verse 18, what was Paul’s response to what motivated those who preached the Gospel?

4.   Do you think it makes any difference what motivates a preacher if Christ is preached?

5.   What led to Paul’s joyful attitude toward the preaching of the Gospel (v. 18)?

6.   If Paul’s joy did not come from his critics, what does verse 19 imply as the source of his joy?

7.   Do you think Paul defense would not be his innocence but his defense would be about the Gospel?  Why, or why not?

8.   Do you think Acts 9:15-16 adds support to Paul’s defense for his stand on the Gospel?

9.   Do you think there is danger hidden in the motives of those who preach the Gospel?  If so, what might be some?

10.   How does a person guard him/herself against those dangers?

11.   How should believers respond to those who criticize the Gospel today?

12.   What do you think the message of passage implies for believers today?

13.   What impact do you think a message that does not preach Jesus Christ has on people today?

14.   What message does this passage have for you about sharing Christ?

15.   What are the basic elements of  the gospel message?

16.   What motivates you to share the Gospel in your walk with Christ?


Lasting Lessons in Phil. 1:15-19:

1.  Not everyone who proclaims Christ does so with the right motives.

2.  Many do proclaim Christ with the right motives.

3.  Either way, Christ is still proclaimed, and we should rejoice in that.

4.  Intercessory prayers by God’s people for His servants are effective.



In Life or Death, Share Christ With Joy  (Phil. 1:20-21 )

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.

1.   According to verse 20, what were Paul’s expectations and hope regarding the Gospel message?

2.   What would you describe what it means to be ashamed?

3.   How does that apply to sharing the Gospel?

4.   Where do you think being ashamed ranks when it comes to being reluctant to share the Gospel? 

5.   What emotions do you typically experience when you have the opportunity to share the gospel?

6.   How would you describe Paul’s attitude toward sharing the Gospel?

7.   What do you think it means to highly honored Christ in one’s body (v. 20)?

8.   What do you think that looks like in the life of a believer?

9.   How would you describe how Paul lived in the tension between temporary and eternal (v. 21)?

10.   How is a believer to honor Christ in this life?  In his/her death?

11.   What do you think it means to have an eager expectation that Christ will be honored through your life and service?

12.   How can we help one another be bold in sharing the gospel?

13.   How can we daily live in such a way that shows Christ is our greatest treasure?

14.   If we should live so as to not be ashamed before Christ on judgment day, what are some things we can do to accomplish that?


Lasting Lessons in Phil. 1:20-21:

1.  All believers should have an eager expectation that Christ will be honored through their life and service.

2.  Biblical hope is a certainty, not wishful thinking.

3.  As believers, we should live so as to not be ashamed before Christ on judgment day.

4.  For 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.  He Will!

God 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!

What are the implications of these truths for your life?  THE CHOICE IS YOURS, ISN’T IT!

REMEMBER, the safest place for a believer is in the center of God’s will.


Lesson Outline, Introduction, Discussion Questions, and Conclusion adapted from the following sources:

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: The Herschel Hobbs Commentary; Family Bible Study; by Robert J. Dean; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; 1 LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.

SOURCE: Advanced Bible Study; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; One LifeWay Plaza, Nashville, TN.



Focal Passage from three different translations of God’s Word: Philippians 1:12-21

King James Version:  Philippians 1:12-21:

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:

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:

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.


 (NOTE:  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. 1:12-14 )

In Spite of Critics, Share Christ With Joy  (Phil. 1:15-19 )

In Life or Death, Share Christ With Joy  (Phil. 1:20-21 )


The Expositor’s Bible Commentary New Testament:  Philippians 1:12-21

The Situation of Paul in Rome (1:12-21)

Paul’s Circumstances Had Advanced the Gospel in Rome (1:12-18)

1:12.  “I 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).

1:13.  There 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.

Paul’s 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 known.

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.

1:15.  Not 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.

1:16.  These 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.

1:17.  The 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.

1:18.  Paul’s 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 feelings.

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 purposes.

Paul’s Circumstances Would Turn Out for Salvation (1:19-21)

1:19.  Paul 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 his behalf.

1:20.  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).

In 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 (1:19).

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


Believer's Bible Commentary: Philippians 1:12-21

Paul's Imprisonment, Prospects, and Plea for Perseverance (1:12-21)

1:12. The prayer is ended. Paul next rehearses his blessings, that is, the benefits that have resulted from his imprisonment. Jowett calls this section "The Fortune of Misfortune."

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."

1:13.  First 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:

The 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.

1:14. A 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.

1:15. The 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 the apostle.

1:16. The 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.

1:17.  Others 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.

1:18.  Paul 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 Christ.

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 another's burdens.

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.

1:21. Here, 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.'"

SOURCE: Believer's 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

1:12. In 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 death."

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.

1:13. Paul 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.

1:14. While 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.

1:15. Paul 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 themselves.

1:16. This 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.

The term "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 ulterior motives.

1:17. 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.

1:18. To 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.

1:19. 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 into place.

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.

1:20. Paul 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.

1:21. Here 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.

SOURCE:  The Complete Biblical Library Commentary – Galatians-Philemon.  Copyright © 1998 by World Library Press Inc. Database © 2010 WORDsearch Corp.


The Moody Bible Commentary: Philippians 1:12-21

Joy That the Gospel Was Proclaimed (1:12-18a)

1:12-14. 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 advances.

1:15-18a. But 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 death.

1:18b-20. From 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.



Imperial 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.

SOURCE: Life Ventures-Bible Studies for Life; Leader Guide; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN.

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, Nashville, TN.


SOURCE: Holman Bible Dictionary; General Editor, David S. Dockery; Holman Bible Publishers; Nashville, Tennessee.




The Praetorian Guard

By Dale G. Robinson

Dale G. Robinson is director, Adult Leadership, California Southern Baptist Convention.


 PHILIPPIANS 1:13, Paul 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 abolish them.9

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 emperor.

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.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                    

1.  Scripture quotations marked HCSB are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (Nashville: Holman Bible Publishers, 2000).

2.  Peterson, The Message, The New Testament in Contemporary language (Colorado Springs: NavPress, 1993).

3.  Polhill, Paul and His Letters (Nashville: Broadman and Holman, 1999), 164-165.

4.  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.

5.  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.

6.  “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.

7.  Book and Sinnigen, A History of Rome to AD 565, 5th ed. (New York: The Macmillian Co., 195) 301.

8.  Book and Sinnigen, 305-315.

9.  Ibid;, 451; Smith, “Praetoriani” from http://www.ku.edu.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Fall 2003.


What Was The Praetorian Guard?

By Timothy N. Boyd

Timothy N. Boyd is the Strengthening Team Leader for the Kansas Nebraska Convention of Southern Baptists, Topeka, Kansas.


ANY PEOPLE, 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

The 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 Republic’s history.

Later 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

The 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

Emperor 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.

In 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 emperor.5

This 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.

Tiberius’s 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.

In 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 office.

Septimius 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 and intimidation.7

The 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    

1.  “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.

2.  “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.

3.  Molinari, “Praetorian Guard” in Eerdmans Dictionary of the Bible,  ed. in chief Freedman (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2000). 1076.

4.  Keppie, “Praetorian Guard” in The Anchor Bible Dictionary [ABD], ed in chief Freedman, (New York: Doubleday, 1992), 5:446.

5.  “Praetorian Guard,” Roman Empire & Colosseum; www.tribunesandtriumphs.org/roman-army/praetorian-guard.htm.

6.  Cowan, “The Praetorian Guard: Easy Soldiering in Rome” in Ancient Warfare 2, vol.1 (Aug/Sept. 2007), 35.

7.  Keppie, “Praetorian Guard” in ABD, 5:447.

8.  Keppie, “Praetorian Guard” in ABD, 5:447.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Winter 2016-2017.


Joy and Rejoicing

By John Polhill

John 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  Chairein  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. 10:28).

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 (Jas. 1:2).

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 joy  (1:4).  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).  Bi

1.   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.

2.   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.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Spring 1994.


Paul Before Caesar

By Robert J. Dean

Robert Dean is an editorial and curriculum specialist, retired, LifeWay Christian Resources, Nashville, Tennessee.


OSES BEFORE 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 first imprisonment.

Paul’s Appeal to Caesar

When 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.

People 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

Paul 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).

Paul 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).

The 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

Awaiting Trial

After 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

When 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

Paul 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

We 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

The 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

Paul’s 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.                                                                                                                                                                                                                           

1.  Polhill, “Acts” in The New American Commentary, vol. 26 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1992), 465.

2.  All Scripture quotations marked HCSB are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible (Nashville, Holman Bible Publisher, 2000).

3.  Polhill, “Acts”, 491.

4.  Lightfoot, Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians, 12th edition (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1953), 4.

5.  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.

6.  Melick, Jr., “Philippians, Colossians, Philemon” in The New American Commentary, vol. 32 (Nashville: Broadman Press, 1991), 88.

7.  Polhill, “Acts,” 548.

SOURCE: Biblical Illustrator; LifeWay Christian Resources of the Southern Baptist Convention; Nashville, TN 37234; Vol. 42, No. 3; Spring 2016.




(30.137) 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 Next Week:

Last Week’s Question: What priest had a son named Ichabod, a name meaning “the glory has departed”?  Answer: Phinehas; 1 Samuel 4:21.