There are two specific ways the Gospel has advanced as a result of his imprisonment. First, the whole “imperial guard” has heard Paul’s imprisonment is on account of Christ. The word Paul chose here is refers to the praetorium (πραιτώριον), or the headquarters of the Roman guard. In any major city with a Roman presence there might be such a headquarters, certainly Herod’s palace in Caesarea could be called a praetorium and “all the rest” are the people living in the palace. If Paul is in Rome, then the term could refer to the Imperial guard. In either case, everyone who has contact with Paul knows why he is in prison.
Second, “most of the brothers” have grown in confidence and are speaking the Gospel more boldly and without fear. Paul’s example of boldly preaching the gospel despite his chains has convinced timid believers to be more open in their faith. This verb (τολμάω) has the sense of daring to do something (as in Rom 5:7, someone might dare to die). Joseph of Armethea, for example, had the courage to approach Pilate and ask for the body of Jesus (Mark 15:43). This request was courageous since Joseph might have been seen as rebellious or revolutionary by Pilate, potentially he too could have been executed for providing an honorable burial for Jesus.
To be “fearless” has the connotation in contemporary English of doing something dangerous, such as skydiving or base-jumping. People put “fearless” on t-shirts (although usually not the people who jump off skyscrapers). But the word in Greek can have the connotation of shameless actions as well. To be brave and bold might mean that you do something dangerous and risky, but it also might mean you do something that is socially embarrassing (the old “truth or dare” game?)
It is possible some Roman Christians (again, assuming the traditional view) were in fact believers, but quite timid in making some sort of public proclamation of their faith. They were afraid to tell friends and family they were a part of this new religious group that worshiped a crucified man. Their belief in Jesus as the Messiah and savior would be shameful if they were Jewish or Roman and in either case could result in a loss of status, threatening their position in society.
In the Roman world, to boldly declare you are believer in Jesus was more than socially awkward, it was potentially life threatening! Paul’s imprisonment, therefore, is good because the Gospel continues to advance despite his chains. His example to other believers has emboldened them to publicly declare their faith in Jesus, even if that declaration is socially dangerous.
In many parts of the world, it is in fact dangerous to openly declare one’s faith in Jesus Christ. For people living in Southeast Asia, or example, to accept Christ is to reject the religion and traditions of your own culture. For people living in Africa, to accept Jesus is to reject the traditional religion of your family.
Does a contemporary American risk anything when they declare they are a Christian? I live in Grand Rapids, Michigan, the buckle of the Bible Belt. There is little risk in coming out as Christian in West Michigan compared to China, Vietnam, Iran, etc. Despite what you might think from watching news reports on loud American Christians, there is a great deal of timidity and fear among American Christians. Why is this? What do we have to lose by remaining timid in our faith?
7 thoughts on “Philippians 1:14 – Boldly Speaking the Word without Fear”
Covering the topic of boldly sharing the Christian faith comes up in every class, many chapels, sermons, small groups, etc. Honestly, this topic irritates me. However, this topic is important to cover, as many people fear of sharing their faith, as I did when I was in elementary school. For further clarity, it is not that the topic of sharing one’s faith irritates me, it is the discussion half where I often listen to people discuss how they will lose friends, be made fun of online and other “first world issues”. I can understand why so many people across the world, past and present, fear to share their faith. Throughout history Christians have been hunted down and killed over their faith, Paul would know as he was the one who did this before his conversion. Facing life and death everyday for your love, trust and hope in God is terrifying. However, when a Christian in America says, “My life will literally be over if I share my faith” I often reply with something along the lines of asking them their favorite way they were physically tortured, mutilated and their preferred way of execution because I have plenty of stories from people I know in other countries and we could swap preferences (I know guys. This is not the most Christian of me…). Knowing the fact that there are people who are watching their children being tortured and killed before their eyes because of their faith should make Americans stand up more boldly about our faith as a tribute to our brothers and sisters who have died and are still dying.
“What do Americans have to lose by remaining timid in our faith?” That is an incredibly good question. If I’m being completely honest, I live in Holland, known for having a church on every corner, and I have virtually no risk of being vocal about my Christian faith. The worst “persecution” that I can recall is getting a weird look or hearing a snide remark on account of my beliefs. I don’t know why it is so hard for Americans to be bold in their faith especially compared to other countries and cultures.
I think one of the main reasons why Americans struggle with being bold is because our culture is consumed with image and what other people think of us. We would rather be timid in our faith than be bold and labeled as “weird,” “different,” or “crazy.” Throughout this class, I have seen how Paul is an amazing example of what it looks like to be bold in faith. He shows us that we can talk to God with boldness (2 Cor 3:11-12), we can witness boldly (Heb 13:6), we can pray boldly (Heb 4:16), and we can boldly ask things of others (Philemon 1:8). Paul appeared to be excellent at being bold and he had everything, even his life, at stake. When you think about this issue clearly, it is motivating to see that if Paul was willing (and did) “do all this for the sake of the gospel” (1 Cor. 9:23), there is no reason that I cannot live more boldly and risk those potential snide comments, weird looks, and my insignificant reputation.
I feel as if it is incredibly important for Christians and believers in Christ to boldly speak about the Word of God and the good news/gospel. That being said, it can be easier said than done. There are various reasons as to why people are not willing or choose not to speak boldly about the gospel. I feel as if it is part of the call for Christians and believers to speak boldly about their faith and the gospel because that is the only way to spread the word to other people. For instance, if a Christian is ashamed or scared to boldly proclaim their faith to others, then how are others going to learn about Jesus from them? For Christians to be a light to the rest of the world, it is important that they are bold in their faith. The Bible calls us to have bold faith (2 Cor. 3:12). Romans 1:16 is my favorite Bible verse, and I love the meaning behind the verse because it stresses the importance of being unashamed of the gospel.
However, as I have said above, it can be rather difficult in various scenarios and circumstances to act boldly in one’s faith. It may sound easy, but typically, societies make it difficult to easily act in this manner. As stated in the blog post above, it can be considered dangerous and against the customs of one’s society or culture to accept the gospel and devote one’s life to Jesus Christ. This can make it very difficult to be a Christian. As Christians, we are typically aware of some stories in both the Bible and the world today where people are persecuted for having faith in Jesus Christ. It is still important to be bold in one’s faith and trust in God through this difficult process, but it is important to note and understand that persecution is real and even common in some areas.
Although the opposition to faith in Jesus Christ is not near as strong in American society as it is in other parts of the world, I do not think it can just be passed over. I think a contemporary Christian does risk a great deal in American society if they choose to devote themselves to a lifestyle that honors and glorifies Jesus Christ in all aspects of their lives. American society is dominated by a craving for wealth, power, social status, popularity, sex, etc. These are common staples of American society that a Christian worldview would look at differently than a non-Christian in America. Because of this, American Christians run the risk of being “different” in their community. This could cause a loss of friendships, relationships, etc. Christians in America also risk “missing out” on the opportunities or common activities of secular America. That is not near as significant as some of the risks that people from all cultures experience, but I do not think it can be ignored.
According to Longenecker and Still (2014), many of the Jesus groups that were established by Paul were persecuted. This means that this persecution happened in Bible times, but also today’s society. The people of the Roman empire struggled with this at times because of how strong the imperial ideologies were (Longenecker and Still, 2014).
The ability to speak the word of the Gospel is a gift – not everyone is blessed to have the ability to promote the word in this way. We talked through this aspect in Christian Mission where we learned the difference in evangelizing which is the promotion, and the proclamation skill sets. When reading what Phil Long says in his blog posts about the new Roman Christians being very timid in the announcing of what their faith is really similar to what we Christians feel in today’s society. Societies views have shifted so far from what is desired by God that the select few that still carry their Godly values with them feel like the minority and do not want to share the gospel in fear of being ridiculed. Paul obviously wants us to avoid this fear as we are supposed to speak the Gospel fearlessly. In Philippians 1:14 he says that “And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.” Paul’s example of imprisonment was a great example of how we are to speak for the Truth regardless of the consequences. We know that in the Roman world that the punishment for being a Christian could sometimes be death. That punishment for faith is still present today in third-world countries that do not accept the following of Christianity. An example of a real-world person I knew that certainly spoke the Gospel fearlessly was a man my Dad went to OTS school in Alabama with. His name was Difoop and he was a Christian in Nigeria where Boko Haram, an African terrorist group was located. He told my dad that he wanted to help his country to become Christian in the midst of Muslim control.
When you proclaim your faith today in America, there are the same implications as there were in Pauls’ time. You likely won’t be killed or imprisoned. And like the article said, around the world, there are still complications when it comes to openly declaring yourself a Christian, such as in parts of Asia. However, today to live out a life that is holy and Godly is a hard task in today’s society. You can even take the campus of Grace Christian University for example. We are very different than U of M or Grand Valley, many have friends that attend other secular colleges that partake in events or activities that are frowned upon at Grace. Fraternities, parties, bars and such are not acceptable here but can be seen as a norm on other campus’.
As a Christian, there are things that are not acceptable to God that are acceptable in society. There are things college students are expected to be doing that Christian students are told they can not participate in because it goes against how God has asked us to live. With the difference in norms and expectations comes the possibility of losing friends or being considered an outcast even in your own friend groups and families. You may not be thrown out of your family for going against traditions, or thrown into prison for praying, but to some the loss of their popularity status, the looks from their peers or the conversations happening behind their backs is enough for them to be hesitant in openly living out their faith. Now, just like in the past, society and the way Christians are expected to live and act contradict each other.
I think it is stupid how annoying fear plays a role in my life and the lives of everyone else. Now, when I say fear, I understand that there are certain fears that are rational, like a fear of heights, falling from a 20-story building. When I say fear, what I mean is fear put into our heads and hearts by the devil. There are certain fears in our lives that we do not have to be afraid of, that we can give to God, and he can take away from us, but the devil has such a of making our fears exemplified and seemingly too big to handle. One of my biggest fears is a fear of the dark. Many a night, when I am sleeping in a room by myself, I have trouble falling asleep because of the scary thoughts that go through my head. I always, whenever I sleep alone, have to have a light on, or natural light in the room in order to fall asleep, otherwise my fear of the dark takes over. I know I should give my fears to God, and I do pray every night to God, but it still scares me. This is what I mean when I say the devil has a way of exemplifying our fears. So, when we look at Paul writing to the Philippians in Phil 1:14, Paul lets the Philippians know that he did not let fear stop him. Paul was imprisoned, beaten, persecuted, mocked, and a host of other bad things, and fear could have easily taken a hold of him, and he could have stopped, but he did not. He continued to preach the gospel and in doing so, his example gave courage to other believers who were nervous, afraid, and fearful of experiencing what Paul went through, but Paul gave them the encouragement to step up and not let fear continue to get a hold of them. Paul’s example gave life to those fearful believers to preach the gospel and not let the devil get a hold of them. I know that I have had occasions where I lay in bed, in the dark, by myself, and I pray to God to take away my fear and to help me to fall asleep, and when I think about God, I begin to forget about the darkness and sooner rather than later I fall asleep. It is God’s power that is able to conquer any fear that we may be experiencing. So, do not let fear to a hold of your life, but pray to God, let his power take control of that fear and give it all to him.
Blog Post #7
This is a very important article if not the most pivotal question to address because boldly speaking without fear is a very tough thing to do not only during Paul’s days but in the modern world as well. So many people are quick to judge in today’s day in age therefore, Christians can risk a lot if they openly pronounce their faith. There can be a loss of relationship and even more commonly a loss of friendships due to what people believe. Moreover, there are so many aspects of life that are very controversial between Christians and non-Christians; whether it be sex before marriage, the love of money or even idolatry; this can create a rift in relationships and friendships. Like P.Long says “to boldly declare you are a believer in Jesus was more than socially awkward”, a lot of people may not accept you and even in some areas of the world, one could be killed for being a follower of Jesus Christ. However, one should not have any fear to share the gospel because it is God’s commands that we do so; and in doing so we will be justified and saved thus, we should have no shame. “As it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death (Philippians 1:20). This verse is very important because Paul says that he will share the gospel even if he is put to death or imprisoned and he should have no shame. “and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear”(Philippians 1:14). Everyone knows that Paul is currently imprisoned for preaching the gospel, which pretty much sparks a revolution for now the people that were afraid to come out as Christians had no fear because the letter of Philippians addresses what goods come with being honest and true to the word and not being ashamed of what one believes.