Philippians 1:14 – Boldly Speaking the Word without Fear

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.

Fearless Kid on a BikeTo 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?

3 thoughts on “Philippians 1:14 – Boldly Speaking the Word without Fear

  1. 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.

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  2. “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.

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  3. 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).

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