Paul’s suffering in prison should certainly not be minimized. Yet neither should we think that he languished there without any freedom to contact the outside world and without any hope that his ministry would continue. In keeping with the way God frequently grows His kingdom while His saints are persecuted, the apostle actually saw his outreach expand while he awaited his audience before the caesar in first-century Roman custody. As we saw yesterday, this imprisonment allowed Paul to bear witness to the imperial guard, some of the most important officers in what was then the mightiest army on the planet (Phil. 1:12–13).
In addition to the extension of Paul’s ministry into the innermost parts of the Roman imperial court, we learn in Philippians 1:14 that the apostle’s suffering also encouraged the first-century church to preach the Word more boldly. Since there is good reason to believe Paul was in the city of Rome when he wrote to the Philippians, it was the church in that city that strengthened their outreach when the apostle was in chains. The witness of the church in Rome before Paul went to jail is not entirely clear, but since the apostle wrote just as Nero’s madness was beginning, it may be that the Roman Christians had been a bit quieter about their discipleship so as not to invite the emperor’s wrath. If so, it was the expression of that wrath in the apostle’s imprisonment that made them, paradoxically, bear witness more courageously.
These believers in Rome spoke “the word without fear” (v. 14). Paul uses the term word elsewhere in his letters to refer to the gospel; therefore, the Roman Christians had become more earnest in the evangelization of their friends and families once the apostle was in confinement. Why was this the case? Paul does not provide this information directly, but perhaps it was because in the apostle’s imprisonment the Christians saw Jesus’ promises coming true. After all, our Lord tells us that people will hate us on account of Him (Luke 21:17), and Paul’s persecution was certainly a tangible confirmation of Jesus’ words. It may be that seeing the apostle suffer helped increase their confidence in the teaching of Jesus, thereby making them ever more eager to preach the gospel.
Seeing the truth of God’s Word confirmed can make us more bold in theproclamation of His gospel. As our doubts are assuaged, we see that we havegiven our lives to One who is absolutely trustworthy, and we are even moreencouraged to follow Him. If you are lacking confidence in God’s Word, readingsome works by effective Christian apologists can do much to help youbecome even more sure of the truth of Christ.