DEAR ELDER BEEBE: – When you have opportunity, please give your views through the SIGNS on Philippians i. 15-19. I ask for information. There is something in this declaration that I cannot understand. Your compliance with this request will greatly oblige a poor, ignorant worm, who is the least of all saints, of one at all.
Locktown, N.J., March 11, 1880
REPLY: – We have not so clear an understanding of the apostle’s meaning in regard to those of whom he speaks in this passage as we could wish, and greatly fear that what we may write will fail to satisfy the inquiring mind of our highly esteemed brother; but such thoughts as we have on the subject we do not feel at liberty to withhold.
The apostle in this chapter speaks of being in bonds, and being opposed by envious and malicious opposers, who were ready to add affliction to his bonds. At the time of writing, Paul was a prisoner at Rome. But in his exile from the land of his nativity, and from many of his kindred in Christ, he had the consoling assurance that the cruel persecution he suffered from the vagabond Jews, who had bound themselves under a curse that they would silence his preaching Christ – that they would neither eat nor drink until they had killed him, and all other enemies who had occasioned his arrest, God had overruled it all, in a manner that it had fallen out rather into the furtherance of the gospel. Instead of hindering or restricting its promulgation, it had been, by the overruling power and providence of God, the occasion of spreading it even in the very capital of the Roman Empire. Not only were their wicked intentions thwarted by the spread of the gospel ministry into the city of Rome, but it had stimulated many of the brethren, who, waxing confident by Paul’s bonds, became much more bold and preserving to speak the word without fear. This has generally been the result of persecution which has been raised against the preaching of the gospel. In the early persecutions the saints were scattered into distant places; and we are told that they were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word. – Acts viii. 4. Before his conversion, Saul had himself unintentionally contributed to the dissemination of the preaching of the word, which he labored so zealously to suppress.
Some indeed preach or publish Christ even of envy and strife; or by their violent efforts to suppress its proclamation, they occasioned its more extended spread. We are not without instances at the present time of those who have by their envy and strife against some portions at least of the preached word, for instance, the eternity of the vital union of the head and body of the church, the distinct nature of that which is born of incorruptible seed, by the word of God, which liveth and abideth foever, from that which is born of the flesh, and of corruptible seed, that is mortal, and must die; but the opposition made, whether from envy, strife, or from a lack of a clearer understanding of the truth, has resulted in a more full investigation and a clearer understanding of the truth involved.
But while some thus preach, or contribute to the publication of Christ, from unrighteous and envious motives, there are others who are emboldened by the violent opposition to contend the more earnestly for the faith, and from good will, which is given to and wrought in them by him who worketh in them both to will and to do of his own good pleasure.
Others again are alluded to in our text who in pretence, not sincerely, were thus engaged, and although their deceptive and hypocritical motives were reprehensible, still they could do nothing against the truth or its promulgation; and although supposing or intending to add affliction to Paul’s bonds, and to worry him, even in this they missed their aim, for in the final result God’s purpose was accomplished, Christ was preached, and Paul rejoiced; yea, and would rejoice, not that they were envious, malicious and hypocritical, but that their opposition, under the overruling hand of God, turned out unto the furtherance of the gospel. Whether these insincere men rally pretended to preach Christ, in the common acceptation of the words, or really preached him by being the occasion of emboldening the brethren who were truly ministers of Christ, we are not told, nor is it necessary for us to know; but their wrath was overruled to the praise of God, and the remainder of their wrath was restrained. But notwithstanding every way, Paul rejoiced that Christ was preached. And he also knew that this should turn to his salvation. We understand Paul to mean by this last expression, the assurance which he felt that the preaching of Christ, by the prayers of the saints at Philippi, and the supply of the spirit of Jesus Christ, should ultimately result, ass it really did, in his deliverance from prison, or at least in his being allowed liberty to preach in his own hired house two years, “preaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence; no man forbidding him.” This was according to his earnest expectation and hope, that in nothing he should be ashamed; but with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ should be magnified in his body, whether by life or by death.
It seemed to have been with Paul a matter of secondary importance in what manner he should be disposed of, if Christ were magnified; whether it should be by restoration of his life and liberty, or his death even by martyrdom, it would compass his desire and hope if Christ were honored by either his life or his death. As he said to the Elders of the church of Ephesus, “But none of these things move me, neither county I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” – Acts xx. 24.
Elder Gilbert Beebe
Signs of the Times
Volume 48, No. 8
April 15, 1880