Remarkably, Paul says little about himself personally in this opening reflection. The Philippians, of course, already know about his imprisonment, evidenced by their recent gift. Thus his present focus is not so much on himself—he probably expects Epaphroditus to fill them in on personal matters—as it is on how he views what has happened to him, very likely with an eye toward them and how they are handling their own adversity.
The passage has two closely related parts (vv. 12-14, 15-18a). Paul begins by turning the Philippians' attention immediately to the progress of the gospel, which his confinement has helped along in two ways: his captors and guards have been made aware of Christ (v. 13), and believers in Rome are more actively proclaiming Christ (v. 14).
Although this second matter is a cause for joy, it has not been without some personal wounds, which leads to the second part: a subparagraph flowing out of verse 14, in which he reflects on the twofold motivation—envy and goodwill—behind this renewed activity (v. 15). Verses 16-17 reiterate these in reverse order, in terms of love and selfish ambition directed toward him. But verse 18, where he expresses his response to this activity, is the obvious concern of the whole passage: Christ is being proclaimed, and in that Paul rejoices. Although suffering, Paul is scarcely languishing in prison.
IVP New Testament Commentaries are made available by the generosity of InterVarsity Press.
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