There were other preachers in Rome, however, who preached in love (verse 16). They showed respect for Paul. They knew that Paul had been imprisoned because of his labor for the Gospel of Christ.
18 Paul’s heart is big. If Christ’s Gospel is preached, he is happy—even if it is being preached by his enemies. He will do nothing to oppose them.
Let us follow Paul’s example in this. Suppose we learn that a Christian brother is wrongfully opposing us for some reason. If he, at the same time, is truly working for the Lord, we must not oppose him in return or speak against him. We must not try to “get even.” Rather, forgetting our own honor and reputation, we must support and encourage that brother in his work for the Lord.
19 Paul has complete faith that whatever happens to him will work for his good, for his deliverance,5 or salvation (Romans 8:28). By “deliverance,” Paul means not only deliverance from prison but also salvation in the next life (see 2 Timothy 4:18). Paul’s salvation will come through the prayers of his friends (like the Philippians) and through the help given by the Spirit of Jesus Christ—that is, the HOLY SPIRIT.
After reading this verse, let us always keep in mind how important our prayers are in the fulfilling of God’s purposes. Here we see the prayers of Christians mentioned right alongside the work of the Holy Spirit Himself.
20 Whether he lives or is condemned to death, Paul expects and hopes that Christ will be exalted in his body. If he lives, his life will be for Christ’s glory; if he dies, his death will be for Christ’s glory (Romans 14:8).
21 For to me, to live is Christ. Everything Paul did, he did for Christ’s sake and through Christ’s Spirit. Without Christ, Paul was nothing. Paul’s entire purpose in life was to serve and glorify Christ. Without Christ’s grace and power, Paul could not live (Galatians 2:20).
Nevertheless, Paul is also happy to die for Christ. For believers in Christ, it is more advantageous to die than to live (verse 23). Paul will go to heaven. In heaven there will be no chains, no prisons, no pain, no sin or weakness. There will be only eternal joy and fellowship with Christ. That is gain indeed! (see 2 Corinthians 5:8).
22-23 If Paul lives, he will continue to engage in fruitful labor (verse 22). If he dies, he will be with Christ (verse 23), which for him will be better by far. Paul can’t choose between living and dying; they are both good.
24 But Paul thinks about the Philippian church and the other churches he has established. For their sakes, Paul decides it would be better for him to live—to remain in the body. For his own sake it would be better to die; but for their sakes, it is necessary that he live.
25-26 Here Paul expresses the hope that he will be able to visit the Philippians again (see Philippians 2:24). As a result of his presence with them, Paul hopes they will progress still further in joy and faith.
It is not known whether or not Paul ever obtained his freedom. Many Bible scholars believe that Paul was freed for a few years. Perhaps he was able to visit the Philippians one or two more times. But the Bible does not say definitely what happened to Paul after this letter was written. The last thing we know for sure about Paul comes at the end of the book of Acts, when Paul is still a prisoner in Rome (Acts 28:16,3031).
27 … conduct yourselves in a manner worthy of the gospel of Christ. To conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel, we must imitate Christ and lead a holy life. The Gospel of Christ is most effectively “preached” not with our tongues but with our lives (see Ephesians 4:1 and comment).
If the conduct of the Philippians remains worthy of the Gospel, then Paul will know that they are standing firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith—that is, for Christ and His Gospel.
To conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel, we must be united. We must stand firm in one spirit, and we must contend for the faith as one man.
Before we can contend for Christ as one man, we must first be united in one spirit. Yes, in one sense, we are already spiritually united in Christ through the Holy Spirit. But, in another sense, we ourselves, as we live and work together, must maintain and preserve that spiritual unity (Ephesians 4:3).
To preserve our spiritual unity, there must be personal love and harmony between each member of the church. Many people mistakenly suppose that, if we just begin to work on some project or program together, unity will automatically come. But that is not so. First of all, we must get rid of all personal hurt, anger, envy, and slander that may have arisen among us. We must ask forgiveness of each other—and we must grant forgiveness to those who ask for it. Only after that will we be able to contend and work together as one man. Only after we are joined together in one spirit will our work be pleasing to God (see Matthew 5:23-24).
28 In order to conduct ourselves in a manner worthy of the Gospel (verse 27), we must be courageous and strong in Christ (1 Corinthians 16:13; Ephesians 6:10). Paul tells the Philippians not to fear those who oppose them. The Philippian church was a new church; it was small. Philippi was a great and important city; it was a Roman colony. The Romans strongly opposed the Christians. Thus the Philippians were surrounded on all sides by powerful enemies. But Paul is confident that their faith and steadfastness will serve as a sign or proof that they will be saved and their enemies will be destroyed. Those who oppose the Philippians also oppose God (Acts 5:3839).
29-30 It had been granted to the Philippians to suffer for Christ. Let them rejoice in this (see Matthew 5:10-11; Acts 5:41; Philippians 2:17-18; Colossians 1:24). If we share in [Christ’s] sufferings, we shall also share in his glory (Romans 8:17).
Paul was an example for the Philippians. They had seen the suffering he had endured when he first came to Philippi (Acts 16:1924; 1 Thessalonians 2:2). Now Paul is in chains. Yet he continues to be filled with joy and hope. Let the Philippians be encouraged by his example! (see verse 14).