NOTE: This is a condensed excerpt from my forthcoming (2014) commentary on Philippians.
God’s relentless commitment to the advance of the gospel often works itself out in unexpected ways. From a human perspective Paul’s imprisonment would seem like a disaster. But in God’s providence it was the means by which the gospel would advance in a seemingly impenetrable place—the praetorian guard. Where Paul could not reach by any other conceivable means God had placed him to make it evident that his entire life is “in Christ.” In that sense Paul’s experience is not unique; throughout the history of the church God has often advanced the gospel by placing his people in circumstances and locations they could not reach themselves so that those beyond the apparent reach of the gospel might hear the good news and believe. Perhaps some who read these words are or will one day find themselves in just such a situation.
We can learn from Paul’s example here of making it clear in our interaction with other that all that we experience as believers is experienced in Christ. That means that even the worst of circumstances remain under his gracious rule. Our actions and experiences are not self-interpreting. Just as Paul had to make it evident to those he encountered that his bonds are paradoxically evidence of his status of being “in Christ,” so too believers today must explain to others that their own experience remains under the gracious rule of Christ.