In Jail – but No Need for Bail

Title: In Jail - but No Need for Bail

Bible Book: Philippians 1 : 12-20

Author: Steve Wagers

Subject: Christian Living; Encouragement; Ministry



Victor Frankl knew the reality of suffering as a prisoner of war in WWII. His experience in Nazi German prison camps enabled him to see life at its worst. Some survived the horrific camps; while the pages of history are besmirched with the blood of those who did not.

Victor Frankl wanted to know why. After carefully studying his fellow prisoners, he concluded, “Everything can be taken from men but one thing: the last of human freedoms—to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.

Victor Frankl came to realize that while many Jewish prisoners died as the result of starvation, torture, and disease; many others died due to the death of their will to overcome.

I read about a little boy, the other day, who was a perpetual pessimist. He was preparing to take a test and kept saying, “I know I’m going to fail this test. When his father asked him why, the little boy said, “Because I don’t know the material.” His father replied, “Son, you have to be positive.” To which the boy said, “Okay, I’m POSITIVE I’m going to fail this test.”

Charles Colson was part of the Watergate conspiracy that tarnished the legacy of Richard Nixon. Colson was one of the conspirators who served a prison sentence for his part in the conspiracy. In his book, “Loving God,” he concludes with these words:

“My lowest days as a Christian (and there were low ones—7 months worth of them in prison, to be exact) have been more fulfilling and rewarding than all the days of glory in the White House.” [1]

 The apostle Paul was a man who had grown accustomed to the confinement of a jail cell. He was serving a prison sentence when, from the Mamertine Prison in Rome, he penned several letters, including the book of Philippians.

Yet, when we read Paul’s words we do not get the sense that he was dejected, but delighted; not discouraged, but encouraged; not pitiful, but positive. In fact, his words leave an indelible mark upon our souls as to how God turns tears into telescopes, miseries into milestones, and burdens into blessings.

Someone has well said, “If we see Jesus in our circumstances then we will see our circumstances in Jesus.”

I’m not sure if Rome had any bail bondsmen, but if they had, Paul would never have employed their services. He was in jail, but as far as he was concerned, there was no need to send bail. He was right where God wanted him to be.

I. A Most Excruciating Difficulty

As Betsie Ten Boom, sister of Corrie, lay dying in the Ravensbruck Concentration Camp, she uttered a sentence that has traveled around the world, “There is no pit so deep that Christ is not deeper still.” Bruised and assaulted by a Nazi rifle, humiliated by the Holocaust, she said to her sister Corrie, “They will listen to us because we’ve been there.”

We certainly have reason to listen to Paul, because he has been there, and was there when he pens this letter. He was in the “deep pit” of a depressing prison. It was a time of excruciating difficulty. It included a time of:

A. Unbelievable Persecution


[13-14, 16] “MY BONDS”

The “bonds” Paul refers to were simply shackles or chains. In other words, Paul was led around like a convict on death row in shackles and chains. The phrase, “The things which happened unto me” could better be translated, “The things dominating me.” In modern terminology, we would say, “My affairs.”

Since, with God, nothing ever just happens, Paul understood that was had “happened” was not a matter of accidence, but of Divine Providence. God had allowed these things to “happen” to him.

I believe it’s appropriate to ask, “What had happened to Paul?” A detailed list is given in 2 Corinthians 11: 23-27. “In labours more abundant, in stripes above measure, in prisons more frequent, in deaths oft. [24]Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. [25]Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned, thrice I suffered shipwreck, a night and a day I have been in the deep. [26]In journeyings often, in perils of waters, in perils of robbers, in perils by mine own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness, in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren. [27]In weariness and painfulness, in watchings often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness.”

Paul had been imprisoned, beaten, stoned, shipwrecked, robbed, betrayed, starved, dehydrated, cold, and stripped. After finally arriving at Rome, where he was imprisoned, he has waited for the better part of 2 years, for the outcome of his appeal. It appears he has been forsaken and forgotten.

Paul was not in prison for something he had done wrong. He was in prison for something he had done RIGHT! His hardships were not the chastening of a displeased God, but the contempt of a depraved world.

But, we do not find Paul licking his wounds in a corner. He is not sulking, throwing a “Woe is Me” pity party; rather, he accepts it all as divine providence. He doesn’t start out asking, “Why? Why this? Why me? Why now?”

He did put a question mark where God had put an exclamation point. Unbelievable persecution had happened to Paul, but he understood there was someone in charge who was far greater, and far more powerful than Caesar.

Paul reminds me of Samuel Rutherford, the saintly Scotsman. In 1637, he was imprisoned for his faith and wrote from his prison cell, “Christ triumphs in me. This is my palace not my prison. I think this is all, to gain Christ. All other things are shadows, dreams, fancies and nothing.” [2]

You may not understand why you are in the midst of trial, trouble or tribulation. You may wonder why God has allowed you to experience pain, pressure, and problems. However, when you know the WHO you can accept the WHY.


God did not wake up this morning to the headlines that you were in trouble. He wasn’t suddenly informed of your current location. Rather, His sovereign hand has assigned it, approved it, arranged it, or allowed it. It is no accident; it is an APPOINTMENT!

In spite of unbelievable persecution came:

B. Unexplainable Progress

Warren Wiersbe said, “Paul wanted to go to Rome as a preacher, instead he went as a prisoner.”

Paul doesn’t deny the fact that he is the recipient of unbelievable persecution. It wasn’t an airy-fairy, pie-in-the-sky, not what it appears to be situation. It was what it was. Paul was in jail, in shackles and chains, forsaken and forgotten by the authorities.

However, he sees the bigger picture. God had used persecution to fulfill His purpose and bring progress. For one thing, there was progress in:

1. Evangelism

[12] “The things which happened unto me have fallen out rather unto the furtherance of the gospel.”

The word “furtherance” is the Greek word prokopen. The word means, “To cut toward.” It was a military term, used of engineers who would prepare a road for the advancing army by removing obstructions, such as rocks or trees.

It’s as if Paul was saying, “Don’t feel sorry for me. I’m not looking to be patronized. All these things have happened in my life, but they have worked to promote the preaching of the gospel, not prevent the preaching of the gospel. They have simply cut down the obstructions so the gospel message could go forth unhindered.”

In other words, his opposition was an opportunity. What appeared to be a retardation of his ministry was actually an acceleration of his ministry. The things that happened, instead of shutting the door, opened the door.

His liabilities became assets, his frustrations brought fulfillment, his adversity became an advantage, his difficulties became doors, and his thwarting turned into thoroughfares. What appeared to be a hindrance to the gospel was actually a helper for the gospel.

Robert Gromacki writes, “When a believer views adverse circumstances from the divine perspective, he will use them for spiritual advantage. Most Christians, unfortunately, permit difficulties to affect their emotional, mental, and spiritual stability. A believer must look at the result of adversity, not the adversity itself.” [3]

Paul did not deny that he was in an undesirable place, but he understood that there was an unseen purpose; and, the purpose was far, far bigger than him. In fact, if I could say it this way: Paul understood that IT WASN’T ABOUT his problems, predicaments, or persecution; IT WAS ABOUT the proclamation and progress of the gospel.

Paul’s suffering not only did a work of corporate evangelism, but of personal evangelism. [13] “So that my bonds in Christ are manifest in all the palace, and in all other places.”

Paul could not go to the churches and continue his missionary journeys, but his service was not suspended. What God did was give Paul an exciting and effective prison ministry.

Notice the word "palace." The word refers to what was known as the Praetorian Guard. The Praetorian Guard was the elite of the Roman army. They were the Imperial Guard of Rome. It consisted of 10,000 hand-picked men of Italian birth.

They served a term of 12-16 years, received double-pay and special privileges. They were somewhat like the Musketeers of Rome. They were the Emperor's personal army and bodyguards.

Again, the word “bonds” refers to being shackled and chained. The word speaks of a short chain by which the wrist of a prisoner was bound to the wrist of a soldier, so that escape was impossible. In other words, Paul wasn’t just shackled and chained, but he was shackled and chained to these Praetorian Guards.

In Acts 28:30-31, we learn that, "Paul dwelt two whole years in his own hired house, and received all that came in unto him, Preaching the kingdom of God, and teaching those things which concern the Lord Jesus Christ, with all confidence, no man forbidding him.”

For 2 solid years, Paul was under, what we would call, ‘House Arrest.’ During this "house arrest" soldiers of the Praetorian Guard were assigned to him 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. The shift changed every 6 hours, so each day there would be 4 different soldiers connected to Paul by an 18-inch chain. Paul couldn’t get away from the soldiers; but, better yet, the soldiers couldn’t get away from Paul.

Let’s do the math. 4 soldiers a day for a period of 2 years, or 730 days, adds up to Paul witnessing to almost 3000 soldiers. Sam Gordon said, “Paul may have been locked up, but he wasn’t tongue-tied.”

No doubt Paul led many of these soldiers to Christ. He makes reference to:

“The saints…chiefly they that are of Caesar’s household.” (4:22)

Think about that. Every day, for 2 years, 6 different soldiers had to listen to Paul tell them how he held the clothes of Stephen when he was stoned, and God began to do a work of conviction in his heart.

Then, one day, on his way to Damascus to persecute torture, maim, and kill more Christians, he saw a light, heard the Lord, and it changed his life. He saw his prison term as an opportunity to reach people that, otherwise, he could have never reached.

Note that D. L. Moody was once preaching about being a soul-winner and giving examples that God had used effectively in his own soul-winning efforts. Suddenly, a very pious, religious man rebutted Moody, “I don’t believe in using gimmicks, games, or scare tactics to witness.” Moody asked, “Sir, how many people have you won to Christ?” The man replied, “None.” Moody said, “Then, I believe I’ll stick to my method.”

What Caesar planned to use to short-circuit Paul’s preaching ministry, God used to give Paul an even greater platform to spread the gospel of redemption.

Not only did progress happen in regards to evangelism, but also in regards to:

2. Encouragement

[14] “And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.”

The “things” God allowed to “happen” to Paul not only brought the proclamation of the gospel, but the edification of the saints. Because of Paul’s suffering, “many of the brethren” became more and more “confident” and “bold” to “speak the word without fear.”

The word “speak” does not refer to preaching, but rather normal, everyday conversation. In other words, they didn’t need a pulpit or a platform to share the gospel. They shared the gospel at the drop of a hat; and, we get the idea that, many of them dropped the hat.

We read A. T. Robertson comments, “The ‘many of the brethren’ constituted that inner circle of the those that does and dares things for Christ, while the rest hang back. It is usually the minority of Christians who put energy into the work while the majority drift along or criticize what the minority do.” [4]

Paul’s courage shamed those who were timid into greater boldness, and it encouraged the bold ones to witness with even greater conviction and joy. His suffering had inspired the blue-collar, down-to-earth, plain, ordinary, common man to share the gospel in the field, in the factory, in the work place, or in the home place.

Discouragement spreads like a cancer, but encouragement spreads like a cure. Often what we go through and how we handle or respond to it serves as an encouragement to others.

When tragedy, trouble and trials come, anyone can quit. When another believer sees your faith, fortitude and fidelity, they are encouraged to suit up, stand up and speak up for what is right.

Amazingly enough, in the midst of excruciating difficulty, God used unbelievable persecution to bring about unexplainable progress of the gospel. The same God that used Moses rod, Gideon's pitchers, and David's sling, used Paul's chains.

II. A Most Exemplary Decision

As Christians, and especially as preachers, we live in glass houses. We are being watched, listened to, and observed by the closest insider to the furthest outsider. They scrutinize our methods, they analyze our message, and they may criticize our manner.

Paul’s glass house was a jail cell. He was being watched, often ridiculed by many of the so-called “brethren,” or those he thought were his brethren.

However, Paul made a most exemplary decision, when it came to the “good” guys, as well as the “bad” guys. He decided to be:



Notice the words, "add affliction." The words bring up the image of the painful rubbing of iron chains on a prisoners wrists and legs. Phillips translates the words, "to make my chains even more galling than they otherwise are."

Talk about knocking a man when he is down, that is exactly what was going on. Paul describes how they added affliction to his bonds. How were they adding to Paul’s affliction?

In verse 15 he said that they were preaching Christ of "envy" and "strife." The word "envy" carries the ideal of jealously. The word "strife" means wrangling. It would seem there were those who were envious and jealous of Paul and this was resulting in contention and strife.

In verse 16 Paul puts his finger on the root cause of their problems with him. Paul said, "The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely."

The word "contention" was a political word. It was used to describe someone who was seeking office for himself. It came to mean canvassing for office, to get someone to support you. It spoke of self-seeking and selfish ambition.

In a nutshell, these brethren were trying to draw people to themselves, whereas Paul was trying to draw people to Christ. They were like religious politicians that were trying to get people on their side, in their corner, and following them.

They were preaching Christ but with purely selfish motives. They were jockeying for positions of influence within the Christian community. Simply put, whenever you saw one of these Judaizers you immediately knew that they were up to no good. They may have had others fooled, but Paul wasn’t fooled.

This bothered Paul, but it didn’t burden Paul. There were those who had impure motives, but Paul didn’t focus solely on them. He also saw those who had impeccable motives. [17] “But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defense of the gospel.”

Paul decided that he would not allow the perverted in heart to take his focus off of the pure in heart. Although it bothered him, he decided that he would not allow it to burden him.


Under no circumstances would Paul allow them to get him down, or take his eye off the prize. [18] “What then? notwithstanding, every way, whether in pretence, or in truth, Christ is preached; and I therein do rejoice, yea, and will rejoice.”

Paul did not approve of their method, but he rejoiced in the message. What they were trying to do to hinder the gospel, Paul understood was being used to help the gospel, because Christ was still being preached.

Paul understood that the MESSAGE IS BIGGER THAN THE MAN. God may bypass the man, but will always bless the message.

John Eadie, the Scottish preacher said, “The virtue lies in the gospel, not in the gospeller; in the exposition, not in the expouder.”

We are all aware of the scandals that have ravaged Christianity, from Jim Bakker to Jimmy Swaggart to Ted Haggard. People often ask, “How someone could be saved under their ministry with all of the deceit?” The answer is simple: GOD HONORS HIS WORD!

God never promised to honor the messenger, but He did promise to always honor the message. But, how much more powerful when He has a clean messenger to deliver the clear message?

To Paul, it didn’t matter if the message came from perverted hearts or pure hearts, because Christ was the focus, and the gospel would not be suppressed, and could not be stopped.

III. A Most Excellent Desire

I recently saw a sign on an office wall that read, “When one resigns to fate, their resignation is accepted.”

Paul would not offer his resignation, because he focused more on the Problem Solver than the problem. He saw his circumstances as opportunities to grow up instead of obstacles to gripe about.

He was in prison, waiting on an appeal that had seemingly been forgotten, yet he could still say: [19] “For I know that this shall turn to my salvation.”

The word “salvation” is the Greek word soteria. The word does not refer to salvation in the sense of a soul being forgiven and saved. The word has to do with “health, or well being.”

Paul was saying that everything that happened had been healthy for his own heart and soul. It would all work out for his own personal and spiritual well-being. You could say that Paul understood it took grief to promote growth, and fire to produce faith.

God had not changed the circumstances of Paul, but He had changed Paul in the circumstances. God had taken all that had happened and used it to enlarge His work in Paul’s heart. God’s intention was not to break Paul, but to MAKE Paul.

Robert Frost said: "But it was of the essence of the trial that you shouldn't understand it at the time. It had to seem unmeaning to have meaning." So many things happen in life that seems to have no meaning. Yet, what happens may have great meaning in God's eternal plan.

Someone has said, "The thickest cloud may bring the heaviest shower of blessing." You may not understand what God is up to; but, you can stand on the fact that GOD IS UP TO SOMETHING, and ultimately it will be for your good and His glory.

Paul knew that God had a plan, thus his desire was for God to fulfill His plan. He relied on the:



The word “prayer” is the word deesis, which speaks of intense intercession. Paul knew that these saints were not only praying for him, but they were pleading for him. While Caesar may have had his arms chained, the prayers of the saints held his arms up.

A missionary was giving a report to his home church in Michigan. He told them while serving a small field hospital in central Africa; he traveled by bike to a nearby city every 2 weeks to get supplies. The trip took 2 days, with an overnight camping stop halfway there. On one of these journeys, he arrived in the city and observed two men fighting, one of whom was seriously injured. He treated him, and then traveled two days back to his village, camping overnight without incident.

Two weeks later, he returned to the city and met the man he had treated. This man told the missionary, "Some friends and I followed you into the jungle, knowing you would camp overnight. We planned to kill you, and then take your money and drugs. But when we saw the 26 GUARDS surrounding you, we left you alone." The missionary laughed and told the man that he had been alone all night. The man insisted, "No sir. I wasn't the only one who saw the 26 GUARDS around you that night. My friends saw them too. We all counted them and decided not to attack."

At this point, a man in the congregation jumped to his feet and interrupted the missionary. He asked what day and time all this had happened. The missionary told him, and the man smiled and said, "On the very night of your incident in Africa, it was morning here and I was preparing to go play golf. I had an overwhelming urge to pray for you. In fact, the urging of the Lord was so strong that, instead of playing golf, I called men in this church to meet with me here in the sanctuary and pray for you." He then asked for all the men who had gathered to pray to stand up. The men stood up, and when they were all counted the number was 26!

Samuel Chadwick summed it up, “The devil fears nothing from prayer-less studies, prayer-less work, prayer-less religion. The devil laughs at our toil, mocks our wisdom, but Satan trembles when we pray.”

Paul knew he could rely on the intercession of the saints, as well as the:



The word “supply” is an interesting word. The Greek is a double-compound word ‘choros’ and ‘hegeomai’, which means, “to furnish supplies for a musical chorus.”

In ancient times, a benefactor would pay for the singers and dancers at a festival. No expense would be spared. Generous provision would be made to meet the need.

Paul says, “I know that these sufferings and persecutions are going to be for my own growth and well-being, because I rely on the intercession of the saints and rest in the involvement of the Spirit.”

In other words, all the resources that Heaven could muster were freely available to Paul. He knew that there was no lack to God’s supply. There may have not been enough in the warehouse, but Paul knew that there was more than enough in the storehouse of Heaven.

The Bank of America may go belly up, but the Bank of Heaven will never file bankruptcy. This country may be in a recession, but God’s people aren’t in a recession, because we have a source, sustainer, provider and provision that Congress knows nothing of.

He owns the cattle on a thousand hills, every hill, and every ‘tater in the hill. He owns it all and has need of nothing. What do you need? God has it! What would be enough? God has more than enough.

I love Romans 8: 32: “He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?”

The intercession of the saints and the involvement of the Spirit caused Paul to earnestly desire the:


[20] “According to my earnest expectation and my hope.”

The word “expectation” is most interesting. The Greek word ‘apokaradokia’ is actually made up of 3 elements: ‘apo’ (from), ‘kara’ (head), and ‘dokeo’ (to watch). Put together, the word expectation means, “To watch something so intently that the head is turned away from everything else.”

Paul knew what the outcome would one day be. He knew where he was headed, and he was ready to go. Thus, this is the reason prison, persecution, pain, or pressure could not get him down. It was but preparation for what lay ahead.

He had his eye so fixed upon it that he turned away from anything and everything else except: [20b] “That in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life, or by death.”

Paul knew the day of meeting Christ was coming. His hope was such that he is sitting on the edge of his seat. He is standing on his tip-toes with nothing else in view other than meeting the Master will integrity.

The Pauline motto was, “Whether I live, or whether I die; I want Christ to be magnified and glorified.”

Guy King said, “Mary’s magnificent was, ‘My soul doth magnify the Lord.’ Paul’s magnificent was, “Christ be magnified in my body, by life or death.’” [5]

Frank Stagg put it this way, “Paul wants to meet his fate with such dignity and spirit that all may see what Christ means to him.” [6]

Jim Eliot, husband of Elisabeth Eliot, was murdered by a group of Auca Indians in Ecuador in 1956. Before he left to go witness to the natives who would eventually kill him, Elisabeth noticed that Jim wasn’t taking a gun. She asked, “Why are you not taking a gun for protection?” Jim replied, “Because we’re ready for Heaven, but they are not.”

Elisabeth Eliot said of her husband, "Jim's aim was simple: To know God." Jim himself wrote an entry in his journal that was found after his death. The date of the entry was only 2 days before he was murdered, "Lord, make my way prosperous, not that I achieve high station, but that my life may be an exhibit to the value of knowing God."


Paul was in jail, but there was no need for bail, because he knew that God had a plan and purpose, and Paul didn’t want to hold up progress. He wanted Christ to shine, be shared, and shown.

Paul’s desire could be summed in the words of an unknown author:

Preach by your lives, and preach from the Word:

Preach by your singing, that souls may be stirred.

Preach on a trolley or preach on a bus;

Preach without fanfare and preach without fuss:

Preach in a hall or preach in a shack;

Preach the Word and never turn back.

Preach on the sidewalk, preach the "Good News";

Preach the Gospel and not men's views.

Preach with the unction the Holy Spirit imparts;

Preach to touch lives and melt cold hearts.

Preach only Christ, the Savior of men;

Tell how He died, and liveth again.

Preach the pure Gospel, so true and so tried;

Preach casting all doubts and false doctrine aside.

Preach every moment till life's race is run;

Preach till in Heaven you hear His "well done."


1) ““Turning Toward Joy,” David Jeremiah, pg. 32.

2) “Odyssey of Joy,” Sam Gordon, pg. 45.

3) “Stand United in Joy,” Robert Gromacki, pg. 51.

4) “Paul’s Joy in Christ,” A. T. Robertson, pg. 79.

5) “Joy Way,” Guy King, pg. 33.

6) “Philippians,” J. B. Fowler, pg. 28.

Posted in


Scroll to Top