In Philippians 1:13, Paul writes, “My imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else” (NASB). Paul was imprisoned because he preached Christ. This “cause of Christ” refers to the purpose, plan, or mission of serving Christ. Paul taught that his missionary work was for the cause of Christ, for Christ’s purpose.
In another translation, the cause of Christ is found in Philemon 1:23: “Epaphras, who is in prison with me for the cause of Christ Jesus, greets you” (CEB). Again, Paul refers to his imprisonment, this time with Epaphras, as suffering for the cause of Christ. They were not imprisoned for breaking the law, but rather for their service to Jesus.
Today many speak of the cause of Christ in a similar way. When someone says they serve the “cause of Christ” or suffer on behalf of the “cause of Christ,” they usually mean they are acting as part of God’s mission to reach others with the gospel. The meaning is similar to Romans 1:16 where Paul says, “For I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes: first to the Jew, then to the Gentile.”
Speaking of the cause of Christ is another way of referring to attempts to fulfill the Great Commission to make disciples of all nations. Jesus commanded, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age” (Matthew 28:19—20). Followers of Jesus are to tell others about the resurrected Christ, baptize them, and teach them. This is all accomplished as part of the cause of Christ.
Those who serve the cause of Christ also endure much hardship. Paul spoke of this in connection with imprisonment. Many Christians throughout the history of the church have faced persecution, suffering, and even death for their faith in Jesus. The first Christian martyr, Stephen, preached the good news of Jesus to the Jewish Sanhedrin, a group of religious leaders. They killed him by stoning, yet Stephen’s final words show his dedication to Jesus: “While they were stoning him, Stephen prayed, ‘Lord Jesus, receive my spirit.’ Then he fell on his knees and cried out, ‘Lord, do not hold this sin against them.’ When he had said this, he fell asleep” (Acts 7:59–60).
The cause of Christ is much more important than any other cause. All believers are called to participate in the cause of Christ, knowing others need the good news of Jesus. Despite the possibility of persecution, all Christians should be serving the cause of Christ.