They Preach Christ from Envy and Rivalry

Philippians 1:12-18 ESV

“I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.

“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

Somewhat of a Mystery

I have always found verses 15-18 somewhat of a mystery. Why? Well, because the Scriptures are very clear about what constitutes the true gospel and what doesn’t, and they are very pointed in making sure that we test everything so that we recognize what is false and so that we reject false teachings. And this is not saying here that what these people are teaching is false, but rather it indicates that what they are teaching is the true gospel.

So, if they are teaching the true gospel, but they are doing so out of envy and rivalry against Paul, how is that a problem for Paul? How would that afflict him in his imprisonment if what they are proclaiming is the truth? For it has to be the truth, otherwise this passage would point out that it is not the truth and thus it is to be discarded. Rather it states that, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, so in that he rejoiced.

So, if Paul is stating that they preached Christ, and therefore we should rejoice, the indication would be here that they were not Judaizers, as some commentators suggest, for Paul preached strongly against the Judaizers, warning the Christians against them and their teachings. He would not rejoice that they were adding circumcision and ceremonial laws onto the gospel. That would not be cause for rejoicing.

So, if they were preaching Christ in a manner that caused Paul to rejoice, then they were preaching the purity of the gospel and not a mixture of truth and lies. They were not attaching false doctrines onto the gospel. They were neither teaching legalism nor liberalism (libertinism). They were not corrupting nor were they adulterating the truth of the gospel message. And they were not teaching humanistic philosophy as truth.

So, they were teaching the same as Paul taught, that we must be crucified with Christ in death to sin, and that we must be raised with Christ to newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, and that we are not to continue living in sin since Jesus delivered us from our slavery to sin, but now we are to live as slaves of God and of his righteousness, and we are to now walk (in conduct) according to the Spirit.

So by pretense he meant that they were faking it, that they were pretending to be something that they were not and they were pretending to believe the very words they were preaching when they did not. But again, how would that be against Paul? How would that injure him?

What’s the Ultimate Goal?

It is possible that those who were preaching Christ out of rivalry against Paul were hoping to lead the people away from Paul to themselves so that they would gain the following that he had and so that they would gain the respect and authority that he had so that the people would listen to them and not to Paul. So, even though it appears that they were preaching the truth about Jesus, it also appears that they were lying about themselves and about Paul.

Well, they definitely had it as their goal to destroy Paul’s reputation, and perhaps that was the end goal in and of itself because they were jealous of him and so they wanted to destroy him. And so even though they were teaching the truth about Jesus they were not telling the truth about Paul, but they were lying about him, trying to destroy his reputation so that the people would reject him and would follow his jealous opponents instead.

Since Paul was in prison, they took advantage of this opportunity to attempt to take his place in the hearts of the people, for he was not present to defend himself. He was not party to their conversations to where he could hear what was being said, but evidently some of it got back to him so that he was aware of what they were doing and why they were doing it.

But what was their ultimate goal? Was it just to try to destroy Paul’s reputation so that the people would reject Paul and follow after them instead? That could certainly be the totality of it all. But could there be more? Most certainly. For most liars and deceivers begin by telling the truth so that they can gain the trust of the people. Then once they have the people’s trust they slowly introduce little and subtle lies into the truth.

For deceivers don’t begin with obvious lies, otherwise they would not be able to deceive those who were holding on to the truth. So, they start with the truth and over time they are able to skillfully and manipulatively introduce little lies one at a time.

And this is what has taken place in evangelical Christianity today in America. Little lies were inserted into the truth one at a time, carefully, and patiently, until the people began to believe the lies as though they were the truth. And then more lies were able to be inserted with the same results until over time the people were believing the lies as truth and the truth to be lies. And now so many professers of faith in Jesus are rejecting the truth for the lies.

But even if it never comes to that, and the total reason is just to discredit a particular person out of jealousy, but that person is someone who is teaching the truth of the gospel, then that also hinders the preaching of the gospel. Also, only those who are preaching in truth have the power of the Holy Spirit behind them, and only they will be sensitized to the leading of the Holy Spirit in what to teach and when.

So, it is good that we still have some people who are teaching the truth from the right motives and for the glory of God and in the power of God’s Spirit and who are not teaching from their own flesh, even if by teaching from their flesh that what they are teaching is technically the truth. And it is good if people are teaching the truth even if it is with the wrong motives, for God’s word will not return empty, but it will accomplish the purpose for which it is sent.

Do Your Best

An Original Work / November 7, 2011
Based off of 2 Timothy 2

Love You, Father, love You, Lord.
Be strong in the grace of Christ.
Endure hardship for your Lord.
Your commander, live to please.
You’ll receive the victor’s crown.
By the rules, run in the race.
Your Lord, you’ll see face to face.
Jesus Christ, raised from the dead;
Of your life, He is the head.
Endure all for the elect.

Love You, Father, love You, Lord.
If we died, we live with Him.
If we last, with Him we’ll reign.
If we disown Him today,
He will have to look away.
Even if we faithless be,
Faithful He’ll remain always.
He cannot disown Himself.
He’s our Lord and Savior, King.
He will reign o’er ev’rything.

Love You, Father, love You, Lord.
Do your best; present yourself
As one who’s approved by God.
Work as one who’s not ashamed;
Rightly share the Word of Truth.
Wander not from what you know.
Destroy not the faith of some.
God’s foundation; it stands firm.
The Lord knows those who are His:
Those who turn from wickedness.

Love You, Father, love You, Lord.
In a house are wood and clay,
Gold and silver, all array.
Some are noble, some are bad –
Cleanse your life, and you’ll be glad;
Useful to the Master’s work.
A pure heart – in righteousness,
Pursue faith and love and peace.
Bad desires you want to flee.
Gentle servant you must be.

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