November 30, 2008
Vv.15-18 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife;
What the grounds of this envy and strife were, we are not told. It appears that in Rome there was a group of men who were jealous of Paul and his influence. They saw this situation with Paul on the end of a chain as an opportunity to undermine his influence and strengthen their own. In prison, he would have been unable to circulate among the churches there and present the truth.
The obnoxious teachers were probably not the Judaizers who Paul dealt with so harshly in Galatians.
They were evidently preaching the truth, but not sincerely... Their motives were not pure, but contentious. Contention here is the effort to form parties or to gain followers. Evidently, they were preaching the truth of Christ, but with the motive to win away converts from Paul, as well as to add affliction to Paul. Their goal was not to advance the kingdom of God, but to advance their own power and influence.
Not only were these contentious preachers motivated to build their own following, but they sought to make things as difficult as possible for Paul in prison. They felt that by boldly preaching the gospel in Rome, those in the government who were against the gospel would take it out on Paul. They were supposing to add affliction to my bonds:..
Maybe they felt that if they could gain enough converts to Christianity, Rome would see this as a threat and make it harder on Paul. The original charge against Christ was that He claimed to be a king here to overthrow Rome.
Maybe they were preaching the truth and were doing it to prove that they were as good a man as was Paul.
But we do not know what it was or how their preaching could effect Paul in jail. All we know is what we are told.
V. 17. Paul also tells us that there were some who had pure motives and a genuine love for him and the gospel. Paul's calling went further than just evangelism to the unsaved. We see from his letters that he also had a strong calling to defend the truth of the gospel, the finished work of Christ, against the false teachers and their heresy the Judaizers.
Paul had been called by the Lord to both proclaim and defend the gospel. He tells us in Romans 15:19-21 that he proclaimed the finished work of Christ all over the known world where Christ had never been named before.
So there are contentious preachers and those who supported Paul, and who boldly preached out of love.
V. 18. The preaching with the motive of strife or of pure motive, what effect does it have Paul?
WHETHER IN PRETENCE OR IN TRUTH... Some preached in pretence. They pretended to be concerned about Paul, but their motive was to harm him. Others were genuine in their effort to help him.
No matter what the motive was behind the preaching, Paul rejoiced in the fact that Christ was being preached.
We can not suppose that Paul was not concerned about the motive behind what was being done in the name of the Lord. He identifies the wrong motive as sin many times. He is very concerned that the motive be proper, for the glory of God.
V. 19. For I know that this shall turn to my salvation through your prayer,
Paul is confident that all preaching of the gospel will all turn out for the best, even though it might be with the wrong motive. He had no assurance of being released from prison, but he knew that good would result. Again, his confidence is in the Lord to work it all out.
We see here the confidence that God will turn evil into good. It may be that God will see fit to use even the contentious preaching to reach others.
How will He do this? Through prayer.
The result of prayer? The supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ,
V. 20 The earnest desire and hope which Paul had was not that he might get out of this bad situation, but that he would continue to glorify Christ no matter what took place. He desired their prayers that the supply of the Spirit of Christ would be sufficient to see him through his trial, not deliver him from the trial.
Life was of secondary importance to him. His primary concern was that Christ would be magnified in his body, whether in death or in life.
As far as Paul knew he could have been facing death. Certainly he would face the emperor. His desire was that he would not compromise in any way or do any dishonorable thing in the face life or death.
Several applications through v. 20:
1) Though the gospel was being preached out of contention, envy and strife rather than for the glory of God, Paul does not doubt the salvation of those who responded to the teachers.
This makes me wonder about women "preachers," as well as the clearly unscriptural methods used to reach the lost. We see in 1 Corinthians chapters one and two that the power of God is in the truth of the gospel, not in the speaker. So as long as the truth of the gospel goes forth, folks will be saved.
So "preachers" who might have the wrong motives, even unsaved preachers, yet have the right message can have genuine conversions.
2) Unlike Paul, we have no way of knowing how much of the work which is being done in the name of the Lord is with the wrong motive. However, knowing human nature and our own weaknesses, we have no doubt that a very large portion of what we see being done in the name of the Lord, is being done out of contention, self-serving and self-exaltation.
I have sat in more than a few services where the motivation was competition that is, to out-grow someone else in a Sunday School class or bus route. The motive on the individual level was to out-shine someone else. I have been in services where people were exalted above measure for doing more "religious" work than someone else. And the work they were exalted for, they should have been doing anyway.
I have never been a follower of John R. Rice and his Sword of the Lord publication. He always kept a running account of who had 300 or more baptized in a year, and churches were praised for having the most baptisms.
I have never been able to use that kind of motivation, and have been condemned for not using competition among the brethren.
Luke 17:10 So likewise ye, when ye shall have done all those things which are commanded you, say, We are unprofitable servants: we have done that which was our duty to do.
How much of the "Lord's" work and interest in others is motivated by a desire to out do someone? to win someone's loyalty away from someone else? or to undermine another?
Of course, we have no way of knowing what that person's motive might be, but we should be able to know our own. We must examine our own hearts. What is the motive behind our actions? Is it a spirit of contention? an effort to undermine another? maybe to win someone over to us? to show up someone?
God help us to keep our own heart right in these areas and not worry about others.
3) When we see someone in a difficult situation or not doing what they should, do we rejoice that it is a chance to undermine them, and gain publicity and praise for ourselves?
4) When we see someone in a difficult situation do we look for ways to show our love for them, help them, be an encouragement and even strengthen them in their difficulties?
I might make a personal observation here. If that person is someone whom we consider better that ourselves or that we feel threatened by, what are we tempted to do?
No matter what the motive behind a work being done in the name of Christ, we must rejoice that something is being done.
If all of the work currently being done in the name of the Lord, yet with a corrupt motive, were to suddenly stop, I have a notion that there would be very little accomplished in His name. Paul says that he rejoices that something is being done.
Certainly, it would be better if the teachers were better instructed in the truth, or if they had better motives, or if they had a more perfect system, but if they are proclaiming the redemptive work of Christ, there is cause to rejoice. Any announcement at all that Jesus saves sinners through His atoning sacrifice is far better than no announcement at all.
Paul shows his love for the Saviour in that he rejoices in Christ being preached, even though the motives in that preaching were selfish as well as to increase his own difficulties.
5) If we are unsuccessful at a godly task, we should rejoice when and if someone else is successful at the same task.
If we feel we have competition or someone with better plans than we have, and their efforts have more success than ours, we should not be jealous or envious. We should rejoice that the work of the Lord is being done.
6) When churches of a different stripe preach the gospel of Christ's substitutionary death for sinners, his burial and resurrection for our justification, we should be able to find cause to rejoice that Christ is preached.
We may wish that their preaching were not mixed with so much error, nor can we rejoice in that error, but we should rejoice when the finished work of Christ is preached.
Over the few years that I have been dealing with people, I have found that it is far easer to deal with a person who has heard nothing at all, than it is to deal with one who has been convinced that you are saved by asking Jesus into your heart.
What we have here in v. 18, is Paul's rejoicing that the gospel of the finished work of Christ is being preached, that the work of the Lord is being done, even though the motive behind that action is anything but for the glory of God.
Let me make this clear: It is impossible for right motives to make a wrong message right. If the message is not the true gospel message, then the hearer cannot follow Christ's instruction to repent and believe the gospel. Mark 1:15.
For How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher? Romans 10:14
I believe here in Philippians, Paul would much rather have wrong motives preaching the right gospel than having right motives preaching a wrong gospel, and both in the name of Christ.
7) We should not moan that other's motive might be improper. We should be rejoicing that the work of the Lord is being accomplished.
Romans 14:4 Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him stand.
Let's be sure that our motive is proper, and be very busy about the Master's work.
8) V. 19. A bad situation can be turned into good through prayer and the Spirit of God. Paul said, "through your prayer." The people's prayers will bring the needed supply of the Spirit to the aid of the preacher.
9) V. 20, With all boldness, as always, so now also. He had spoken with boldness in the past, now he desires the abundant supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ that he would continue to speak with boldness. Paul knew what he hoped he would do, and he asked these people to pray for him that he would have the Spirit of Christ to the right thing when the final time came.
We just do not know what we would do in the situation which others might be facing. Many times we are very quick to condemn others by saying, "If it were me, this is what I would do." We just do not know what we would do. We know what we hope we would do, and by the grace of God that is what we will do, but that is all the further we can go with it.
Just because we have stood for Christ with boldness in the past, is no guarantee that we will in the future. Paul assumed nothing. Rather, he hoped and prayed that he would continue with all boldness. Can we do less?
He did not know what the trial would hold for him, but whatever it held, he desired to lift up or exalt Christ. It might be death, it might be life, either way it was Christ.
10) Whether by life... Christ is for both living and dying. Far too often Christ and the power of His Spirit is presented for dying, and not for living.
I am on several mailing lists and one in particular, rubes me the wrong way. The man is a good man who believes in the grace of God, but that is where it stops. I have received his mailings for a good number of years, and all that is in them is that our sins are forgiven and we are on our way to heaven. The message is true, but he seems to restrict the message to death. I find it distressing when a pastor can see no more in the Spirit of Christ than death.
Certainly, the Spirit of Christ is the power over death and the grave. But Paul saw the Spirit of Christ first of all as power to live a life which magnified Christ, regardless of circumstances.
11) in my body. Paul is very practical. This phrase is not some mystical nor spiritual saying. Rather, if Christ is going to be glorified, it will be in and through the bodies of His Saints. It will be through situations like Paul went through. He receives the glory as His people stand up to the trials of this life, as they stand against the lusts of the flesh, as they fulfill their commitment to Him no matter what.
The glory to God comes through the bodies of the believers here in this life:
Romans 12:1 I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that ye present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service. 2 And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.
13:14 But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make not provision for the flesh, to fulfil the lusts thereof.
Others cannot see Christ except in His followers. When we violate our commitment to Him with our bodies, we bring shame to the One we say we love and serve.
The Lord told Ananias to go lay hands on Saul, who would be Paul. The Lord said that he would show Paul what great things he must suffer for his name's sake. Acts 9:16.
Paul knew and understood the pressure that was coming upon him. His desire was that he would not violate the commitment he made to the Saviour under that pressure.
Many times, we cannot stand under the pressure of friends nor family.
12) Paul's earnest expectation and hope was that he would bring glory to the Lord. Now he had even a greater opportunity to do that.
How many Christians desire and even pray for the chance to bring glory to Christ. Then when the chance comes, maybe years latter, they fail when they realize they must sacrifice a favorite lust of the flesh.
The point here is, we want the glorify Christ, but we want to do it in our way. "Lord, let me do some great work for you, but don't ask me to give up my favorite lust." Sorry, that favorite lust which we refuse to turn over to Him is our god.
13) Those who desire to magnify Him will have an holy indifference as to whether it is by life or by death. Life will be faced with a joy over the prospect of serving Him, death will be faced with a joy over the prospect of seeing Him.
Life will be a life of patience continence in well doing.
[Index] [Topics] [Philippians]