The Reactions among the Believers
. . . because of my imprisonment most of the believers here have gained confidence and boldly speak God’s message without fear. It’s true that some are preaching out of jealousy and rivalry. But others preach about Christ with pure motives. They preach because they love me, for they know I have been appointed to defend the Good News. Those others do not have pure motives as they preach about Christ. They preach with selfish ambition, not sincerely, intending to make my chains more painful to me.
But that doesn’t matter. Whether their motives are false or genuine, the message about Christ is being preached either way, so I rejoice.Phil 1:14-18
We will now focus on:
- results among the believers
- reaction among others who preach
- a careful examination of verse 18
To which one reader (Ross) has added a couple more questions:
- they have learned all about Jesus but did they accept him as Messiah? (Verse 13)
- If people are not sincere in telling about Christ what makes Paul so glad for they are more likely to scoff at the claims of Jesus as Messiah? (Verse 18)
The main result of Paul’s imprisonment was to embolden the majority of the believers to share the Gospel without fear. When they heard about the boldness of Paul in prison they took heart to do the same. A similar thing happened as to what occurred in Philippi. Such boldness feeds on what we see God doing with what we have shared. It happens today too. When we timidly reach out to others and then God takes our tentative testimony and does good things both for the recipients and for those of us who dared to share we get inspired. It happened in the first Century AD and it happens in the 21st Century.
For I am not ashamed of this Good News about Christ. It is the power of God at work, saving everyone who believes—the Jew first and also the Gentile.Rom 1:16
But Paul told the Philippians that something else was going on during his time in prison in Rome. There is no hint in the text that Paul was telling them this because a similar thing was happening in Philippi. Rather he was simply reporting to them what was happening in Rome. Perhaps to fuel their prayer for him. Now let’s take the words we have before us and investigate further. Several of you have asked questions similar to Ross questioning these “believers” who did not have pure motives and preached out of jealousy and rivalry. Were they true believers or not? The commentators are divided on this matter. Some think the two sets of people are independent of each of other between verse 14 and 15. However Paul makes it clear that most believers gained confidence and boldly spoke (preached) the Gospel (God’s message of Salvation). But the way Paul has stated the facts infers the “some” come from the same group of people as the “most”. Most were encouraged and spoke boldly; but “some” of the “most” who gained boldness to speak, preached out of jealously and rivalry, others spoke boldly but out of loving support for Paul. It appears that all those who spoke made up the believers. It was not their believing that was in question, rather it was the motive for their preaching.
How could it be that believers (Christians, followers of the Christ) could have impure motives for preaching the Gospel? Is that so staggering? That Christians could have impure motives? Just look around you today. You will see enough evidence to conclude believers can preach with impure motives these days just as easily as they could back then. Maybe it is easier today, us being further removed from the time of Christ being present among the believers. Both in the time of Christ and now there are Christians who preach from impure motives. Paul spells out the reason for the motives for those in Rome by the words he used. [phthonos] “envy” and [eris] “rivalry” are placed in antithesis or opposition to [agape] love and [eudokia] “good will” or “benevolence”. The focused direction of the love, good will and benevolence which is contrasted to the envy and rivalry is not directed toward those with whom these believers are sharing the Good News. The direction of the motivation and attitude is toward Paul! Another interesting word is added to the set and that is [eritheia] partisanship. It makes me recall the partisanship that was present in Corinth where people were claiming “I am of Apollos”, “I am of Cephas”, “I am of Paul” “I am of Christ”. I suspect some of that was going on here in Rome.
Clearly there were those among the believers who were not sincerely preaching the Gospel for the sake of the recipients and to further the cause of Christ. It appears these believers were seeking to gain advantage from preaching the Gospel. But how? Paul told the Philippians in his letter and indirectly told us as far ahead into the future as the 21st Century. They were preaching from selfish ambition and seeking to “make my chains (Paul’s) more painful to me”. As the words Paul used in his letter tell us, the envy, jealousy or rivalry was toward Paul himself. Clearly there were enough people of prominence among the believers who were seeking to challenge Paul in preaching the Gospel. They themselves wanted pre-eminence, to supercede Paul as the one(s) who bore responsibility for preaching the Gospel. Their thoughts were as rivals to Paul preaching. The translation is “intending” from the Greek [oiomenoi] from the verb [oiomai] to think, suppose, intend, expect, hope for an outcome. This was all planned and intended. Those with impure motives were solely after an outcome of superceding Paul and being the ones who led the believers in preaching from that point on.
But how would that “make my chains more painful to me”? It could not have been from a physical pain but rather the supposed psychological torment for Paul while he was in prison and could do nothing about what these preachers with impure motives were doing. However we know from Luke’s history of the church (Acts) that Paul was given a freedom to preach and call people to him while under house arrest. That being the case it makes me wonder (and a band of commentators) as to whether some of these with impure motives were part Judaisers and part Christian. On reflection, I don’t think so, but some commentators feel that is why Paul called the Jewish leaders to himself while under house arrest. As I read the text it is all about preaching the Gospel. Supposedly the ones preaching have already embraced the Gospel they preach which would not be the case with the Judaisers. Those preaching the Gospel were doing so and perhaps flaunting it to get at Paul and taunt him.
This Gem has already grown longer than I intended. I note your queries or points which I added above Ross, but I think I have answered them in the light of what I wrote above. Now I wish to address another feature of the text. I wrote above “envy and rivalry are placed in antithesis or opposition to [agape] love and [eudokia] good will or benevolence”. Oh that is very true because we have a chiastic structure in the Greek text where these elements are formed in a poetic way which matches the Greek letter Chi [Χ] and the text is placed in an opposing mirror-like formation. A and A’ and B and B’. Allow me to show you what I mean by using the King James translation where they haven’t preserved the Chiastic structure and the RSV translation where they have followed the Greek more closely.
14 And many of the brethren in the Lord, waxing confident by my bonds, are much more bold to speak the word without fear
15 Some indeed preach Christ even of envy and strife; [A]
and some also of good will: [B]
16 The one preach Christ of contention, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my bonds [A]
17 But the other of love, knowing that I am set for the defence of the gospel. [B]
14 and most of the brethren have been made confident in the Lord because of my imprisonment, and are much more bold to speak the word of God without fear.
15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, [A]
but others from good will. [B]
16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel; [B’]
17 the former proclaim Christ out of partisanship, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. [A’]
In the next Gem we will move on to cover the following segments and I will use verse 18 to bridge to what follows which is what Paul did.
Paul’s Boldness to the Brink of Living or Dying
And I will continue to rejoice. For I know that as you pray for me and the Spirit of Jesus Christ helps me, this will lead to my deliverance. For I fully expect and hope that I will never be ashamed, but that I will continue to be bold for Christ, as I have been in the past. And I trust that my life will bring honour to Christ, whether I live or die. For to me, living means living for Christ, and dying is even better. But if I live, I can do more fruitful work for Christ. So I really don’t know which is better. I’m torn between two desires: I long to go and be with Christ, which would be far better for me. But for your sakes, it is better that I continue to live. Knowing this, I am convinced that I will remain alive so I can continue to help all of you grow and experience the joy of your faith. And when I come to you again, you will have even more reason to take pride in Christ Jesus because of what he is doing through me.Phil 1:19-26
Conduct Yourselves in a Manner Worthy of the Gospel
Above all, you must live as citizens of heaven, conducting yourselves in a manner worthy of the Good News about Christ. Then, whether I come and see you again or only hear about you, I will know that you are standing together with one spirit and one purpose, fighting together for the faith, which is the Good News. Don’t be intimidated in any way by your enemies. This will be a sign to them that they are going to be destroyed, but that you are going to be saved, even by God himself. For you have been given not only the privilege of trusting in Christ but also the privilege of suffering for him. We are in this struggle together. You have seen my struggle in the past, and you know that I am still in the midst of itPhil 1:27-30
The speed with which I do that is up to those of you asking more questions and based on what I find as I analyse the text before us.
The urge to disgrace anyone never flows from grace. It comes from pride, envy, or hate.
Success is not counted by how high you have climbed but by how many people you have brought with you.
Success is going from failure to failure without any loss of enthusiasm.
“Successful people” tolerate critics who teach the facts of life that are in conflict with the beliefs of unsuccessful people – like the reality of suffering.Ian Vail