Proclaiming True Truth
Most (but not all) Are Granted Courage by Martyrs
“12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, 13 so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ. 14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. 16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. 17 The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. 18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.” (Philippians 1:12-18).
What strand ties this entire text together? Preaching Christ, promoting Christ, proclaiming Christ, and speaking the word are the ways Paul says it. Verses 14, 15, 17, and 18 speak, to some effect, of the gospel sounding forth.
Last week we looked to Paul’s imprisonment, as well as modern persecuted brethren abroad, to gain boldness and fearlessness in our promotion of Christ. By their steadfastness in persecution, we are “much more bold to speak the word without fear” (v. 14). If my distant brothers and sisters are dying or being poisoned for their faith, then I should risk the loss of a friendship for my faith in free America. Christians are emboldened by others who lose everything for Christ. Well, most Christians are emboldened.
Did you see that word “most” in verse 14? “Most of the brothers,” are more bold to speak. Paul means to say, “Most people who wear the name Christ have been strengthened by my conduct amidst persecution and are themselves speaking the word of Christ fearlessly.” But “most” implies there are some who aren’t emboldened by this. Who isn’t encouraged by Paul’s imprisonment? What Christian doesn’t grow in their Christian confidence when they hear of a woman in India who remained faithful despite her own son, who poured pesticide down here throat because of her faith in Jesus?
Paul answers that question in verses 15 and 17: “Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry;” “The former proclaim christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.”
So, here’s a group of Christ proclaimers whose faith is not strengthened by Paul’s imprisonment. Therefore, presumably there are some even today whose faith is not strengthened by Christian martyrs. Why, then, do such people identify themselves as Christians? I want to spend just a few minutes answering that question, after which we will end with two positive notes from the text.
Promoting the Gospel for Personal Gain
Let me first tell you the trouble I had with this passage. In verse 18, Paul rejoices at all of the preaching that sounded forth, whether it came from insincere pretense or from loving truth. I asked myself all week long, “How could Paul rejoice when the message is proclaimed by envious, contentious, self-promoting trouble makers?” It troubled me because surely a person like that would taint the message for their advantage. How could Paul rejoice in that?
He even says these people were seeking “to raise up trouble with my imprisonment” (literally). So what was happening with these insincere, name-only Christians? Well, importantly, these particular individuals were not teaching false doctrines. Two times, both in verses 17 and 18, Paul says they were preaching Christ. Their message was a message Paul could get behind, irrespective of their motives.
So they were envious, he says. Envious of whom? Presumably Paul because they sought to cause trouble for Paul while he was in jail. Moreover, they were contentious (that’s what rivalry means), presumably toward Paul.
So I pondered all week what could have been happening in this situation. And here’s what I think was happening. There were some leaders in the church who were jealous when they saw the power and influence of Paul as he made converts all over the ancient world. Rather than praising God for the saved souls, they were envious of his success. So when Paul went to prison, what did they do? They jumped at the opportunity.
Verse 17 literally says, “others proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, intending to raise trouble with my bonds.” What I think he means is, these Christian leaders manipulated Paul’s imprisonment as a means to advance their own influence. I imagine them saying things like, “Did you hear about Paul? He really fell off the wagon, didn’t he. It’s always a shame when somebody trusted lets you down. If you need somebody to give guidance or counsel in his stead, I’m here.”
I think that’s exactly what was happening because this group is contrasted with a different group, in verse 16, who knew Paul was put in jail for the gospel. In verse 7 Paul praised the Philippians for being partners with him in his imprisonment. They didn’t use his jail time as a launching pad for selfish ambitions.
Do you get the picture here? How ugly can things get when Christ’s name is used for a personal agenda, rather than sincere love for Christ and his church? Today, there are some who use Christ’s name to make money. The prosperity gospel is centered around this concept. Others today use Christ’s name for power. They lust for leadership and will use Christ’s name to get there.
Those of us who lead—preachers, elders, deacons, teachers—should truly look inward to ask, “Why am I in this position? Is it because I like being respected? Is it because I enjoy a following? Is it because I want power?”
In 2:19, Paul discloses his intent to send Timothy to help the church in Philippi. Here’s why he chose Timothy instead of somebody like Demas (see 2 Timothy 4:10): “For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare. For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ. But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel” (2:19).
Timothy served as a promoter of Christ, not because he loved power, but because he was genuinely concerned for the welfare of people. I pray that this is the intent behind every leader for Christ at this church.
It’s not just leaders, though. Some promote Christ from pretense. Paul summarizes those who are envious and ambitious for self in this way, “Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice” (v. 18).
Did you see the word he used for the insincere group? Pretense. They were promoting Christ in pretense. What’s that mean? It means, there’s something other than love and faith which drives their public profession of Christ. They are doing the right things for the wrong reasons. Ask yourself, “Am I following Christ sincerely, because I love him, and promoting Christ sincerely, because I want the salvation of others? Or am I a Christian simply because it means I get heaven—and I don’t really care if anyone else gets to go? Am I a Christian simply because my family is Christian, and I’d never dare to go against them? Am I a Christian because the church has networking possibilities for me—golf buddies, camaraderie?
Truth Means Love and Good Will
Paul asks a rhetorical question in verse 18: “What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”
We know what he means by pretense because we just talked about it. But he contrasts pretense with truth. How so? Weren’t both groups preaching the truth? Yes and no. Both groups were saying the right things, but apparently truth is as much about what you say as it is why you say it. The ones who truly had the truth were not just preaching doctrinally accurate things. They had “good will” toward others (v. 15), and they had “love” (v. 16). If you’re speaking God’s word with good will and love for lost souls, Paul says, “That’s the truth!” And that’s marvelous news. The truth isn’t merely a cold, factual analysis of data. It is a living, breathing good will toward mankind.
Rejoicing with Paul
Whether someone spoke from pretense or truth, Paul rejoiced. He rejoiced because God will even use insincere promoters of Christ to bring growth in his kingdom. He rejoiced because it is good news any time the gospel goes out.
This morning, Mani Pagidapali is resounding the message of Christ in India. Rejoice at the proclamation of Christ! Dale and Leanne Kastner are proclaiming the gospel in Malawi, Africa. Rejoice! Nathan Oloumu is heralding Christ in Kenya. Rejoice! Garcia Helmut is sounding the gospel in Lima, Peru. Mel Latorre Sr. is preaching Christ in Brazil. A brother by the code name “G” is preaching Christ in Saudi Arabia, Oman, Yemen, and Dubai. Praise Christ for his message going out over the whole world.
This week, the challenge is simple. First, please pray for all the leaders of this church. Pray that our leadership would be borne out of love and goodwill for this church and the community.
Second, ask yourself honestly, “Why do I where the name Christ? Why do I proclaim Christ?” Pray that the Lord would reveal it to you so that you might more ably teaching his message in love.
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