Monday, August 20, 2012

Sorting Out Motives

Some indeed preach Christ even from envy and strife, and some also from goodwill: The former preach Christ from selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to my chains; but the latter out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is preached; and in this I rejoice, yes, and will rejoice. (Philippians 1:15-18)
Paul is bold for the gospel even when he is in chains for preaching it. Instead of causing other Christians to back off from proclaiming King Jesus, it has challenged them to become even bolder. This response, however, turns out to be something of a mixed blessing because, for some, there is a partisan spirit. Not all are like this, of course, but some are.

Paul has run into this kind of thing before. He dealt with it in the church at Corinth, where the division appeared to be along ethnic lines. Some said, “I am of Paul” (the Roman citizen), others countered, “I am of Apollos” (the Greek), still others said, “I am of Cephas” (Peter, the Jew), and some declared, “I am of Christ” (as if the rest were not). But Paul would have none of it, not even from the ones who claimed to be “of” him. “Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul?” (1 Corinthians 1:13). “Now I plead with you, brethren, by the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, that you all speak the same thing, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly joined together in the same mind and in the same judgment” (1Corinthians 1:10).

Now the partisan spirit has come up again. Paul does not name names or identify where this is taking place, but he does recognize some distinct differences:
  • Some preach from envy and strife, selfish ambition, in pretense, not sincerely, supposing to add affliction to Paul’s chains or somehow show him up. There may even be some who are talking about the gospel as part of the chatter on the street, spreading it as the news of the day.
  • Others preach from goodwill, out of love and in truth, knowing that Paul has been divinely placed in this situation not for his own aggrandizement or reputation but for the sake of the gospel.
Yet, however different their motivations, they are all proclaiming the same thing, the good news about Jesus the Messiah. The good news is getting around, and for Paul, that is a definitely a cause for rejoicing.

Surely Paul thinks of the believers at Philippi as part of the latter group, who preach Jesus out of love and sincerity. After all, they have been partners with him in the gospel since they first learned it from him many years ago. But perhaps they have heard of some of that things that are happening with the former group, and Paul is assuring them that, overall, the gospel is being preached, so there is still something to rejoice about.

However, it is good for the Philippian believers to be aware of how such distasteful and “grubby” motives can slip in. So perhaps Paul is hinting to them to take care that they do not become like that. He is aware of some tensions among them that need to be remedied (for example, in Philippians 4:2) and he will soon be laying before them the example of the Lord Jesus, who did not do anything out of envy or rivalry or selfish ambition but He made Himself of no reputation (Philippians 2:1-11).

Focus Questions
  1. What role do you think motivation plays in proclaiming Jesus in such a way that is persuasive to others?
  2. Are some people more susceptible to selfish motives than are others?
  3. How can we cultivate the better motives in our lives?

There is Always Joy!
There is Always Joy!
Paul’s Letters to the Jesus Believers at Philippi
Bite-Sized Studies Through the Book of Philippians
by Jeff Doles

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