Philippians 1:12-18: Whether In Pretense Or In Truth, Christ Is Preached

As I was catching up on some of my Bible reading, I was in the mood today to ponder a passage that deals with two issues simultaneously of some importance to believers, especially those in foreign countries or struggling with past or present ministers they do not trust. Let us examine this curious passage and seek to gain a few insights from it, Philippians 1:12-18, part of Paul’s prison epistle to the congregation in Philippi, Macedonia.

Philippians 1:12-18 reads as follows: “But I want you to know, brethren, that the things which happened to me have actually turned out for the furtherance of the gospel, so that it has become evident to the whole palace guard, and to all the rest, that my chains are in Christ; and most of the brethren in the Lord, having become confident by my chains, are much more bold to speak the word without fear. 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.”

This verse is making a lot of very intriguing and worthwhile points, even though as a passage it is relatively obscure and not often quoted at least in my experience. Let us examine two aspects of this passage: Paul’s boldness in preaching the Gospel and its results on the congregation as a whole, and Paul’s surprisingly generous attitude toward people preaching the gospel of Christ out of selfish ambition and envy of Paul’s apostolic mission. Both of these aspects deserve far more attention than they typically receive, so let us seek to give them the attention they merit.

The first half of the passage, from verses twelve through fourteen, deals with Paul’s preaching boldly, even while in chains in Rome, to the Praetorian Guard and others, not ashamed by being a prisoner for the sake of Christ. Despite being chained continually under guard by soldiers of the Praetorian Guard, Paul preached constantly and diligently for at least two years in house arrest in Rome (see Acts 28:16, 30-31). It was pretty clear that Paul’s constant preaching was an inspiration to the congregation at Rome. After all, if Paul was not afraid to preach the gospel of Christ in chains, what fear did anyone else have to preach God’s way? None, obviously.

There are some implications here, if one chooses to pay attention to them. For one, it would appear as if ordinary members are engaging in what would be termed evangelistic efforts. That is to say, the brethren are speaking the word of Christ without fear (verse 14). Clearly, therefore ordinary brethren were considered by Paul to be suitable for preaching the gospel. It was not merely the task of ordained ministers, in other words. There are clearly different ways for people to be involved in preaching–whether it is setting such a sterling personal example that it leads people to ask about one’s religious beliefs, leading to open conversation about faith, whether it is through writing or public speaking, or other means depending on our own talents, abilities, personality, and interests. And Paul rejoiced in the work of the brethren in preaching God’s word.

It is this second aspect of Paul’s thoughts on the evangelistic efforts of the Roman brethren that are also remarkable. Paul clearly says that some people preach from good motives and some people preach from bad motives. Some people preach for selfish ambition and out of envy of Paul’s apostolic credentials and some preach out of love and a genuine desire to help promote God’s Kingdom to others. This is true whether it is ministers or members who are doing the evangelistic work. Some ministers preach out of a desire for a comfortable living and a respectable job, even preaching what they do not actually believe (as I have witnessed on more than one occasion).

It is noteworthy that in this particular case (if one takes the larger biblical context), that the reason why Paul was pleased about the preaching (even if it was done from wrong motives, that is, in pretense) was because it was the truth that was being preached. The Bible has a low tolerance for the preaching of heresy, as 2 John, for example, shows that preachers of heretical beliefs are not even to be greeted or welcomed into the house (see 2 John :10-11). Therefore, we can gather that those who are preaching, even in pretense, are preaching the truth of God, and it is for the greater knowledge of the truth that Paul rejoices, irrespective of the motives of those preaching it.

And that ought to give us some comfort as well. So long as people preach the truth, we need not be troubled if they really believe it, or are simply preaching it out of spite or envy or a desire for a following of themselves. Those motives may at times be possible for us to recognize, but they need not trouble us. Even though someone who preaches the truth in pretense or from wrong motives such as strife or envy cannot expect to gain a great reward from God for their malicious efforts, at least it has no harmful effects on the truth of the gospel itself or on those who happen to hear the message and believe it, whatever they think of the worthiness of those preaching it. That’s a comfort at least for those of us who have been in the situation of listening to ministers preach in pretense.

So therefore, let us take comfort in Philippians 1:12-18. Not only does a godly minister rejoice whenever the truth is being preached, regardless of who is doing the preaching (or whether they get any benefit from it), showing no personal jealousy but only a passion for the greater knowledge of and obedience to God’s ways, but a true minister of Christ is sufficiently generous in spirit to even be willing to see the truth preached by enemies, so long as they preach the truth. That is always a very relevant question, as Paul was not so tolerant (and neither should we be) about lies and heresy being preached (see, for example, 2 Timothy 2:16-17, 3:1-9, Titus 2:10-16). But he was remarkably tolerant about the preaching of the truth–and so should we be.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Bible, Christianity, Church of God and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Philippians 1:12-18: Whether In Pretense Or In Truth, Christ Is Preached

  1. Pingback: Psalm 111: In The Assembly Of The Upright And In The Congregation | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Book Review: Mastering The Basics: Philippians | Edge Induced Cohesion

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